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June 28th, 2008

Ergonomic Folk Flute

I have inquired about the weight of one of the small-handed flutes described here: http://www.caseyburnsflutes.com/ff.php

I really want an honest to goodness D flute that I can hold and play with halfway comfort. The way things are now, I just never learn to play in part because the payback is small for the discomfort.

Take into account that I’m a guy who writes with a fountain pen and makes tea in a pot with a cozy. I want a flute with a low D that is like a pot of fragrant black tea.

(Played by Grey Larsen, the Folk Flute sure sounds like Grey Larsen playing flute, so it’s not surprising he recommends these flutes for beginners.)

The weight of the Casey Burns Folk Flute

Casey says those flutes weigh between 8 and 8.5 ounces. So I got out a cheap letter scale and my heaviest instruments, both of which are uncomfortable to hold up. My plastic Yamaha alto recorder weighs 6 ounces and my Tipple drain pipe flute weighs about 5.5 ounces. I expected wood to weigh more than drain pipe, what are you gonna do? At least a flute doesn’t have to sit on my troublesome right thumb, like a recorder does. I noticed something interesting, though, which is that the finger holes on the recorder no longer feel too far apart; in other words, straining to try to play a six-hole D flute has been more work than I realized, so that now what seemed difficult on a recorder seems easy.

I had a similar experience once with clarinet, where I had played with a broken reed for so long that, when I managed to bum a stiff reed off of a really good player, I was shocked how easy it was to play with that reed.

(If I had been Lisa Simpson I would have gotten a reed from the parental unit, as one ought to, but the parental unit would show up too late and I would be humiliated. BTW my uncle discovered not only that I had rendered his clarinet unplayable, which I had explained already, but also that it was a piece of crap in the first place. It was too heavy for a kid, regardless; I think it was made of wood-finished depleted uranium. Get your kid one of those plastic instruments, they are actually better than uranium. :)

Anyway, I needed to know the weight, and the weight is not good, but also I learned just how much trouble spreading my fingers is causing me, so that a small-handed flute may more than make up the difference. The only way to know is to try, but I haven’t spent that much before on an instrument. (And my birthday is coming up.)
I think I’m going to go ahead and order one, because, frankly, and this is what I have resisted admitting, I’m just not happy with my plastic flutes. I’m happy with my plastic recorders, which are very like the wooden instrument and have tapered bores, but I am not happy with the flutes, which are makeshift designs and not true conical-bore simple system flutes. The Tony Dixons are really cylindrical-bore whistles for which I have a flute headjoint accessory, and the Tipples are lengths of PVC plumbing with holes drilled in them and a used wine cork to stop one end. Those Tipple flutes particularly are nice, despite being built out of hardware supplies and garbage, but aren’t really what I want.

Unfortunately I just missed a deadline for the current batch of Folk Flutes and a flute ordered now won’t go out until October.

On the other hand, that will give me plenty of time to stock up on bore oil, of which I don’t have any! :) Didn’t need any, because my one wooden instrument is wax-impregnated. (Sounds kinky.)

Now I think I’ll go play some whistle, maybe....

Upupupdate: I ordered it from Grey Larsen instead of directly from Casey Burns, so maybe Larsen is getting a bunch of them that are already made and I’ll end up with one of those. I don’t know if that’s how it works. Due to the bugginess of Opera on my platform I almost accidentally ordered the standard spacing instead of the small-handed! I had to re-enter my order after killing Opera and re-starting twice, and forgot to select the hole spacing the second time, but I noticed when I double-checked my order.

Upupupupdate: I guess it says at Grey Larsen’s site that the timing is the same whichever way you buy the flute, so I guess that Larsen just passes the money along, minus commission.

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