Friday, February 27, 2015

Signature and Conservatory

Left to right: Silver and Aurumite 9k Handmade Conservatory flutes

The Powell Signature and Conservatory flutes are two of our most popular models, so we are often asked, "What is the difference between them?"  There are just a few differences, so we wanted to help answer that question...

From the "top down," the Signature and Conservatory flutes differ in the following ways:

1) Headjoint - Signature flutes have a Signature headjoint, and Conservatory flutes have your choice of one of three Custom styles: Soloist, Philharmonic, Venti

2) Body - Signature flutes have sterling silver bodies.  For Conservatory flutes, you have the option of a sterling silver or Aurumite 9k body.

3) Mechanism - There is a pinned mechanism on the Signature and a pinless mechanism on the Conservatory.

4) Adjustments - Signature flutes have adjusting screws, and Conservatory flutes have paper adjustments. Click here to read or previous post on adjustments, "Very Fine Adjustments."

That's all there is to it -- just a few differences.  Have you tried the Signature?  Conservatory?  Since there are two body options for the Conservatory, make sure to try the silver and the Aurunite 9k if you can!  Also, we have links with additional specs on our website - click here for Signature and here for Conservatory.

Conservatory - Silver
Conservatory - Aurumite 9k

Friday, February 20, 2015

Making the Final Cut

Lindsey holding one of five headjoints she finished cutting. 

Cutting headjoints takes a tremendous amount of skill, expertise, and patience as we have learned from meeting with headjoint cutter and flute finisher, Lindsey McChord.  We had the chance to catch up with her this week while she was cutting piccolo headjoints.  In fact, she had just finished several, and it made us wonder -- how does she know when they are finished?  So, we asked!  Lindsey told us that there are essentially three areas she focuses on for determining whether a headjoint is ready to go: scales, dynamics, and flexibility.

When she has a headjoint that she feels is finished, Lindsey begins the final testing process with scales, focusing on the mid and low range.  Although some may consider the low register to be "weak" on a piccolo, Lindsey tells us that this is definitely not true.  She says that she strives for balance when it comes to registers -- never sacrificing one end of the spectrum for another.  For instance, some players may test a headjoint that has a great upper register but not a great lower register and vice versa.  Lindsey says it's important to have strong registers throughout -- never sacrificing one for the other.  She plays the full range through scales, going up to C4 and making sure that B4 speaks.  When playing scales, Lindsey can also check for evenness.  For example, if there is a difference between notes that are next to each other, it's a good indication that an adjustment needs to be made.  Lindsey uses scales to focus on articulation as well, making sure that articulations are crisp and that the response is niece and clean both up and down the scale.  In terms of sound quality, playing scales allows Lindsey make sure that the sound is focused and pure -- never undefined or "woody." 

The Anderson Etudes are a terrific method for testing a headjoint's dynamic range and flexibility.  Of course, a headjoint that only plays comfortably at one dynamic range would not pass the test, so Lindsey makes sure that she can play the full dynamic range with comfort and ease, including the extremes.  She also makes sure to incorporate large leaps (octaves, 6ths, etc.) in the testing process to get a sense of the headjoint's flexibility.  Whether she selects etudes with large leaps or simply ads them to her scale regimen, these exercises can really put the headjoint's flexibility to the test.

Anderson Etudes on the stand in the headjoint testing room.

In general, the goal is to cut a headjoint that one can play easily, without having to make changes to the headjoint, their embouchure, or both.  Lindsey tells us that one should simply be able to put the headjoint up to their lips and play -- comfortably.  She says that it's crucial for her to test the piccolo headjoints on the very same piccolo all the time, and she has to make sure that this piccolo is in perfect shape.  She says that a piccolo is capable of producing a full range of beautiful tone colors, and you can be very expressive.  All the nuances that one can achieve on flute can also be produced on piccolo as well.  She tells us, "There are some amazing solos for piccolo, but everything has to be there, otherwise, the piccolo is not capable of doing what it needs to do."  So, with that in mind, Lindsey knows that the piccolo is certainly not a "second class citizen."  When the headjoint she cuts provides the artistic and technical freedom she needs without any restrictions, and with ease and stability, it is ready!

One headjoint on far left in egg crate has been oiled and is used as a model for cutting other headjoints.  The other five in the crate are finished and will be oiled next.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Low Bb - Powell #4871

Looking through our archives this week, we spotted a very unusual flute -- Powell #4871.  It was made in 1976, and the most distinguishing feature of this flute is its low Bb!  The flute was made of sterling silver and had the following specs: soldered tone holes, .014" tubing, Cooper Scale, French cups, offset G, split-E, and a C# trill.

The low Bb is operated by a left hand lever which closes the key cup.  You'll see this outlined in the photos below.  Powell's repair technician, Rachel Baker, mentioned that it was most likely positioned there because there would not be enough room next to the C and B rollers on the footjoint.  Also, the C# trill key on this flute has a different shape and is positioned differently than a traditional C# trill key.  The C# trill key here is quite long in comparison and is located below the Bb shake (rather than above, which is where it is normally located).

Enjoy the photos below of this very unusual Powell!

Close-up on the footjoint (tone hole closest to bottom of footjoint is the Bb).
Low Bb is operated by a left hand lever (next to G# key).
No room next to B and C rollers for an extra key!

Green arrow points to low Bb key, red to Bb shake, yellow to C# trill.
A different flute for comparison.  Blue arrow points to a traditional C# trill, red arrow to Bb shake.
Close-up on serial number.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Authorized Powell Dealers: Access and Service

By Steven A. Wasser
President, Verne Q. Powell Flutes, Inc.

Once upon a time you either had to come to Boston to try flutes or wait for the National Flute Association convention.  Times have changed.  There are numerous, regional flute shows throughout the year, and several flute specialty shops in the United States stock professional flutes.

Powell has its own demo inventory of about 20 instruments, and we offer a trial program for those flutists who live in areas where there is no authorized Powell dealer or where the flutist prefers to work directly with us.  Powell instruments are also available through a carefully selected dealer network, primarily consisting of flute specialty shops.  Our demo inventory is normally busy traveling to various flute shows around the world or is being sent out on trial, so having a dealer network creates access for you to a substantial pool of immediately available instruments. 

Although we ship trial instruments around the country, shipping takes time if we even have an instrument available to ship.  Those flutists located in areas where we have authorized dealers can benefit by having immediate access to qualified, local service.  To find your nearest Powell dealer please refer to the dealer locator on our web site:

If there is no authorized Powell dealer in your area, you may schedule a trial directly through Powell by completing our online trial request form:

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ruby Aurumite

We debuted our newest Aurumite® flute, Ruby Aurumite, at the August 2014 NFA Convention and realized that we hadn't written about it here on the Flute Builder blog, so we wanted to share more about it!

Since we've taken the Ruby Aurumite to shows and flute fairs across the country, it has certainly gotten a lot of attention and a great response from those who have tried it.  Flutists have found Ruby Aurumite to be a flute that is very responsive and easy to play.  One of the questions we hear quite a bit is, "So, what's different about the Ruby Aurumite?"

Aside from the ruby in the crown, there are a couple of differences between Ruby Aurumite and the other two Aurumite flutes -- Aurumite 9k Conservatory, and the Aurumite 14k Custom.  The Aurumite 9k Conservatory has 9k rose gold on the outside and silver on the inside.  Ruby Aurumite is similar in that the gold is on the outside, but it is 14k rose gold.  Our Director of Service and Quality, Rebecca Eckles, says that she finds Ruby Aurumite to have a darker sound than the Aurumite 9k Conservatory.  Ruby Aurumite flutes also have soldered tone holes, and the Aurumite 9k Conservatory has drawn tone holes.  So, Rebecca feels that Ruby's soldered tone holes give it more depth of sound.  She agrees with what our customers have found in terms of response -- Ruby is definitely responsive right off the bat and very easy to play.  In comparison with the Aurumite 14k Custom, the Ruby Aurumite is the "opposite" configuration.  Aurumite 14k Custom flutes have silver on the outside and 14k rose gold on the inside, whereas the Ruby Aurumite is the reverse.

Lindsey McChord, one of our flute finishers who also cuts headjoints, shared her thoughts on the Ruby Aurumite.  Lindsey works mostly with Ruby Aurumite when she is cutting headjoints.  She does not always have a complete Ruby set-up, which actually gives her a chance to see how Ruby Aurumite flutes respond and sound with headjoints of different materials.  In general, Lindsey feels that the Ruby Aurumite is a little warmer and darker that Aurumite 14k.  In terms of working with Ruby Aurumite headjoints, she tells us they are more like working with gold.  When she has tested the silver headjoints with a Ruby Aurumite flute, she feels that the silver headjoint brings Ruby back to the brighter side, closer to the Aurumite 14k.

Rebecca's perspective is that Ruby is darker than Aurumite 9k but not as dark as the Aurumite 14k.  Lindsey feels the Ruby Aurumite is darker and warmer than an Aurumite 14k.  So, as you can see, differences in sound are really quite subjective.  From a technical perspective, the type of tone holes on a Ruby Aurumite is the same as an Aurumite 14k (soldered) but different from the Aurumite 9k (drawn).  So, if you have the chance to try a Ruby Aurumite, see what you think -- there is definitely no right or wrong answer!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Powell Pin

In a recent post, we shared a 1974 Powell pricelist (which you can view by following this link) and noticed that a "flute pin" was on the list.  We were very curious and had not seen any in the shop -- until now.  Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, had a customer who owned one of them!

Maureen McKibben came to the Powell shop in 1963 to purchase her Commercial model flute and received the pin as a souvenir of her visit.  This month, when she sent her flute in for regular maintenance, she included the pin for us to see.  The actual pin is about three inches long and is made of sterling silver.  As you'll see in the photos below, the flute on the front of the pin is quite detailed!  We would like to thank Mrs. McKibben for sharing this very special memento with us fifty-two years after she received it!

Front of pin

Side of pin
Back of pin (with sterling indication)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Aurumite Headjoints

Aurumite 14k Custom

If you've attended a convention like the NFA, you'll know that the Powell booth is filled with many flutes, piccolos, and headjoints to try.  The selection is vast, and we certainly want visitors to try different things.  But have you ever found yourself selecting a flute and headjoint combination to try, only to discover that the headjoint would not fit into the flute?  If so, you may have had a combination of an Aurumite 14k Custom flute and a silver headjoint.

Why would the silver headjoint not fit into the Aurumite 14k Custom flute?  Well, in a previous post (available through this link), we discovered that the .018" silver Custom does not have a .018" headjoint -- it has a .016" headjoint (and .016" barrel).  With an Aurumite 14k Custom, the flute has a thickness of .016," but its headjoint has a thickness of .014" -- and a barrel thickness of .014" to fit the headjoint.  The headjoint and barrel are made from the exact same Aurumite material as the flute (silver on the outside and 14k rose gold on the inside) -- they just have a different thickness.  Since the Aurumite 14k Custom has a .014"  barrel to fit the .014" headjoint, a silver headjoint of .016" thickness would be too big. 

As for the other Aurumite flutes, the headjoint and body thicknesses are the same, so the barrel is as well.  The Ruby Aurumite Custom has a .016" headjoint, barrel, and body.  The Aurumite 9k Conservatory also has a  .016" headjoint, barrel, and body.  In these cases, a silver headjoint of .016" thickness would fit. 

What is the reasoning behind the Aurumite 14k Custom flute having a .016" body and .014" headjoint?  It is actually the same as the case with the .018" silver Custom.  It's all about sound and response.  When the Aurumite 14k Custom was developed, different headjoint thicknesses were tested, and the best sound, resonance, and response came from choosing a .014" headjoint for the .016" body!

Aurumite 9k Conservatory
Ruby Aurumite Custom