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Thread: Development of the Boehm flute

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    Senior Member Lunasong's Avatar
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    Default Development of the Boehm flute

    The evolution and physics of instruments are favorite topics of mine and I enjoyed reading this today.
    http://www.oldflutes.com/boehm.htm
    This is just one topic on a extensive website that will be of special interest to flutists.
    Huilunsoittaja likes this.
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    Yes - it's a great resource, although it doesn't pay much attention to the tonal qualities of the Boehm flute, and tends to focuse mostly on the mechanical developments.

    Have you ever tried a simple system flute, compared to a Boehm flute (like for like in price range that is). The simple system 'romantic' flute has a beautiful tone - much more elegant and beautiful than the Boehm flute to my ears. Although Wilson's page decry the 'unevenness' of tone in pre-Boehm flutes, it is precisely the subtle shading of tones, which have perpetuated the renaissance of the baroque traverso with its small holes and cross-fingerings, to compensate for shaded notes. These quirks are cherished by baroque traverso players and restoration players who play Bach on period instruments.

    Not to say the Boehm flute is a bad thing (like I hope not, as I have a few hanging around lol). It certainly projects well (however simple system flutes project brilliantly too, as do baroque traversos like the Carlos Palanca traverso, or the modern Beaudin traverso, the latter also does not lead to shading of notes i.e. a loss of its baroque qualities).

    If you're into the physics and development of instruments - it's fascinating to see how hard it is to construct a conical bore out of wood still! Of the modern developments, it is something, as simple as doing a concentric conical headjoint, like those of David Chu, which are truly impressive: the engineering is simple mechanics, but the craftsmanship is first rate. So are the prices.

    I think I might be a bit of a stuckist, and I prefer the sound of the wooden flute. It's not that I can't afford an Eva flute with quartertones or a 24k gold Branner Cooper Scale. Something about the essence of music.....entails that it is better if it is down to earth (or made of wood). Metal and plastic are fine, but the human connection with music, has to be concrete; not synthetic, like on a computer or an electric guitar for me. In that respect, I find the favourite flutes I like, come from natural materials. Concert flutists of course have differences, although baroque traverso concert players, maintain this ongoing tradition.

    Wood for thought
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    Moderator Huilunsoittaja's Avatar
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    I've played a traverso before, it's the kind of flute that is not yet using the boehm style, though the fingerings weren't actually that far from it. It had a wonderful, gentle tone quality, but it did have some significant weaknesses. For one thing, the intonation was really unstable, where to play a regular scale, you had to cover up some keys halfway or lip down or up a ton on certain notes if you want it to be in tune. Thus, it was overall irregular to play, plus it was limited in what kind of keys you could play in. One can definitely master it, but it's a lot more difficult than it seems. I'm thankful for the boehm system.
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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    An interesting thread. Some of the comments mirror those surrounding the Boehm system clarinet, particularly tone.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huilunsoittaja View Post
    I've played a traverso before, it's the kind of flute that is not yet using the boehm style, though the fingerings weren't actually that far from it. It had a wonderful, gentle tone quality, but it did have some significant weaknesses. For one thing, the intonation was really unstable, where to play a regular scale, you had to cover up some keys halfway or lip down or up a ton on certain notes if you want it to be in tune. Thus, it was overall irregular to play, plus it was limited in what kind of keys you could play in. One can definitely master it, but it's a lot more difficult than it seems. I'm thankful for the boehm system.
    Lol - Just the one traverso?!

    Wonder if you have tried a von Huene, Polak, Aurin, Crijnen, Folkers & Powell. The baroque traverso design does indeed have subtle shaded notes: these are desirable, which give it its peculiar flavour. Just like, with the Boehm - the clacking of keys is audible - that is a consequence of the limitation of the Boehm design. Some people hate the click-clack typewriter noise of the Boehm keys, but others just filter it out.

    The new traverso - the Beaudin modern traverso - does away with all the shadings and characteristics with much greater projection. There's no doubt that the traverso requires a different kind of skill set - but it is ideal for period music. Boehm flutes are great for 20the century+ repertoire. I see the Germans actually resisted the Boehm flute, despite its provenance - and preferred the more romantic conical wooden flute. It was the French school who really led the way with the Boehm preference. These days, even kid learns how to play a Boehm flute, rather than simple system flute (and no way traverso). I do agree that the Boehm is easier and more adapted to learning. I have too many Boehms oddly..! As soon as I get rid of one...I end up with another. They are just so practically useful: carry around everywhere; play anywhere without the problems of wood. Tonewise though, the wooden Boehm flute is really worthwhile trying in case you've not come across it. Yamaha make one, and I see that everyone is starting to adore the lady who plays the Titanic theme tune on a wooden flute, rather than a metal Boehm.
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