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 Sort Out Your Wide 8ves and Intonation...
Author: Chris P 
Date:   2011-12-08 11:26

"Flutes are sharp. Flutes are always sharp."

That's my former clarinet teacher's favourite sentiment which he echoed from one of his former teachers while conducting the college wind ensembles. And it's true - flutes are ALWAYS sharp!

So often I see countless flute players struggling in vain to play in tune by pulling the headjoint out, etc. or showing complete disregard for others when they simply can't play in tune.

But this doesn't have to be. Pulling out the headjoint to tune one note isn't enough as that has the most significant effect on the LH notes and doesn't put the instrument in tune uniformally.

The biggest problem is most flutes nowadays are usually built to 442Hz or higher, so will be sharp against instruments tuned to 440Hz and they will often get increasingly sharper as they go higher.

It's NO GOOD tuning to the middle register as that means you'll be flat in the lower register and sharp in the altissimo register.

So tune to the lower register (playing Bb, A or G with no vibrato) with an electronic tuner and get that in tune - pull out the headjoint if you need to and note the position it's in. Then check the upper register with the same note which will most likely be sharp. Then check the altissimo register and that will most likely be way off the scale.

Now check all your Ds - low D, middle D and high D and see how they read on your tuner. Then check all your Gs (low, middle and high) against the tuner, again the chances are they will get increasingly sharper as you go up each register. Do the same with your As.

To bring them all in tune with each other, remove the headjoint and push the headjoint cork away from the embouchure hole by 1mm - your cleaning stick usually has a line 17mm from the end, but this is only a general guide and should be ignored as that's not the best position for the headjoint cork. So set the headjoint cork to 18mm away from the centre line of the embouchure hole and check the 8ves again.

If the 8ves are still wide (but better than they were before) then move the headjoint cork away from the embouchure hole by another millimetre so it's now 19mm away from the centre of the embouchure hole and check the tuning of each 8ve against the tuner. If that's too far, then push it back in and check it again. Once you've found the correct position and all your 8ves are in tune with each other, then tighten up the crown and leave it there.

But it's no good if you're the only one that's got a flute that plays in tune - the rest of your section should also do the same so they'll al be in tune as well otherwise it'll be even more painful for other players than it was previously when your intonation was all over the place.

Word of warning - don't try to push or pull the headjoint cork out the end nearest to the lip plate. Headjoints are tapered along their length towards the lip plate, so the only way to remove the headjoint cork (if you have to) is to push it all the way down the headjoint. Trying to remove the headjoint cork assembly from the narrow end will stretch the tubing and while it may not affect the performance, it will look ugly and will also be an expensive fix to burnish it all smooth again.


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