I recently purchased an old French flute that was completely silver plated, but is a handmade production piece. Since I've been gone from the flute community for a while, I was wondering if anyone can tell me if the tonal qualities of a handmade silver-plated flute (i.e. - Louis Lot, Bonneville, Haynes, Powell, etc.) compares better or worse to modern production made silver-plated flutes (i.e. - Armstrong, Azumi, Amadeus, Yamaha, Muramatsu, etc.).
Also, how would a silver-plated Louis Lot stand, compared to a solid-silver Resona, or the like?
I haven't played for a while, and was wondering if I should pick back up with my intermediate flute I had during HS and college, or should this new old flute be OK for where I would go? I don't intend on going pro with it, but just would like to pick up where I had left off before, which was when I was looking for a solid silver flute, but this old flute had all the qualities that I was looking for at a fraction of the price of a new flute.
Re: Handmade Silver Plated Flutes vs Production-made Silver Plated Flutes 07:28 on Friday, March 4, 2016
A point of interest would be when this flute was made and another very serious issue is the condition of the flute. It may look to be in good condition but many of the older French flutes may have considerable play in the mechanism which can make the flute's response severely reduced. I'm not going to address the issue of a handmade silver plated flute but to say that many of the companies back then would experiment with production made instruments of a lesser cost to the purchasers. This would include most all of the brands that you've mentioned.
There is another problem with intonation as the older instruments were generally designed to play at lower pitches and - or some of them were altered to raise the pitches of the notes by cutting some of the upper body off and reattaching the receiver. I tend to think that any tuning alterations such as that or moving the key holes is not being respectful to the original. Kinda like turning an antique car into a hot rod.
However, One of the most beautiful flutes that I've played was an old Bonneville. The tone was very expressive and sweet. I met this flute shortly after a fine repair technician did a complete overhaul including resoldering all of the tone hole risers. So, the flute was playing as it would have when it was brand new.
The issue with tuning is that the older instruments were designed below A=440 and most of the newer stuff has been designed well above A=440. Either way it makes it difficult to play an even scale up and down the range at 440. This started being corrected in the US makers back in the early 1970's but the trend these days is for each maker to have the "perfected scale" allowing the performer to play perfectly in tune at every moment.
How the older cassics stand up against the newer models is entirely up to the choices of the flutist. Some believe that the newer instruments play better in tune or they have a better tone quality but others prefer that older ones for their expressiveness and how they require the player to develop their embouchure. I look at each flute (and / or head section) as a learning experience.
One issue that I've personally had is that my plated flute keys tend to wear down quicker than the solid silver flutes. The plating is worn off from much use and then the under metal (Usually German Silver or also called nickel silver) begins to also wear down with lots of use.