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Technology, Innovations & Flutemaking

Adjusting Screws vs. Adjusting Tabs on the Boehm Concert Flute

There are several keys on the flute that move in conjunction with the actual key that your finger presses down. For instance, as you press the F key (first finger, right hand), the F# key and the Bb key will also move down to cover their toneholes. In this case there are a total of three keys that need to move perfectly together to touch all three toneholes at exactly the same time. These types of adjustments are kept in place by the adjusting screws or adjusting tabs that are built into the flute. These adjusting systems are manipulated by the flute maker or technician to ensure that your flute maintains perfect adjustment.

The most common adjusting system is that of adjusting screws. These screws are carefully adjusted to provide perfect synchrony of movement between keys. Miyazawa uses special Nyloc screws to ensure precise and stable adjustments.

The adjusting tab system does not use screws to accomplish these adjustments. Rather, small pieces of paper in various and precise thicknesses are secured onto tabs between the key mechanism to keep the instrument in good playing condition.

Note: Adjustments with either system are best done by an experienced technician. Even slight variances may dramatically affect the adjustment and therefore the playing quality of the flute.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each adjusting system, dependent on the quality of manufacture. The adjusting tab system has long been associated with professional flutes, especially those with soldered toneholes. This association resulted from the history of flute manufacture when adjusting screw systems were not manufactured up to today's standards. Present flute manufacture has taken great strides in improvements toward each system, now making either system reliable for any professional flutist.

In years past, adjusting screw systems fell short of professional flutists' expectations and adjusting tabs were viewed as the most reliable system. If an instrument is not well engineered, the adjusting screw will not fit securely in place and will rotate from vibrations as the flute is being played. In addition, adjusting screws have a potential for creating mechanism noise when the tip of the screw hits the adjustment plate. Today, a well-engineered flute will have adjusting screws which fit securely in place as well as silencers to provide a quiet mechanism. Nyloc screws are the best choice to hold a precise adjustment.

Adjusting tabs have been in use for many years. One disadvantage of the adjusting tab system is the potential for adjusting papers, "shims", to become loose and fall off, resulting in mal-adjustment. This may happen as oil from the mechanism soaks the shim and deteriorates the glue that holds it in place. Technicians are also limited by the thickness of shims available in order to make precise adjustments. Precise adjustments may require a shim of .0005" thick. In such cases, adjusting screws are an advantage, as a very delicate adjustment may be accomplished by less than a 5 or 10-degree turn.

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