Springs, Adjustments and Minor Tweaking

The first step when it comes to adjusting your flute is to work out where the problem is.

1. Which note isn't playing?
Play a chromatic scale to work out wich notes are having problems. Jot down these notes so you can refer back to them during the adjustment stage. This also allows you too look closer at where on the flute you think the problem might be. For example, if the notes G or F down aren't playing correctly, the problem will probably be around the G and F keys.

2. Finger each key in turn
If it doesn't spring back, look for a spring that isn't in its correct place. As you notice, while you’re playing, pressing down one key can cause others to go down as well. When you let go of that key, the others that were pressed down go up as well. This motion is all caused by springs. The problem will be quite obvious when a spring is not in its proper place, as the keys that are supposed to move up and down will not and many of your notes will not play. To fix a spring, take a pen, a small screw-driver, or something long and slender and push it back into place (you’ll notice that it’s out of place if it looks like it’s bent because it’s on the wrong side of the little catch that holds it). It is very tedious to fix this, but sometimes its not worth sending it into a repair shop if its just a little out of place. See the example in the pictures below. If you can't find a spring that is out of place, or if you have found one that is missing completely, you will need to take your flute to your local (reputable) instrument technician.

 

 

3. Finger each key in turn again
It is important to understand the mechanical connections in the modern flute mechanism. That is, some keys push other keys, but no keys pull any keys. Some keys on the flute move together, and some don't. Refer to the table below and if a certain key moves when it shouldn't, or doesn't move when it should, check for loose springs, obstructions in the mechanism or any other obvious probelm. If you can see the problem, or you can't fix it yourself, you will need to take your flute to your local (reputable) instrument technician.

 

 

4. Check for leaks
Most probelms with your flute are caused by leaks, where a pad isn't sealed completely against the tone hole. Check for leaks by pressing the 'pusher' keys and look at where the pad and tone hole connect. If there is a gap (it may be tiny) the sound will not come out properly. Most leaks can be fixed with a slight adjustment that you should be able to do yourslef. The photos below show an exagerrated example of a leak, when the 'pusher' key isn't pushing the 'pushed' key down corectly.
When you have figured out which keys are having hte troubles, and which keys are causing them (refer again to the table above) you will be able to make minor adjustments with the adjusting screws. See the next step to get an idea how to go about this and which screw to turn.

 


 

5. Making the adjustments using the adjustment screws
The first check to make is to ensure that none of your rods are loose. If they are, tighten them with the screw that is at the end of that rod. Turn the screws until they are firm, but NOT tight. If you go too far, just undo it a little more. However, it is probably best not to fiddle too much with the rods. Usually the problem lies within the key itself and it's position.
If it’s not the rods, the keys have individual adjustment screws try adjusting the screw that goes with the problem key. Each one of these screws relates to a pair of keys on the flute. There are generally five adjusting screws on your flute. Tightening the screws cause the keys position to be lowered (and the other key of the pair to be lifted). Loosening the screws raises the key in quetion and lowers its pair.
The flute is a very fiddly instrument, so it takes A LOT of patience to play around with it. Just remember to only use tiny adjustments (1/8 to 1/4 of a turn), never do anything too rash or too harsh. Only fix little problems that you feel confident enough to deal with yourself; if it’s beyond your capabilities, don’t try to fix it, you will need to take it to your local (reputable) instrument technician. Doing self repair well takes a lot of experience, so start out with smaller problems, and gradually work your way up to bigger ones.

It will take a little time, getting to know which screw will adjust which key and what effect it has on the other keys. It might be a good idea to take a photo or make a note of the original positions of the screws so you always have a point of reference to work off if things don't quite go according to plan.


The five adjustment screws.
The five adjusjing screws (AS) are found in close vicinity to the key it relates to and will move the key in question and its pair.
G key AS - This screw, as shown in the picture to the right, will adjust the relationship between the G key and it's pair (the one down the body next to it).
A key AS - This screw, also shown in the picture to the right, will adjust the relationship between the A key and it's pair (the one up the body next to it). On some flutes this screw may be positioned on the back of the flute behind the A key.
D key AS - This screw, as shown in the picture below will adjust the relationship between the D key and it's pair, the F# key (fourth key up from the bottom of the flute).
F key AS - This screw, also shown in the picture below will adjust the relationship between the F key and it's pair, the F# key (fourth key up from the bottom of the flute).
E key AS - This screw, shown in the picture below right will adjust the relationship between the E key and it's pair, the F# key (fourth key up from the bottom of the flute). Unlike the rest of the screws, this one is actually positioned behind the key rather than on top.

As the D, F and E key adjusting screws all pair with the F# key it is important to only make small changes at a time and when you think that it is right, double check the other keys and their combinations to ensure they still play correctly.



Other General Maintenance

After Adjusting
Once you have adjusted your flute and it is playing perfectly again, you can dab a tiny amount of clear nail varnish on the screw with the problem. This should stop the screw from becoming loose again and causing problems. Just make sure to let your technician know that this has been done when you take it in for its next service.

Sticky Pads
A small amount of pad noise when opening and closing a key is normal and not a cause for concern.
A pad which "sticks" (i.e. makes a loud popping sound, or holds to its seat for a second before rising) can often be successfully treated.  Take a sheet of soft absorbent paper (cigarette papers work well for this) and place it under the pad.  Hold the pad closed onto the paper for a few seconds, release the key, and gently remove the paper. Test and repeat as necessary. If this is not effective, the pad may need to be replaced, but there is another treatment you can try, which is described below.
Never clean a pad by pulling out the paper while holding the key closed, as this invariably damaged the skin of the pad and will lead to premature failure.

Old and dry pads that don't seal well
If your pads are old and dry and don't seal well as a result, you may be able to use the following trick to extend their life: moisten a piece of paper with hand lotion and gently apply to the surface of the pad, holding the key open.  Then use another clean piece of paper to absorb the excess.  This does slightly increase key noise for a little while but there have had people who have had good luck with this on their flutes, which get this treatment about once a year.  Use this tip at your own risk!  If it damages your flute or your pads, we will not be held responsible.

Cleaning your headjoint
Every six months, the headjoint should be completely immersed in slightly soapy warm water and then thoroughly rinsed.  Use castile soap or dish washing detergent in very small quantities for this.  If you know how, this is a good time to remove the cork and crown and clean the metal parts of the crown.  Put a light coating of cork grease on the headcork before reassembly.  Remember the cork always comes out the tenon end of the headjoint, and never the crown end! If your flute rattles, check the crown assembly - there are metal plates on both sides of the cork.  Often the one closest to the crown comes loose over time and produces "rattles" and "buzzes" when playing.  Just screw it back down tight and the noises go away.

General Cleaning
Do not use a polishing compound on the flute.  It will find its way to the pads and erode them, and it will find its way into the mechanism and cause premature wear. Use a silver-cloth or micro-fibre cleaning cloth to gently clean the outside of the flute.
After evry use you should use a soft cloth (handkerchiefs work well) and the cleaning rod to dry the inside of the flute. Do not store the damp cloth in the case with the flute as the mouisture can promote tarnish and damage your pads.

 

 

Disclaimer
Please note that the advice above is just that, advice. We take no responsibility for your actions once you start adjusting your flute yourself. For tricky problems, or if you are just unsure, it is better to take your flute to your local technician and get him to take a look at it.