Flute & Piccolo Options and Terms
B Footjoint (B foot), C Footjoint (C foot)
This term is in reference to the bell tone (lowest note played when all toneholes are sealed) of the flute. A C-footjoint's lowest note is the low C (middle C on the grand staff), and is characterized by two keys below the D# key. A B-footjoint's lowest note is the low B (one half step below middle C), and is characterized by three keys below the D# key. This extra B key adds approximately 1 inch to the length of the footjoint.
|The barrel is the section of tubing on the body joint into which the headjoint is inserted. Flutemakers often use this blank portion of tubing to engrave the company name and logo, and sometimes engrave the model and serial numbers here as well. The Barrel is the ideal place to hold the flute when assembling/disassembling the flute or for making any alignment adjustments.|
Bubble Style Headjoint
|A bubble style headjoint is generally in reference to wooden instruments and how the headjoint connects to the body. A bubble style headjoint has a bulge of wood on the connecting end that is used to conceal a double-collared receiver that securely grips the tenon from the body joint.|
A standard style wooden headjoint has a singular metal collar with a metal tenon that is inserted into the body joint. The receiver in the body joint is not usually double-collared.
C# Trill Key
|Operated by a lever in the right hand, the C# trill key itself is located between the left-hand thumb keys and the upper trill keys. The key simplifies many awkward trill and tremolo fingerings by moving the motion from the left hand into the right hand. It also enables the player to achieve unique and true-to-pitch tremolos that are otherwise inconvenient (such as a high G-A trill).|
Activating the C# trill key when playing open C# dramatically improves pitch, clarity, and note stability allowing the player to more easily shape the tone color (ex: opening solo from Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun).
This feature requires an additional trill rod and tonehole in order to function and thereby increases the weight of the instrument (which is sometimes a concern for players with performance injuries). This also determines that the feature must be part of the original setup of the instrument because it cannot usually be added at a later date.
|Typically, a curved headjoint is a ‘U’ shaped headjoint that is used to bring the keys of the flute closer to the player’s body to decrease any muscle strain or stretching. These are generally seen on standard concert flutes for more petite players (like small children) or on large instruments like Alto or Bass flutes.|
A ‘curved’ headjoint may sometimes be in reference to a headjoint that is not necessarily ‘U’ shaped but bent at an angle for the same purposes. These style headjoints, however, are generally remedies for performance injuries, or for players desiring to hold the instrument closer to the body in unusual ways.
D# Roller and C# Roller
|Often offered in conjunction with one another, the D# and C# rollers are situated between the D# lever and the low C# spatula. Maneuvering between these two keys can often be a challenge, and these rollers are to alleviate these difficulties.|
The D# roller is the primary solution offered by most flutemakers; the C# roller is usually available to provide additional ease of movement between these keys.
G-A Trill Key
|Activated by a lever near the trill keys in the right hand, the G-A trill key is a feature that maneuvers two additional keys located near the thumb keys and the G# tonehole. Often seen as a more limited cousin of the C# trill key, the G-A trill key primarily offers the simplest trill between the third octave G and A. The G-A trill key and the C# trill key cannot be combined as features on the same flute.|
Gizmo (Low B Gizmo / High C Facilitator)
|The Gizmo key is a nub of metal that extends beyond the roller of the low B key, allowing the player to depress only the low B key without activating any other keys. The Gizmo key is often used for tuning and note stability in the upper register (particularly for the highest C on the flute).|
The flute headjoint is comprised of the following basic elements: tube, riser, lip plate, crown and headjoint cork assembly. On instruments with wood, resin or composite headjoint tubes, the riser and lip plate may not exist as separately distinguishable parts or may be integral to the tubing itself.
Lip plate (sometimes abbreviated to ‘lip’)
The lip plate is a circular disk of metal on the headjoint that is placed against the chin while the flutist is playing. The early concert flute was originally made of wood and the thickness of the wood did not require further modification for the functionality of the instrument or the comfort of the player. The modern concert flute however is usually made of metal and the tubing is far thinner. The lip plate was created as a means to improve the way the headjoint functions and to increase the comfort of the player. Often made of precious metals such as silver, gold, and platinum, lip plates can also be made of wood and may feature decorative engraving.
The riser is a small tube (or chimney) that connects the headjoint tubing to the lip plate. The size and shape of the riser (in conjunction with the shape of the embouchure hole) directly impacts the sound of the headjoint and affect the way that it plays. Generically speaking, rounded risers lend themselves more easily to a controlled, consistent sound whereas squared versions tend to produce more flexible headjoints. The riser is often made of silver, gold, and platinum.
When used, this term generally applies to the lip plate and riser assembly as a singular unit.
The crown is a cap located at the narrow end of the headjoint that is both decorative and functional.
Headjoint cork (assembly)
Usually made of dense cork (but sometimes rubber or plastic), the headjoint cork is a stopper placed in the narrow end of the headjoint to prevent air from leaking out of the headjoint. The headjoint cork is precisely positioned and is usually adjusted by a screw connected to the interior of the crown (this is often referred to as the headjoint cork assembly). The positioning of the headjoint cork directly impacts the tuning of the flute in relation to itself (which is also called the ‘scale’) in relation to itself. One does not usually adjust the position of the headjoint cork on a regular basis.
High E Facilitator (G-insert / G Donut / G Disc)
|An effective, economical alternative to the Split E Mechanism, this donut-shaped ring is inserted into and affixed to the wall of the lower g tonehole. Sometimes crescent-shaped, this feature is often made of thin plastic.|
It functions by reducing the amount of air venting through the tonehole and improves the response of the flute’s high E without significantly altering the instrument’s other notes. This feature can be added or removed by any professional repair technician at any point in time.
Inline vs. Offset G Keys
Inline G keys were an invention by the French flutemaker Louis Lot at the turn of the twentieth century. Prior to this maker, the original concert flute designed by Theobald Boehm featured G keys that were offset and were easier to reach. However, a ‘Louis Lot’ was considered to be one of the best flutes on the market, and his flutes were in high demand.
In order to increase product output and decrease production time, Lot found a way to streamline the key system further by moving the G keys ‘in-line’ with the rest of the flute keys (hence the name). This eliminated the need to produce two extra posts and extra steel to mount the G keys, consequently speeding his production time. As result of increased production and popularity of his instruments, ‘inline’ keys became popular and ‘offset’ adopted a stigma of being ‘unprofessional.’
Offset G keys were part of the original system devised by Boehm. They were ‘offset’ from the rest of the keys to allow the player to use a more comfortable hand position.
In light of recent studies into performance injuries (and consequential remedies) offset G keys have become increasingly popular. There are no pitch or tonal differences between the two options.
Key Arms / Tone Arms
Tone arms are the stems of metal that suspend the key cups from the hinge tubes. Though there is some debate, in most senses there is no functional difference between the two designs beyond stylistic presence.
Y Cup Arms
Y Cup Arms (also referred to as Y-arms or Y Tone Arms) are characterized by “Y” shaped arms that connect to the key cup via the key cup rim. Open-holed keys must use this arm.
Pointed Cup Arms
Pointed Cup Arms (also called French Tone Arms, French Cup Arms, or French Arms) are distinguished by pointed stems extending to the center of the key cup. Pointed Arms were long considered marks of high quality, durability, and stability, but in modern times flutemakers have improved production processes, resulting in high quality key arms of both styles.
|This term is usually used in reference to the key system as a whole when defining the material or construction (ex: Silver-Plated mechanism, Nickel Silver mechanism, 14k Gold Mechanism).|
Open Hole vs. Closed Hole
Open-hole Keys (also known as ring keys, French keys, or ‘open holes’)
Open-hole keys were an innovation created by French flutemakers that were seeking to expand on Theobald Boehm’s design. These keys are characterized by holes through the middle that are sealed by the player’s fingers. Open-hole keys can be converted to closed hole keys with plugs usually made of silicon (or cork, rubber, or metal). Unlike their closed-hole counterparts the open-hole pads are secured by grommets (also called bushings) that grip the interior of the key cup. When removing plugs these grommets can be easily dislodged or shifted, resulting in possible pad leaks.
Closed-hole keys (also called plateau keys)
Closed-hole keys have a solid metal surface that the fingers press upon while playing. Usually seen on entry-level models for beginning flutists, these style keys are gaining popularity amongst players seeking models of all levels for injury relief. This is because they are more forgiving of finger placement. When comparing the two styles they are tonaly identical. One style won’t have a better sound than the other. The only advantage that open hole keys have over closed hole keys is that you can depress only the ring and leave the hole open. This opens endless possibilities for advanced fingerings and extended techniques.
|Posts are small pillars of metal on which the key mechanism is mounted. The hinge tubes (often called rods) rotate on steel axles that are secured by screws that go through the posts.|
|Ribs are thin strips of metal that posts are soldered upon. The posts and ribs are manufactured separately from the body tubing of the instrument and are then mounted by solder or screws (depending on whether the tubing material is metal or wood).|
On some models of flute, the posts and ribs are produced in contrasting metals to the body/keys.
|Rings are the decorative strips of metal used to conceal seams in the tubing of the flute, and are located on the body and footjoint. They are sometimes engraved or fluted for visual appeal.|
|In reference to the instrument itself, the scale of the flute is a combination of the size and placement of toneholes to produce an instrument that plays in tune.|
The scale of the flute remained fundamentally unchanged until the 1970s, when Albert Cooper made major revisions that reduced sharpness in the high register and improved flatness in the low register. Most flutes use the Cooper scale or a scale based off of the Cooper Scale (such as the Bennett Scale, devised in conjunction with William Bennett).
|The split-E mechanism divides the action of the upper and lower G keys, permitting the lower G to close when the third octave E-natural is played. The mechanism ensures tonal stability of the high E, secures attacks, and smooth slurs between the third octave A and E. This feature is created by the use of an extra rod and lever to close the lower G key.|
Because of these extra mechanism components weight is added to the instrument, and certain unusual trills and tremolos become increasingly difficult. This is usually alleviated by the addition of a C#-trill key.
Some uncommon versions of this feature include an on/off clutch that allows the flutist to activate and deactivate the spli- E mechanism at will.
Toneholes are the small tubes (or chimneys) that come up from the body of the flute beneath the keys. When the keys are depressed, the pads seal the surface of the tonehole, thereby extending the sounding length of the tube.
Drawn toneholes are produced by a punch-and-die system that draws the tonehole up from the body. The rough edges are then rolled to produce a smooth, flat surface. Drawn toneholes are considered seamless because they are continuous part of the body tube. They are also lightweight because they are thinner in construction due to the stretching of the base material.
Soldered toneholes are manufactured separately. During production the toneholes are held in place by a bracket (sometimes called a ‘spider’) and soldered in place by hand. The remaining material is removed and interior edges are filed smooth.
Soldered toneholes are ten times thicker than drawn toneholes for stability, and are consequently heavier. Soldered toneholes are usually more expensive than their drawn tonehole counterparts.
Although modern manufacturing techniques have minimized issues, antique soldered tonehole flutes may experience some deterioration of the solder, causing leaks as a result. Only a professionally trained, specialty repair technician would have the ability to repair this sort of unique problem.
|Refers to the thickness of the tubing used for either the body and/or headjoint of the flute. The thickness values are often specified in inches (e.g. .014) or millimeters (e.g. .38), but more general terms such as Thin Wall, Standard Wall, Heavy Wall, Medium Wall are also commonly used. Tubing thickness can affect the resonance and resistance of the instrument. Care should be taken when mixing thicknesses of tubing between the headjoint and footjoint as many are designed to be interchangeable, some require resizing by a professional repair technician and some cannot be combined.|