Frequently Asked Questions


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Frequently asked questions


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Q:  How can I try a Lopatin flute or head joint?
A: The Lopatin Flute Company exhibits at a number of regional events each year as well as the National Flute Association's annual convention. Instruments can be tried at these events. Head joints are available for immediate purchase and orders for flute are accepted. Visitors to the western North Carolina area can visit our workshop simply by calling for an appointment. Private showings can sometimes be arranged while we are in that region for a flute show, if there is sufficient interest. For example, if a professor at a college has a class who would be interested in trying Lopatin instruments, they can contact us to see if such a meeting may be feasible while we are attending a flute show in that area. These showings are usually scheduled to coincide with a local flute fair or convention. It is also sometimes
possible to send instruments out for trial.



Q:  How can we get the Lopatin Flute Company to exhibit at our local or regional flute fair/festival?
A: Ask Leonard Lopatin to perform! We are a small company and there are so many flute fairs and festivals. We have to choose carefully which we can attend. From our standpoint it makes good sense to promote Leonard Lopatin the musician along with the Lopatin Flute Company and the SquareONE family of flutes.

Interested? Listen to samples from Leonard Lopatin's 2 CD's, Squarely Baroque, and Squarely in the Holiday Spirit! at or



Q:  What is the idea behind the SquareONE design?
A: With square tone holes, the air column arrives at a straight edge. This means that the air column for the note you are fingering is a uniform length. This gives the flute great clarity, fast response, and a unique tone quality. Click here to read our paper, Discussion of the Square Tone Hole Flute to see illustrations which show in more detail how this works.



Q:  Why should I buy a Lopatin flute? What makes them special?
A: Being a flutist myself, and one who has always demanded a lot from a flute, I know how I want a flute to sound, feel, and look. But that could lead a flute maker to design flutes only to his personal taste and not that of his customers, so I have learned to listen carefully to what players tell me. I never stop trying to learn those things which help me make flutes that satisfy a broad range of players. I strive to make an instrument to my standards and to your taste. Also important is the attention I give to detail. Some of these may be so small as to be visible only to me. Details of this kind may seem insignificant when considered individually, but taken all together, they help create an instrument of unequalled refinement. That is time well spent.



Q:  Are all your head joints cut the same way?
A: As you will see on the Head Joints page, there are three distinct styles offered: the Scherzo, the Lopatin style, and the Modern Traditional. Each has its own character. The Scherzo is fiery and brilliant. The Lopatin is smooth, rich, and colorful. The Modern Traditional is dark and powerful.



Q:  How long have you been making flutes?
A: I have been making flutes for almost 30 years. I began working at Brannen Brothers in 1979 but, after a while, switched to part-time in order to do more playing. By 1989, the first SquareONE had been completed. With that, the Lopatin Flute Company was born. Although I started producing the SquareONE in 1989, I usually say that the Lopatin Flute Company was established in 1994 because that is when I officially separated from Brannen and began to make conventional flutes in addition to the SquareONE. For more information on my training and other details, please see  my autobiographical article which appeared in the June 2007 issue of Pan, the Journal of the British Flute Society, entitled: Developing the SquareONE flute.



Q:  What is the Lopatin Scale and how is it different from the scales other flute companies use?
A: As a long-time professional flutist, I have had considerable experience playing and testing flutes with many different scales. The difficulties that most performers encountered on the "traditional" or "long" scale flutes when I was growing up were a sharp high register and a flat low register. The reason for this seemed to be that the flute makers of the day had responded to a rising pitch standard simply by shortening the head joint or the upper end of the center joint. Doing so raised the pitch of the flute unevenly, raising the high register more than the low register.

In the early 1970's, I became aware of the work of Albert Cooper. Cooper had come to the correct conclusion that it was necessary to re-work the spacing of all the tone holes, as well as shortening the overall length in order to raise the three registers equally. I found that the scales on flutes which followed Cooper's example were a great improvement. However, it seemed that many of the third octave notes were still sharp, though less so than previously. By further lowering some of the left hand tone holes, those which are used to vent third octave notes, I was able to make the highest notes on the flute much more in tune.

No two flutists play the exactly the same way, and there will always be compromises in the tuning of a flute. At Lopatin Flute Company, we feel that our scale will suit the majority of players. However, if a player desires that a different scale be used, this can be done by special request.



Q:  You were once the piccolo player with the Metropolitan Opera. Why did you leave a position like that to go into flutemaking?
A: From the time I started playing the flute, I was curious about how the flute worked and how they were made. Long before I learned to make flutes, I had begun to formulate ideas for improvements and changes. Although I was (and like to think I still am) an excellent player, I think that there are others who can do an equally fine job interpreting the piccolo parts in operas. It seemed, though, that my ideas about the flute were more original. If they were to become a reality, it was clear I would have to be the one to make it so.


Q:  Have you ever considered using square tubing instead of round, or any other shape (say, triangular) for the tone holes and cups?
A: Yes, after I first thought of using square tone holes but long before I finally made my prototype (more than ten years) I mentally explored the possibilities of different shapes, including the square tubing. I gave each careful consideration but none of them seemed as full of potential as the square shaped tone hole. Triangles and hexagons would give a tone hole a straight edge I felt was imperative, but neither would allow for as much air venting as the square. I'll admit I didn't dwell too long on square tubing since I suspected that a different shape would change too many factors regarding the dynamics of air flow and that's not what I was interested in doing. I wasn't trying to change how the flute plays, simply to make it better. To this end, I made my prototype and first few flutes with square tone holes that were exactly the same area as the round. I found that yes, giving a straight edge to each tone hole makes a difference. But, I eventually found that allowing the right hand holes to be bigger and the foot joint holes to be as large as physically possible, that the combination of straight edge and increased volume of air makes the best difference of all. Another flutemaker of my acquaintance did some experimentation with D shaped tone holes (giving them the straight edge), but the main result was a decrease in the amount of air flow compared with fully round holes which offset any benefit which the straight might have given it.

The only other shape I feel could possibly be practical would be rectangular slots, similar to what Carlo Tommaso Giorgi designed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. (See picture below). These could be all the same width across the tube with increasing lengths as they descend down the tube. This has the potential for allowing each note to have absolutely as much venting as it needs, but as it would involve totally redesigning the flute, I'll leave that notion to someone with more ambition than I. I will happily play-test anyone else's efforts, though!




This page was last modified in Januaryfs 2014.

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