#27 -Pick Your Partner

Choosing the Right Wooden Flute for You

For the second time, here is a question submitted by Bill Goelz. To paraphrase, is it better to stick with one flute or play a mix of several flutes? For the sake of full disclosure, I will say that one of the flutes that Bill plays is a Skip Healy flute, not that that would influence my opinion or anything...heh, heh, heh.

Both as a fifer and wooden flute player, I have played a variety of bore designs and tone hole concepts on both instruments. Each is unique and does indeed offer something that another may not. While it may be helpful for a beginner-to-novice level player to switch back and forth from a smaller (small bore, small embouchure, small tone holes) to a mid-size instrument, it is only a matter of practice time for this player to outgrow this smaller bore instrument. By outgrow I mean the player's support and embouchure strength has developed to a point that allows them to play a larger bore instrument for more range of sound if they so desire.

When the player reaches the level where they can go to sessions and know enough of the tunes to play along for most of the night at a social level, I call this a 'citizen player'. I hope that doesn't sound too Orwellian. For this level of player, a better instrument in whatever style the player likes is the way to go. They should ask the opinion of a player they respect about either the make or maker of the flute and if they think this is a good instrument for them to play.

At first, you will certainly have some difficulties with dedicating to this one flute. You will find things you can do well and other things just disappear. These are always just a case of needing a little embouchure strength and developing the muscle memory in your fingers to properly cover the tone holes. If you are often just slightly off here and there while playing tunes then you are probably playing a flute that is a good fit for you. If you completely miss tone holes and are unable to play between octaves with ease then you may be mismatched with your flute. Stopping by your local session to play a couple of tunes for the local flute player and getting their opinion is always a good

I think the main point is for the player to determine what kind of sound and how much dynamic energy they want to put into their playing. The set up of the instrument you choose will go a long way to determining the sound you have and the ease with which you're able to play.

My opinion is that you should choose the instrument that you think is the "best" one that you own and play that one exclusively. It is kind of a immersion therapy technique, but it's a question of having the determination to improve as opposed to the physicality of being able to do it. Remember, music is 90% mental and the rest is in your head...