Learn Flute Podcast SHOW NOTES:
- Information on this podcast is supplemental to LearnFluteOnline.com
- What flute technicians do while they have your flute
- The importance of flute technicians
- Why the quality of your flute matters when deciding how to care for it
Learn Flute Podcast 117
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You’ve been playing your flute for months or even years and it has never seen a technician.
Should you take it in?
Now, you may be thinking, tell me exactly, what does a flute technician do anyway?
Is it like medical care for your flute?
Well, yep! Kind of.
What you’ll learn today will help you learn if you need to take it for a visit, and also what they do it while it’s there.
Hi, I’m Rebecca Fuller the expert and host of this Learn Flute Podcast which is all about the flute, becoming a better musician, and all the ins and outs you may not ever have thought about before.
We’re all striving to be better on our instrument, and when we catch a tip or a hint that makes our life easier or even more streamlined is what we like, right?
Having fun, staying inspired and enjoying the process is our goal here.
This podcast is in conjunction with the Learn Flute Online program where anyone wanting to become a confident flute player can come and enjoy our organized curriculum and community where you can learn from a true expert, yours truly, and get the support you need.
Unlike traditional in-person lessons, this program allows you to learn from the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, and on your own schedule.
We’re having a really great time if you can’t tell. Perhaps you’ve seen some of our collaboration videos we’ve put out over the past years. They’re so much fun.
These could also be called large online flute choirs – hopefully you’ve already been participating in these as a member or at least seen them hopefully.
We look like we’re in little Brady Bunch squares along the screen playing and performing beautifully and in harmony together. We call these Flute Ensemble experiences, and they are available to those who are part of our members area at Learn Flute Online. We have new ones coming out all the time.
You may be wondering if you have to be a super accomplished flutist to participate in these. Well, the answer is NO.
But, will you become a super accomplished flutist when you participate in these? Well, YES.
Much progress is had when you learn how to go through the process of being in a project like this. Making it to the polished and performed stage of any piece is a huge part of musical education.
It’s also a part that many people – especially those who are self-pacing might just skip right over.
I’m not sure if you’re guilty of this, but I do know that the skills learned during these projects are the reason many of the members at Learn Flute Online are finding even more success.
Of course, it’s not the ONLY reason, but it is a definite part of the equation.
I hope you’re watching out for the next one. I’ve been whipping up a doozy. It’s going to be so amazing!
I cannot wait. We have reveal classes where we all get together to watch the premier of the final product, and I can’t help but get pretty teary during these times.
I’m just so darn proud of those who participate. It’s a really big deal to me. I recognize it.
And, It just adds fuel to my fire to continue on leading and guiding you to even more successes.
In fact, I usually start conjuring up the next one the very moment I finish arranging the last one.
Yep, I do arrange these myself. I should let you in on the process that I have, but for the purposes of today’s show, we’ll swing into our subject for the day because it’s going to prove to be pretty informative for you.
These are the types of things I didn’t ever learn as a new flute player. I had no idea what I was doing, and with all the hindsight I have now, I can understand so many things I should have known way back then.
If you are also in this same boat, then jump aboard because I’ve got your back.
I remember back in the day, when I would have troubles with my flute, my instrument.
I mean, big time troubles, but because I was playing in band in school, I just had to continue on like nothing was happening. Even if things were falling off of my instrument. My grade depended on it.. Or so I thought at the time.
I was so worried about never skipping a beat (haha pun intended) that I didn’t have my flute properly maintained sometimes.
I remember when I told my parents that my flute didn’t really seem to be working right.
They didn’t know what to do about it, so they just asked around until someone pointed them to a person who worked out of his home about an hour away.
I called it the cat house.
My flutes visited this ‘cat house’ several times over the period of my school years.
My flute always came back with cat hair in the case…
I used to sit and imagine how this could happen. Well, I should have pondered on it longer because now I don’t find cat hair in my flute case after a repair very acceptable.
Anyway, sometimes my flute would work better, and other-times it didn’t and we would have to take it back.
Now that I know a lot more about this-nowadays , I can attribute the results I was having to the fact that my instrument was not super high quality to start with back then, and this technician was kind of a jack of all trades type of a person working on all instruments of all sorts from local schools.
Nowadays I only seek out and use repair techs who are trained and seasoned in the art of all things flute-maintenance.
Believe it or not, this is a real skill. There are certifications and schools just for people to learn how to take care of this precision instrument.
Certain brands are especially synonymous with these schools, and it feels good and is a relief when you know that your flute is in good hands.
The flute is, as I said, a precision instrument that needs even hygienic care. Since our mouths are basically right on it, I prefer to know where it’s been and what has happened to it since it left my sight… which as you know is a traumatic experience in itself.
Finding someone who has the proper pedigree for the art of maintaining and repairing a fine instrument like the flute is kind of a big deal.
Some people call them repairmen, or repair-lady, but most in the industry call themselves technicians.
So what does a flute technician do anyway?
A flute tech listens to what the player says first about the flute so they can determine the level of care that is necessary.
It’s possible the flute just has a slight issue like a popped spring or a leaking pad.
They’ll be able to give you an idea of what will be done after you describe to them what you feel like is going on with the flute.
The most important service for keeping your flute in tippy-top shape is a Clean, Oil, and Adjustment. That’s what we call it, this is also called a COA. You may have heard of this before or seen COA somewhere, that means Clean. Oil. Adjust.
Before I go any further, let me remind you that yes, you should also clean your own flute after every playing session, you should not use oils on your flute yourself, and you should not attempt to adjust any of the mechanism yourself. Little disclaimer here from one who knows.
Flutists who value their instruments will usually have their instrument taken in for a Clean, Oil, and Adjustment every one to three years.
This procedure includes completely taking apart the flute. The body, headjoint and the foot joint is thoroughly cleaned, polished, put back together, tested, and returned in perfect condition.
More on this in a minute.
I want to explain that this is a less type of maintenance, because there’s a more thorough type of service called an “Overhaul”.
This is when the flute is completely restored and fully repadded. It is definitely more costly, but sometimes it has to be done.
**Okay, I’m going to take a little side note here because there’s something that happens everyday in the flute world that will be good for you listeners here to know about.
IF you are playing on a flute that is of quality make, an overhaul is worth doing when it’s needed… which will be very rare in its lifetime.
But, if you are playing on a flute of lower quality, for example a mostly nickel made, silver plated, China-factory stamped out amazon type flute, and you take it to see about an overhaul, you will most likely be told that your flute needs to be totaled.
This means that the cost of the overhaul will overshoot what you can pay to just get a new instrument. This is a real thing. Don’t be surprised or disappointed if you’re ever given this information.
So basically what I’m saying, if your flute is of lower quality it will cost you more than the flute is worth, to fix it. And that’s always a bummer but thats kind of how it goes in the world.
And, you should note that the higher quality of a flute you play on, the higher level your flute technician should be. This is just how it is.
Take the Porsche to the Porsche mechanic so you can trust it’s done right.
So the first thing a repair tech will do with your flute is test it. Yep, flute technicians are also flute players. They know what it should feel and sound like, and yes they’ll be testing and playing your flute a lot during its care in their shop.
Here’s a list of things a flute repair tech could be doing while they have your flute:
During a quick repair, the flutes are not disassembled, usually. They just go straight to the issue, fix it, and give it back. This is kind of like a level one maintenance.
The next level would be that they find the issues require more… The flute will be taken all the way apart.. I mean, all the way apart.
All keys are taken off, the cork is carefully removed, usually with heat. There are parts of your flute called kickers, grommets, corks, springs, hooks, screws, pads, and pins.
Probably really not a comprehensive list right there, but you get the point. All of these pieces have their exact place and they all work in harmony to create an amazingly beautiful instrument for you.
The technician will also carefully take notes as they disassemble the flute and reassemble it. They check the tenons and joints to be sure they glide smoothly, but not loosely of course.
All of these processes are super particular, and I am very grateful to those who have gone through the proper schooling to learn how to help us musicians sound wonderful.
After the flute is disassembled all the way including pad removal, the metal parts of the instruments are given a bath. This is both done with chemicals and non-checmicals and removes all and any specs, grits, or irregularities on the metal.
These parts are then dried and buffed with a special machine. This leaves the flute super shiny – I don’t doubt that it’s the favorite part of a repair tech’s day. Making the flute look all shiny again just has to be so satisfying.
The flutes are put through rigorous tests over and over and over as they are reassembled.
Each pad must be laid absolutely perfectly. A super thin paper (kind of like paper anyways) called shims is used to test during this process, also with lights.
Oh and usually in order to be sure the flute doesn’t get accidentally scratched by the repair tech’s screwdriver, the barrel of the flute is covered with a thin coating that keeps it safe.
Keys are cleaned and reassembled with the pads, springs are tested as well as the cork and the bumpers.
If during this process, any of the parts are found faulty or damaged, they will be replaced as needed.
There are rods, screws, pivot screws, rollers, and hinge tubes that must be carefully cleaned and oiled as well.
I’ve watched this process before, and I find it fascinating.
I also know that I do not have patience to be the person doing this. I can’t even cross-stich.
This is a job for someone else, for sure.
The exact standards needed to make sure everything gets put back in proper position is kind of overwhelming to me.
Certain types of flutes or pads also require certified repair technicians so they are cared for and worked on properly. This is not only for the safety and maintenance of the flute but for the happiness of the player of it.
Most players don’t notice their flute even needed an overhaul or a repair. They just eventually start to feel that something is ‘missing’ in their sound usually, but they just keep grinding it out for months or even years, some people, until it’s all too obvious that it needs to be seen by a technician.
Once you have your flute overhauled or Clean, Oiled, and Adjusted, you realize it should have seen the technician waaay before it did, and its really normal for everybody to feel that way.
For this reason, most flute shops will offer you one included COA with your flute purchase.. As long as it’s done within the first year. This is kind of is normal for you to find in the industry as far as warranty or purchase plans go.
Well, that was quick, but what did you think of this subject today? Because it was again brought to my attention in a sort of an emergency and a sad way of course- I’ve had enough handy-dandy-but-well-meaning dads take their pliers, screwdrivers, and sandpaper to their children or spouse’s flutes in attempt to “repair them”.
It never works out. It’s so sad
So, I hope you learned a few things today that I didn’t know years ago that will help you keep your flute in tip-top shape knowing what will happen to it when it sees a technician and also to not wait too long. Your flute and your tone will thank you for it.
I’ve really enjoyed having you here today as a listener. What are your takeaways from this episode? Did it spark any thoughts?
Do you think your flute needs some attention?
Do you wonder if it’s way past due?
Do you have access to a certified technician?
We’re learning all about these things and as we keep-on-keepin-on, we invite you to join us in the member’s area of Learn Flute Online, it truly is awesome.
I can’t wait to help you become the confident flutist you are striving to be.
Leave a comment today if you’re so inclined, and let me know how this particular episode helped you on our journey as a musician. What does a flute technician do? Well, you know now. I’ll play you out.
See you soon!
Thank you for Tuning In!
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about what flute technicians do. Join us for the next episode.