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Saturday, March 27, 2010

This Blog has a New Home!

For whatever reason, Blogger doesn't seem to want to work too well with Microsoft Word anymore... and considering my propensity for spelling errors and what not, Word will help me immensely.

I am setting up a new WordPress based blog that I will simply host locally. The new blog address will be - I am still doing all the setup and theme configuration but hope to have it fully up and running by this week.

I'll see you there!

Dave Kessler

Friday, February 12, 2010

Looking for Value in the Ever Changing Flute Market


This blog has moved. The new blog home for this article is at


One of the things that I love about this industry is change. I enjoy keeping up with the trends and helping guide customers through what to some seems an absolutely monumental task of choosing a new flute. Luckily for the flute consumer, the values available to them on the market today far surpass normal "market change". We have seen more "value" change in the flute market than in any other market.

When shopping for flutes, the trick is being "in the know" on what is really being offered. I cannot count how many times that I deal with customers whose teachers are 10-20 years behind the times on the flute industry. Granted, I don't believe that it is the teacher's job to do the work for the student or to even be a sales person in a store. I believe teachers should focus on teaching. However, when they make recommendations to students, it benefits all involved if the teacher is up to date on what is being offered. Sadly, even being in the industry, it can be difficult to stay up to date with all the changes going on.

So I wanted to give consumers somewhat of a guide of some of the better offerings. In the end, everything involved with buying and selecting a musical instrument really comes down to personal preference. You the player need to be able to play the flute and make sure that it is the right flute for your needs.

Old School Thinking
First, do yourself a favor and realize that when it comes to flutes (and any other instrument for that matter), what matters the most is design, not material. For so many decades, we have been taught to believe that the more Solid Silver in a flute, the better the performance. While I will admit that when comparing the identical design, I do tend to lean towards the sound of the flute with more silver, this is not a 100% universal truth.

We sell MANY flutes that have solid silver headjoints (and even one with NO solid silver parts whatsoever) that completely outplay other all solid silver flutes. The reason why is the design. A better designed and made flute will always outplay the lower level design even though it possesses the "better" materials.

In-Line G vs. Off-Set G
This one still cracks me up. I still to this day get parents who are looking for an in-line G flute because their teacher told them that it was better and that the professional flutes only come in an in-line G. The truth: neither in-line or off-set has any playing advantage over the other. It is simply a personal ergonomic preference. The off-set G more naturally matches the contour of the human hand. The off-set G also offers a more technically sound mechanism as you have less keys pivoting off of the same rod.

As for the argument that professional flutes are only available in an in-line G, this simply is not true. Professional flutes are available either way and there is no difference as to availability in most scenarios.

If you prefer an in-line G, then buy an in-line G. If you are not sure, go with the off-set G as it will be more comfortable for most players.

OK, so what do I buy?
Obviously, I am going to be a bit biased on these answers as in the end, I sell flutes and my recommendations will be for flutes that I can sell. However, keep this in mind with that bias: we only sell and stock flutes that we feel offer our customers great value and performance when compared against other brands in the same price point. We do not sell and stock every model that a manufacturer makes. We cherry pick through their offerings and select the flutes that we think offer our customers value.

Student to Intermediate Range
For our store, we have decided to narrow down our student and intermediate selection largely to 2 brands. Jupiter and the Galway Spirit. Both offer exceptional value and performance for their respective price ranges.

The Jupiter models are more affordable as they are made in Asia (China or Taiwan depending on the model). They are built very well and play as well as they are built. Their headjoint cuts are precise and offer good response and tone.

The Galway Spirit models are the most impressive performing flutes in the student to intermediate sector of the market. They are more expensive than the Jupiter models as the Galway's are made 100% in the USA. However, the headjoint on the Galway Spirit flutes is absolutely out of this world. They are powerful, colorful, rich, resonant and responsive.

"Advanced Intermediate" Range
This is my own unofficial classification of the market that many makers will call "pre-professional" as well as "professional". I personally have never cared for the term "professional" in any instrument. However, I feel that many in the industry use it in a way that is done to justify price for customers. Regardless of this argument, to me the "Advanced Intermediate" segment consists of flutes that have advanced designs (many times from the "professional" makers) but are built to fit an "intermediate" price point. This price range starts around $1,000 and can go upwards of $2,500 on average.

This sector of the market is where the absolute best values can be found. This is where the most change in the flute industry can be found. There are a lot of offerings now in this segment, but to us a few really stand out. The main brands that we have singled out in this category are Avanti, Azumi, diMedici and Sonare. There are also a few select models in the Pearl line that we feel offer this same value range.

To me, the 2 that really stand out are the Avanti and the diMedici. The diMedici is a brand that has been around for quite some time. The parent company is Jupiter and the diMedici are simply the next level up in the Jupiter line. For many, they seemed to get pushed out of most people's minds when the market exploded with all of these other brands. However, we find the quality of the diMedici flutes to be on par or better than most flutes at price ranges much higher. The diMedici models all feature pointed key arm construction and a Solid Silver hand cut headjoint.

They have even come out with a new "dolled up" version call the 1311 that has become one of my personal favorites. It is a solid silver headjoint and body, with a solid 14k gold riser, pointed key arms with engraving on all the key cups, crown and lip plate. It is an incredible playing flute and offers a GREAT value to the advancing flautist.

This is a tough one to write about because of the varying opinions that are involved as to what really defines a "professional" model as well as what style of performance that the player is seeking. We really enjoy the Burkart flutes and think that they offer the best values in the professional market. However, seeing as there are not a lot of customers for professional flutes in Las Vegas, we are not always stocking a ton of professional models. However, we will usually stock the 2 best "low cost" professional models.

The Burkart Resona 200 and the Powell Signature Series flutes. Both of these flutes are unbelievable values for the advanced player. Both offer great performance and a great price.

Above this price, most people will instead deal directly with the maker of their preference so that they can get their flute with their options the way that they want it.

The flute market is changing constantly. I believe that we have found a few companies that have really stepped out ahead of the rest of the market and those are the brands that we have decided to place in our stores for our customers to choose from. In the end, you have to play them and choose for yourself, but make sure not to get tunnel vision and choose to only look at one brand. When you don't compare, you end up paying too much.


Disclaimer: I am not directly benefiting from this post in any financial way. However, I do sell flutes through my family's business, Kessler & Sons Music.

Friday, January 22, 2010

NAMM Show Report - 2010

Well, another year and another NAMM show. For those of you who are not familiar with NAMM, it stands for the National Association of Musical Merchants.

Every year, they have the big industry convention in Anaheim, CA. It is a time where dealers from all around the world can "shop" the various suppliers and manufacturers in the music industry. It is a closed attendance show for NAMM members only and not open to the public. However, some consumers will make their way into the show as a "Visitor" of a NAMM member. This year, we helped a few local pros gain access.

For me, this represents my 10th visit to the NAMM show and much of it is the same today as it was 10 years ago. However, there are always some exceptions and some new products that catch our eye. This is what I write this annual report for. For the consumer who is unable to attend the show to hear what I found that might be coming to a store near them in the near future. While there are many positive things at the show, there are of course not so positive things that I find at the show. I will not discuss those items or companies that I didn't care for from the show.

In the past, I have seen a few consumers feel that I was doing a disservice by not reporting on the negative. That is definitely their prerogative to hold that position, but it is also my own prerogative to not succumb to the negative. Also of course, my whole point of going to the show is to evaluate product for the purpose of selling it in our stores. So yes, the items that I discuss will likely be something that we will sell. However, this is not the purpose behind this post.

Enough of the ground rules and explanations, on to the show!

Big Companies' Prototypes!
I was pretty impressed at the number of big companies that had prototype products that were there at the show. Typically from a big company, they will only bring "new ready to sell" product. However, there were 2 companies that had prototypes to show off to select stores… which of course we were one of. However, sadly, I cannot yet tell you about them! I know this is a terrible tease and I am sorry. Trust me, it goes against my nature not to shout them out to the world, but I promised that I wouldn't get into specifics. Just keep your ears open… I promise it will be worth the wait!

Galway Spirit Flutes
If you check out my blog often, then you are already aware of my blog post about the Galway Spirit model flutes. These flutes are the newest offering from Conn-Selmer. They are based around the more advanced Avanti body tube design which features a modern professional Cooper scale pitched at A=442. Basically for the flute jargon impaired… that basically means that the intonation of the flute is on par with a $10,000 handmade professional flute.

The Spirit flutes are absolutely the best student and step-up flutes we have ever seen. Another great bonus is the fact that they are 100% Made in the USA. Sadly, there are not many flutes that can make this claim anymore. The player response on the Spirit models at the show were great. They will be available in 3 models. For more information visit our special Galway Spirit flute page on our site. They should start shipping to customers in the next 1-2 weeks!

Drake Ceramic Mouthpieces for Sax & Clarinet
Yes, you read that correct. Ceramic mouthpieces. If you are a teacher or adult player, than the first image that likely has just popped into your mind has to do with a mouthpiece dropped and shattering into a million pieces. Honestly, I can't blame you as this is the first thing that I thought of as well when I saw one a few months prior to the NAMM show. However, I have to say that I was really impressed with the quality of craftsmanship and the technical information that Aaron Drake provided. In the end, these are high end caliber mouthpieces, not student mouthpieces. So if someone drops one and it does break, there is no one to blame but themselves.

The positive aspect of the mouthpieces is that they are basically temperature/humidity neutral. There is no worry about warping from heat, or shrinking/swelling from the environment (great idea when it comes to the clarinet barrels by the way). So the pros of the product will outweigh the cons for many players concerned about performance. While I cannot say that we are stocking them yet, there is a very good chance that Drake Ceramic mouthpieces and clarinet barrels will be finding their way into our product offerings in the near future.

Selmer Paris' 125th Anniversary
This year marks Selmer Paris' 125th Anniversary. While they have not really announced much at the show, they are planning some new releases for this anniversary. They are planning on doing these releases at the big European counterpart show, the Frankfurt Music Messe. I do have some information as to what some of them are but am sworn to secrecy. Sorry, you too will have to wait just like the rest of the world on this.

Kessler Custom Products
There are a few things that we are working on for 2010. I won't get too detailed as all plans are still somewhat subject to change. However, we met with our factory at the show and also the day after the show as they came to visit our shops in Las Vegas the Monday after. We have already announced a new Kessler Custom Alto based on our "Handmade" line. We are calling it the "Jazz Handmade" as it is designed to be more vibrant and quicker responding. Similar to a Yanagisawa A902 in this manner.

We are also looking at offering an even higher lineup of saxophones… Again, not posting anything concrete on this, but keep your eyes open for this one as it is sure to surprise many.

Theo Wanne Classic Mouthpieces
Theo makes the most beautifully crafted mouthpieces with the most unique performance in the world. At the show, he had 2 new models to introduce. First is his new Vintage Rubber GAIA Tenor Sax mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is the same design as his existing metal GAIA mouthpiece for tenor but made from his new Vintage Rubber. These had a great fat dark tone with excellent response. They will be available soon at the price of $595.

The other new product is his new line called BRHAMA. These are Vintage Rubber pieces that use similar designs to their tenor and alto counterparts except they will not have the same sidewall scooping of the other models. I only saw the prototype at the show, but it looks GREAT with paper thin rails just like the GAIA rubber. The thing that most will be excited about is price. Brand new, these are going to sell at $350.

The Asian Market
The Asian market always has something new and great. We found several things that we are excited about. One of which is a fantastic low A bari sax that was based on a Yanagisawa design. This is something that we are looking into stocking in the near future and will likely sell for UNDER $2,000. It is Chinese, but it was fantastic. Played like a million bucks, was comfortable and built well. More to come on that in the future.


Otherwise, it was another NAMM show. We had a great time. Went out to dinner at some great places including my favorite, The Crab Cooker in Newport Beach (AWESOME). If you are ever in Newport, go there and get the crab (duh). You won't regret it!

Here's looking forward to 2010!