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Drawn vs. Soldered Toneholes

In the early days of flute making, a relatively thin flute tube was desired for brilliance and quick response and it was not technically possible to draw and roll toneholes without destroying the tube. Thus, toneholes were soldered into place. Today, technology exists to draw and roll tubing of almost any thickness.

Each type of tonehole is constructed differently, resulting in differing playing characteristics. Following are some comparisons of drawn and rolled vs. soldered toneholes:

Technical Aspects

Drawn and rolled toneholes are an integral part of the flute tube. A small hole is punched into the tube and a sphere of steel, similar to a ball bearing, is placed inside the tube below where the tonehole will be located. The steel ball is then pulled up and out creating the tonehole. Another tool rolls the top edges of the tonehole so that the surface is flat and smooth.

Drawn Toneholes #1 Drawn Toneholes #2
Drawn Toneholes Side View Drawn Toneholes Front View
Drawn Toneholes Without Keys  
Drawn Toneholes Without Keys  

Soldered toneholes are manufactured independent of the flute tube. A pilot hole is placed where the tonehole will be located and the tonehole is soldered onto the tube. The remaining tubing metal within the tonehole is removed so that there is a smooth surface joining the tonehole to the tubing.

Soldered Toneholes Front View Soldered Toneholes Side View
 
Soldered Toneholes Without Keys  

Playing Characteristics

Since drawn and rolled toneholes are constructed from the flute tube itself, the flute has slightly less metal and weight than a flute with soldered toneholes. This translates into less resistance; hence, flutes with drawn and rolled toneholes tend to be more flexible with an open sound and quick response. Sterling silver flutes with drawn and rolled toneholes are available in different tubing thicknesses, which in turn affects the playing qualities of the flute. A thicker tube will generally provide a darker, richer sound. Many flutists find that they can achieve the flexibility they desire along with the complexity of sound typically associated with soldered toneholes by selecting the optimal tubing thickness. Sound quality and response can be further enhanced by the choice of headjoint and/or riser.

Because soldered toneholes are made separately from the flute tube, they are by nature thicker than drawn and rolled toneholes. This characteristic, combined with the solder or braze that is used to fuse the toneholes to the flute tube, brings more weight to the tube. The result is a flute with positive resistance and a dark, dense sound. Flutes with soldered toneholes are also available in different tubing thicknesses to result in more or less resistance as desired by the player. Soldered toneholes are generally a good choice for flutists who play with a fast and compact air stream by providing stability without overpowering the flute. Again, the sound quality may be customized to the individual player through the proper choice of headjoint.

Summary

Soldered toneholes require more labor and time to manufacture than drawn and rolled toneholes, and so they are appropriately more expensive in cost. The higher price however, does not necessarily mean that they are a better choice for every flutist.

To determine which type of tonehole construction is right for you, take into consideration your playing style, embouchure, sound desired and price range. It is always helpful to try the flute you are interested in purchasing before finalizing the transaction to make sure you have chosen the ideal combination of toneholes, tubing thickness, metal(s) and headjoint design

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