VFS 12.24.20 — “The Advantages of Light Weight Flutes”
Vintage flutes weigh considerably less than their modern evolutions. Weight was a factor even in 19th century flute making. The 1834 Paris Exhibition music instrument jury awarded Laurent (the famous maker to royalty of mostly simple system crystal flutes) a bronze medal commenting that he "had made some strides in making it less heavy".
Flute weight is due to a number of factors including body material and thickness, keys, mechanism, and ribs. Louis Lot flutes are generally the lightest and coincidentally have the most resonance, ring, and variety of sound. Modern makers are convinced that thicker ribs, milled and cast keys, and thicker body tubing make the flute play better.
Vintage flutes have a great voice due to thin tubing allowing the flute to vibrate naturally! You don’t need to add much vibrato as the intensity is built into the flute.
Several modern makers make what they call a “lighter weight” flute, yet they still are 50% heavier than a vintage one. Makers confuse the idea that having simply obtained a college degree in flute somehow qualifies them as flute making experts and players!
A light weight flute is easier to hold and puts less stress on your body. If you combine it with an open hole inline G mechanism it is even better.
The offset G mechanism over torques the left hand and puts far too much strain upon the wrist and fingers. A few makers today do construct a half-offset G and this is a slightly better. The French maker Julliot made a half-offset G and may have originated the concept.
When you compare physical weights of plated, silver, and vintage gold flutes it is amazing how much easier they are to hold than a modern flute. They feel like they are floating over your hands! Today there is a rash of physical flute injuries, far more than in the past, and this is absolutely due to a combination of poor use, heavy modern flutes, and poor player posture.
Keep it simple. If it hurts when you play, stop! Taking time off won’t help you. You need to “fix” your poor habits! Learn your own study body mechanics, and use good old fashion comment sense. Stand still!! Don’t move too much when you play. The audience wants to hear you play not watch you gesticulate!
VintageFluteShop.com carries the finest antique and modern flutes for your playing needs. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy New Year to all our flute friends!
VFS 12.17.20 — “Practical Advice for Traditional Flute Practice”
So now you own a vintage flute. How can I improve? How does it differ from a modern flute?
Good flute playing is 95% embouchure. The lips need a wide range of strength, control, and flexibility. Practice wide intervallic long tones as well as shorter intervals, sans vibrato.
In general, use less vibrato. Intensity affects vibrato. Faster, wider and constant vibrato only disguises a poor sound. Always strive for core sounds especially in softer playing.
Vintage flutes generally require you play more rolled out than a modern headjoint. Never cover more than half of the embouchure hole and make sure you don’t play too high on the bottom lip. This way you never cover too much of the embouchure hole and the sound carries. If you cover too much, the sound is stuffy and dead. You will then try and force too much. Rolling out also helps keep the pitch sharper on longer scaled flutes.On all flutes rolling out helps with projection.
The low register gives many flutists problems on old flutes. Aim your air lower more toward your toes, and do not vibrate. Then the tube fills with completely air and the notes will speak.
Your flute does not have pinless mechanism. Who cares? Have you ever been to a concert, heard a fine flutist, and think to yourself, “Great playing, but such a shame, they don’t play on a pinless mechanism...” I know plenty of flutists with myriads of technical issues playing pinless mechanisms!
When the modern pinless mechanism first came out in the 1980’s (actually it was nothing new, French companies made pinless mechanisms in the early 1900’s...) I asked the owner of that company if I should get one to replace my traditional mechanism flute. He laughed and said, “Pinless mechanisms are for the flute repairmen and builders, not for the player!” It actually makes the keys too mushy and less responsive. Some companies made them much too heavy! Keep your fingers close if not on the keys at all times. Don’t slap, strain, or squeeze. Only use that amount of pressure necessary to close a key, and let your fingers lift along with the upward moving keys.
To improve articulation remember there are many varieties of strokes. Don’t force the tongue syllables, only use what you need for the style, composition, and mood. Keep the tongue in position so that you only use your front and back strokes with minimal movement.
For tuning, A=440Hz flutes are no problem for modern use. Villette Lots are mostly A=438Hz and also play well in the A=440-442Hz range. They are fine for chamber and solo music. For those flutes tuned at A=435Hz it is the most difficult to play at modern pitches, but not impossible. It just takes a lot of extra work with your ear and a tuner. Make yourself a tubing chart! Play your low A into a calibrated tuner for the pitch of the flute, then go up and down slowly note by note chromatically. Notate each note when in tune, flat or sharp. This way you learn your flute’s and your own tuning tendencies.
Holding the flute properly is essential to long term health of your fingers, hands, arms, and neck. Let the flute balance gently over your right thumb and use your lips as a balance point. Do not hold, force or squeeze the flute. Do not hold the flute with your left hand. Don’t force your lip hard into the embouchure plate.With these simple precepts your fingers will be relaxed and free to move. You will have more control and avoid possible injuries. Inline G is far more ergonomic than offset. If the open holes are troublesome insert removable plugs.
Proper balance is also important. Don’t hyperextend your right shoulder into “marching band position”. Let your right shoulder relax naturally or the weight of the flute will tip to the left, straining on your neck and shoulders. This is one reason a gold headjoint doesn’t work on a silver body.
Currently we have some great flutes in stock including a Haynes fusion flute, Haynes wood piccolo, Haynes serial #1, gold Muramatsu, and one of the most rare of all: a Godfroy from 1857!
VintageFluteShop.com has great flutes at great prices!
VFS 12.10.20 — “Where, Oh Where Has the Dolce Gone?”
Good flute playing used to include playing sweetly, with a sense of line, good taste, and musicianship. Playing loud and fast wasn’t enough. A colleague of mine who worked frequently with Rampal told me that “Bad playing has now become a style!” To quote Rampal, “The flute is not a trumpet.”
A good legato takes skill to connect the notes without bumps or unintentional accents. It is very achievable on period vintage flutes.
For years, historical performers have played period flutes to enhance the musical styles which were written for those particular flutes. Well, why not Böhm flutes as well? If you play 1830-50’s music it would make sense to use a wood conical. For the great post-1947 French works of both chamber music and orchestra why not a period French Böhm silver flute?
Georges Barrère premiered Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun” in 1895. We don’t know if he played his Lot, Bonneville, or Rive. He did play his all-platinum flute for many years which was a sublime instrument and premiered Density 21.5 on it in 1935. You can hear me playing Barrère’s platinum flute here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-_n7dzBrOA
Listen to the few existing recordings of Gaubert and you hear a brilliant style with unmatched technique and variety of articulation. The old flutes have many capabilities for subtlety. There are many types of articulation for different styles and moods. These varieties are exemplified with the vintage flute.
Marcel Moyse premiered the Ibert Flute Concerto in 1932 on his Cousenon flute. He also was the first to play Ravel’s Daphnis & Chloe in 1912, but we do not know the flute brand.
If you think new flutes are the only way to play quickly, listen to this outstanding bouncy articulation of Julius Baker playing his old Powell: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCZrRkbySLA
I think it makes perfect sense to play post 1832 music on a variety of Böhm flutes and hopefully performers will continue to explore these options.
Thank you to our friend Roy Oser for suggesting this topic!
Stay tuned, next week we will have practice advice on vintage flutes.
VFS 12.3.20 — My Kingdom for a Headjoint
The flute headjoint is the heart and soul of your instrument. Acoustically it is about 50% headjoint and 50% the body. You can prove this to yourself easily enough. Take your favorite headjoint and play it on a student flute body. It may improve the student flute slightly but it is still not a professional level. Conversely, place a student headjoint on your professional body. Not much better, eh? A professional headjoint works best on a professional body.
The material of the headjoint affects overall tonality. Using gold, silver, plated, wood, or combination of those materials will produce a customized sound which works well with your unique speed of air, lips, and face shape. Personally I prefer 14K gold with a platinum riser and all-14K gold on modern headjoints. Also for modern headjoints, grenadilla wood works quite well and I also have an excellent nickel tube headjoint with bamboo lip! For vintage your main choices are silver and silver-plated. I have come to love the sound of the antique silver-plated headjoints and flutes and feel they have just a great tone as the solid silver ones.
Paul Taffanel used to carry his Louis Lot headjoint in his pocket during class lessons. When he needed to demonstrate he would pull his headjoint out of his pocket and play his student’s flute. He told his students that once they find a great headjoint to always keep and and never sell it. That is very good advice! Taffanel did endorse other flute brands, but verbally told his students to only buy flutes made by Louis Lot.
In the existing Louis Lot company log books there is an entry for Philippe Gaubert showing he had his original lot #1986 lip changed to a Chambille.
Marcel Moyse was said to have a favorite Lebret headjoint he purchased at a yard sale and re-cut himself!
In the early days of Louis Lot and Claude Rive flutes the serial numbers were engraved upon the headjoint and body. For early Rive’s they also added the serial to the foot joint as well. I would guess in those days you bought the headjoint that came with the flute or perhaps you got to pre-select it before engraving, we’ll never know.
Flutists have also interchanged foot joints but this is a much more difficult piece to fit well to the body and once refit, the tenon will not fit the original foot. Georges Barrere wrote that his Louis Lot originally had a C foot and he found a Lot B foot which he later added.
For an excellent article on the history and development of headjoints, please read our posting: The Embouchure Hole
Vintage headjoints are made to the original dimensions of Theobold Böhm. He stated that the angle of the riser (embouchure wall) works best for sound and response with a 7 degree angle. This measurement is still used today in modern headjoint making. The difference today is that embouchure holes are generally larger, lip plates smaller, lip angles sharper, risers much higher, and tubes generally not hard enough. In the vintage days, the resistance of the headjoint was balanced by the lightness of the flute body with thinner tubing which was seamed and burnished, along with thinner and lighter keywork and mechanism.
Today flutes are designed to sell to players looking to play mostly loud, fast, and easy. The advanced pallet of tonalities is ignored in favor of technical quickness. They are also considerably heavier in weight, which accounts in-part for the many injuries flutists have today.
Few players today play a modern flute with its original headjoint. Most of the very best headjoint makers have left the larger flute companies to make headjoints on their own!
Lastly, never ever re-cut your vintage headjoint, shorten the length, or replace the lip!
VintageFluteShop.com is NOW looking to buy, sell, or consign your flute!
VFS 11.25.20 — The Great Flutes of Yesteryears!
I had the privilege of private study with a number of well-known flutists including Julius Baker. He wasn’t the most articulate, so the best part of lessons was listening to him play! We had some talks about vintage flutes vs modern. He told me he would practice his Louis Lot flute to stay in shape as the modern flutes were too easy. He told me he often used a Louis Lot headjoint on his old Powell and stayed in shape playing a Louis Lot. I visited him in the musicians’ locker room after a NY Philharmonic concert and we talked about the new Boston-made modern flutes with Cooper scale. He told me he saw no reason to switch as the new models just didn’t have the tone quality and projection he needed.
In high school and college I also studied with James Pappoutsakis. Again not a good teacher, but what a sweet warm sound from his old Powell!
The teacher I learned the most from was Phillip Kaplan who played in the Boston Symphony and was the un-credited inventor of the Deveau scale. He made many commercial recordings in the 1940’s and 50’s and had a rich French tone. He played on old Powell and Haynes. I knew him through age 95. You could never fool his ear. He could hear the difference and superiority of the longer flute scale and more traditional headjoint. He used to tell me that the flute companies occasionally made undercut headjoints in the old days, but mostly they were rejected as being too coarse and buzzy!
The great Jean-Pierre Rampal told people his preferred sound was his gold Louis Lot from 1869. He only retired that flute because the mechanism was fragile. I had the privilege of playing that flute in 2014 and it had one the most beautiful sweet tones of any flute I’ve played. His favorite gold Haynes from 1959 was similar, but didn’t quite have the same sound. It was pitched at A=440Hz and had more reliable mechanism. Rampal lived until 2000 and certainly could have switched to a more modern flute if he felt it improved his playing.
Seems to me the great flutists of yesteryear all sounded great on their vintage flutes. So why is it that they are rarely played today? You can still play out-of-tune on a new flute! Flutes don’t play in-tune, but flutists can! There are of course some fabulous players today using modern flutes. But if you listen to some of their older recordings which were made on a vintage flute they sound even better!
I think of the story about the orchestral flutist being criticized by his conductor for his poor pitch. The flutist responds, “I don’t have intonation problems, the flute company told me my new flute it is “factory tuned!”
Are the older flutes harder to play? No way! The main difference is you have to stay in shape and practice regularly. The more flexible and strong you remain, the more the flute will enhance and project your musical voice! Once you stay in-shape the feeling of playing the old flutes is no different than playing a new one except that ultimately YOU will control the flute, the flute will NOT control you!
Personally, if I were looking to purchase a new flute today I would consider a very small maker with the credentials, experience, and positive attitude to properly create, accept my feedback, and customize my flute— or better yet, buy a great vintage or pre-owned modern flute. Modern companies utilize controlled machines, outsourcing, and digital tooling. Fancy tooling and machines do not guarantee aural success and replace expertise! For the cost of a new modern flute, you can own multiple vintage flutes!
Those of you who own a vintage flute understand the feeling, sensitivity, tonal properties, and mechanical smoothness of these finely sculpted works of art. Yes, there are some great modern flutes, but they are not easy to find. Fortunately we at VFS find these great flutes for you!
For those of you who strongly believe in the environment consider this: a used flute as “green” as you can get! It doesn’t require harmful mining of precious metals. Did you know 50% of flute-making is scrap along with toxic oils, chemicals, and lubricants! You also can help the economy by supporting other flutists selling their instruments through our "all-American" owned company.
If you love playing the flute as much as we do, you owe it to yourself to try a vintage flute. Explore our world of vintage and pre-owned modern flutes at www.vintagefluteshop.com!
VFS 11.19.20 — Vintage Flute Shop or Auctions
If you want a high quality vintage, antique, or pre-owned modern flute where to turn? Your best option is to us at VFS!
The down side of buying at auctions:
1. Flutes are not vetted. Their condition and playability is unverified until you receive it! Auctions houses sell many flutes from excellent to poor condition. Often times they don’t know if the flute is plated or silver or the wood type. Most problems which occur in used flutes are due to poor repairs and/or storage.
2. Scale and solder are a big gambles. Auction houses never list dimensions or take complete sets of photographs. Wood flutes cracks are never disclosed.
3. Your winning bid is only the beginning! You will also pay buyers premiums from 20-30%, applicable local sales taxes and/or VAT. If purchased through an international auction expect to also pay additional import duties, shipping, handling, and packaging fees.
4. All sales are final with no possibility for return.
5. Auction houses employ no qualified flute specialists.
We fully research all the flutes we sell, buy, and consign. We do occasional purchase from select auctions and our track record is very high as we know what to look for in photos and which questions to ask. VFS has access to an a number of historic references for dating. When we do sell a flute needing restoration it is fully disclosed. We only offer for sale the very best in vintage and pre-owned modern flutes and have no qualms in rejecting instruments which do not meet out strict standards.
In terms of the brands we recommend: Louis Lot, Godfroy, Rive, Bonneville, Lebret, Millereau, Boehm-Mendler, Boehm-Greve, Buffet as well as the vintage Powell, Muramatsu, and Haynes. There are numerous other antique flute companies, but we recommend only the most playable and collectable. If you buy a lesser known brand it certainly may play well, but the cost of restoration will exceed its value. Market value is determined by the price people will pay for a flute.
At VFS all domestic sales are fully refundable within 5 days unless otherwise noted.
We have a number of great flutes in stock including one played by one of our very favorite French flutists and a former Boston Symphony member! Contact us today!
VFS 11.12.20 — Photographing Your Flute
We at VintageFluteShop.com buy, sell, and consign flutes daily. One very important aspect in our evaluation is seeing accurate photos of your flute. In order for someone to get an idea of the authenticity and condition of your flute certain features need to be shown. If the flute passes the initial screening process, we of course need us to see the flute in person.
If you own a high-end professional camera that is fine but it is not required. Many phone cameras will take decent photos for these purposes. Here are some guidelines:
1. Turn off the flash.
2. Take pictures in focus and up close.
3. Use a light box to eliminate shadows. If you don’t have a light box close your shades and any direct source of lighting.
4. If you have a higher end camera use a macro lens and tripod.
Photograph the flute in general. Capture it in one shot end to end in its case. We will look for the engraving showing the brand and serial number. Show us close-ups of the headjoint and foot joint clearly as well. Photo the embouchure hole and lip plate. Many vintage flute lips have unfortunately been changed while other re-soldered. In terms of condition: show the pads, any cracks (both wood and old metal can crack), any solder problems, the case, and the crown.
Afterwards, take measurements. Measure the length of the headjoint from the middle of the embouchure hole to the end of the headjoint, the entire length of the headjoint from the crown to the end of the headjoint; insert the headjoint to the barrel in full and measure from the center of the embouchure hole to the end of the footjoint. You may send those measurements in inches or centimeters.
Once we see these photos this will give us an initial impression of what exactly what flute you have and the value range.
Some problems to be cognizant of would be solder corrosion and rust. Solder problems can sometimes be seen as cracks or there will be loose joints. Rust cannot be seen without taking apart the flute, so that is one aspect we will check once the flute is received. If your flute has a minor rust or solder problem it is not always deal breaker, it just means we have to see how easily it can be remedied and how it affects playability.
Vintage and antique flute prices have dropped over there years, but your vintage or modern flute still has value! We have a fantastic inventory of great flutes currently of flutes made from 1857 to 2010! For example, our GODFROY flute is an important rare flute dating from 1857, our Muramatsu was played in the Boston Symphony, and our modern Haynes especially with its SHERIDAN headjoint is much better than new!
VFS 11.05.20 — A Brief Overview of Vintage Flute Eras
There are different periods of the most desired flutes for each maker, be it antique or modern. Old flutes had far more hand work than today with fewer shortcuts. Flutes were uniform in quality, played great, were works of art, and could be uniquely customized for the purchaser.
19th century flute makers seamed their metal tubes. Seams are visible on silver flutes with a very thin black line. (High end brass makers today still seam their tubes.) The toneholes and mechanism tubing also had solder seams. Around 1905 the French makers started using seamless tubing. It also had great sound and was easier to make. Eventually modern companies stopped making their tubing and most companies today purchase their tubing from the same small external companies. Great companies such as Steinway continue to make their reputation by outsourcing little to nothing. It’s a shame that no major modern flute company emulates this principle.
American makers Powell and Haynes always used a seamless silver tube. Powell copied Louis Lots. Haynes initially copied Boehm-Mendler and much later copied Lots.
Each period from a flute company’s history produces different types of flutes. The longer in business, the more evolution (or devolution depending on your view).
LOUIS LOT (1855-1951)
This is the pinnacle of 19th flute and early 20th flute making. They made Bohm flutes in silver, silver-plate, and woods. Lot himself said that wood and silver were equal in playability and quality, but recommended silver as wood flutes were prone to cracking. As the nominal pitch was not standardized before 1930, the Lot company made flutes with choice of pitch from A=435-450Hz.
Serial 1-2150, years: 1855-1876
Proprietor Louis Lot
1st Generation, made when Lot was the proprietor. These Louis Lots command the highest prices by collectors. They tend to have a bit more “woody” sound and have a distinct French ring. Sound is sweet and light. Flutes very light in weight with thin keys. Mostly pitched at A=435Hz.
Famous owners: Paul Taffanel, Philippe Gaubert, Louis Dorus, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Rene Leroy, Hennebains
Serial 2151-3390, years: 1876-1882
Proprietor Henri Villette
2nd Generation. These also command high prices. They are the preferred flutes by players as they are mostly higher in pitch A=438Hz and a bit more contemporary in terms of sound and feel. The tone is bigger, silvery, and buttery.
Serial 3392-4750, years: 1882-1889
3rd Generation. Excellent flutes. Embouchures look a bit lopsided but play well. It was during these years that Paul Taffanel helped develop an improved headjoint with the Louis Lot Company. When Debonneetbeau manufactured the improvement without credit and money to Taffanel he never again endorsed the Lot Company publicly, though he only played Lots himself and only recommended them to his pupils.
Serial 4751-7350, years: 1889-1905
Proprietor: Emilio Barat
4th Generation. Excellent flutes, Barat made the most metal flutes of any Lot owner.
Serial 7351-9210, years: 1904-1922
Proprietor : Ernesto Chambille
5th Generation. Underrated flutes made quite well. Many flutes made at A=435Hz
Player: Joseph Rampal
Serial 9211-10442, years: 1922-1951
Proprietor: Pauline Chambille
6th Generation. Fine instruments, some made at A=440Hz.
Player: Fernand Dufrense
In 1952 the Marigaux Company bought Louis Lot from the estate of Pauline Chambille and made inferior student copies. These flutes are not considered real Louis Lot, though their name is engraved upon them. They are less desirable and have very little commercial interest.
Verne Q. Powell began to make his first flute in 1926 and founded his company in 1927. (He was forced out of the Haynes Company after 15 years in a dispute over money and recognition for their new silver clarinet.) Soon afterwards, his French model flutes far exceeded the quality and popularity of any other company.
During Powell’s tenure approximately 2175 instrument were made. This was the flute of choice for years for many players.
The single and 2-digit Powells, 1927-1929, command the higher prices since there were so few made. The workmanship is impeccable as they copied sharper pitch versions of Louis Lots.
3-digit Powells, 1930-1951, also play well but can be found for half the price of the earlier flutes.
4-digit Powells, 1951-1961, are a bargain today as they prices have dropped considerably, but they possess wonderful playing qualities!
Old Powell flutes were played by most of the top professional flutists: Julius Baker, Albert Tipton, Joseph Mariano, Harold Bennett, James Pappoutsakis, etc.
William S. Haynes and his workers made 506 flutes during the 5 years he had a workshop at the JC Haynes Bay State Flute Company. There are very few existing samples but the ones I have seen are quite good. We at VintageFluteShop.com happen to be selling the very FIRST Haynes Flute serial #1. It plays magnificently and was performed in recital by Alan Weiss at Tanglewood in 2019. It has been beautifully restored by David Chu.
Haynes founded his own company in 1900 with flute serial #506. Most of the flutes from 1900-1918 were low pitched at A=435Hz. Finally in 1918 Haynes raised the pitch to A=440Hz. Wood flutes were mostly phased out in these years.
Haynes died in 1939 and the company was still making mostly regular model flute. Powell had taken over the market with their French model.
In the 1950’s the fine flutist and teacher Phillip Kaplan of the Boston Symphony was hired by Haynes as the artistic consultant and they finally began to catch up to their competitors. In 1959 Rampal obtained his famous gold Haynes #23333. Flutists generally acknowledge that the flutes made from 1958-1966 are considered the best and most desired output from this firm to date.
Flutists who played golden age Haynes: Jean-Pierre Rampal, Fernand Dufrense
VFS 10.29.20 — GODFROY FLUTES: Société Godfroy fils
Louis Lot has become the most desired and famous vintage French flute company, the Stradivari of flutemaking. But little is said of another important firm which preceded Louis Lot: the Godfroy flute companies. In 1833, Clair Godfroy’s business was acquired by his son-in-law Louis Lot as well as his own son Vincent Godfroy. This began the collaboration with Theobold Böhm to develop, market, and perfect the Böhm system flute.
The first successful commercial Böhm model was in 1832 made of wood with conical bore and ring keys. Many simple system players changed to the Böhm system during these years including well-known flutists of their time such as Louis Dorus (born Vincent-Joseph van Steenkiste) and Vincent Coche. Imagine taking several years off from your career to learn new fingerings and the embouchure necessary for a new instrument!
This 1832 model was presented to the Paris Conservatory for approval and was denied due to the lobbying of their main professor Jean Louis Tulou. The Böhm system flute would not be accepted by the Conservatory until after the retirement of Tulou.
In 1847 Böhm perfected the modern flute with a cylindrical bore. Flutes are now made in woods as well as metals. The cylindrical bore afforded the player the opportunity of more volume, bigger sound, and greater dynamic and musical contrasts. The headjoint conversely would have a conical taper.
The Godfroy Company purchased the patent to make Böhm flutes in 1847 and were sole manufactures in France retaining all legal rights. Their Böhm flutes now read “BREVETE” (patented). They remained the exclusive Böhm makers in France from 1847-1862. In 1855 Louis Lot was also allowed to make the Böhm flute as well under his own brand until 1862 when the exclusive patent expired. The cylindrical flute became the most desired flute in France and most of Europe in short time. (Though in Germany the conical flute was greatly preferred especially by Wagner.) Godfroy and Lot made a number of improvements, not all of which had Böhm’s personal approval but nonetheless did improve the playability of the flute.
One obstacle was the open G# system (and reverse thumbs). This meant the players had to keep the pinky of the left hand down most of the time. To improve this, Louis Dorus helped develop a G# mechanism which would remain closed most of the time until needed. Godfroy called it the Dorus G# key in honor of its creator and it worked perfectly acoustically. The issue with this key was regulation and over time the makers decided it was a mechanism which tended to bind. The modern duplicate G# solved the mechanical problem, but created the acoustic issue of modern flutes still troublesome today as the high E tends to be unstable, and made slurs to E-A difficult. The high F# also didn’t speak as well. Also with the extra tonehole the resonance of the flute changed. The flutes we have seen with Dorus G# work just fine as long as they are properly maintained and regulated. You can articulate high E’s and never crack! (e.g. Beethoven 7th Symphony), and slurs to high A are easy (e.g. Dvorak 9th Symphony).
The Godfroy company also manufactured oboes, clarinets, piccolos, bassoons, and simple system flutes. They made VERY FEW cylindrical Böhm system flutes. These are a few of the historic flute figures who were involved with Godfroy at this time: Vincent Coche, flutist; fluemakers: Claude Rive, Augusta Bonneville. The examples I have played are spectacular and equal to Louis Lot. Lot remained with Godfroy until he started his own company in 1855.
We at VFS have recently acquired a spectacular and special flute, a Godfroy wood cylindrical flute from 1857 in near mint condition! It has a Dorus G#, French open holes, C foot as well as the original case and grease pot. If you are interested in acquiring our Godfroy contact us for information.
VFS 10.22.20 — Modern vs Vintage Headjoints
A good headjoint is one that has a number of important factors and qualities. For a few years I worked with a professional headjoint maker who currently owns his own company. We created a fabulous checklist and grading system. Over time his headjoints got better and better because he took my advice. He told me that my feedback helped him improve.
I was trained to test flutes and headjoints by one of my great teachers Phillip Kaplan. He played in the Boston Symphony for 3 decades and understood quality flute playing and the needs of flute players. He showed me that you must try the headjoints in all 3 registers for tone, dynamics, response, and legato.You never, ever force or exceed your own sonority. Sing, don’t scream! If it is un-balanced the maker needs to make adjustments. There are too many headjoint makers convinced they know how to play the flute better than their clientele. They improperly test the flute. They end up making the headjoint for their own deficiencies.
Primarily the most important factor in a headjoint is quality of sound! That’s it, case closed! Some flutists today will argue that more important factors are speed and volume. Conversely, character, style, musicianship, and the intent of the composer should always supersede the players’ ego.
My favorite headjoint makers today are people such as David Chu and Ranier Lafin. These are makers who truly understand the important qualities of a headjoint and make them tastefully with a flair for style, balance, refinement, response, character, and tonal colors. My favorite vintage headjoints are Louis Lot and old Powell’s. (My early career was with an old Powell.) If a headjoint is improperly balanced and sloppily finished it has this fat and ugly sizzle and distortion which is bottom heavy and thin on the high notes. These headjoints are impossible to play dolce in the top register! The low register sounds like a trombone! (No offense to trombonists, but I’m sure none of them want to sound like a flute!) It is interesting that flutists today mostly play on headjoints made by a different maker that made their flute body!
I suggest using a straight centered and focused tone with none to minimal vibrato to hear the headjoint ring naturally. In addition to the balance of the 3 registers and a full pallet of timbres, a good headjoint should feel open and not stuffy. The low register should be full without edge and the middle and high register float. The great flutist Georges Laurent was said to have a liquid tone. Rampal’s sound is sweet and light like a cantata soloist. You should be able to lightly attack a note and the headjoint should speak on the front of the beat. Vintage headjoints require the proper use of embouchure. All levels of players can easily improve their embouchure by regular practice of “wide intervals” as found in a number of Moyse studies.
When you play-test a headjoint make sure you experience all dynamics and nuances. Don’t just blast and overblow. Don’t worry about the high C and above. Those notes are rarely played and will tell you nothing about the instrument.
Antique French headjoints were made with seamed tubing until around 1905 or so when the makers switched to seamless. The tubes were burnished by hand, which only a few modern makers still do. Burnishing makes the tube very hard. (Ted Williams used to burnish his bats made of ash wood for hours until they achieved the correct hardness! ) The vintage embouchures in the early Boehm days were more oval as they emulated the simple system flutes. These metal flutes were designed to have “wood” qualities. As the playing demands of the composer changed the headjoints needed for more volume and projection. The embouchures holes became large and evolved in the modern rounded rectangle which is mainly used today. Antique headjoints do have larger lip plates which will actual feel more comfortable on the lip than many of today’s smaller lip plates.
The risers of the antique headjoints were much lower than today’s. This afforded vintage headjoints the opportunity of the proper resistance between the flute body and the player. Since the tubes today are generally softer than their earlier counterparts, makers make higher walls and thicker embouchure plates. In the 1950’s some companies did a bit of undercutting to higher riser headjoints. Albert Cooper combined undercutting with overcutting and thus created the embryo of the modern headjoint. The modern headjoints are easier to play requiring less embouchure. Articulation can be faster as well as quicker wide intervals. But you always give up something to get something! You lose the pure tone quality and rich harmonics. Projection suffers and players often get an unattractive sizzle or buzz. Traditional headjoints are NOT obsolete or inferior in any way to a modern one.
It is interesting that the last generation of flute players who began their careers on traditional headjoints have the best sound and musical expression regardless of which headjoint(s) they use. Good flute playing is 95% embouchure! A traditional headjoint is only harder to play if one is out of shape, so stay in shape!
VFS 10.15.20 — Could you tell me about silver-plated vintage flutes?
The French flutes companies such as Louis Lot, Bonneville, Rive, and Godfroy created flutes with choices of French silver, which is 95% pure as well as in silver-plated or non-plated maillechort. Maillechort is named after its creators the French metallurgists Maillot and Chorier and is an alloy of brass, copper, and zinc.Today this material is no longer used in flute-making but is used for watches.
Flutists believe that a plated flute, sometimes referred to as “tin”, is inferior to silver. This is another misnomer by modern manufacturers and flute dealers since as plated flutes are only made for cheap student models. Modern flute companies have no idea or interest in creating a custom model from this wonderful material. The amount of silver in raw materials today cost only a few hundred dollars. You are paying the rest for workmanship. The 19th and early 20th century flutists played either plated or silver flutes for their differences in tone quality, response, and style. Plated Louis Lot flutes and later Lebret were the recommended choices of the Conservatoire de Paris. The French companies did also offer an option for un-plated maillechort and we have seen such examples including a Barat Louis Lot engraved by the factory with the name of American music shop. In the days when wood flutes were popular, the Boehm mechanism is much lighter in weight than solid silver. It rings beautifully and is rich with overtones. Marcel Moyse only played on “tin” flutes. A plated vintage flute can last lifetimes! My favorite personal Lot is a “tin” Villette from 1878!
Vintage silver flutes often, but not always, are hallmarked with the purity symbol of a boar or crab along with the stamp of the manufacturer. Plated flutes will have no such marks, except on the lip plates which were usually silver on Louis Lots. 1st and and the early 2nd generation Louis Lot flutes have no hallmarks.
Silver plating was done mainly by hand, by a French company still in business called Christofle. They invented the gold and silver plating process using an amalgam of mercury. As the dangers of mercury were unknown in the 19th century, many of these workers died young. The layers of silver were thick and look and felt so much like silver, that hallmarks were needed to differentiate from actually silver. (Here is a very interesting article on the history of plating: https://www.philamuseum.org/booklets/7_42_77_1.html)
The biggest difference with a silver plated flute is plating wear. Some people have a natural acid in their hands which promotes degradation. The other danger is bringing your flute to someone who doesn’t realize it is not silver, and they buff the plating off! The layers of silver are quite thick, however. The most common places to look for plating wear are the tenons, mechanism tubing, and the tops of keys. You will see many plated vintage flutes for sale, and many of them are in poor condition. We at VFS only sell plated flutes in excellent to mint condition.
If you wish to purchase a vintage flute please contact us!
VFS 10.8.20 — Q&A
We have been receiving a number of great vintage flute questions so we will address a variety of topics.
Q) How do I start collecting antique flutes on a budget?
A) Vintage flutes are available in many prices from $1,000 upwards. You can find some very nice Lebrets, antique Buffets, and wood Haynes at entry-level prices. Generally the higher prices are Louis Lots and Godfroys, followed by Rive, Bonneville, Powell, and Haynes. Tell us your budget and we can help you find a wonderful flute.
Q) Are there professional flutists today who still play on a vintage flute?
A) Absolutely! There are a number of fine flutists and teachers that play vintage flutes. Our favorites are Claudi Arimany, Paul Fried, Horacio Parravicini, Gary Schocker, and Alan Weiss.
Q) What are the differences between thin wall and thick walled flutes?
A) Wall or tubing thickness was made in different sizes and affects the depth, sound, volume, and character of the flute. It depends on the air speed and musical style of the player. The tubing on most vintage flutes is ,013-.014 inches, most plated flutes are .016 or .018. These flutes would have been matched with a corresponding headjoint riser, either higher or lower, to match the preferred resistance of the player. Generally the thinner the tube and the lower the riser, the more colorful and vibrant the sound. It will ring most naturally. The thicker the tube and the higher the riser, the sound does get darker but without the same overtones. It will take faster air speed. In the old days, most professionals preferred thinner tubing. It is still offered today by the modern makers by special order, as the standard is usually .016 on silver flutes. I myself have always preferred the thinner tubing for the variety of timbres and control.
Q) Which is better C foot vs B foot?
A) The sound on a B foot tends to be darker, a bit brighter with a C foot. A C foot flute is lighter to hold and the low register responds quicker. On a B foot the high register is a bit easier to play dolce. Most of the old French players played C, though a number played B. Georges Barrere brought his B foot Louis Lot to New York City and started the trend of the B foot preference. I myself own both B and C. My favorite B foot is a Louis Lot with left hand lever, so you never by mistake hit the B roller when you reach for the C!
Q) Open hole vs closed or plateau cups?
A) Most professionals prefer open cups for the subtle harmonics especially in the high register. The plateau cups make the keys easier to close. Acoustically there is not much difference. The majority of our inventory is open hole. An open hole flute can be easily converted to closed with a set of plugs.
Q) Why not just buy a flute on EBay, it looks so shiny?
A) Well, if you can’t go to Vegas you can gamble with your money on Ebay and see what you get! While there are some fine dealers selling flutes on Ebay, they lack the resources and overall skills of VFS. Alan is a first-class performer and teacher and knows how to find and select only the best flutes. We don’t sell cosmetically perfect flutes which do not play well. David Chu is one of the most respected flute restorers in the business and is highly discriminating with a refined ear. We also do our best to beat our competitors’s pricing. When we consider a flute to sell it is highly screened and after we purchase it. Then we establish a very fair market value. We firmly believe that all the flutes we sell are artist quality!
Q) I went to several flute specialty dealers and they mostly push new flutes over used ones, why?
A) The answer is simple, dealers make higher margins on new flutes than anything else they sell. They don’t play the flute at the highest level and can’t really tell the differences if a vintage flute is good or not. Often times they have new flutes shipped and they sit in their box for weeks, months or longer until a customer wants to try it. The modern factories rarely set-up and finish their new flutes properly. At VFS, though we do on occasion sell an un-restored flute, the majority of our instruments are throughly checked and adjusted.
VFS 10.1.20 — How to Care for My Vintage Flute
Antique flutes take a bit of extra care, but they are well worth it. After playing, carefully swab out the inside of your flute with a piece of silk and gently wipe the outside with a soft cloth. Flute flags also work well. Do not feel you need to dry the inside of the flute 100% and never force a swab into the headjoint or body. A tiny but of moisture is just fine and good for the pads.
In terms of general maintenance, you will need to find someone well-experienced for the needs of vintage flutes. A number of the flute manufacturers either do not accept vintage or modern repairs, or solely lack the skills to overhaul and quality control them properly when they do. We absolutely do not recommend installing synthetic pads. While this is the better choice for modern flutes, the old flutes prefer softer felt pads which will actually enhance the vintage flute’s playability in terms of tone and response. Felt pads will seal better as well, as synthetic pads are very hard and only designed to seal extremely level toneholes with mechanism having no side play. Key cups on vintage flutes often have spuds and washers rather than a screw and do take more time to seal and balance correctly.
Some vintage flutes have adjustment screws on up to 5 keys. Once these are in the “set”position by your repairman, do not move them yourself. These “set”screws can loosen themselves over time and in those instances a tiny drop of clear nail polish will secure their position.
When you bring your vintage flute for repair, you want to make sure your repairman knows to never buff your flute on a wheel. These flutes should only be hand-polished. The most damage we see to both silver and silver-plated antique flutes is from inexperienced repairmen.
Finding a repairman is extremely important for a flutist, as they will understand how you want your flute(s) set up in terms of feel and action. I myself continue to use only the same repairman and restorer since 2002. Sometimes the headjoint maintenance is overlooked. Make sure the headjoint cork is changed every few years when you change your pads and check your cork position. The headjoint cork is not for tuning, so once it is in the correct place leave it alone. If your tenons are too tight or loose on the headjoint or foot, these can be adjusted properly as well.
On occasion a pad will stick or make a slight noise. Use un-gummed cigarette paper and do not close the key and pull as this leads to tearing of the pad skins. Rather, place the paper under the key and hold it still for 30 seconds. This usually does the trick! Some flutists prefer pre-powdered cigarette paper which also works well.
More often than not, the antique flute case is not usable. If it is, often the key doesn’t work or has gone missing. If there is mold or mildew, dispose of the antique case as this cannot be remedied. While you should retain the original case if at all possible, there a few good options for new cases. Once you spend thousands of dollars on your flute it doesn’t make sense to carry it in an inexpensive case. Most cases won’t fully protect your instrument or match it’s quality of workmanship. We highly recommend the handmade wood cases made to order and individual fit to each flute made by www.sideblown.com as the best cases made today in terms of aesthetics and protection.
We at VintageFluteShop.com will purchase an antique flute which is in need of more than an overhaul, requiring restoration such as dents, box-joints, and/or toneholes. Any solder problems with an antique flute should only be attempted by a highly qualified restorer, one that not only has repair credentials, but is a flute-maker as well. Once heat and fire needs to be used to repair a tonehole or box-joint, other solder points may weaken if done improperly. Antique flutes used mainly lead solder and if these flutes were not properly stored, then the solder may have weakened or deteriorated. Adding excess heat to the tube changes the character of sound and response, therefore, using special glues may be preferable to re-soldering.
Once your flute is restored all it will need is for you to make music! VintageFluteShop.com is happy to fulfill your vintage flute dreams!
VFS 9.24.20 — Vintage Flute Tuning
I have a vintage flute, should I retune it or alter the headjoint?
NO!! Never ever re-tune your vintage flute or alter the headjoint! If you don’t like your vintage flute, please sell it especially if it is in original condition.
An antique flute is a work of art. If you have a Picasso (not many of us do!) which doesn’t fit in your living room decor, do you buy new furniture, or have your precious art work repainted? There are some people today who actually cut these flutes in pieces and put on a modern scale! We would never knowingly sell to anyone who would do such a thing. Old flutes play beautifully at the optimal pitch for which they were built and that is how they should remain for future generations.
Several years ago at a masterclass I was giving in Europe a student asked me to try their Barat-era Lot. They were so proud of it. I tried and and told them it has been re-tuned and also had a replaced embouchure, so they were not getting the feel and sound of a real Lot. In essence, this was really a modern flute made of old parts. I had him try an authentic Lot and he could not believe the tone qualities and projection.
It is theoretically possible to re-tune flutes by inserting removable inserts. While this does sharpen the scale, it deadens the overtones and you sacrifice the depth of sound and volume.
Louis Lot flutes are mostly found as A=435Hz. Villette-era is mostly A=438Hz, and some of the Chambille-era flutes up to A=440Hz. Some Lots were sold to the 19th century American market at A=446Hz and to the UK market at A=452Hz.
Most Rives are set at A=435Hz , and Bonnevilles seem to be mostly A=438Hz. The Lebrets are seen at A=438Hz and A=440Hz scale.
Old Powells are mostly A=440Hz with a few exceptions. Haynes are A=435Hz up to 1918, then A=440Hz afterwards until 1985.
The headjoint on a vintage flutes can be quite special. If you like the flute and desire a modern headjoint, we are happy to find you a modern headjoint to use on your vintage flute. We prefer that the antique flute bodies remain together with their original headjoint, crowns, and cases whenever possible. The crowns of the vintage flutes are beautifully ornamented and light in weight. A modern crown is usually heavier and may give the impression of increased volume, but in reality the overtones and projection suffer.
Our inventory at VintageFluteShop.com is constantly changing so if we don’t have what you seek now, we may in a few weeks. A number of our flute are never listed on our website and end up selling to customers on our waiting lists. Please contact us soon and we look forward to assisting you!
VFS 9.17.20 — What’s my flute worth? Good question!
We are always happy to discuss purchasing or consigning your flute. How do you learn about it and find out its value? Our expertise lies in the area of Boehm system from 1832 to modern day. We have on occasion sold a few outstanding simple system flutes such as a Rod Cameron Grenser model and an original Drouet.
We generally ask for clear photos with a full description of the instrument and condition and ultimately need to examine the instrument in-person while receiving clear proof of provenance.
If you are selling a vintage Powell or Haynes a new pricelist won’t help you as these are not priced the same as a new flute. This is no reflection on the quality or desirability of a vintage flute as a musical voice, merely the number of people who want them compared to those who desire a newer model. Browsing the internet won’t tell the final selling price, merely the asking price! You also have to compare models, condition, and playability which is “virtually” impossible.
We have played, sold, bought, examined, and personally owned many Louis Lot, Powell, Haynes, Rive, and Bonneville flutes. Therefore, we are able to accurately assess their playability, desirability, and condition to determine realistic fair market value. We find it interesting that our competitors list their flutes for long periods of time. This tells us the asking price is unrealistically too high. A shiny flute may appeal to a museum, but doesn’t mean it plays well! We at VFS do not determine actual market value, which follows the principle of demand and supply. We follow worldwide sales so we determine the proper pricing for your flute.
Most French flutes have a beautiful sound and are made of wood, silver, and/or silver-plated maillechort (nickel, brass zinc tubes plated with a very thick layer of silver). The first and second Lot generation flutes are the most desirable and command the best prices. The other generations are quite nice and play well, but as you progress to each successive period the prices are lower because demand is lower and more were made. In our opinion, they also play extremely well and a viable option for those seeking a fine French flute at a more affordable price. Plated flutes play just as well as silver, just different! The later seamless tubes play great, just a bit more modern than their 19th century counterparts.
Years ago, old Powells were the trendy flute to own. Though their prices have dropped considerably, they are still wanted for their great tone, projection, and smooth feel of mechanism. When they do come up for sale we feel they are a bargain.
Remember, condition is everything! A Louis Lot without its original headjoint still has value, but not as much as with the original headjoint. A vintage flute in poor condition also commands a poor price. Most damage can be repaired and then the question is— does the cost of the repair exceed that of the restored flute? If you love the flute and have to have it, then money is no object. These are some of the factors we use to determine the value.
Flutes are to be played and enjoyed, and it is incredible that old flutes still have good value. When you play an antique flute, history is passing through your fingers. Call us today to discuss selling or buying a vintage flute!
VFS Blog 9.10.20 — Vintage versus New Flute
One of the many questions we receive is: why buy a vintage antique flute over a new modern flute? The simple answer is the high level of workmanship of vintage flutes and their unique tone qualities. Today’s makers have convinced flutists into believing their new products are vastly superior in terms of manufacture techniques and headjoints. The truth is exactly the opposite.
In today’s economy, it is simply a better choice to buy a pre-owned artist quality vintage flute versus an inexpensive disposable student import or sloppily made custom flute. The major companies churn their flutes out like sausages and charge thousands of dollars. Flutists can buy professional level vintage flutes that play great and are more affordable than their new incarnations. Yes, you will have to practice more to stay in shape. Yes, the scale is slightly flatter, so roll out and push in the headjoint. Yes, the low notes are a bit flatter and the high motes a sharper, so adjust with your ear and embouchure. The old A=440Hz flutes play well to A=444Hz. (The French flutes are flatter at A=435-438 so only a highly skilled professional will be able to play with modern collaborators.) The headjoints are not undercut or overcut on the old flutes. You can play with a full bottom and also dolce in the high register. Modern headjoints seem louder but do not project as well. They may be easier and faster for the embouchure and tongue, but a good flutist with proper practice can play them just fine. Listen to the recordings of Rampal and Baker playing on traditional flutes in terms of sound, response, and articulation and their mellifluous flute playing!
Experience this yourself—pick up a vintage Powell, Haynes, or Lot and realize the tonal palette. If you do not overblow with excessive vibrato the instrument sings, like a human voice. Moyse used to say that a great flute rings like a bell. People will say that the new flutes are so much easier to play and are louder and faster. Yes, and they are also shrill and have all the tonality of an electric toothbrush. The older instruments are not only great tools for music, but works of fine sculpture and truly made by hand.
Several years ago a principal player of a mid-west orchestra premiered a composition upon a brand new Boston flute in Boston’s Jordan Hall. This is a world class venue with superb acoustics and balance. The comments all around were, “We couldn’t hear the flute over the piano.” Reason being, the new flutes simply do not project nearly as well as the older ones.
We always would advise flutists to consider the depreciation factors. Old flutes have gone down in price in the last few years, but still have good value. If you leave a new flute-maker or flute dealership with a shiny new modern pin-less flute, that flute has depreciated by thousands of dollars by the time you reach your car. Modern flute makers are in the business of making you a flute as fast and cheap as possible with numerous shortcuts. Quality equals time with equals less profits! The art of a real handmade flute is quite rare today and only can be found in a few small workshops.
We advise you try a vintage Powell, Haynes, Louis Lot versus a new modern custom or student model and you will see the differences for yourself!!!
We are a growing company actively seeking to buy and/or sell on consignment your Louis Lot, Rive, vintage Powell, or Haynes, so please contact us.
VFS Blog 9.3.20 — VFS (founded 2015)
Why sell, buy, consign ,or seek flute advice from VintageFluteShop.com? As opposed to most of our competitors, we actually know what we are talking about! Babe Ruth said, “If it’s true, it ain’t bragging.”
David Chu is truly one of the finest experts in the area of flute restoration and flute-making. He is a professional flutist and teacher having graduated from the New England Conservatory. He trained with the renowned flute restorer Robert Gilchrist and worked for three Boston flute companies where he mastered the art of flute and headjoint making. He has over 30 years experience with antique French and American flutes, knows their strengths, and has an inane ability to solve any delicate padding, mechanic, or acoustic issues. Most repair people today only know how to work on modern instruments with modern pads, a completely different animal!
Alan Weiss has decades of experience and notoriety as an internationally acclaimed performer, recording artist, teacher, and flute historian. Alan studied flute with Phillip Kaplan, James Pappoutsakis, Doriot Anthony Dwyer, Paul Fried, Julius Baker, and had some lessons and masterclass with Marcel Moyse. He performed and taught with major orchestra, university, and flute-making institutions. He has advised many of the world’s best flutists and teachers (and their students) in finding the optimal instrument to complement their flute voice and style. Alan knows the difference between a mediocre flute and headjoint vs a great one! Since 2002 Alan has not let anyone but David Chu work on any of his personal flutes.
We limit our flute business to the very finest playing flutes at the very best prices. Research our competitors and you will see most of their vintage flutes are overpriced and therefore remain sale for many years. Just because an antique has new pads and is shiny means it plays well! Our current stock contains some wonderful wood and silver Haynes, Lebret, etc. including Haynes #1, the first Haynes Flute! If you seek something we don’t currently have please let us know as we are constantly updating our inventory. We have now expanded to offer pre-owned modern flutes. Our flutes move quickly because they are truly a cut above and priced fairly. Please contact us today!
We offer letters for most Boehm system antique flutes for companies no longer in existence. For appraisal letters on vintage Haynes or Powell flutes, please contact those companies directly.
For more information please email Alan Weiss at email@example.com