Common Flute Problems – Possible fixes and solutions
Stiff Head Joint
If your head joint has been fine and then suddenly becomes stiff, then there are three possible common problems;
1. The head joint tenon has become misshapen or has a dent. Even the smallest of knocks could cause this.
Take to your local technician, they will have the necessary tools to correct this.
2. A very fine piece of grit or dirt trapped in the joint itself. This can grind between the head joint tenon and socket. This may cause scoring to appear on the metal.
Take to your local technician, they will be able to remove the head joint without causing any more damage to the flute and re fit the joint.
3. The head joint has been stiff over time. This usually is caused by a general build-up of dirt.
Generally, the head joint can be cleaned with a silver cloth and some silver polish. Take care not to use too much polish, and make sure it doesn’t reach any other part of the flute.
Wobbly Foot Joint
There are two common issues that cause the foot joint to become loose.
1. Incorrect fitting; when the flute is being assembled the foot joint has to be perfectly parallel to the flute body. When fitted or removed on any angle, the foot joint tenon becomes tapered.
The only fix is to take to your local technician who will have the correct tools to fix this.
2. The flute being dropped on its foot joint; this can cause the tenon to shrink in the back. You can normally feel this by removing the foot joint and feeling the inside of the tenon on the main flute body. You will be able to feel a ridge.
Again, the only real fix is to take to your local technician who will have the correct tools to fix this.
Stiff Foot Joint
If your foot joint has suddenly become stiff, there are a couple of possible reasons.
1. Check both the tenon and foot joint for any misshapen areas and marks. Any change in the shape or dimension will make the foot joint stiff, or even stuck. This can be the smallest of changes in shape, you may not even be able to see it with the human eye.
Only your local technician will be able to fix this problem. If the foot joint is stuck then leaving it for a technician is the thing to do. More damage can be caused when trying to remove the foot joint forcibly.
2. On some occasions it can feel like something is grinding when removing or fitting the foot joint. This is likely to be dirt/grit in the tenon and may jam the foot joint on.
If possible, remove the foot joint and try to remove any dirt as much as possible. A silver polishing cloth and small amount of polish should remove any dirt. Sometimes you will see scratches and marks on the foot joint tenon. Only your local technician will be able to fix this.
Suddenly Nothing Will Play
If your flute suddenly stops playing, then this may be due to an accident you are unaware of. Dropping it, closing the case lid on the instrument etc. Sometimes not, but there are some basic things you can look for.
1. Spring Off – A spring can pop off and completely disable the flute
Fix – If you can find the spring, and pop it back on then it may fix the problem
2. Regulation – Notes on a flute can be played by pressing one key, which then closes another. If there is any change and the key is no longer being closed then some notes will not sound. It is not advisable to try and correct this, as the cause needs to be found first.
Fix – The regulation is controlled by corks and adjustment screws. Sometimes, it can be bent key work causing the issue. A technician will be able to fix this for you.
Weak Sounding Notes
1. Pad leaking air – If the flute pads do not fit and close perfectly on the tone hole, air will escape. It is possible to test for this using cigarette paper as a filo gauge.
Fix – Fixing this is a skilled job and takes hours and hours of practice, this should be done by your local technician.
Sticky Flutes Pads
A frequent problem can be sticky flute pads. Sometimes the key can become stuck completely until lifted or, much more common, the pad will make a sticking noise when played and the keys are being opened and closed.
Trapping cigarette paper between the keys should temporally fix the problem. A technician would remove and key and clean the pad to permanent fix the issue. You can read more here.
Clicking noise that can be heard when the keys are being opened and closed is often a some felt/cork missing from a flute key tail.
Sadly, it is not as simple as sticking some felt or cork back on, it must be the correct thickness and fitted correctly and then all the other keywork checked.
Keys Either Stiff or Jamming
If key work suddenly becomes stiff, or jams open then there are a number of possible causes;
1. The key work mechanism has become bent. You may not be able to see this but a small knock, or case lid being closed on the flute can cause this.
Only a skilled technician can fix this.
2. The actual flute body can be bent. Over the years we have seen many flutes that have been sat on! This can cause the flute body to bend, and will stop the key work from operating as intended.
A flute technician will have the appropriate tools and skills for this.