It all started in 1983 when I was in high school and my music teacher sent an aspiring young student to do work experience with a woodwind repair man called Don Archer for two weeks  It was to become a journey that has continued to the current day, 31 years later. The place seemed to appeal to someone who wanted to spend time with instruments in hand between the study and practice of a novice player, however it was quickly expressed that to pursue this craft it would be important to study music in depth as mastery of an instrument is key to understanding the functional and mechanical aspects of it through playing and feeling the results of a well set up instrument.  This resulted in my studying undergraduate music studies at the Victorian college or the arts in Melbourne (1989-1991) and postgraduate study at the Sweelinck Conservatorium Amsterdam (1992-94) and then the ANU school of music (1995-96)

By this time I had found (between study and teaching/playing gigs) an English gentleman named Geoff Speed. It was under him that I really began to develop skills in repair of wind instruments. This gave the basis that would lead to more than just repair and flowed on to making of flutes, head joints, high end padding techniques that are a must in todays flute world and my business.

Working with Geoff, I  covered all aspects of repair, dent work, key fitting and alignment, and re-padding as well as understanding the acoustic needs of the instrument, pad heights, pad thickness. It was an intense time of learning how the instrument functions as well as understanding the needs of the player and how different players respond to the setup of the flute. Geoff also encouraged me to travel to the USA and attend conferences, visit factories and makers, to seek knowledge.

This process never stopped and I am glad for his initial encouragement to keep thinking about the instrument I was working on and seek people who knew more about the subject. Every year or so I would take time from my workbench to seek to better the skills that had now given me a full time business and supported me.

I first registered my own business here in Canberra in 1996 and called it “tritone” brass and woodwind repair and flutes in Canberra were one of the biggest parts of the business and initially the instruments were student flutes and intermediate flutes.

Eventually high end flutes were coming into the shop, flues that required very special pads, materials that required different techniques to install and prepare for than the student Yamaha’s that were so central to the business.  My focus then shifted to concentrate on getting certified in these more specialised techniques, using pads that had the closest tolerances to 4 thousands of an inch, pads that were no longer soft felt type pads to the firm pads that would produce great results with the lightest technique. This means that the mechanics of the flute needed to run at the same tolerances. For this I started to visit makers, people like David Straubinger (who learned his craft from Bickford Brannen and developed the Straubinger pad),web002-1 Johnathan Landell (who learned is craft from Verne Powell) and Harry van Eckert who still makes flutes for Powell today. They all had their roots with one of the finest and oldest high end flute makers, Powell of Boston. This company took the louis lot design on in the late 1800’s to make really modern flutes, and then bought the Cooper system of tone hole placement to make a flute that had very good intonation.

This resulted in a great investment in education and tools and pads for the workshop, it transformed my understanding of the geometry of the flute, the dynamics of how the pads under the players fingers needed to feel and most importantly the understanding of the head joint, creating the sound wave (this is the place where the sound begins and its so important to the whole flute), how it behaves under different conditions and in the hands of different players.  These parameters now didn’t just include the setup of the pads but also things such as the fit of the head joint, the head cork and the spring action because the flute needs to operate as a whole and if one thing isn’t correct the entire instrument is affected.

Flutists are perhaps the most sensitive of all woodwind players at the high levels of playing.  Being able to work with them to achieve something that makes them feel like the instrument is really responding well and enables them to play easily across the entire range of the instrument is central to my craft.

web053-1By 2010 I had become a Straubinger technician and I had made my first sterling silver head joint and by 2013 I had made my first flute, a silver flute with open holes, low B, french pointed arms.

It took six weeks of hard work. Filing, making tubes for the body, head and foot joint. It was a challenge that required a type of patience that was new to me in order to really understand how the flute works, theory became reality and the end result was great.


Now it is 2014 and it’s my 31st year of instrument repair and my business ‘tritone” has existed for 18 years!

I am not surprised hat so much time has past as it really feels like it takes this long to understand totally what you are trying to achieve in this business.  Last year I became an agent for David Leviston’s shop ‘Flutes and Flutists‘ something I wish to continue into the future. Although selling flutes is part of the business I consider myself a flute specialist in repair and someone who has a great understanding of making flutes, not yet a great flute maker…..

My eight year old son is my apprentice, disassembling flutes and cleaning them, the place where I started. I hope he will travel this road along with me and continue after I finish.

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Dirk would be happy to answer questions from anyone interested in flute repair or anyone looking for a flute service in or near the ACT.  You can contact Dirk via his website at

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Australian Flute Festival 2013 – An interview with the festival director

With the 2013 Australian Flute Festival happening in Canberra in October of this year we were thrilled to catch up with Lyndie Leviston (Australian Flute Festival Coordinator/Director) to find out a little more about what to expect from the biggest flute event in Australia!



The Australian Flute Festival 2013 is on in Canberra in October, what can attendees expect to gain from this event?
Each Festival seems to take on an individual character or flavour. The impression I have is that this Festival is going to be an enormous amount of fun.  Marianne Gedigian, Roberto Alvarez and Jim Walker are all phenomenal musicians.  Each of them have a sense of humour to match!! While we can expect some serious music making, we can also except some serious fun!


Are there any opportunities for non-performing festival attendees to get their flutes out and play?
Peter Sheridan will be running a Flute Choir, Shaun Barlow will be teaching us how to beatbox, Prue Farnsworth will teach us some Irish tunes, Jim Walker is going to run a ‘Learn to Improvise” 101 workshop, so yes, plenty of opportunity to get your flutes out and do some playing.


What is different to previous years this year?
Although Jim Walker has a distinguished career as a classical musician, he has also been very successful as a jazz musician.  This Festival sees the introduction of jazz flute playing as well as an Irish element, so it’s not just about main stream classical flute playing, but incorporating other styles/genres of flute music.


When did the festival start?
The first Festival was in 2006.  The original plan was to run it every year, so the second one was in 2007.  After the second Festival, it became clear that it was only going to get bigger and it was decided to run it biannually.


What can you tell us about the evolution of the AFF over the years?
The first year, the Sydney Flute Festival was run by a dedicated and enthusiastic team of volunteers. With David Leviston and Alexa Still at the helm, the Festival was held at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with 150 people attending.  The 2007 Festival was also held at the Sydney Con.An artist’s impression of the Sydney Opera House had been used in the logo and when we applied to register the logo, the Opera House wanted to charge us an annual fee to use the image!  Elizabeth Koch OAM had also approached us about holding the Festival in Adelaide.  With the growing international interest in the Festival, we decided to change the name to the Australian Flute Festival and the Festival moved to Adelaide in 2009.Canberra in 2011 proved to be a fantastic venue.  With most people flying in to Canberra for the Festival, evenings were spent catching up with friends and colleagues from around Australia creating a lovely family kind of vibe.I do need to mention here, that we have had an incredible lineup of musicians at AFF.  Emily Beynon, Felix Renggli, Alexa Still, Michael Cox, Marianne Gedigian, Tara-Helen ‘O Connor, Jean Ferrandis, Denis Bouriakov and Aldo Baerten.  Australia has produced many of it’s own fabulous flutists and each Festival we showcase about 30 Australian musicians. Margaret Crawford agreed to be the Patron of the Festival and together with Vernon Hill and Virginia Taylor as Artistic Advisors, the Festival continues to attract Australian and International interest.  We expect to have 500 flutists attend the 5th Festival in Canberra:  October 5th – 7th, 2013.


There are 3 main international artists featured in this year’s festival.  Who are they and what can participants look forward to hearing them play/talk about?
Jim Walker, Marianne Gedigian and Roberto Álvarez are the invited guests this year.  Jim has taught and played at the highest level in classical and jazz arenas and brings a wealth of experience and advice on how to survive as a musician in 2013. We had many, many requests to bring Marianne back to Australia. She is a real dynamo on the flute.  You will leave feeling inspired an motivated from any recital or masterclass that you attend of hers.  Roberto brings some Spanish flair to the Festival.  A piccolo specialist, he will focus on the quirky peculiarities  of this instrument.


Is there anything else you would like to add?
It was only after the Festival in 2007 that we discovered that Marianne’s husband Charles, played the tuba.  She describes him as a ‘freak’ on the instrument.  So, we couldn’t let the opportunity pass again, without somehow including him in the Festival programme.  Charles will present a programme of flute repertoire on the tuba!!  I have listened to a CD of his and all I can say is make sure you are there to hear this recital!!  


Thank you Lyndie for your time and for sharing this information with us!



Anyone wishing to attend the 2013 Australian Flute Festival or wanting more information about it should follow the below link to the Festival’s website to view programs, find accommodation, register to attend and more.



We look forward to catching up with old friends and colleagues and to making many new friends and connections in Canberra!!!


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Flute Lessons via Skype

Having recently received some questions and comments regarding teaching private instrumental lessons via Skype, we decided that further discussion may help teachers and students to achieve a successful lesson while using this program.

What equipment do you need for a Skype Lesson?

This is a checklist for both the student and teacher, in addition to your usual face-to-face teaching tools.

1. Computer

2. Reliable Internet connection

3. Webcam

4. Microphone

5. Speakers

6. A Printer/Scanner for sending notes, sight-reading or any exercises you may have written

7. Skype program or similar (eg. video call through Google Chat)

8. An agreed form of payment (Note: Bank transfers and cheques are not a good option for overseas students due to international account fees. A better option may be setting up a Paypal account, so the student can pay by credit card).

A lesson in this format can only be successful when both parties are organised. Anything that the teacher would usually show their student needs to be planned in advance. If this requires scanning or printing, the student needs to have their copy before the lesson begins.

Most computers now come with a built-in microphone, webcam and speakers. External, purpose-built devices can be used to achieve better quality. I have recently been using a Blue Snowball Microphone and have found the sound quality to be much better than my built-in microphone. The Snowball is a USB condenser microphone which plugs straight into your computer without the need for an additional power source.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Skype Lessons:


– You can teach or have a lesson with a teacher who is not based in your local area.

– Skype can work as a back-up when a face-to-face lesson is not possible (transport not running, snowed in etc.)


– Some teachers and students have reported that they feel disconnected from each other. There will always be a human element missing from a Skype lesson, as opposed to teaching face-to-face, but as long as the student and teacher are comfortable communicating with each other, successful lessons can still be achieved.

– Technical problems may interfere with teaching – power black-outs, internet connection problems, the teacher or student’s hardware and software not working.

– Even with a great computer and webcam, it is harder to see what the student is doing in this situation than in person. Teachers may need to ask the student to move or adjust the webcam from time to time.

– Some teachers have reported to us that they have experienced difficulties while teaching aural skills via Skype. This may have been due to the delay experienced while communicating over the internet, or due to the quality of the microphones and speakers. Jacinta Mikus came up with the following solution:

I have a few students in regional areas. We Skype once a week and try to meet up at least once (if not two or three times) a term in person. Have had great success with students doing well with exams and one way I got around the aural aspect was to record my own exercises…emailing them to the student and them recording themselves via voice memo on their phones and sending it to me.”

My personal opinion is that if this technology allows us to do something which would not otherwise be possible, we should use it! Skype teaching does require hardware, software and planning, but offers many more opportunities to teachers and students.

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Improving Your Scales – A LOT!

By Samantha Coates

The ScaleBlitzer app is the revolutionary new app that makes scales and arpeggios (and any other technical work) fun and interesting to play!

It’s an iPhone app that works on iPad too. ScaleBlitzer is changing attitudes to practice and making parents and teachers sit back and smile.


Enter in your homework

Rather than practice with a notebook in front of you that lists the scales your teacher wants you to practice that week, you can enter that list into the app and have it generate a huge variety of activities to do based on the keys you’ve entered. Not only that – ScaleBlitzer REMEMBERS your homework and KEEPS TRACK of your progress.


Rate your own playing

Everyone knows that effective practice requires listening to the way you’ve played something and deciding whether it needs more work or not. The ScaleBlitzer app has self-rating buttons for each activity, and it remembers which scales you’ve rated well and those you’ve rated poorly. You’ll get tested more often on the ones you’re having trouble with, until they start to improve.


Choose your difficulty level

There are five different modes in to choose from in the ScaleBlitzer app:

Warm-up: Easy practice methods like ‘ascending only’, ‘play twice’, or ‘no blowing, fingering only’!

Basic: No practice method given, just straight out no-frills instructions (e.g. like you would get in an exam)

Muscle Builder: Practice methods using such things rhythms and accents

Brain Strain: Harder practice methods, or a combination of two methods! (e.g. in a certain rhythm AND staccato)

Thrill Seeker: This mode is not for the faint-hearted! You’ll get some really tough methods, or sometimes THREE different methods to incorporate into one scale!


Many times there are practice methods that pop up with a simple reminder of good practice habits, such as ‘think about your posture’ or ‘think about your sound’.

There are also practice methods for long notes, such as ‘tonic only: hold for 6 seconds’.


Earn Points and awards

Progress and rewards will motivate any student. Not only do you accumulate points which are displayed on the leaderboard on the ScaleBlitzer website, you earn rewards for these points such as medals, trophies, and wardrobe items for your character!



ScaleBlitzer is the revolutionary app for flute technical work practice and is currently on special for $2.99. Prelim and Grade 1 are included, and you can buy additional packs for up to Grade 5 technical work.

It is currently available for piano, flute, clarinet, saxophone and trumpet, with more instruments coming soon.

Check out the ScaleBlitzer app in the App Store


All articles and reviews published on this website are representative of the opinions of the author/s alone and do not reflect the opinions of FTA or it’s affiliates
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