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: