Hamilton Flutes


You can skip this and go directly to the catalogue by clicking on the image above. Those dipping in for a quick visit can cut to the chase and see the prices and waiting list here.

You can have a look at some extracts from my book "The Irish Flute Player's Handbook" and find out how to get hold of a copy here

My approach to flute making has been largely informed by my own experiences in the workshop, and in the marketplace.

Initially my idea was simply to produce a workable flute, given the scarcity of suitable old instruments, and to provide a service for players who needed to have their instruments maintained. So like many other makers, and influenced no doubt by the logic of the time which insisted that the best instruments for Irish traditional music were English, 19th century, large holed flutes, began to make flutes which were as close to that ideal as possible.

At that stage I had progressed, in my own playing, through an anonymous German flute, a good English flute ( Jordan Wainwright), to eventually getting my hands on a Rudall, Rose & Carte flute dating from the 1860s, and this last was to be the model for all my early instruments.

The fact that throughout my development as a flute maker, I was also a practising flute player and more importantly, flute teacher, I see as probably the most important influence on the way my flutes developed.

Initially happy with being able to turn out instruments that were at least in the same ballpark as the old flutes, I gradually became dissatisfied with various aspects of them. The major area was pitch.

In playing with the tight embouchure required to produce the type of tone that Irish players preferred, I had noticed that over the years, as my embouchure developed, I was having to extend the tuning slide more and more to stay at modern pitch.

This worked in basic terms of staying in tune, but it quickly became obvious that these old flute were not meant to play as low as the modern concert pitch of A=440. Two obvious indications of this were the extension of the slide beyond the silver sleeve that was meant to hide the head liner from view when the slide was pulled out. Would the old makers have built this feature in, and then intended the flute to play at a pitch that ignored it? I don’t believe so.

Secondly, and more powerfully, was the fact that from the players point of view, all were agreed that at this modern pitch extension, the flute lost much of it’s response and tone quality. This is largely due to the disruption of the relationship between the length of the cylindrical and conical sections of the bore.

Besides the pitch  issue there was the matter of the tuning of the scale when played with traditional “whistle” fingering.

In some ways this internal tuning was suitable for Irish music, in that the flat Fs and Cs were also approaching the pitches chosen for these notes by traditional fiddle players and pipers, but those notes, combined with a notoriously flat bottom D and sometimes a sharp A and B, were amounting to a rather large problem in the modern era of playing with instruments in tempered tuning.

The answer to these questions was the essential step in moving away from the classic eight-keyed flute to what is now generally known as the Irish flute.

Firstly the instrument was resized, allowing a good response at modern pitch. Then the tone hole sizes and positions were altered, which gave a simply fingered scale, as close to tempered tuning as could be achieved within the limitations of the cone bore design.

Freed from the tyranny of historical accuracy in making copies of old flutes, I then began to design the flute around the tone and response I wanted, which led to changes in the embouchure and bore profile, so that the instruments that I then began to make were immediately seen as more suitable for playing Irish traditional  music, than the old flutes had been.

If any further evidence were needed that this is the case ( and I don’t just refer to my own flutes here), when I began making professionally in 1979, the attitude to newly made flutes was that they may have been suitable beginner’s instruments, but that the English 19th century flutes were unsurpassed for serious performers.

Within the next ten years, this had been completely turned on its head, and certainly nowadays, flutes by current makers completely dominate the traditional flute playing world.

The terminology of the 19th century flute, in the sense of the association between certain makers and their designs, and the perceived results of those designs for the player, remain with us today in the insistence that players have of designating almost all new flutes as either being of the Rudall & Rose or Pratten’s Perfected type. Although this is useful to some degree in helping people understand what to expect from different flutes, in terms of my own instruments, it is not so relevant.

Although, like all other modern makers I began by copying old flutes, at this stage I feel that the flutes that I now make, and have made since about 1990, are as different from 19th century designs as they are like them. All the basic design elements such as bore, embouchure cut, and tone hole size and spacing, are based on my own observations and experience of over thirty years deeply immersed in traditional flute playing.

I think at this stage I don’t need to reference 19th century makers when talking about my own flutes.

So, to have a look at the different sorts of flute I make, you can go directly to the catalogue