Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Signature

The Powell Signature flute is one of our most popular, and after speaking with our Marketing Manager, Christina Guiliano Cobas, we discovered that the Signature planning began in 2001.  It went through a few variations, but the Signature we know today was finally launched in 2003.

The concept behind the Signature design was that of a quality, handmade flute at an affordable price. The original brochure stated:

Page 1
Over the years, we have heard many stories of flutists who yearn for a Powell flute but are frustrated by the high cost of our Handmade instruments.  They have asked for our design and sound.  They wanted the flute to be reliable and affordable.  Most of all, they wanted a Powell.

And so we took the challenge.  The flutemakers and engineers who work on our Handmade models collaborated to design a new flute.  We realized that advanced technology was the only way we could make a flute in Boston, to Powell quality standards, at an affordable price.  Fortunately, our designers are creative, and we are located nearby some of the most sophisticated technology in the world.

The result is our new Signature Flute, made at Powell's Maynard headquarters just west of Boston.  It is crafted with proprietary technology that produces amazing quality.  We are so proud of this entre into the Powell family that we have put the Powell "Signature" on it.  For three-quarters of a century, the name "Powell" had meant quality in flutes.  It still does.
Original Signature brochure
Legend has it that Verne Q. Powell melted down his wife's silverware to make his first instrument, known as the "spoon flute."  From that first silver flute to our latest models, we have retained the key performance features of Powell's custom handmade instruments.

The Modern Powell Scale, pitched at A-442, plays in tune and is characterized by beautiful timbral balance.  The G "disc" allows for secure forte attacks on E-3.  All Signature headjoints are hand cut by professional flutists.  Flexibility, color, and projection are the hallmarks of the Signature Flute and its Powell ancestors.

We have used only the best materials for the Signature Flute:
  • Sterling silver headjoint
  • Sterling silver body tubing
  • Sterling silver mechanism
  • 10k gold springs
  • Split-E option
  • Straubinger pads
  • Butternut wood case
  • Leather case cover
Today, the Signature is just as it was described in the original brochure -- with the exception of a cherry wood case now (rather than butternut).  Today's Signature is available in a B foot (with gizmo) or C foot, with an offset or inline G, and with options of a split-E, C# trill, and 14k riser on the headjoint.  The Signature is still pitched at A-442, although A-444 is available on request.  Click here to visit the Signature flute page on the Powell website.

Signature barrels in production
Signature bodies in production
Current Signature case (made from cherry wood).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Venti Headjoint

Venti headjoint (indicated by "V" on label)
In 2006, Powell Flutes debuted the Venti style headjoint, which was developed in collaboration with Powell artist Paul Edmund-Davies.  This headjoint is one of four styles currently offered by Powell, available in a variety of metals with customization options (click here to see spec chart).

So what exactly does "Venti" mean -- and what was the inspiration behind the design?  We found the original 2006 website description for the Venti and have included it below, along with a copy of the original press release and a small gallery of photos.

The 2006 website description stated:
The name "Venti" encapsulates the concept of a headjoint that allows air to pass freely through the instrument and beyond, giving the performer variations of flexibility, dynamics, power and sound. Powell has worked with international flautist, Paul Edmund-Davies to develop this latest headjoint style.

Mr. Edmund-Davies became interested in the development of this style due to the prospect of playing on a headjoint that mirrored his experiences of singing in a cathedral choir. Paul's concept of a natural approach to the instrument incorporates an open and unrestricted style, with reference in particular to a more resonant and free 3rd octave.

The result is a headjoint that allows for depth of sound through all three octaves, even pitch and dynamic range, as well as a sound that is powerful without being wild or breaking up.
“The appeal of the Venti cut for me is that it has vocal characteristics that give the player a more comprehensive range of colors and dynamics, which in turn lead to a highly creative yet intimately personalized form of interpretation.”
Paul Edmund-Davies, soloist
This headjoint is available on our Handmade Conservatory and Handmade Custom Flutes (metal only):

  • .014" & .016" Sterling Silver
  • Aurumite 9k
  • Aurumite 14k
  • 9k rose gold
  • 10k yellow gold
  • 14k rose gold
  • 19.5k rose gold
  • Platinum
The 2006 press release:


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Headjoint Styles

Have you ever wondered what style of Powell headjoint you have?  If you purchased the headjoint in the last 24 years, there is definitely a way to find out.  However, if your headjoint was made before 1990, chances are that it will not have been assigned a serial number,  In fact, Marketing Manager, Christina Cobas, helped shed some light on the subject.  She said that when Mr. Powell opened his company in 1927, he had one headjoint cut.  This remained for several decades, and the headjoints were not assigned serial numbers.  All of the headjoints were not exactly the same, though, because the headjoints could be cut to a basic style and then adjusted to allow for certain characteristics that the customer preferred.  She shared that in the early days of the company, Mr. Powell knew that teachers and performers liked their headjoints a certain way, so the headjoints would be customized to meet the preferences of the customer's teacher.

Fast forward to 1990, and serial numbers were assigned to headjoints since there were different styles available.  Today, there are four headjoint styles: Signature, Soloist, Philharmonic, and Venti.  The computer database at the Powell office maintains all the records of the headjoints by serial number.  The database records provide specs on the headjoints, including the style and materials (of the tube, lip plate, and wall).

In order to find out what style of headjoint you have (assuming it was made within the last 10 years), you will first need to find the serial number.  The serial number is etched by hand in the inside of the headjoint, between the cork assembly and crown.  So, you'll need to unscrew the crown and then look for the serial number.  Flute finisher Karl Kornfeld helped us a bit by telling us that the number should be located on the side opposite the embouchure hole.  It can be difficult to see the number, so we made a video below to demonstrate.  You may need to use a magnifying lens -- or even the zoom feature of your camera or smartphone to help get a better look.  Once you find the number, you'll need to contact Powell to find out what style you have.  Unfortunately, only the flute serial numbers are searchable through Powell's online search feature on the website.  However, the website does have a "contact us" page that lists contact information for the company.

* Note - If your headjoint is more than 10 years old, the serial number will be on the underside of the lip plate. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wooden Flute and C# Trill

We had a customer ask why our wooden flutes are not available with a C# trill, so we went straight to our Wood Instrument Shop Manager, Tim Burnett, to find out!

It turns out that there are a few reasons why a C# trill is not an option.  Tim told us that a C# trill tone hole would be in a bad spot of the wood -- where the wood can be unstable and weak.  Also, there really is no room for another tone hole in that particular area of the flute body.  As you can see from the photo to the right, and from our previous post on forming tone holes in wooden flutes, the tone holes are rather large because of the way they are carved from the wood (especially the area around the tone hole that provides clearance for the key cup).  You can read the previous post on forming wooden tone holes by clicking here

So, it's pretty clear that tone holes on a wooden flute take up quite a lot of space, but it may be hard to visualize exactly how there would be a lack of space for the C# trill -- so we thought a photo refresher comparing metal flutes with and without the C# trill might be helpful.  In the photo below, we see the two flutes next to each other.  There is a yellow arrow pointing to the key cup with the C# trill. 

Now, looking at the photo below of the back of a wooden flute, it definitely becomes clearer.  The C# trill tone hole and key cup would simply be too close to the thumb keys (because it would be in the same place it is on a metal flute). 

So, there you have it!  The reason why there is no option for a C# trill is because of space and location -- not enough room for the C# trill tone hole and key cup, and definitely not a good spot on the wood for this, either.