Flute – Common Problems. Flutes are one of the most popular instruments for youngsters to begin playing – because of this there will be lots of flute repairs necessary Many flute repairs are actually quite simple to fix and can be learned with just a little practice
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The Flute Gauge is a very useful tool to help solve flute issues.
There are three steps cut at one end, and the other end can be
Inserted under keys to help bend them back to proper alignment.
Foot Joint Keys
This end is useful
for bending keys
to make sure they
Trill keys and
Flute key height problems are solved by changing the thickness of the key cork
or by bending the foot of the key. Sometimes both things need to be done.
Checking foot joint key heights with the largest step on the flute gauge
Checking body joint larger key heights with the middle step on the flute gauge
Checking body joint C key and Trill key heights with the small step on the flute gauge
A very common flute problem is caused
by the hinge rod that runs through the C
key and through the 2nd post down, anchoring
the Bb/A key assembly. This hinge rod often
works loose, allowing the Bb/A key assembly
to be pushed out of line by the spring,
causing problems with Bb and often
lower notes as well.
On many student flutes, due to mass
production techniques, often the
hinge rod can look like it is in
properly when in fact it has already
begun to work its way loose, as
this picture shows.
Notice how the key just
below the post in the circle
is slightly to the right of
center compared to the key
above the post.
The key below the post
in the circle, which was
off-center to the right
in the previous slide, is
off-center to the left now
because the hinge rod
that runs through the C
key has worked loose
from the post, even
though that’s not
apparent when looking
at the post where the
hinge rod goes in.
On some student flutes
even when the hinge rod
is in properly, things can
look out of line, so it is
important to check the
keys themselves to be
certain they are closing
properly on the tone holes.
Notice the same circled
post as in the other
pictures. In this picture
things are correct but they
still don’t quite look it.
The hinge rod has worked
its way quite loose, causing
the sort of back and forth play
in the Bb/A key depicted in the
previous slides. This is a picture
of an actual repair which came
into my shop where neither the
student nor the teacher knew
why the Bbs weren’t working
properly and why notes lower
were airy. This should be one
of the first things checked when
a student is having problems with
The other area where flutes are commonly having problems is the foot joint.
Because of the mechanics of the key work, the C# key frequently gets bent
such that the pad doesn’t close when it should. Most of the time this isn’t a
concern on student flutes until they become a lot more advanced, since the
low notes aren’t used that often.
To fix the problem with the low C#, place something (I use my thumb)
under the finger tab part of the key to hold it steady.
Press down on the key cup to bend the key slightly so that the
two parts of the key will be in proper adjustment relative to each
Other common issues with flutes which can be fixed fairly easily with
practice involve the adjusting screws. Slight twists either way can make
the necessary adjustments to have all keys opening or closing properly.
It is easy to turn the screws too far, so be sure to practice on school flutes
which aren’t being used.
One common problem with flutes involves the head cork. Sometimes called
the “tuning cork” it is supposed to be fixed in one spot relative to the center
of the embouchure, and is not supposed to be used for everyday tuning of
the flute. If this cork is moved, then the flute will not play in tune with itself.
As the cork dries out with age it becomes loose and can move on its own
and especially as the students play with the head crown. Use the cleaning
rod to check the position. When the end of the rod with the line on it is
placed firmly against the head cork, the line should be exactly in the center
of the embouchure hole.
Other flute problems such as body dents and the way the joints fit together
will need the services of a trained repair technician.