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Who is FirstFlutes ?

FirstFlutes is owner-managed by Richard Harrison. The tight tolerance tube is produced by Hulamin Extrusions. The machining is done by Ali-fab.

The End Cap machining is done by Mekrolek. The Laser Engraving is done by Unique Engravers in Hilton.

The matt black and matt silver colours are Anodised by Hulamin Extrusions in Pietermaritzburg and the Colour Anodising is done by Astro Anodising in Johannesburg. All the de-burring and polishing are done by First Flutes. Richard personally assembles tunes and tests all the flutes. The packaging, marketing and distribution are done by First Flutes.
FirstFlutes is a registered Trademark registration.

First Flutes Mission Statement

First Flutes wants to provide alternative and affordable “Woodwind type” musical instruments to all the people of the world using its Website as its principal marketing tool.

The principal material, that all of the products produced by First Flutes, is Anodised Aluminium.
Schools and Marching bands will be given substantial volume discounts.

Who is Richard Harrison ?

Richard is married to Janet van Eeden who is a free lance Journalist and screen and playwright. We share 3 children: James, William and Caitlin.

Richard was born in the UK where he obtained an Honours degree in Metallurgy, then came to South Africa to work in the Gold Mining Industry for 4 years.

He then changed to the Aluminium Industry and worked for Hulamin for 3 years before doing an MBA at UCT. He returned to the UK for 5 years mostly working in the Aluminium Industry and also spent a year in Life Assurance sales. He returned to SA in 1996 and took up a position as Customer Services Manager at Hulamin. He has been the Value Added Manager at Hulamin Extrusions for the last 14 years making Fabricated and Anodised Extrusions for Defy, AK Stoneguards, and other Anodised extruded products. Richard's interests include: Music, Small Business mechanisms, Sudoku and FirstFlutes.

The Origin of FirstFlutes.

Back in 2006, my daughter, Caitlin, wanted to take up a musical instrument as many of her friends at Epworth School were about to do the same. As parents, we could not afford to give her much of a choice other than the Piano, Violin or Flute. We had an Electric Organ, my old flute at home and we had access to a Violin. Most of Caitlin’s friends were getting new Saxophones and Clarinets so Caitlin chose to take up the Flute. In those days Caitlin was apt to forget things so I thought it prudent to get the flute valued and insured as I felt that it would be expensive to replace if it was lost. The flute is a Boozey & Hawks that my Father had bought for me for 60 pounds 44 years ago. It was re-valued at R28,000, which shocked me and it was quickly insured. I also learned that a reasonable quality Yamaha Flute retails at R7,000 from the local music shops. I felt a bit guilty about how much my Father had spent on my musical education and how I had stopped playing the Flute after only 3 years with no grades in it earned. That beautiful flute had been in my bottom drawer for 37 years before I passed it on to my daughter. In my case it was a waste of money. I’m fairly confident that it won’t be with Caitlin as she has already achieved grade 5.

Less than a month later, Caitlin went on a Bamboo flute-making course run by John Roff and came home with a pentatonic flute. I was so impressed that I tried to make one out of an Aluminium Cricket stump that I was trying to produce and market at the time. After drilling a couple of holes in it and covering one end with a cap, I was amazed that I got a very rich note out of it. It was totally out of tune due to the holes being in the wrong places. I was so enthused by the concept of making Aluminium flutes that I attended a lecture done by John a month later. A week after that I went on the Bamboo flute-making course where I learned that there were some mathematical principles in flute making and some extremely confusing and baffling rules in making the perfect flute. After a few failures, I managed to make one that was reasonably in tune and entered the Aluminium flute into a New Product Development competition at Hulamin and won first prize of R3,000 from my Managing Director.

I wanted to start manufacturing Aluminium Flutes, which would be relatively inexpensive for parents to test their child’s musical ability and tenacity, prior to them making that big investment worth thousands of Rands. The design of the flute had to have the following criteria: It had to be possible to mass-produce and be in tune every time; it had to be difficult to copy as it’s impossible to patent flutes as they’ve been around since the Stone Age. Fortunately, I work for Hulamin Extrusions and was able to find a tube that is used in the automotive industry with extremely tight tolerances. Using a recopy from the Internet, I managed to make a Flute that was mostly in tune. After 7 months and lots of tubes later, I achieved a perfect Flute in A Major that was perfectly spot on. Just to give you an insight into the development: Adding the mouthpiece reduced the length of the flute by 7 cm. If one of the holes was flat and if it meant increasing its diameter to sharpen the note, this would render the other holes as incorrect. Some of the holes had to be moved up and down to make for sensible finger spacing by making them larger or smaller, which led to other challenging changes to the design.

The A Major flute is a very lively key to play, but not a lot of music is written in that key. I needed to develop D, G and C major flutes where most of the music out there is written for. Bb major was also needed for the Jazz Musos. After establishing some fundamental rules with regard to finger-spacing and hole size and the effects of the mouth piece, I wrote out a mathematical formula using these rules and applied them to the following keys: G, Ab, A, Bb, B, C, Db, D (Fife). The math’s meant that the hole positioning and their sizes had to be drilled to a precision of 0.1 mm that could not be obtained in my garage at home. So, Ali-fab in PMB machined the flutes on their C&C routing machine. To my surprise all the above flutes were spot on in tune except for the Key of D. All remaining 7 keys have been tested on calibrated acoustic equipment. Music shop owners, music teachers and flautists have tested them and found them to be perfect in pitch, sound and in tune.

The great thing about anodised Aluminium is that you can get all sorts of different colours and textures. It will also accept laser engraving for branding purposes. Anodised coatings also give exceptional scratch resistance. The best thing about the flute is that the Aluminium flute’s resonance is magnificent. John Roff and I played in the auditorium of the Hilton Theatre and the sound was truly fantastic.

This flute is Irish in design and is much more logical to play than the recorder. It sounds a lot better than the recorder too. Anyone with an ear and an appreciation of music will be able to play their favorite tunes without even being able to read music. There is a 7 page self-teaching tutorial that comes free with the flute. It will teach you how to read music, learn how to blow the flute, do your scales and also comes with music and finger charts. There is also a page that teaches you how to transpose music in different keys to the flute that you own and there is a list of several website addresses that will give you hundreds of Royalty-free music. The flute can cover 3 octaves and with practice all 12 notes in the octave. There is also a Chinese addition to the flute – the thumbhole that will assist novices in obtaining a full octave easily.
I think that most people will agree that the flute sound is probably the most agreeable sound made from any wind instrument. No one is too old to learn to play a musical instrument. So if you didn’t get the opportunity to learn when you were younger, why not start with your First Flute? You do not need to spend thousands of Rands on a musical instrument that may end up in the bottom drawer. Spend less than a full tank of petrol to see if you or your child has the talent and tenacity to master a musical instrument before you upgrade in a concert instrument worth thousands of Rands.

Please contact Richard Harrison.