Casey Burns Folk Flute
Note: These instruments are made to order so there is a 2-3 month wait time til delivery.
The Folk Flute is a three-piece wooden flute for playing traditional music: nothing more, but nothing less! Crafted individually by hand in America from African Blackwood or Turkish Boxwood by artisan flute maker Casey Burns, each Folk Flute is unique and will only gain character and depth of tone with age — as will all traditional wooden flutes. It is designed for:
- beginning and intermediate wooden flute players
- beginning Irish music players
- whistle players getting a "first flute"
- younger flute players
- experienced players with limited budgets
- experienced players who want a fine instrument for travel
- players who want a great instrument with a proven track record
With the Folk Flute, it is possible for all flute players to have an instrument which:
- is made of well-proven tonewood
- has a traditional conical bore
- speaks easily, with strong low D
- has correct intonation
- can keep up in a session
- is aesthetically attractive
- is reasonably priced
When you buy a Folk Flute, you get an instrument with the weight of 29 years of Casey Burns' acoustical and ergonomic design behind it, tuned and voiced with the same degree of care (even using the same set of reamers) as his more expensive professional grade flutes. The Folk Flute is a professional grade instrument, rendered down to its barest essentials and manufactured in batches to make it affordable. A wooden flute just feels better to the player than a plastic instrument — and its voice will evolve as the instrument ages. The finger holes are closer together than in a cylindrically bored plastic flute and feel better on the hands. The wood adds something complex and lovely to the sound that is lacking in a plastic instrument. Wooden flutes are easy to care for, similar to other common woodwinds such as recorders.
The Folk Flute is made with a 32–33 mm headjoint tenon, which allows for some tuning when playing with others. The headjoint can be pulled out or rolled inward to flatten it as needed. Since most everyone plays at A 440Hz, only a small range of tuning adjustment is needed. The range is similar to that found on wooden recorders.
The Folk Flute comes with a simple cloth case. It does not come with end cap, rings, tuning slide, keys, or retrofit capabilities.
The Folk Flute comes in a variety of finger hole sizes and ergonomic arrangements.
To determine which you should choose, stretch your fingers out as far as is comfortable and measure the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the pinky. If the distance is less than 7.5 inches (19 cm), a small-handed flute is recommended.
Casey started addressing the needs of smaller handed players as far back as 1985, and iteratively developed flutes that are comfortable to one's hands with the narrowest finger spacings available. Distances between fingerholes (measured center to center) range from 32 to 35mm on my Standard flute, and from 29 to 32mm on the Small Handed Flutes. Holes are usually offset for further comfort.
Fingerhole Spacings - measured center of hole to center of hole, for comparison purposes.
- Between 1st and 2nd fingerhole Standard: 35mm Small Handed 32mm
- Between 2nd and 3rd fingerhole Standard: 33mm Small Handed 31mm
- Between 4th and 5th fingerhole Standard: 32mm Small Handed 31mm
- Between 5th and 6th fingerhole Standard: 32mm Small Handed 29mm
The standard flute has a slightly closer finger hole spacing than most of of the other flutes out there, if only by a few millimeters in some cases. However, these few millimeters and the offset can make a huge difference.
The spacing of the Large Holed Standard is very close to the Standard. On the upper hand holes the spacing is 35mm and 34mm. On the lower hand the spacing is 33mm and 33mm. The holes are a little larger (.5mm to 1.5mm) due to their lower position on the flute body. This should be considered if one has very narrow fingers.
Are the smaller handed flutes quieter? Not at all. Most of the sound generation is due to the shape and effectiveness of the embouchure hole. Any effect of the resulting smaller finger holes may be easily overcome by increasing the degree of undercutting, bore profile and other acoustical aspects. The best way to accomplish this design-wise is to make several hundred of these flutes - while trying to make each one better than the previous one. Casey has done this and his smaller handed flutes hold up very well in sessions and performances.
Ergonomic versus In-line Fingerholes explained: Most Irish flutes by other makers, antique flutes and many other wind instruments have finger holes that are all straight in-line. Casey found that a slight bit of offset for the 2nd and 3rd holes for each hand helps tremendously by making the flute more comfortable to play. He calls this arrangement "Ergonomic". With respect to the 1st fingerhole, the 2nd hole is rotated about 1mm or less away from the hand bringing the ring finger closer to the 3rd hole, which is offset 1-2mm towards the hand. The 5th and 6th fingerholes are increasingly offset by 1 and 2mm or more towards the hand with respect to the 4th hole. Essentially the fingerholes are arranged in slight arcs which correspond to the usual arrangement of fingertips. This option is the commonly selected one for Folk Flutes and my more expensive flutes. If you are a fingertip player, especially with small hands this is the best choice. However, some traditional players use the lower pads of the finger joints ("piping style"). For these players in-line is the usual arrangement.
Large Holed Standard Version: These are available set up as a Large Holed Standard Version. This is similar to Casey's regular Standard version except that the holes are farther down the body, and are slightly larger and spaced a little but wider apart. These factors make the flute as resonant as possible. Playing a flute in this configuration requires larger hands, or playing "piping style" using the finger pads, instead of the finger tips. This would be a good choice for an experienced player. We still recommend the small and regular handed fingerhole spacings for most beginning players.
Boxwood vs Blackwood: The differences in tone between the woods is actually quite minor. Blackwood is the flute wood wost widely used, and gives a flute with a nice strong tone. Boxwood is warmer, but perhaps quieter by a few percent. All woods hold up well in dry climates as long as the care instructions are followed. If you are unclear about which wood to pick, choose Blackwood. You cannot go wrong with this wood.
Blackwood and CITES African Blackwood and all Rosewoods were recently classified under CITES (The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna ) to protect these species from illegal harvesting and transport. Under the rules, you are allowed to travel with your flute as a personal item across international boundaries without any need for CITES permits or documentation. If you are ordering a flute from outside the United States, however, we are required to include with the export documentation a copy of our permits issued by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All of the Blackwood that Casey uses is pre-Convention, documented, and permitted under Master Permit 20521C, issued by the USFWS. You may also be required to obtain an Import Permit under CITES. This is the case for Ireland and most of the European Union countries. Australia, New Zealand, Canada nor Japan require you to get an import permit - the CITES documentation that we send with the flute is sufficient. Let us know if we can help you figure out where to obtain the necessary CITES import permits.