1-key flute with 'corps de rechange' (repro by 'Sweetheart')

This is another economical alternative in the way of a 'starter' baroque traverso. Like my renaissance flute, this was made by Ralph Sweet's "Sweetheart" company (which used to have it's own website - but I can't find it anymore). It's a 4 piece, 1-keyed flute, made, I believe from maple. It comes with two 'corps de rechange', that is to say alternate second sections (the two sections in the centre of the image above), provided to make the flute play in either A=415 or A=440. I have no idea what originals this flute is based on, if indeed it is based upon specific models. It seems to bear some resemblance to flutes by the maker Kirst that I have seen illustrated.

Unfortunately I couldn't whole-heartedly recommend this flute. It depends, of course, what purpose might be in mind for it. It is certainly serviceable, and not unreasonably priced (I believe I paid a little over $300 for mine). However, for a beginner, I think the cheaper of the two Aulos plastic flutes would be a better choice. The Sweetheart flute seen here does have the advantage that it can be used to play in both A=415 and A=440, which would naturally be a tempting feature if one expected to be playing with people using intruments in both of these pitches. And actually it has other strong points as well... it plays in tune quite well across it's whole range in both pitches (perhaps slightly favouring the A=415), and has something of a 'classical' bias, being stronger in the high register than the low - it has probably the most easily produced high a''' of any 1-keyed flute I have (that demon note that J.S. Bach stuck in at the end of the Allemande in his partita for solo flute in A minor). So... why my reservations? Basically the problem is that this flute doesn't seem to want to sing. Especially in the low register, playing it is a bit like trying to ice-skate on a carpet. It speaks ok, and it's not hard to get the notes pretty much in tune. But it doesn't seem to want to ring, to flow from one note to the next. I think the problem is likely mostly in the material... it's rather light for a flute, and also rather... well 'porous' or something. I notice, holding it up to the light, that there seem to be small cracks or grain-lines in the interior bore, and I suspect that these, together with the lack of natural resonance in the maple-wood, account for the flute's failure to ring and glide.

All of which doesn't mean to say that I don't play it at all - especially for pieces where the focus is more in the high register it can be made quite effective. But I think a beginner would be better off with an Aulos plastic traverso, because though it may not actually sound better, it seems to me the experience of playing it is closer to that of playing a good 1-keyed flute. I could easily imagine a beginner trying to learn the 1-keyed traverso using the Sweetheart becoming rather discouraged by the need somehow to push it everywhere you want it to go...

If you have any questions or comments, or related experiences you'd like to share, or whatever... email me at xorys@idirect.ca.

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