Sunday, April 20, 2008

Flute Dilemma Again (or rather, still)

I have a confession to make. The sandalwood headjoint I was so excited about in my March 29th post is not a "done deal."

In the midst of my St. Patrick's Day gigs, my own Haynes silver flute developed a couple of leaks, so I took it to Jeff Weissman for repair. He kept my flute and lent me a Sedona flute and the lovely little Sedona sandalwood headjoint. I had every intention of purchasing both the headjoint and the flute when I returned to pick up my repaired Haynes. The total price of $1850 included $850 for the Sedona sandalwood headjoint, $850 for the Sedona flute (complete with its own silver headjoint), plus tax. Included in the deal was a full-sized flute case plus outer carrying case for the Sedona flute and a separate little headjoint case for the sandalwood headjoint.

You see, the sandalwood headjoint doesn't actually fit my Haynes, as was implied in my 3/29 post. Having fallen in love with its sweet, woody sound, I rationalized the purchase of a second flute. It would be good to have a my own backup flute, and it would be good to avoid taking my very valuable Haynes into places where beer could be spilled on it, etc. Now you have ALL the facts. That level of detail didn't seem necessary for the 3/29 post, but you won't understand my present dilemma without full disclosure. So there you have it. Continuing on...

I played the Sedona flute for about a month before my Haynes was ready for pickup. During that time I realized that while the Sedona is a very good student flute, it is still a student flute. It handles very differently from my lovely handmade Haynes. I began to miss the responsiveness of the Haynes key mechanisms, the feel of the sound vibrating under my fingers, in short, the experience of a quality instrument.

Additionally, I began to convince myself that the sandalwood headjoint might just fit my 30-year old Haynes flute with it's smaller bore and thinner walls. After all, the Sedona sandalwood headjoint was small even for the Sedona flute's body. I discovered just how significant the size difference was after I cleaned off the teflon tape that Jeff had used on the tenon to make the headjoint fit.

I tried not to notice that the sandalwood headjoint's pitch seemed a bit flat. I convinced myself that I would be able to push the tenon ALL the way in, once the final prepping before purchase had been done.

Yesterday - when I went to the Weissman shop intending to pick up my Haynes, have the Sedona prepped and pay for it - my fantasies came crashing down on me. Discussing the final fitting and adjustment of the sandalwood headjoint, I realized that:

  • It will NOT be coaxed into fitting my Haynes.
  • It can NOT be expanded to fit the Sedona flute either, so it will always require teflon tape.
  • Whether due to its construction or to the everpresent teflon tape scraps, the sandalwood's tenon cannot be inserted any farther into the body of the flute, so there will never be any flexibility in making the flute sharper.

Now I have to answer this question: Do I really want to spend $1850 on a student flute and a headjoint that will always require teflon tape, will not play an A higher than 440 at best, and will have little-to-no resale value?

Resale didn't start out to be a concern. Owning multiple flutes and conceding the possibility of selling them at a later date wasn't part of my mindset as a classical player. I have come to realize, however, that Irish flute players buy a number of flutes and then sell them if they don't work out or if they don't get played much. That started me thinking about resale and realizing that the Sedona brand could be a problem. While Weissman makes a very respectable wooden piccolo, nobody's heard of his Sedona brand yet. His Sedona flutes -- made to his own design and manufactured solely for his shop -- are presently not advertised at all, not even on his own website! How would I ever sell an inexpensive student flute nobody's heard of? Plus, the market for wooden headjoints on silver flutes is not very big to begin with, so without some brandname "buzz" it would be very hard to sell this particular sandalwood headjoint. A Sedona wooden headjoint would take years to gain the reputation of the premiere wooden headjoints made by Abel, Eppler, Noy, and Howard Roberts - all of which, by the way, cost a good deal more than the Sedona sandalwood.

In the few days I have left to decide, I'm doing some serious thinking and investigations. You'll remember that I bought the Vista PC without doing my homework and what a mess occurred as a result. (See my Technology posts.) Taking a lesson from that situation, I want to carefully rethink this flute dilemma before swiping my credit card. Here's what I see as my present options:

  1. The "spare flute" scenario above is valid. I could get the Sedona flute and Sedona sandalwood headjoint. I could use it for years and feel it was worth the price, regardless of resale value. The pitch is not too flat, and the sound is very pleasing. I wouldn't have to play the Sedona exclusively; I could still play my Haynes.
  2. There are 2 vintage Boehm system wooden flutes on eBay right now, very tempting in the $1300 range. They wouldn't play like my Haynes, but then neither does the Sedona. At least the headjoint would fit the body of the flute. And a 1920's flute would be very cool. Kept in good condition, it would only appreciate in value.
  3. I could buy a used headjoint made by a premiere maker whose work is well known. I have emailed several people who are selling wooden headjoints. (Chiff & Fipple Flute Forum and are good resources for second-hand purchases.) If I could get one small enough for my flute, it might be easier to sell it later. It could be fitted to larger diameter flutes with a little teflon tape. Based on the ads I read yesterday, it seems like people accept teflon tape as a reasonable solution for a headjoint that gets occasional use when a woody sound is desired.
  4. I could see if Peter Noy or another of the premiere headjoint makers would build a wooden headjoint to fit my Haynes.
  5. While playing both the Sedona combo and my Haynes over the next few days, I will once again revisit the notion of sticking with the Boehm system flute for Irish music. Maybe that idea is just flawed to begin with! (apologies, Joanie. After all, there are exceptions to every rule.)

So that's it. Sometimes I wonder why everything in my life becomes a huge project. That's a rhetorical question, so please don't comment! If, however, you have any words of wisdom to offer before Tuesday on the flute dilemma, send them my way. And stay tuned for the next exciting chapter in this blog's continuing flute saga.

© 2008, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement


Lauren said...

Hey linda - bummer that the sedona wasn't as good a deal as you'd thought! Have you made a decision yet? I'd be pretty scared of buying an antique flute on ebay, but then I'm always a bit guyshy about large purchases. If I were you I'd look into a custom headjoint from a well-known maker - would that be similar in price to purchasing the sandlewood and the student flute? At the very least, could you find a dealer of the other wooden headjoint makers in NYC so you could try them out?

Bren said...

Hey Linda, how about a Trevor James? I got my son one about 3 years ago, I think it's a heavy wall. It sounds as good as flutes from some other excellent flute makers that cost 2 or 3 thousand dollars more. It sounds pretty great next to flutes that are selling for about 7 thousand more (think "gold flute"). And I think it would be easy to sell.

Anonymous said...

Hey Linda,
I play a wooden Sedona headjoint and love it. I'm professional touring musician! As far as the headjoint not be able to fit, I'm sure that Weissman and his crew could make it work. They're the best in the nation when it comes to repair and sales! As far as Bren's comment is concerned. Weissman was the man who made Trever James what they are today, so their must not be a big difference between Sedona and TJ.