Sunday, June 14, 2015

Telltale Sounds?

Even handmade professional flutes have normal key or mechanism noises.

As much as we might not want to fix something that suddenly becomes noisy, chances are that the noise is an indication of a problem.  For instance, if you are driving and hear a strange noise, it's very possible that the car needs a repair.  So, we wondered -- what about flutes?  Are there noises that might indicate something needs to be fixed?  We spoke with Powell's repair technician, Rachel Baker, to find out...

Rachel said that in the natural course of playing flute, most people begin on a student flute and eventually move up to a professional level, handmade flute.  The student and intermediate (or step-up) flutes will generally have mechanisms that are "noisier" than handmade flutes because of differences in materials and mechanism.  For instance, she told us that the tolerances on the student mechanism do not need to be as high as on a handmade professional model, so the mechanism itself is usually "noisier."  Student flutes also use adjustment screws that can produce a metal-on-metal noise.  However, these noises are normal, and flutists become accustomed to theses sounds, so if they move up to a handmade flute, they may not even notice any "unusual" noises.

With handmade professional flutes, there are a few things that might indicate issues that need to be repaired.  Noises to look out for include "sticking" noises from sticky pads.  In this case, it might also be an indication that the flute itself needs to be cleaned since the sticking noise could be from "grime" on the pads, tops of tone holes, or both.  Also, if the mechanism hasn't been oiled in a while, you might notice a "clanking" noise.  If something like a paper adjustment or key tail felt falls off, this can produce a noticeable  metal-on-metal noise.  And, if you hear a buzzing noise, Rachel said it could be a loose mechanism, loose solder, or pretty much any number of things.  She said that noise from something that needs to be repaired will definitely become more obvious as time goes on...

However, professional handmade flutes do have their fair amount of normal noises that are certainly no cause for alarm. She told us that any normal "noise' would not be heard over your own playing -- and definitely not by the audience.  As always, if you do hear something unusual, make sure to contact your repair technician sooner rather than later!

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