Return to home page









Frequently asked questions

"What is the difference between all these flutes?!"

Folkers & Powell flutes are modeled on examples by flute makers working between about 1685 and about 1815. The music written during this period was of many different kinds, and while some of the flutes are usable for music of more than one variety, others are more specialized and suited to a smaller range of styles.

"Which is the best flute to play J. S. Bach?"

It depends. Bach wrote flute music in several different styles over a long period. At the moment the model most people like for early eighteenth-century German flute music is the Jacob Denner. That's because as well as having the right "feel", its tone is robust, its intonation is reliable, and it plays at a=415 cps, among other pitch options. The pitch of a=415, though perhaps not the commonest in Bach's experience, is convenient for modern use because it's an equal-tempered semitone below a=440. Bach also wrote particular pieces, such as the E major and Musical Offering sonatas, for the Quantz flute.

"Can I have a flute that will play both at 415 and 440?"

Yes, either a Grenser or Palanca with 2 corps de rechange and a foot-register. Check them out under 415/440 combinations.

"Why can't I have a Denner at a=440, or a Grenser at a=392?"

We do our best to make our flutes play like original instruments. Pitch is an important factor in how the flute sounds and feels to play. To make a Denner play at a=440, or a Grenser play at a=392, we would have to redesign it, destroying its integrity and special character, and turning it into something invented by us. We think it's better to choose a flute which was originally meant to play at the pitch you need.

"What is a foot-register?"

A foot-register is a telescoping adjustable foot-joint, for making adjustments in tuning when changing middle joints.

"What is a screw-cork?"

A screw-cork is a simple mechanism in the head-joint for making adjustments to the position of the cork, useful when changing middle joints.

"Which is your favorite flute?"

Er, it depends on the music! Also, different people have different favorites because not everybody blows the same way or has the same taste. If you're having trouble deciding which model will be best for you, send us e-mail--we'll be glad to help.

"How does a boxwood flute sound different from one in ebony?"

Any answer to this question only means anything if you are comparing two otherwise "identical" instruments in different woods. If you compared a boxwood Denner with an ebony Lot, for instance, the diffence in the designs themselves would be far, far greater than any difference in the wood. The best way to find out the difference is play them yourself. Many people find that a boxwood flute is more suited for chamber music because of the way it blends with other instruments, while ebony has a more cutting sound, very good for orchestral work and concertos. But people use both woods for all kinds of playing, and it all comes down to personal preference in the end.

"I've heard that ebony cracks easily. Is this true?"

We would like to answer "no" but in fact over the years we have had a few ebony flutes back in the shop for crack repairs. Ebony flutes rarely warp or become oval, but rapid extremes of temperature and humidity sometimes will cause an ebony flute to crack. You can minimize the risk with careful break-in and regular oiling. Folkers & Powell's unmatched guarantee should remove any anxiety about having an ebony flute if that's what you want.

"How long does it take to make a FOLKERS & POWELL flute?"

A one-keyed flute takes about 15 hours, spread over a minimum of three years (however we do a lot of the work in advance so that we can deliver each model quickly when we receive an order for it). Keyed flutes take twice or three times as many hours. We don't count the time spent on research, experiment, office work and record-keeping, etc., which takes up the rest of our waking hours!

"Why do I have to send my flute back after 6 months for a check-up?"

By the time we make a flute out of it, a piece of wood is no longer technically "alive", yet the wood will continue to expand and contract from seasonal changes of temperature and humidity, from travel-related climate changes and from having moist, warm breath moving through it when you're playing. During the first few months of playing on your new F&P flute, the wood will gradually become more stable, moving less with each successive playing session. After about 6 months the bores of most flutes will be slightly smaller than they were when they were new and unplayed. You may or may not notice this as it occurs, but the sound can become slightly closed and stuffy, and intonation may deteriorate somewhat, especially changes in purity of octaves. When you send the flute for its check-up we re-ream the bore to put it back to the original dimensions, which corrects these problems. At that time we can also make any other small adjustments to make your flute play its best. After re-reaming a new flute often has a noticeably bigger and more stable tone.

"Do I really have to oil my Folkers & Powell flute with raw linseed oil? I read in a book that was best."

There is no "best" oil for all woodwind instruments because they are not all finished the same way. Folkers & Powell flutes are finished with a raw linseed oil varnish that simply needs refreshing from time to time.The most effective oil to use for this purpose is the same product that formed the varnish. Raw linseed oil is easy to find in small quantities at art supply stores and on the web. But you are of course under no obligation to follow our recommendations.

"What do you mean by a 'copy'"?

Good question! Every musical instrument is unique, really, and its individual spirit cannot be captured, not even by magic. In just the same way, it's impossible to give a truly "historical" musical performance. Still, we think a good way to prepare for an "authentic" execution of a piece is to try to understand everything about the music, the composer's work and life, and the appropriate instrument, technique and performance practice.

We try as flute makers to reproduce the playing qualties original instruments have. Because we're players and makers, we know that the only way to get close to this is to be extremely scrupulous in reproducing their dimensions. We don't as a rule deliberately alter the pitch, tuning or tone of originals, but work to understand their designs, and to replicate them faithfully. This is not to say we always make slavish or exact copies: sometimes, such as when originals are in poor condition, are altered, or provide a range of slightly different models to choose from, we have decided to appropriately combine information from several sources. In these cases, all such information is historical--we have not made any of it up.

We choose the models for our instruments using the criteria of professional flutists and flutemakers: their qualities of sound, response and intonation seem to us outstandingly good--some of them are of extraordinary historical importance too. Most likely, many of these original flutes are rare even by eighteenth century standards: they were made by brilliant artists, often in a family tradition of musical instrument making that had lasted for generations. Their instruments satisfied the most discriminating and demanding musicians of the times: obviously they knew more about their requirements than we do. Not all the instruments we copy are at convenient pitches for modern use, and some work according to special intonation systems not much used today. We make them because they can teach players as well as us, the makers, about the sounds flutists and makers centuries ago strove for and were familiar with.

That's our reason for making, playing and studying these remarkable historical instruments. Our respect for their integrity gives us a commitment to making each of our flutes in the spirit of its original to the best of our ability.

Have a question we didn't answer?

Send us e- mail!

Text and images copyright © 1997,1999, 2001, 2008 FOLKERS & POWELL, Makers of Historical Flutes
PO Box 148, Hillsdale NY 12529-0148 USA
TEL: +1 518 828 9779