Yamaha – "The Scale Was Dreadful"?

Recently on Galway-Flute-Chat, a member said of her Yamaha flute:

The Scale Was Dreadful! I bought mine in the mid
1980s. Absolutely one of the worst scales ever
devised!

She went on to say that this was somehow because Yamaha had tried to use various Hammig flute scales in making their scale. This is news to me! To date, I’ve never run across a Yamaha flute with a scale as out of tune as she describes. On the contrary, the Yamaha’s I’ve played seem pretty good scale-wise.

The one exception to this was a Yamaha YFL-61 (made between 1974-79) that I bought used about six years ago. It’s my understanding that the YFL-61 was a copy of a Powell (not Hammig), solid silver throughout and Yamaha’s top flute at the time (current model is the YFL-784H) . However for some reason, my YFL-61 had a very flat middle register C# that required a considerable amount of adjustment (i.e., turning the flute outwards when playing) to make it in tune. Why? In my hunt for an explanation, the first thing I noticed was a different patina on the headjoint than the rest of the flute… hmmm.

I became suspicious that the headjoint was not the original, even though it had a professional Yamaha crown. Unfortunately for me, my suspicions were confirmed when under closer scrutiny, I noticed that the headjoint chimney was not soldered on (as the handmade YFL-61 heads are) but instead was drawn, a machine-made job! Somewhere along the way, the original handmade head for the flute had been swapped for whatever this head was (not even sure it was a Yamaha because there was no Yamaha logo on it anywhere) and cleverly (and very cheaply I might add!) disguised by the Yamaha crown.

An Altus headjoint I had on hand fit the YFL-61 perfectly and much to my delight, when I played the flute with the Altus head, voila! – the C# was no longer flat! In fact, the flute played exceptionally well with that Altus head and so that’s the combination I went with. Makes me wonder if the woman with the “dreadful scale” Yamaha has tried different headjoints on that flute. Maybe I’ll drop her a note and find out…

2 comments on “Yamaha – "The Scale Was Dreadful"?”

  1. I have a YFL 61 that I bought in 1980, new, for $1,060. I loved it, but then graduated to a Muramatsu. The Yamaha is still in great condition and plays well, but because of the power I get with the Mura, it is tough to pick up the Yamaha. I would like to sell it, but am having difficulty establishing what it might be worth today.

    Any guesses?

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