The following are answers to questions that are frequently asked of Martin Doyle regarding his handcrafted simple system wooden flutes, which are also known as Irish flutes. If you have any questions that do not feature on this page, kindly contact Martin Doyle.
What are the differences between your Celtic and Traditional style flutes?
The external appearance is really the only difference. The two styles are technically identical internally and they certainly sound the same. They appear different because of the difference in shape on the outside and the different configuration of rings, but internally they are identical.
Do your flutes without tuning slides sharpen when they are warmed up?
Yes they do and how that's compensated is that the joint of the flute is a tuning devise and can be pulled out up to five millimetres. This allows all of the tuning that will be necessary to keep the flute perfectly in the pitch it's designed to be in.
Can tuning slides be added to your flutes after they have been purchased?
Certainly they can. It has happened that people buy a flute without a tuning side from me and then months or even years later they decide that they would like a tuning slide added to their flute. So they send me the flute and I add a tuning slide for them.
Does a tuning slide add much weight to a flute?
The addition of a tuning slide certainly makes a flute very heavy if the metal used is very thick. The tuning slides I make have very thin walls. The wall thickness on my tuning slides is one quarter of a millimetre, so that means that when you have a tuning slide which has a nineteen millimetre bore, the outside of the outer tube is twenty millimetres. So it's nineteen on the inside and twenty on the outside and the four wall thickness equals one millimetre – that's four quarters. Lot's of other tuning slides that I have seen have half millimetre wall thickness but it tends to make the flute very heavy.
Does having a tuning slide increase the likelihood of the headjoint cracking?
It can do. One of the main problems with putting metal inside timber is that timber is inclined to move with climate and temperature changes and metal doesn't move to the same degree. So if timber wants to move but is constricted by the metal inside, it has a tendency to crack. If the metal is very thin walled, the metal will give a little bit with the movement of the flute and if the head is not fully lined, well then over the distance of the head the timber can move and the contact with the metal is only thirty millimetres of the head's length. So therefore it reduces the danger of cracking by quite a lot.
Regarding the flutes that you make which include tuning slides, are the headjoints of those flutes fully lined with metal?
No – the headjoints of the flutes that I make which include tuning slides are not fully lined with metal. The reason for this is that the more metal you put inside a flute, the more of the warm organic wooden sound you loose. Personally I prefer a completely unlined headjoint without any tuning slide for the sake of tone. If the customer does require a tuning slide, or in the case of my wooden headjoints for concert flutes, as a compromise I will use a short tuning slide made from thin-walled tubing which doesn't fill the headjoint completely. This assures that the warm tones of the wood are retained as much as possible. Flutes with headjoints that are fully lined with metal generally offer a very metallic sound – which defies the point of a wooden headjoint.
Do you make wooden headjoints for concert flutes?
Yes I do. I have made a number of them over the years from African Blackwood, Cocus wood and Rosewood – thin-wall wooden headjoints that fit any make of western concert flute. Wooden headjoints add warmth, colour and teture to the tone of a metal flute which in turn offers the musician greater versatility and an expanded repertoire.
Do you make left-handed keyed flutes and, if so, are left-handed flutes more expensive?
Yes, I certainly do and they are the same price as my right handed models. Most recently I have completed a customised left-handed keyed flute for Garry Shannon (2012) and six-keyed left-handed flutes for Barry Conaty (2012) and Brian Morgan (2013). I am happy to work with the left-handed players as much as is needed to provide them with a flute that they are completely comfortable with.
Do you make Baroque flutes?
What is the general process of making a flute?
When the timber comes to my workshop, the blank sticks are first of all bored and then left to settle. After a number of weeks of settling, they are reamed and then left to settle again. Then they are turned, the finger holes are cut into them and they are once again left to settle. They are then polished, the parts are put together, the rings are added and the flute is finished at that point.
What fingering techniques would you recommend for your keyless D flutes?
We have added fingering charts to this website for the purpose of helping flute players to understand the fingering of simple system keyless D flutes.
The first fingering chart would apply to Irish traditional music. The second fingering chart has a number of suggested accidental notes for those wishing to play Baroque tunes or art music etc. Downloadable PDF versions of these fingering charts are also available for those who wish to print them out.
Do you add long footjoints to your flutes?
I do not add long footjoints to my flutes unless C and C# keys are required. The reason for this is a flute that has as it's bottom note a D note provides a stronger D than a flute with a C footjoint. The long footjoint tends to make the D note more equal in quality to the other notes on the flute, whereas in Irish music it is desirable to have stronger D notes as the keys that the tunes are played in are predominantly D and G.