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Alto Flute - Curved head orientation?

3098 Views 8 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  shmuelyosef
Are there any good guidelines for orienting the curved head. The two extremes seem to be:
Vertical - the lip plate is mounted directly above the tonehole line, rotated to align the opening as with straight headjoints
Horizontal - the curve is parallel to the floor and moves the body of the flute away from your body.

Neither one of these seems right...I have been practicing with the headjoint about 30 degrees rotated towards me from the vertical position with the lip plate in the proper position to blow. This seems like the best compromise of balance and arm position.

I just received this curved headjoint for my recently acquired Jupiter alto. I don't really find any big tonal differences (pleasantly surprised) but I do find that the 2nd and 3rd octaves are about 15 cents sharp from the bottom octave. The straight headjoint is perfect in this respect, so I'm reasonably sure it is the headjoint.
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On my bass I messed around with different positions for about a year before I finally got something that I really like. Horizontal tends to collect on the flute body the spit that flies past the embouchure hole. That's no good. Also it can tend to stress the tenons. I find a more vertical orientation to reduce both issues. Not completely vertical, but mostly vertical. The 30* rotated toward you from vertical that you mention sounds about the same I use. That's on a bass - alto may be a little different.

It's common to have the top octaves go sharp with a curved head (bass or alto). I've read this is due at least in part to the fact that the curved head usually has a different rate and length of taper because the curve itself is usually a constant radius mandrel bend (no taper through the curve). Reliable sources have told me some alto flute makers position the tone holes slightly differently for curved versus straight heads.
What is wrong with the straight head? It sounds so much nicer on my Altus alto.
I have had lots of problems with elbow tendonitis, and playing the alto flute seems to aggravate it. I decided to try the curved head as a possible way to extend my playing time on alto. Just getting used to it now. On this flute (deMedici 1200) it seems that the tone and response is not dramatically affected, just some minor intonation issues that I can likely compensate for...the returns are still out. The Jupiter case holds both heads with the flute, so I can carry both and decide on the fly, but I wanted to have the curved option available.
I figure about 45 degrees. If it is full vertical (90) it makes the balance off and it it is flat (0 degrees) the body blocks the flow of air. When playing in a pit, the curved head is almost required.
In recent months I've become more and more aware of how a straight head joint has a negative effect on my shoulders. I recently played a flute marathon and afterwards I was in pain....even through I was careful about my playing position. Happily I have a good message therapist and he got me back together. He showed me several stretches I need to do after playing. Hope this will help on flute. For me a curved head joint is a must. I've been using a curved head joint at a 90* angle as I find it to be the most comfortable. I actually prefer the sound of my soprano flute with a curved head than a straight one. To my ears it's a touch darker and bigger.

danarsenault said:
What is wrong with the straight head? It sounds so much nicer on my Altus alto.
I often wonder how a bass could be designed without a curve or so that the curve has minimal impact on response and intonation. The Rudall-Carte bass I played had a curve that was further down the body and looked like a knot tied into the flute - sort of like the mandrel bends in the headers of a race car. Perhaps the reason they did this was to push the curve further away from the head so the head tube could be longer with a more ideal taper.

But then the curve itself has to have a tighter radius, which could be detrimental. So perhaps it's just a different trade-off.
I always used straight head joints on Alto flute. I woould play the Bass Flute at around 30 to 40 Degrees up from straight which was the point at which it gave me the best response and was the most comfortable to play.
I worked some with a local guy who regularly plays alto, and I have decided to return the curved head (it was a trial) and pay careful attention to arm and head position on alto (it's amazing what a single lesson can do). The curved head seemed destined to be awkward and sub-optimal, and yes, I prefer the sound and response with the straight head. I have never seen an alto flute part in any of the pit work that I do, so that doesn't worry me.
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