Sterling silver is an alloy containing 90% silver with 10% copper, zinc or other metals. This contains less silver than Sterling (.925) silver, and produces a distinctive sound.
Sterling silver is an alloy containing 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper, zinc or other metals. This is the most common alloy of silver used for making flutes. We use the term .925 to comply with UK Assay Office guidance.
.950 is also known as the French 1st Standard, and is an alloy containing 95% silver with 5% copper, zinc or other metals. This contains a higher silver content than Sterling (.925) silver, which many players find gives a darker sound with enhanced projection. We use the term .950 to comply with UK Assay Office guidance.
.958 means Britannia silver, which is an alloy containing 95.8% silver with 4.2% copper, zinc or other metals. This contains a higher silver content than Sterling (.925) silver, which many players find gives a darker sound with enhanced projection. We use the term .958 to comply with UK Assay Office guidance.
.997 is a very high purity silver, containing 99.7% silver with 0.3% copper, zinc or other metals. This contains a much higher silver content than Sterling (.925) silver, and many players find it gives a dark sound with clean articulation and enhanced projection. We use the term .997 to comply with UK Assay Office guidance.
Aurumite is a combination of silver and gold, two sheets which are fused to produce an interlocking layer. This effectively produces a 'sleeve' of gold.
The bore is one of the main factors in an instrument's sound quality and tuning. The size, taper and shape can make the tone "dark" or "warm"; a hand-burnished bore is made more accurately, giving better tuning and a more consistent sound.
Briccialdi thumb key
The Briccialdi thumb key is made in a similar way to the concert flute with just one tone hole (rather than two which is the usual construction for piccolos) and this has the same effect as the G# facilitator allowing this note to be stable and easier to play.
This extra piece of keywork (usually available only by special order) is a very useful piece of mechanism with a lot of functions:
B to C#
Play a normal B and trill the C# trill key. The thumb-and-finger trill is eliminated and the tuning is better.
C to C#
This is a faster trill and allows for a more comfortable feel.
Top F# to G#
Play top F# and trill the C# trill key.
High G to A-flat
The intonation is better on this trill.
High G to A
Play normal high G, and trill the C# trill and upper trill key together.
High A-flat to B-flat
Finger high A-flat and trill the C# trill together with both other trill keys.
Drawn Tone Holes
On machine-made flute tubes, the tone holes are 'drawn' out of the tubing. Players who prefer a less resistant flute with a lighter sound often opt for a drawn tone hole model.
Front F key
This refers to the thickness of the tubing. A heavy wall tube is usually .018" (0.45mm). A heavy wall flute is more resistive, which can make the flute harder to play but give a fuller, richer tone and greater control.
High F# Key
High G# facilitator
A Boehm system flute with extra keys to produce a quarter-tone scale. Invented and patented by Eva Kingma in Holland.
For more details, visit Eva Kingma's website.
The open G# system is the original keywork designed by Boehm (although it is not the system which is used most commonly today). On a standard "closed G#" flute, the G# key remains closed until pressed - so when all the left hand keys are pressed, G# is heard.
On an open G# flute, the G# key is open until the G# lever is pressed - this has the effect that when all left-hand keys are pressed, G natural is heard; and when all left-hand keys except the G# lever are pressed, G# is heard. The G# lever must be pressed for all notes below, and including, G.
PCM is an alloy used exclusively by Miyazawa, consisting mainly of silver and copper, but also containing a small amount of palladium. It is very hard and offers a bright sound with immediate articulation and precise control.
We use the term 'Pt' throughout this site to describe flutes or parts of the flute which are not hallmarked. Overseas manufacturers might use the term 'Platinum'. Platinum is increasing in popularity, and because of its greater density than gold, adds more lower harmonics to the sound, darkening the tone considerably.
This is a tricky subject to condense! To put it simply: No flute is 100% accurately in tune with itself - this is a physical impossibility to achieve. All flutes therefore have a compromise on tuning, often with a sharp C# and flat D and E. The word "scale" in this context refers to the positioning of the tone holes in relation to each other. Albert Cooper and William Bennett both devised their own scales, which are both very close to accurate (so flutes with these scales have good intonation); some manufacturers (e.g. Muramatsu, Yamaha) have their own scale which they use.
Here, the flute tube is formed from a sheet of metal rolled over and soldered ('seamed') along its length. This produces a sound similar to that of vintage French flutes. This is considerably different to the modern way of 'drawing' tubing, and results in a totally consistent tube thickness offering alternative tonal qualities. Owing to the labour intensive production of seamed tubes, only a handful of flute makers offer this option, most notably Altus on their 1607 and AL models.
Soldered Tone Holes
On a handmade tube, each tone hole is crafted separately and soldered into position, increasing the weight of the flute. Players who are looking for a darker sound and more resistance often choose a soldered tone hole model. Because of the considerable time that goes into hand soldering each tone hole, soldered tone hole models cost more.
Split E mechanism
Undercut Tone Holes
A vented C key on a piccolo is an "open hole" in the left hand C key which, when uncovered with the key pressed down, can make middle E more stable and improve the tuning of some other slightly flat notes like top G and middle C.