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Maintenance & Care

When Should My Headjoint Cork Be Adjusted?

The headjoint cork plays an important role in providing proper pitch of a flute or piccolo. It works in conjunction with the placement of the lip plate on the headjoint tube and the inner dimensions of the embouchure hole (the riser or "chimney") to result in the optimal tuning of the flute. While the headjoint is highly influential, other factors that influence the scale of the flute are the interior dimensions of the flute (both width and length), tonehole size and height, and key "venting" (the amount of space between the keys and their respective toneholes).

Most modern professional flutes are designed to be played at A=442 with the headjoint pulled out approximately one eighth of an inch. As you check the tuning of your flute, make sure that your tuner is calibrated to the proper pitch. If you have questions about the pitch of your flute, contact the manufacturer and provide them with your serial number. They should have a record of the pitch of your specific instrument.

All flutists have their own unique embouchure, and the headjoint cork may be adjusted slightly to reach the optimum accuracy of scale for each individual. If the flute is playing consistently sharp or flat in all registers, an adjustment of the headjoint cork may be considered.

When the position of the headjoint cork is altered, the flute tube is elongated or shortened, resulting in a change of pitch. Note the placement of the mark on your cleaning rod. As a general guide, this mark should be in the center of the embouchure hole when inserted into the headjoint. Most scales should remain accurate if the cork is moved around 1/16" in either direction from this center. You may wish to contact the manufacturer of your instrument for specific guidelines on your particular flute and how much you can move the cork while maintaining pitch and scale integrity.

Headjoint cork adjustments are best done by a qualified technician as a part of yearly professional service. In some instances, flutists may make small adjustments themselves. Here are some techniques you can use to adjust the headjoint cork yourself:

Before making any adjustments, take careful note of the original position of the headjoint cork by checking it with your cleaning rod. Do not use the embouchure plate as a grip when performing these operations. No tools should be used unless you are an experienced and qualified technician.

In order to remedy a flute that is consistently playing flat in all registers, the tube of the flute needs to be shortened. This is first accomplished by turning the headjoint crown counter clockwise approximately one half turn. Then push the headjoint crown in toward the tube until it sits flush on the headjoint tubing. Check the pitch on your tuner before attempting another half turn. As the crown is pushed in, the cork is moved away from the crown, thus shortening the tube. If you encounter resistance when pushing the crown toward the tube, do not use force. You may need to enlist the help of a flute technician.

To remedy a flute that is consistently playing sharp in all registers, the tube of the flute may need to be lengthened. This is done by turning the headjoint crown clockwise approximately one half turn. Again, check the pitch with a tuner before making another half turn. As the crown is turned clockwise, it pulls the headjoint cork toward the crown, thus lengthening the tube. Once again, if the crown is difficult to move, do not use force. Contact your repair technician to complete the adjustment.

As headjoint corks age, they may leak and affect the pitch of the instrument. Annual replacement will help to maintain a proper seal and reliable pitch. For more information please refer to our article Is Your Flute Playing up to Its Potential?.

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