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Headjoint Selection in B&W

Recommendations for Trying Headjoints

As a musician, whether amateur or professional, you will always have to make decisions which affect how you present your art. Just as no two artists are identical, each handmade headjoint is unique. Even two “identical” headjoints in the same style will vary slightly. When trying out a new headjoint, look for one that is comfortable and compatible with your musical requirements.

When the purchase of a new flute is not feasible, a new headjoint can make a big improvement in your sound. Later, you can buy a new flute that fits your headjoint. This method of "stepping up" is often used by players in the first stages of learning, and/or by those who need time to save money for a new instrument.

The headjoint styles offered by Brannen Brothers are:

  • Modern – powerful, responsive, and articulates easily

  • Modified – colorful and dark

  • Epoch – Our newest and most responsive Brannen headjoint ever

  • Lafin headjoint, in a variety of metals. This model is increasingly popular, and a favorite among orchestral flutists.

Make sure that the flute on which you are testing headjoints is in proper adjustment and that the pads are covering well. A new headjoint will not improve a leaky flute!

Test the headjoint in a quiet room with little sound reflection. A small room with carpeting and drapes or other sound absorbing qualities is preferable. Warm up a bit until you feel ready to begin. Since most flutists are trained to make the sound consistent from note to note (Moyse!), playing chromatic scales will probably not reveal much. Try some easy melodic passages in several different keys. On the trial headjoint, play a short passage from something you know well and can produce easily on your present headjoint. Notice any difference in the overall response. As you progress, try out the extremes of register and articulation. Playing something from memory will help you to focus on what the headjoint can do.

At first, the testing process may seem daunting. Many people find it helpful to bring an extra pair of ears when testing headjoints--a teacher or colleague who knows your playing. Try to focus on just one or two characteristics which you feel you most need to improve in your playing. Some flutists find a good low register to be the challenge; other players find the high register to be their weaker one. Look for a headjoint that will help you out where you most need it.

Use this approach to think about articulation, beauty of tone, dynamic control, etc. Once you have narrowed the field to two or three headjoints, these considerations will help you to choose.

It should take about 15 or 20 minutes to test one headjoint; use the full range of the flute in several keys, legato and détaché styles. Check for smoothness of important intervals such as A3 to E3, B3 to F#3, and C#3 to G#3. Remember that you are testing the equipment, a part of your artistic tool kit. Do not be too concerned about what other people outside of the testing area may be hearing while you are testing. After all, this is a test, not a performance! Enjoy the testing
process—you will probably learn a lot about your own unique way of producing a flute sound.

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