Not sure what compelled me to do so, but I rescued my flute from my parents’ house a couple of weeks ago and have been playing it every day since. It’s been in the closet for the better part of fifteen years, and I was surprised at how much I remembered. I have been playing my Rubank books (well, the elementary one mostly) and most of what I didn’t remember has come back easily. My embouchure is not the best (don’t think it ever was) and I have trouble producing certain notes, but I think this might be due in part to my flute being absolutely beat to hell (see below).
When I decided to get back into playing, I decided I needed to get a new flute. My old flute is nickel plated, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I am allergic to the nickel plating. When I was in band and was practicing for hours a day, my lip wound get itchy, swollen, and would break out. My skin reacting with the nickel also caused discoloration on the lip plate, and the plating is completely gone on several keys and part of the body that rests on the left hand.
My flute is a Gemeinhardt, a good enough brand for those just starting out (at least 22 years ago; apparently their manufacturing has since been sent overseas and quality control has suffered), but my flute has taken a beating over several years of marching and has lots of little headjoint dents and a missing crown. I had the pads replaced when I was in high school and they’re mostly still ok, but I think there is a leak somewhere.
So I read a little online about different flute brands to find something silver-plated and maybe a little more challenging. One of the girls I was in band with played an open-hole flute and it fascinated me. I had never seen one before. I also wanted an older flute because I could find something inexpensive, but reliable and solidly-made. I had the plan to buy something cheaper that I could then spend a little more money on repairs.
I came across this discussion thread about Artley flutes and was kind of won over by the Artley owners’ love for flutes that the other posters kind of pooh-pooh as junky student instruments. I found two open-hole Artleys on eBay that appeared to be in nice shape and made low-ball offers on them. I didn’t expect either one to accept my offers, but they both did, so I had to buy two. 😛
Both of them are Artley 15-0 models, which just seems to be their basic student model but with open-hole keys. C foot, offset G, etc. Pretty standard stuff.
The first flute that arrived had been cleaned up and repadded by the seller, who included his business card in the case. It was advertised as ready to play. According to the serial number, it was made in 1978. It looks beautiful but when I tried to play I had a hell of a time getting most of my notes to play. I chalked this up to my small fingers not covering the open holes completely and ordered some plugs for the keys. Still waiting on those to arrive. I set this flute aside for the time being and kept playing my old Gemeinhardt.
A couple of days later the other Artley showed up. This one is from 1971 and came in an old leather case. The musty basement smell punched me in the face as soon as I opened the box it was packed in.
I opened the case and was disappointed to see that the flute was not in as nice of a condition as I had thought. It was very dirty and tarnished as well as stinky. The silver plating was pitted in places. There were a couple of loose pads, but that wasn’t a big surprise. But this flute felt nice in my hands and felt more solid than the other Artley. I polished it with a polishing cloth and it looked much better. I swabbed out the headjoint with alcohol and began playing, not expecting much.
Closeup of the pitting. I think some of this can be buffed out.
I was surprised to find that even with loose pads, the flute played beautifully! Better than my Gemeinhardt and much, much better than the other Artley. So I don’t know if the first Artley was just a piece of junk (seems very possible, if all the accounts I’ve read online are to be believed) or if the repad and/or repair just wasn’t done well. The second Artley was one of the early ones made in Arizona. The Arizona flutes are generally regarded as being mostly crap, but I guess I lucked out.
I took the second Artley to the repair shop the next day, along with….my piccolo!
I took these photos mainly as “before” pictures so I can compare when I get them back.
My dad got me the piccolo as a Christmas gift when I was in high school. He had really wanted to get me a replacement flute, but I begged for a picc instead. I helped him find a used Yamaha on ebay, and soon it was mine.
It needed new pads, though. We took it to a store that my band director recommended. My director was a trumpet guy and knew nothing about flutes, so I guess that should have been the first red flag. When the work was done and we went to pick it up, the repair guy asked me to check it out thoroughly because he also knew nothing about flutes and had never worked on a piccolo before!! If only we had known this beforehand! o_O
Anyway, I was nervous and gave it a very quick test, and it seemed fine. Mom paid and we left. Once I got it home and played with it more, I realized that I couldn’t play a whole lot of note. I eventually discovered that some of the springs were out of place and was able to make it a little better, but I was still never able to play it much. I chalked this up to my own shortcomings, yet I was able to play my bandmate’s picc without much issue. I wasn’t allowed to play picc in band anyway so it stayed mostly untouched in the case.
Oh, and those replacement pads. LOOK AT THEM. They are so fucking thick, it’s almost comical. At the time I was afraid to tell my parents that the pads were fucked because they had spent so much money on them. It is damn near impossible to play certain notes without feeling like you’re mashing on the keys. When I took the piccolo to the shop last weekend, the repair tech confirmed that the pads were “all wrong.”
Anyway, he’s going to have the flute back to me in a week or two, but told me it will probably be two to three months until he will have the piccolo back to me. In the meantime I am thinking of getting a little cheap beater picc on eBay that I can mess around with until I get my Yamaha back. I put in a very low offer on an old Artley (why not) so we’ll see how that goes.