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VFS 3.4.21 — “B foot vs C foot”

Often times I am asked which is better, a C foot or B foot joint. Both foot joints are excellent and depend on the style and tonal goals of the player. B foot joints are found in the 1855 catalogue of the Louis Lot Company and the Godfroy pricelist of 1880. The Bohm & Mendler pricelist of 1877 also offers an option for B foot. Most of the 19th and early 20th century French flutists played a C foot. The Rudall Carte Company offered a B foot joint as early as the 1830’s for pre-Bohm simple system flutes and in the 1850’s for Bohm and Bohm- Carte models. I myself own modern and vintage flutes with both joints. Some B foot flutes are operated with a left-hand lever which works quite well as you never accidentally hit the C roller.

In 1905 Georges Barrere came to the USA as the principal flutist of the New York Symphony Orchestra. Barrere had been using a B foot on his Louis Lot, though it was not original to his flute. Since he was the most sought after flutist of his day, a number of the great flutists studied with him including William Kincaid. This began to popularize the trend of playing a B foot in America. Eventually the B foot became the model of choice internationally. 

Today, the C foot is still very popular in certain countries such as Spain, France, and Korea. The choice of the B foot has little to do with just the fact the flute can play down an extra half-step, and far more to do with sound, response, and timbre variety.

One of my personal favorite flutes is a gold flute with a Rampal style headjoint with both B and C foot joints. This is an excellent way to compare the differences. The C foot has a slightly lighter tone and the high register is easier to play especially in dolce passages. Switching to the B foot, the tone is a bit deeper and more robust, though fairly similar. The low register is deeper and much easier to play. The high register takes a bit more embouchure, though the high C speaks faster and softer.

Many younger flutists haven’t tried a professional flute with C foot as the output from flute manufactures is 99% B foot. A flute with a C foot is not just for elementary students!

Today there are still a few wonderful flutists who perform regularly on a C foot such as Claudi Arimany, Gaspar Hoyos, Gary Schocker, and Horacio Parraviccini.

VintageFluteShop.com carries a variety of antique and pre-owned modern flutes with both C and B foot. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

VFS 2.18.21 — “Felt pads vs Synthetic pads”

Flutes have over 450 different parts depending on the model. Not only have flutes have evolved over the years but so have their pads. They are integral to the instrument. A flute without pads is like a car without tires!

Vintage flutes perform optimally with felt pads. The older pads were much softer than today using a layer of cotton wrapped with “fish skin”. Fish skin is actually made from cow or sheep’s intestine. They were double-layered. Flute companies before 1970 often made their own pads.

Today felt pads are still used but are a bit harder than their earlier counterparts. They do work better for the older flutes and complement their tonal qualities. We prefer Pisoni Deluxe for restoration of antique flutes and modern flutes made before 1980.

Today synthetic pads are used on most new flutes. They do improve modern flutes especially those with Cooper-style headjoints. Most flutes made from 1980-present are in this category. The best synthetic pad is made today by the Straubinger Company. These pads reflect the sound rather than absorb it and improve response.

We never recommend using a synthetic pad on a vintage flute as it vastly changes the tone and the experience of the true nature of the flute.Conversely, the synthetic pads work much better on post 1980 flutes as most of these instruments and headjoints were voiced and made to complement these types pads

Most pads with care will last 5-7 years and sometimes longer. It depends on the player.

Never run and pull a cigarette paper under the pad! If the pad makes a noise, give it a minute and see if it goes away on its own. If not, place the paper under the pad, close the key lightly for 15 seconds, LIFT the key and remove. This should do it. I prefer the powdered papers by Yamaha but plain papers work as well. If it still sticks then there is some foreign substance on the skin. In that case, take a piece of paper towel and lightly damp it with water. Then repeat the same procedure as with the cigarette paper. Do it another time but this time with the dry area of the paper towel. If the glitchy sound returns it may be time for pad replacement.

Occasionally the very edge of the pad a skin will break. You can repair this yourself as long as it is nowhere near the tone hole. Put a tiny drop of superglue on the spot that is ripping and this will extend the life of the pad.

VintageFluteShop.com offers restoration of your antique and modern professional flutes by David Chu. Please contact us directly!

 

VFS 2.4.21 — “Flute Insurance/Appraisals”

Your flute may be one of your most treasured possessions. It is imperative that you protect your flute both physically and monetarily! You would be surprised how many flute owners do not have their instrument(s) insured!

If you are a professional musician, your homeowners policy will not cover your flute. Your policy rider mentions it in only the fine print. Call your insurance company and they will tell you that if you are accepting payment for your playing, your instrument is not covered.

There are a few insurance companies which specialize in musical instrument protection. The one we use is Clarion Insurance but they are also others. Often these can companies let you apply for coverage and pay online.

The insurance company will need a copy of your bill of sale and/or appraisal. This must include a complete description of the flute, purchase price or estimated value, and serial number. For an antique or vintage flute usually an appraisal from an authorized dealer, manufacturer, or specialty house will suffice. In the case for flute made by company still in business, you may list the retail price of a new flute. This is for insurance purposes only as the companies allow you to insure the flute for the “replacement amount”. The new retail price has no bearing on the actual market value of your flute as they are completely different instruments. Many flutists are shocked to find out their Haynes or Powell which sells at the “new” retail price, will sell on the open market for much less. This is no reflection on the quality of your flute.

We suggest you keep all of your paperwork for the acquisition of your flute to the day you sell it as provenance will be required. One thing to remember is that when you sell your flute, you may be liable for capital gains taxes both state and federal. 

We at VFS do offer appraisals for any of our present customers. VintageFluteShop.com can help you find the perfect pre-owned flute!

 

VFS 1.21.21 — “It’s Time for Your First Vintage Flute”

Antique Böhm system flutes as well as pre-owned modern flutes are quite playable and collectable. To begin, we suggest you review your personal needs, desires, and budget.

Determine your goals. The older flutes are pitched from A=435-452Hz. Do you plan on playing it by yourself? With an ensemble? Electronically tuned instruments or acoustic?

What is your price range? The vintage flutes start around $1,000.

- Louis Lot flutes are the most desired and range from $5,000-25,000.

- Godfroy flutes are equal to Lots but more scarce. They don’t come up often and usually start around $8,000 in wood or silver.

- Lebret is a good entry-level French flute. They are much less expensive if plated and start around $1,000. The pitch is generally A=440Hz.

- Haynes Golden Age flutes, those made from mid-1950’s to 1965 in French model, are the most collected. They are usually sold in the $3,000-4,000 range.

- Bonneville flutes have dropped quite a bit in price the past few years. The plated ones play better than silver and can be found under $2,000 in fine playable condition.

- Powell vintage flutes have also seen a decrease in the last couple of years. For 2 digits expect to pay around $9,000 for handmade models and $6,000 for commercial models. For 3 and 4 digits the French is around $5,000 and the commercial around $4,000.

Materials: choices are wood, silver, silver-plated, un-plated maillechort, and occasionally gold. Each has a different sound and response.

Are you are a professional, collector, or hobbyist?  Professional flutists will need to analyze their playing needs: e.g. small ensemble, chamber music, large orchestra, solo work, etc.  Some flutes can work well in certain situations, others less so.

Remember a shiny flute doesn’t mean it plays great. VintageFluteShop.com highly screens our inventory for only the very best. That means if it doesn’t play extremely well we don't sell it!  If it is not in excellent to mint condition we don’t sell it!

If you want to start a collection then you also want to do some reading and research. We suggest you learn about the different antique flute brands and the history of the instruments and their players.

There are some invaluable books and references for the library of a serious vintage flutist player/collector. The books no longer in print are sometimes available on Ebay and Abebooks.

Here is a partial list:

*Das goldene Zeitalter der Flote by Karl Lenski & Karl Ventzke

This is in German but there are great photos and diagrams. Out-of-print.

*The Flute and Flute-Playing by Theobold Böhm

*An Essay on the Construction of Flutes by Theobold Böhm

* Development of the Modern Flute by Nancy Toff

* Louis Lot existing journals and repair book: https://antiqueflutes.com/downloads/

* Georges Barrère and the Flute in America by Nancy Toff

*Monarch of the Flute, Life of Georges Barrère by Nancy Toff

*Gaubert Vivanti, short pictorial biography of Philippe Gaubert by Patrick Marriott

*The French Flute School by Claude Dorgeuille

*Great Flute Makers of France by Tula Giannini

*Index of Wind Instrument Makers by Lyndesay Langwill

*The Flute by Ardal Powell

*Taffanel Genius of the Flute by Edward Blakeman

Alan & David also have their own private collections of flute reference materials as well as our years of collective knowledge and experience, so do not hesitate to contact us directly. VFS is always looking to buy, sell, or consign your vintage flute!

 

VFS 1.7.21 — “Soldered vs Drawn Tonholes”

Toneholes are an integral part of the flute accounting for intonation and response.There are two types: soldered and drawn.

In the manufacture of soldered tone holes 5 sizes are cut and then applied one at a time to the body with different types of solder. Today makers use tin, silver, and gold solder. In the 19th century the French makers used only tin. These tone holes over time can corrode if improperly stored. The professional French flutes were always made with soldered toneholes. Some Lot flutes have equal sized tone holes on the mainline.

After the tonehole material is cut, it is placed in the appropriate spot on the tubing and tied on with wire. After soldering, the tops of the rims are faced off, and the tubing material is then cut away. In later stages, voicing will occur where a bit of the inside of the material is scraped away in an effort to adjust response and pitch.

In the late 1890’s, George Haynes, working independently in Los Angeles, made the very first flute with drawn (also called extruded tone holes) on a silver alto flute made of Mexican coins. It was an effort to reduce manufacture costs and eliminate leakage. This flute is in the Dayton Miller collection: https://www.loc.gov/item/dcmflute.0118/

In the drawn tone hole process, the tone hole material is pulled up from the tubing itself. In order to accomplish this, these tubes needed to be thicker or the drawn chimneys will crack. In 1913 the Haynes flute company applied for a patent for making drawn tone holes which was denied in 1914 by the U.S. Patent Office due to the fact it had already been in public use!

After the material is pulled up by a machine, the top of the rims are rolled. Drawn tone hole chimneys are thinner than soldered and can crack which is why thicker tubings are used. On old flutes often times the drawn tone holes were not rolled.

Some of the finest players today prefer drawn tone hole flutes which is a personal choice. They do tend to play a bit darker and you never need worry about tone hole leakage or solder.

The majority of players throughout history, however, did and still prefer the French model open hole flute with soldered tone holes. The sound is quite resonant as the tubing is thinner giving it a fabulous singing tone.

VintageFluteShop.com offers great playing and collectable flutes for your musical pleasure!

 

Please click HERE to read VFS Blogs from 2020.

        


For more information please email Alan Weiss at alan@vintagefluteshop.com