The “mid A” or A4 key is one of, of not the most, popular keys for a first flute. There are a lot of good reasons for that. The finger spacing is comfortable for most people even down to grade school kids. It is lightweight, especially in a softwood. It is usually not very expensive, especially in a softwood. The sound is not exactly “mellow” but is not overly strident either, again, especially in a softwood, and especially when compared to some other “beginner instruments” like soprano recorder. The A4 presented here exhibits all these characteristics.
Before we look at the flute itself, let’s talk about the maker. The “JD” of JD Flutes is Jimmy Davis. He does not have a web site, but he has a YouTube channel with dozens of videos showing off the various keys, sizes, fetish designs, and woods of his flutes. His email address is in the description of the videos. If you see something you like, just send him an email, and he will send you back a full price list. I won’t publish that here as I’m sure it is subject to change, but I will say that the current prices are extremely reasonable. The A4 (along with B4) has the lowest listed price and when I saw that, I couldn’t resist and placed the order. Frankly, I think he does this as a kind of gateway drug, because once you try it, you’re going to want to come back for more. 😉
OK, now let’s take a closer look at the flute Jimmy made me.
I’d call this design “simple elegance”. It’s all eastern aromatic cedar, so of course has that great cedar smell. The grain lines go pretty much straight down the barrel with some lighter streaks mixed in. I chose the more basic block with a single turquoise stone although he makes some fancier animal motifs if that’s your jam.
I love how this flute plays. It is very responsive. The tuning is very good with a solid fundamental A4 and extending up to a high C6, three notes above the octave. And the C6 is a normal (not half-holed) fingering. This was one of the things that attracted me to Jimmy’s flutes. I could hear from the videos that his flutes were consistently hitting that high note, and his fingers weren’t doing any gymnastics. He tells me this is common with his design, even most of the bass flutes. This feature alone is enough to make me consider these lower keyed flutes. (I might be “needing” a C4 like that before long, but there are several others from other makers on the way first.)
I’ll let the sound speak for itself. Here’s my first recording with it:
Any negatives? Not really. It is subject to wet out but this is a common NAF affliction, and this flute is perhaps less-so than many. The underside of the block has finish applied. Maybe that helps the moisture bead off a little easier? Perhaps. The block does have a rather tiny “sweet spot” to get the best sound and response. When shipped, the block was really secured tightly to this spot with many more wraps of leather than you see in my pics. I suppose that’s good for a beginner that didn’t want to fiddle with it – just let it dry out naturally – but I couldn’t resist taking it off to clear out moisture and to admire the SAC design.
I would not hesitate to recommend it as a first instrument to anyone looking to try Native American flute. That is absolutely not to say it is only a “starter” flute. I’d also recommend this flute to anyone who wants an inexpensive, responsive, good looking and good sounding flute. I’m sure there are A4 flutes out there that sound “different”, but I can’t imagine them playing any better. I have no plans at the moment to get another flute in the same key. I have a couple other (differently keyed) flutes in my collection that I cannot say the same about.