Our History of Innovation and Collaboration
Brannen Brothers Flutemakers, Inc., was incorporated in 1978 with the mission of building the finest flutes and headjoints in the world. When they started the company, brothers Bickford and Robert Brannen began our ongoing tradition of collaboration. With a variety of collaborations over the years, we have brought a number of innovations to flutists everywhere.
We have two critical collaborations that occur every day: those among our staff of worldclass flutemakers and those with our customers, the flutists who play our instruments.
Birgitte Flanders always says: “Who would think that here in Woburn, Massachusetts, we have some of the very best and finest flutemakers in the world.” The rigorous training of our apprentice program, our peer inspection procedure at each stage of production, and the pride we take in our work all combine to create flutes that are known worldwide for their quality, sound, and stability.
That brings us to our training program, a process that we believe is unique in the industry. When a new flutemaker is hired, he or she is paired with a mentor to begin the apprentice’s training. There are four apprentice levels, followed by craft, senior craft, and finally mastercraft levels of accomplishment in flutemaking at Brannen Brothers. The entire training program takes several years, and it is the reason we maintain the level of consistency and craftsmanship for which Brannen has become known.
The collaboration we have with you, the players of our flutes and headjoints is equally important to us. This collaboration begins with an inquiry about our flutes and headjoints and continues through the selection and purchase of your dream instrument and the maintenance of that flute and headjoint in the years that follow. The feedback, insight, and suggestions that our players have given us has helped us become the company we are today. In addition, we take pride in working with flute players who have hand problems or unusual mechanism requests.
Other notable collaborations have been with Albert Cooper, Johann Brögger, Eva Kingma, and Rainer Lafin. These associations have brought many innovations to flutists, flute playing, and flutemaking.
Albert Cooper, the late British flutemaker, joined Brannen Brothers in 1978 as a partner and Vice President of Research. He held this position until 1990 and was then named vice-president emeritus until his death in 2011. He remains a legendary figure in the flute world. His designs and influence are still at the forefront of our company. Our work with Albert Cooper led to three innovations at Brannen Brothers: the adoption of the Cooper Scale, which was first introduced in larger-scale production at Powell Flutes, the Brannen-Cooper headjoint design, and the Albert Cooper Orchestral Model flute.
The Cooper Scale, which Albert began developing in the 1960s with Elmer Cole, became the foundation for modern flute design. Over the years, various flutists and flutemakers have made adjustments to the original Cooper Scale, including Albert Cooper, himself.
A second innovation resulting from our collaboration with Albert Cooper was the design of Brannen headjoints based upon his research. Currently, we have two styles of Brannen headjoints: the Modern Cooper and the Modified Cooper. The Modern is very responsive and flexible. The Modified is also very flexible with a little more resistance than the Modern. These headjoints are available in seven tubing, three lip plate, and three riser options.
The Albert Cooper Orchestral Model flute was designed with the orchestral player in mind and with the goal to improve the 3rd register intonation and response. In other words, Cooper wanted to make playing in an orchestra easier and more enjoyable. This flute is immediately recognizable, because the left-hand keys are plateau or closed and the right-hand keys are French or open. It features an altered version of the Cooper scale, because of the changes in both the size and location of several left-hand toneholes. Mr. Cooper recommended split E, C# trill, and a half-closing thumb key as components of his design.
Another pivotal collaboration was our work with Johann Brögger which led to the Brögger Mekanik and Brögger Acoustic. Our collaboration with Mr. Brögger began in 1984 and the first Brannen flute with the Brögger Mekanik premiered in 1986.
Mr. Brögger developed this new mechanism to correct the mechanical problems and binding issues found on the standard Boehm pinned flute. The Brögger Mekanik eliminates these problems through the use of non-rotating shafts and full-size back connectors for all mainline keys. As a result of this mechanism, our flutes are noticeably quieter with reduced friction between and wear to the moving parts. There is nothing worse than beautiful playing overlaid with loud, unintentional key noises.
Another benefit is that our finishers are able to regulate the spring tension of each key independently of other keys. This creates the smooth, even feel of the key action, for which Brannen-Cooper flutes are renowned.
The Brögger Mekanik is a strong mechanism, both in the overall stability of the instrument and its adjustments. After 30 years of experience with the Brögger Mekanik, we can confidently say that a flute with this mechanism is usually far less damaged when dropped than a pinned-mechanism flute.
Our collaboration with Johann Brögger resulted in another innovation and that is the Brögger Acoustic. This option is a different way of shaping the inside of the toneholes. This technique produces a more consistent tone quality throughout the range of the flute, especially across the register break at middle C, C#, and D. Flutists find that this option creates a “freer blowing flute.” It is standard on our gold and platinum flutes and is available on our silver and 15/85 soldered tonehole flutes at no additional cost.
Our company began work in 1990 with the Dutch flutemaker Eva Kingma. The goal was to develop a C flute that offers a full quartertone scale and multiphonic venting. The Brannen-Kingma flute creates an environment where flutists can play anything they and composers can imagine. It was at the 1994 National Flute Association Convention that Brannen Brothers introduced the first Brannen-Kingma flute.
We receive more questions about the Kingma flute than we do about any of our other instruments. When you first look at the Kingma flute, the keywork can be a bit overwhelming. In actuality, this flute is quite simple. It is in all respects a C flute with a C# trill. All of the normal touch pieces and fingerings are where you expect them to be. What makes it unique is that in addition to the standard C flute mechanism, there are six extra keys. These are made possible using Eva Kingma’s patented key-on-key system that she has used successfully on her alto and bass flutes for many years. These keys are used to produce quartertones and multiphonic vents that are missing on the normal French model flute. In addition to the full quartertone scale and mulitphonic possibilities that result, this flute offers increased pitch control with numerous alternate fingerings not available on the standard C Flute.
Our latest collaboration began in 2008 with Mr. J. Rainer Lafin of Lörrach, Germany. We wanted to offer a headjoint style unlike the Brannen-Cooper headjoints with different options in both color and response, so we contracted with Mr. Lafin to make his headjoints in the US. He spent significant time with us in Woburn to train our headjoint makers to craft Lafin headjoints to his exacting professional standards, using the identical materials and components that he uses. Offered in six tubing options with two lip plate and two riser options, these headjoints were VERY well received here in the United States and continue to be extremely popular.
An innovation resulting from this collaboration is our 15/85 Brögger flute, which uses one of the materials that Rainer introduced to us via his headjoints. This material is 15% gold and 85% silver. Flutes made of this alloy have a distinct character providing the ease of playing silver with the rounder, fuller body of playing gold—unusually smooth, flexible, and very responsive. This flute alloy, unique to Brannen Brothers, continues to grow in popularity.
The success of our flutes and headjoints and the success of our company are in large part due to these and other collaborations and the resulting innovations. We are so grateful to all of our collaborators: the Brannen flutemakers—past and present, the Brannen players, Albert Cooper, Johann Brögger, Eva Kingma, Rainer Lafin, and others. We plan to carry on this heritage of innovation resulting from collaboration for many years to come.
A Word About Our Company Owners:
In March of 2007, Bickford Brannen sold the company to Dennis McGuire, Payson Greene, and Birgitte Flanders—all Brannen managers at that time. Birgitte Flanders is the Managing Director – Finance and Administration, Dennis McGuire is the Managing Director – Production and Quality Control, and Payson Greene is the Managing Director – Engineering and Facilities. Their intent was to continue Brannen Brothers’ commitment to excellence in flutemaking, which they are proud to have done over the last eight years.