Hey Flute Players,

I want to get my first Irish flute and I need some guidance as to where and what type of Irish flute I should get.  I've played tin whistle for about 2 years and classical flute for 7 years --so I think I'm kind of familiar with how to play those. 

I was thinking of getting a delrin plastic flute. 

Any thoughts?

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Good thinking IMO. I have  a Delrin short foot Pratten by Rob Forbes that is brilliant, i have heard good reviews on Copley and Garry Somers Delrin flutes as well.

I have been playing for about 20 years. My advice is that with simple-system flutes, as with other instruments, you get what you pay for. If you want an instrument that will enable you to add value in a good session, then my advice is to avoid lightweight materials like the various forms of plastic and to go for a "real" instrument made from  at least African blackwood or, if you can afford it or get it, cocus wood.

If you want to go for a vintage 19th c. instrument, then you need to know what you are doing, or else enlist the help of someone who does. The really good makes (Fentum, Prowse, Boosey, Rudall & Rose, Liddle....) generally attract a premium due to their collector's value. Avoid 19th c. German flutes - they are all rubbish. Get a London-made instrument.

As for modern wooden instruments, I own a Sam Murray in Eb (3 keys) and a Stephane Morvan in D (6 keys). IMO, they are the top men and those flutes will do me for the rest of my life and probably become heirlooms thereafter. I have personal experience of flutes by Eamonn  Cotter and he is another top man, IMO. Americans swear by Olwell but when I heard one being played it seemed to be very powerful but somewhat lacking in character - but it could be that it wasn't being played well. Likewise for Martin Doyle. Hamilton flutes have a reputation for variable quality, presumably due to subcontracting their manufacture. I know a man who had to have the holes plugged and re-drilled in different locations on his Hamilton flute. But there are some excellent Hamiltons around, I am told. The flutes of Gilles Lehart have an excellent reputation.

But as for good makers, you will get as many opinions as there are people on this group. Few people will admit they bought a dud. Also, some players are relatively inexperienced and think their flute is great because they never owned a really good one. (I expect that comment will win me few friends :-) ).

My advice is to avoid keyless and get a flute with at least the short Fnat and the long Cnat keys. They are very useful. I flick the long Cnat key during rolls on the upper notes, as I have great difficulty in doing rolls entirely on my left hand. The lack of dexterity on my left hand got worse after a recent cardiac operation, which is a bummer as I am left-handed!

You often see good flutes being offered for sale on Chiff and Fipple ( I recently sold my Rudall and Rose there) and you have the benefit of advice from real experts on that website. Expect to pay at least £2000 for a good, keyed model. I payed Euro2600 for my Stephane Morvan but only £600 (some years ago) for my Sam Murray - both being bought on the second-hand market. Expect to go on a long waiting list if you want a new example from a top maker

I'm afraid I disagree with Mike... If you're just "testing the Irish flute waters", I would highly recommend a Copley keyless in delrin. Mine plays as good as any of the keyless wood flutes I've owned. Once you find out that you love it (you will), you can go for something a little more sophisticated. There is no need to get rid of your delrin one after you get your "good" one, however! It's always available for a quick toot (I leave mine assembled most of the time) and it is perfect for those not-so-wood-friendly venues (like camping, traveling, etc). It's also my backup flute - in fact it was a lifesaver last summer when my headliner came unglued (my fault - it got WAY to hot!)

Sure enough, Delrin keyless Is ok if you are strapped for cash or not ready to commit to a more expensive flute. Also they are relatively robust and easy to obtain. But in the long run, the serious musician will want to acquire a serious instrument.
I should mention that I have little personal experience at playing Delrin flutes but whenever I heard them being played in the USA or Ireland I was not impressed with the tone thereof. It's all very subjective of course. I tried one for a few minutes and it seemed pretty horrible to me. Maybe if I persevered it would get better. But I have never come across a serious Irish flute player who plays Delrin (unless it's the title of a tune).

Thanks for the responses! I was thinking of getting a keyless flute, since I am "testing the waters" exactly and don't want to spit out lots of money on it.

I don't really agree with the 'need' for keyes, or that anything less than a antique Rudall or top maker keyed flute is just stopgap measures.. As far as i know Frankie Gavin still prefer his unkeyed Bruce Dú Vé flute, Marcus Hernon play unkeyed flute etc.

Also, if you listen to this: http://forbesflutes.com/files/LimerickLasses.mov

I don't think you can honestly say it sounds like sh*te.. Ok, a 1840 Rudall (or a 2011 Murray for that matter) might have more complex tone, but again - a Delrin flute will serve for years and years before you outgrow it.

Murrough O'Kane had my Forbes on loan for a while and he was impressed, and liked it!

I have a Patrick Olwell flute ( a really fine African Balckwood keyless) and it stays in the humidifyer most of it's days at 50% humidity so that it will not crack. I have a M and E "composit"  keyless flute by Michael Cronnolly from County Mayo which is just fine for daily practice and traveling about. Since it is plastic, I do not worry about it cracking, it has no cork seals to replace, and because I leave it assembled and out where I see it every day, I am much more likely to practice it. I am also not concerned if my M&E is stolen as I only paid $400.00 for it. I recommend a cheap Delrin keyless to start and if you want to go big time then look at all the expensive options availabel and play every flute you friends and acquaintences will allow you to play and then make notes for yourself in case you get very serious. For session playing, a cheap Delrin keyless will work fine.

Jim Wells

Dallas Slow Sessions Discussion Group

Ok. Like I said before, Delrin is good if you have a limited budget and are not sure if you want to commit. And it withstands the North American climate. But make sure you get one from a reputable maker or your experiment at testing the waters may fail. My first flute was a cheap German 19th c blackwood flute and I became very discouraged until I realised it was good only for firewood and I acquired a better instrument. As for keys - I only said that the long C and short F are useful, not essential.

As for antique flutes, I never said that it has to be a Rudall. Only that such flutes attract prices that reflect ther collector' s value. I am out of live with antique flutes as players' instruments for that reason. But such flutes are generally objects of beauty and they bring out the asquisitive instincts in people. Personally I hate the idea of people building up collections of lively flutes that seldom get played.

As you can see, I am a person of strong opinions!

Stay cool


No worries mate! I respect your opinions even if i don't happen to share them ;)

Never mind my slight exaggerations to prove my point either, i did read what you wrote.

Staying cool, Lars

Well, we have,established that there are two schools of thought on Delrin as a flute-making material, I.e. mine and everyone else's :-)
And I certainly would not kick an Olwell flute out of bed, as it were!
But it is remarkable how people's' opinions can vary. I bought my Sam Murray flute from a bloke who said he could not get on with it. I wasted no time In driving to his house with a fistful of folding currency!

I would say avoid most 19th century German-made flutes. Most of them are junk, but I'm very fond of the one I found, and several flute players I respect, including one who makes flutes, have commented favorably on it. However, I played it for a while before buying it. Quality varies widely, so don't buy one blindly. German-made flutes do have one advantage--the G# key is very much like a Boehm-system flute, rather than tucked away as the English-style flutes usually have it.


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