Monday, December 17, 2012

What exactly does “Venti” mean? The evolution of a headjoint…

By Christina Cobas - Marketing Manager, Powell Flutes

Paul Edmund-Davies
Powell headjoints have always been an important factor in the sound of a Powell Flute.  The tradition of headjoint making at Powell has always attracted some of the most talented flutists and flute makers.  When Paul Edmund-Davies asked the headjoint makers at Powell to do something truly different, they did not shy away from his challenge.

“The Venti headjoint came about from my desire to express myself through the flute as vocally as possible. Having had a very English cathedral school upbringing from the age of seven it was the human voice not the flute, that was the strongest influence in my formative years. In many ways, the voice is the ultimate instrument of them all, with its abilities for contrast, dark and light, soft and loud, and endless dynamic possibilities. Perhaps though the evenness of sound through the entire range is something that the best singers can use in an utterly captivating way and it is this quality that I find often lacking in head joints on flutes. Many can be stunning, but only in one octave and then they lose depth. They can be pure or round, have massive volume or attack, but invariably lack a certain bloom through the three main octaves of the instrument. Not surprising really considering that we are ultimately dealing with something that is attached to machinery!

The Venti headjoint is definitely for those who wish to sing through the instrument. It certainly requires the performer to keep the air column alive, but the rewards are that it is even, has a very good dynamic range throughout and above all is captivatingly flexible. It enables the performer to truly explore expression and discover their individual voice.” says Paul Edmund-Davies.

Since its original conception in 2006, the Venti style has been slowly evolving as a result of the feedback of many flutists of many levels and detailed work with Paul.  Today, the Venti is truly a reflection of the epitome of modern headjoint making.

If you are interested in trying a Venti style headjoint, contact Rebecca Eckles at

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Key Leveling

We recently wrote a post about tone hole leveling, so we thought it would be a good idea to talk about another leveling process -- key leveling.  This is something that is done by our finishers immediately after the pads are put in the keys.  However, at this point, the pads are put in just to get a general overview of how the mechanism is functioning.  The pads are shimmed later in the process, after the key leveling.  Flute finishers need to make sure everything is level before the final pad shimming.

So, once the pads are put in the keys, the finisher closes the key and checks all the way around with a feeler gauge (same gauge used to check for leaks).  This process allows the finisher to see where the key might be "heavy" or otherwise unlevel.  If the key is heavy in a spot, it would need to be pushed up.  The finisher takes a piece of felt and puts it under the key to protect the metal.  Our finisher Karl Kornfeld mentioned that other materials could be used instead of felt -- leather, cardboard, paper -- essentially, anything softer than the pad.  A spring loaded tool called an "automatic punch" is then used to apply pressure to the key to level it.  This tool can be adjusted as well.  After the keys are leveled, the finisher lets the flute sit for at least an hour because metal "has a memory" and can shift back to it's previous shape.  Once all the keys are leveled, the finisher can then begin shimming the pads -- into nicely adjusted, level keys!

Using feeler gauge to check for spots that aren't level.
"Automatic Punch" is the tool used to apply pressure.
Prepping by placing felt under the key.

Applying pressure with automatic punch tool.
Tip of this tool also has felt to protect the metal keys.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Powell Scale

We received the following inquiry regarding the production process and how it affects the scale, and we thought many of you might have the same questions:

How do you construct the scale of your instruments? What are the advantages of having a flute with a handmade scale when compared to a mass-produced flute?

Powell Flutes are made today using the Modern Powell Scale, but over the course of 79 years we have used a few different versions of flute scales.  Our current scale is based on the Cooper Scale by Albert Cooper; but there are modifications that have been made to better suit a Powell instrument.

In theory, there could be no difference in the scale of a handmade flute versus a mass-produced flute.  The position of the tone holes on the tubing determines the scale of an instrument, and that is not a factor in determining whether a flute is handmade or mass-produced.

However, flute makers who offer handmade soldered tone hole flutes have been the quickest to make modifications to their scales to improve intonation.  Thus, most handmade flute makers offer a more even and in-tune scale.  In addition, handmade flute makers are more likely to continue to improve their scale based on the opinions of professional flutists.

Bodies with drawn tone holes.
Bodies with soldered tone holes.