Learn Flute Podcast SHOW NOTES:
What this podcast will be all about
- Tools that come with your flute when it’s new
- What all of those tools can do
- What tools you really need to maintain your flute
- Whether or not you should try to fix your flute, or take it to a technician
Learn Flute Podcast 095
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Tech Tips for Flute
Knowing a few important details about maintenance can literally make or break your instrument. So, what tools you really need to maintain your flute is the subject for today and we’re going to talk all about it here in this episode today of the Learn Flute Podcast.
I’m Rebecca Fuller, your teacher, and the expert owner of the Learn Flute Online programs where people like you can come and learn in the privacy and comfort of your own home on your own schedule. Let’s get started!
There are some flute makers out there who are starting to include like a maintenance kit with your instrument when you buy or rent it. I often get asked, “Rebecca, what do I do with all of this?” So, I think it’ll be a good subject for today’s episode, and pretty important as well because like I said in the introduction here, knowing or “not” knowing a few important things can make it so your flute either plays well, or doesn’t.
So, I hope I have perked your interest today and you’re ready to learn. So, I actually am at the stage as an influencer online in the flute music space that companies are starting to send me their instruments wanting me to check them out and give them a review.
I received one just this week that had all sorts of goodies in the box. Kind of fun! But, I couldn’t help but worry that someone who purchased an instrument like this wouldn’t know what to do with it all… And in fact, there’s one item in the box that is not good to use on a flute… and we’re going to talk about that in just a minute, but let’s first of all mention that it’s really common for someone who is either brand new or returning to the flute after many years to not own a high quality instrument to start with… and that’s totally okay, it’s normal.
I mean, it would be great if everyone had the top of the line from the get-go, but I know that’s not really usually the case, and you’ll be glad to know that you can enjoy learning here with all sorts of different makes, models, and ages of flutes.
The most important thing is to note that the better the shape your instrument is in, the better a chance you have of sounding great on it as you learn.
Of course, much of what you hear for the first few weeks is usually operator efficient or operator error, It’s all part of the game, and nothing to worry about.
Everyone learns at a different pace, and the good news is that we can all have a ton of fun moving through the steps to musicianship. Having an instrument that will take you as far as possible is something we think about from time to time.
In fact, in our members area not too long ago, I took everyone on a field trip with me to a lovely show room of fine flutes. I mean, the good ones… Super high quality and set up by a master technician. It was so much fun doing a show-and-tell to you all.
After the day was over, I sat in my car on a live video for over ninety minutes with dozens of you members going through some important Q and A – that’s questions and answers all about new flutes and what was needed etc. – in addition to what I had already shown you three other times that day, it was like a full workshop!
Whew – if you missed it, I’m sorry. I hope to be able to do it again this year though because it was very good, and quite a large handful of Learn Flute Online members were able to talk with me about what was right for them so they could purchase a new step-up flute of their own after that.
So, a little side-note here, if you’re thinking of looking for a new higher quality flute for yourself, let me help you. I can point you and make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck and also what will fit you the best.
If you want to go out on your own, then I think you should consider going through a trial with the Flute Center of New York where you can use my name (Rebecca Fuller) and my code “LFO” – those are the letters that stand for Learn Flute Online – see that? L F O… anyway you can use these to call the Flute Center of New York and secure yourself a free trial of three different flutes and have them shipped right to you at no charge.
And, all you have to do is send back the ones you don’t want to keep. And they’ll grant you an extended warranty of eighteen months rather than twelve months to boot. It’s a pretty good deal, and they are really doing a good job getting gorgeous instruments to people like you. They’ll ship to anywhere in the U.S. and some places in Canada, as well.
Now, if you’re looking for a higher level flute – for example, something that is in the handmade arena, which most pre-professional line flutes are… Then I invite you to email me so I can talk through your options and help set you up with the highest quality and technically taken care of flute as possible. My email, well you know it, you should be on my email list already, firstname.lastname@example.org – and I’m here for you.
In an upcoming episode, we’ll be talking about the sequence of flutes so that you get smarter about the line-up of instruments from amazon brands, to beginner quality brands through intermediate, into pre-professional, advanced or professional lines and so on. Look forward to it!
And if for some reason you haven’t already found my page on the learnfluteonline.com/howtochooseaflute, then you should make an appointment with yourself to get there in the next few weeks because the information I give, and you learn on there is just fabulous, and what so many people need to know about this intricate, beautiful instrument it’s wonderful and very technical at the same time… hence the reason we are talking about what tools you really need to maintain your flute, today!
So, as I prepared for this episode, I opened this box to see what came with the freebie flute I received, and the first thing I pulled out is this black cylinder little rocket ship looking plastic thing. I showed it to my husband and asked him if he knew what it was. Now, he doesn’t play the flute so he really had no idea, but I handed it to him and it only took him a few seconds to figure out that it was a tool of some sort that came apart and spun some legs out like a little rocket ship stand.
If you’ve ever seen one of these, it’s a flute stand so you can put your flute on it while you’re not playing it. It stands on there vertically.It’s very handy for your bag to take to band, or community orchestra if you play in one, that way you don’t have to put your flute on the floor, or find a table, or sometimes it’s not even convenient to put it in your lap.
They are pretty light though so it’s not fool-proof. These little tiny ones – they can get knocked over. I still prefer the super heavy flute stands. If you can get your hands on one of those that’s what you should do. In fact we’ve given a couple away as prizes for some of our games that we do here in Learn Flute Online. But they’re not as mobile because they are heavy, and take up a lot more space in your bag.
Tiny Screwdriver Tools
Okay, let’s move to the next item that came with this flute that I was sent. It’s a tiny little screwdriver. I love it! These are really great… if you know what to do with it. On some past episodes I’ve talked a little bit about this, and definitely have some tutorials in the learning modules here at Learn Flute Online about it.
It’s a very handy little tool, but should only be used if you know what to do with it. Don’t go turning screws on your flute with it or you’ll get everything out of adjustment. That wouldn’t be good because then you’d have to pay a flute technician to get it all back right again.
I think the easiest thing to use this little baby screwdriver for is to get a popped spring back in if that happens to you.
Now, let me tell you that I personally haven’t had a popped spring since I moved from student model flutes when I was a kid into the higher level and higher quality flutes.
Also, knowing how to take care of a flute properly negates most issues with the instrument, so you may never ever have a popped spring, or you may have a flute that has one every other day – and if you do then you know it’s time for a higher quality instrument.
Okay, the next thing in the case is the cleaning cloth which is SO nice that it’s included, they’re not always included with your flute. The biggest thing to know about a cleaning cloth is that it needs to be made of soft material that is not going to let off any fibers. Many people think it doesn’t matter what they use to swab it out and end up grabbing an old T-shirt or something that will in turn be the demise of their instrument.
Sometimes you’ll find two cloths in your kit. One is for swabbing out the inside of your flute and the other is for polishing the outside of it. There’s a difference. Usually the cloth for the outside is thicker and kind of microfiber-feeling. But either way, they have to be the kind of cloths that are designed to not let off fibers.
So let’s move onto an item that comes in these so-called flute kits that is kind of interesting and something I get asked about a lot… and that’s a small bottle of oil.
Now, let’s stop and talk about this oil for a minute because I’ve been playing the flute since I was ten years old, and have decades of professional playing and teaching under my belt, and I’ll tell you that not once have I ever used oil on my flute. In fact, good technicians will also tell you that you shouldn’t use it.
One reason is that if oil gets in the wrong place.. Like the pads for instance then they’re basically ruined.
Also, know that the only oil a flute has is on the inside of the rods.. And we don’t ever touch the inside of the rods. That’s where all of the special mechanism is that makes the different parts and pieces of the flute work properly.
Now, if you have a higher quality flute you can have it cleaned, oiled, and adjusted every couple of years by a good technician. The oil isn’t something we ever do on our own.
Also, I feel that these so-called flute maintenance “kits” are just a generic instrument kit that’s made for an instrument like a saxophone… which, they DO use lubricant oil occasionally, especially if they play outside often, or a brass instrument like a trumpet or a trombone.
Putting a minuscule dab of oil between the post and the rod that connects to a key is where it goes on a saxophone, which I imagine would be similar on a flute.
Again, I’ve been playing and teaching the flute for literally like thirty four years and I have never ever oiled a flute or instructed my students to do so themselves. Your flute will thank you to leave certain types of maintenance to a trained technician.
Occasionally these kits will come with a little tiny container of something that looks kind of like chapstick. This is cork grease, and again- it isn’t really anything you need.
Two little bits of thought on this though: when I was first playing the flute many many years ago, I did all sorts of things to my flute. Because I thought I had to, and because my band teacher told me to and because my flute didn’t really seem to work very well so I was always trying to fix it. Well, I am now much wiser and realize that the reason my flute sounded so fuzzy and had problems was because of all of this improper care.
He used to, my band teacher, used to literally tell me to take my cork out of my head joint and soak it in a warm bath of dish soap water. Yes- disclaimer… you do not need to do that to your flute, nor is it recommended.
Taking your cork in and out of your flute is a good way to make it shrivel up and get loose. Loose corks help you have fuzzy tone. Who likes fuzzy tone on a flute? Not me, that’s for sure.
And the second thing about this cork grease is that it could be used in case of emergency if your foot joint is sticking and very hard to assemble on and off of the body.
Now, I have had to use this before, and it does work.. BUT – this is a big but here so listen up – the trick is to make sure you wipe it all the way off before assembling the flute. Yep if you feel you have an emergency you can put a teeny bit on the tendon of the body that twists into the foot joint, you know that little joint area. But then you just need to just wipe it right back off and inspect the joints that fit together, to be sure they have no lint or anything on there.
The trick is to clean the tendons thoroughly – this is what will make your flute foot joint fit well again. And of course, like we learn in the modules here at Learn Flute Online, always twist.
Anyway, the joints of the flute are created and designed to be so perfectly fitted that if any grease does get on the joints, dust, lint from your case or your clothes, will just adhere to them, which ends up damaging the joints .. like actually scratching them, and in turn your foot joint will literally get stuck when you put it together, it’s like cement, it’s a really bad problem.
Now, this is different from a flute that is brand new and hasn’t been set up properly though, so we’re kind of talking about two different things here. But anyway, no need to use the oil or the cork grease that comes in any of those kits.
Brushes or sticks with a fuzzy tip
Woohoo – we’re almost there. Some flute kits come with a little brush or a tiny little stick with a fuzzy end. I hear these are for “cleaning dirt off of the pad area”. Well, this is also something I’ve never done or seen done on an instrument, on the flute anyway.
If you are playing with clean hands and a clean mouth, you have no need for anything like this.. And I definitely don’t suggest you touch the actual pads with anything. They are very thin and sensitive. Touching them can cause rips. Which again, helps you have fuzzy haphazard tone as you play, none of us want that.
Okay, last thing is that sometimes you’ll see a little pair of white gloves come with your maintenance kit. I think these are for handling your flute while you clean it? I had a young student once try to use gloves and she ended up dropping her flute as it slipped out of her grip because she was wearing slippery gloves… so, yah no need to use gloves either. But, it’s a nice idea and I think the maintenance companies are trying.
Whew- did I forget anything? Have you ever found or received a kit with your flute? If so, let me know, and if it had anything in it besides what I mentioned here on this episode.
Knowing what tools you really need to maintain your flute is important because in the case of what we talked about here today, you’ll note that we only need our cleaning cloths besides the soap and water we washed our hands with before we touched and played our flute.
Also, I guess these kits could come with toothbrushes and toothpaste for our mouths? I was talking to my technician here in Salt Lake not too long ago and he says that if everyone would just follow the rules of being clean before they play and then swabbing and wiping off, cleaning the flute before they put it away, and keep it put away, we’d have a fraction of the issues he normally sees in his shop.
So there you have it! Another great episode to help you on your flute journey.. Get smarter, stay motivated, and have a lot of fun with your instrument.
Let’s continue on – now, remember to join us in the Members area at Learn Flute Online where there are literally thousands of video tutorials all set up in perfect learning order for you to come and learn in a sequential manner at your own convenience, and in the privacy of your own home.
If you are already on the email list and haven’t yet received an invite to join us I hope you watch for one in your inbox. We’re having a lot of fun and will welcome you!
In fact, if you’re listening to this close to the first of March in the year, then you can get excited about the opening of the Irish Music for Flute and Tin Whistle as the mini-course that’s opening for enrollment now. How fun! It’s one of my most popular add-on courses to the members area, and I hope to see you join us for some festive Irish fun where we learn all about those fancy ornaments and embellishments that are uniquely known in the style of the Irish.
Before I play you out, I’d like to let you know what Candi Floyd says about Learn Flute Online.. She says, “By the way, before I started with your course, I tried a couple of other online courses and didn’t get near as far with them as I have with you in just TWO days!”
Well thanks Candi- we love having you here. Have a great week everyone, we’ll see you laters!
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I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these few tech tips for your flute. Thanks for listening!