In Part 1, we looked at some of the many choices to be made when choosing a new flute. Now in Part 2, we look at some of the mechanisms...
Split E Mechanism?
Take a look at your flute, and finger a first or second octave G. Notice that when you put your "G" key down, there are actually TWO keys that move – the one that your finger is on, and the one just to the right of it.
A split E mechanism consists of an extra rod (located atop the two main rods running the length of the body) which closes the second "G" key when you play high E. Sometimes this is only available as an option on a flute with an offset G-key, as adding it to a flute with in-line keys is problematical.
Perk: It makes high E EASY to play! No more squeaking!
Consequences: The flute is slightly heavier; some repairmen find this mechanism difficult to adjust. Note: If you see a flute with a "clutch" indicated, this means that the split E mechanism can be deactivated.
High E Facilitator/Donut?
This is a substitute for the split E mechanism. It consists of a "donut" – made of any one of a number of materials -- which is inserted in the lower G tone hole.
Perk: high E is easier to play.
Consequence: A-natural is slightly flat.
These are pointed arms soldered to the tops of the keys that you do not put your fingers on. The rear part of the arm is attached to the rod. Theoretically, when these keys are activated, this is supposed to close the key from the TOP down (aka, the middle of the key), which puts an even pressure on the pad all around. Flutes without pointed arms have key cups which are attached to the rods directly, so that when they are closed the pressure comes from the rod side of the key.
Perk: It looks professional; flutes made this way have to be padded with a high degree of precision because the cup cannot be tilted.
Consequence: After many years of living in a high pollution area, solder can deteriorate, and leaks can occur in the TOP of the key.
Gizmo/High C Facilitator?
This is a small key (or "button") added to the low B roller.
Perks: Makes it possible to quickly and accurately depress only the low B key which playing fourth octave notes.
Consequence: If you can try this out before you order it do so, as there are many styles to where the key/button is located and which direction it points -- some may be difficult for you to use.
What Type of Mechanism?
Flutes can be made with adjustment screws or pins. A few other systems exist (such as Pearl Pinless, Brögger Mekanik, Kingma System, etc.), but are in exclusive use by certain manufacturers. If the flute you are interested in has one of them, you can find out all about it from the manufacturer's web site.
Adjustment screws are small screws located next to or underneath a key.
Perk: Keys with screws can be easily adjusted at home.
Consequence: Sound is created by vibration, and after awhile vibrations will loosen screws, so flutes made this way tend to come out of adjustment more easily.
Pins are needle-thin pieces of steel that are driven through small holes in the rods to hold keys in place.
Perk: Keys on these flutes stay in adjustment longer.
Consequence: When keys on these flutes come out of adjustment, you have to take it to a repairman as there is nothing you can do on your own.
C# Trill Key?
This is an extra hole bored in the body of the flute to the left of the thumb key. Then an additional rod is added, which runs along the flute, ending in a knuckle key to be operated by the right index finger. This knuckle key is positioned next to the B-flat knuckle key.
Perks: Trilling from B to C# is a piece of cake with this key! It also improves the tuning of some other notes, and makes a third octave G-A trill simpler.
Consequences: The addition of this key changes the balance of the flute and makes it heavier; this key can also dampen the overall vibrancy of the flute, making it difficult to keep a beautiful "ringing" sound throughout. There is a good photo of one at http://www.larrykrantz.com/rayworth-photos/csharp.htm
Soldered/Extruded Tone Holes?
This is only an option on hand made flutes. Most flutes are made from metal tubes. After the holes are cut for the keys, some flutes have the cup that the pad hits when it comes down soldered on.
Perk: the tubing of the body is exactly the same thickness throughout, and some performers think this gives better sound.
Consequences: these flutes are heavier and costlier, because more metal is used in their manufacture; after many years of use in an area with high air pollution, the solder can start to deteriorate and microscopic leaks will occur (maddening to find!).
Drawn and rolled (extruded) tone holes are created this way: after the key holes are cut, the tubing is put on a machine which pulls up some of the metal around each hole. These are milled flat and then rounded. These become the cups that the pad hits when the key comes down.
Perk: Flutes made this way are a little bit less costly.
Consequence: the tubing thickness of the body varies from tone hole to tone hole – some people think this has an effect on the tone of the flute. Personally, I have not noticed this.
Thin Wall/Heavy Wall?
Different thicknesses of tubing are used in flute manufacture. Most flutes are "medium" wall, which is .016 inches thick.
Thin wall flutes are made with .014 inches tubing.
Perks: This is a very easy flute to play with a bright sound; these flutes are lighter than normal which can be helpful for someone with hand or wrist problems.
Consequence: If you like to put a lot of air into your flute, don't buy one because you will crack or split notes very easily.
Heavy wall flutes are made with .018 inches tubing.
Perks: This flute will give you a BIG sound!
Consequence: This flute is heavier than normal, which can make playing difficult for those with hand/wrist problems; if you like to blow lightly, don't buy one because you will sound small.
To Be Continued: Part I of this series included explanations of Plateau and French Model Keys, In-Line vs. Offset G, C vs. B foot joint, and Metal Choices. Coming up, Part III of this series will explain Springs, Rollers, Pitch, Scale, Pads, and Head Joint Options.
To Be Continued...