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Flutes and Piccolos, Alto & Bass Flutes
Pads and Key Mechanism Adjustment
To be as expressive as possible, flutes should require very little pressure to close the pads against the tone holes. Pads need to be in good condition, properly aligned to the tone holes and seal completely.
Even very small leaks result in an instrument that is difficult to play with the sensitivity of expression that is the hallmark of this instrument.
For a student, leaking pads can make it difficult, or impossible, to hit lower notes and get a clear tone. Of course if the flute is not playing properly, younger students usually assume that they simply are not good enough to hit these notes and often become frustrated or discouraged. It's simple enough to have the instrument checked to determine that everything is working properly.
If you are a more advance student or professional player, leaks or a poorly adjusted mechanism can interfere with your ability to achieve the level of playing
you are striving for. Responsiveness and tonal quality (density, color, timbre, volume, etc) all can be dramatically affected by how well your instrument is performing mechanically. Technique can be effected as well. Repairs and adjustment of professional, handmade flutes require a special touch and a high level of skill and experience.
Spring tension, key height and exactness of interaction of keys that depress other keys, can all support your technique and allow you to play more smoothly, faster and with more precision. Conversely, poor adjustment will slow you down and cause you to stumble making it much more difficult to concentrate on the aesthetic of the piece. With a flute, very subtle problems can make a very significant difference.
Head Joint and Head Joint Cork
Positioned inside the end of each flute headjoint is a cork that plugs the end of the tube. The position of this cork determines the base tuning of the flute. The further into the headjoint it is positioned, the sharper the instrument plays. This cork commonly dries out over time and needs to be replaced to insure that it cannot move and does not leak. This is very easy to check and is a simple, inexpensive repair that can make all the difference in how well the flute plays.
As you blow across the hole, the edge of the hole across from your lips cuts your breath in the same way as a whistle. It is important that this edge of the embouchure hole is free of nicks and dents or the precision of the direction of your breath is compromised and it will be more difficult to produce a clean solid tone.
Flute completely dismantled and ready for deep cleaning
Similar to flutes, piccolos have a cork plugging the end of the headjoint that determines the base tuning of the instrument. The quality of the edge of the embouchure hole is even more important with piccolos than flutes.