Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Abject Apologies!

I've just realised that it's February since I last posted here, so apologies to my readers. I could make the excuse that I've just been too busy, but since that applies all the time, it wouldn't really be a valid one.
At the end of this month I'm going to Portugal to the 5th Congresso Organologia to give a paper on:
The Irish Flute - A Recent Development in the Evolution of the Simple System Flute.

 You might question the "recent", but consider that the last attempts to improve the wooden 8 keyed flute were the attempts made in response to the Boehm flute by the likes of Siccama, Pratten and their ilk, around the middle of the 19th century.
As part of this I'm attempting to explain how modern makers began to adjust the pitch and internal tuning of their flutes in comparison to the exact copies that were made initially, and decided that the best way to do this was to use the RTTA tuning app to allow people to make a visual comparison between the 19th century instruments and modern ones.
I thought the results were quite striking, so I'm sharing it here.

First up, is the RTTA result for Rudall Rose & Carte 6318, which was tuned to a440, using the A in the lower octave as the reference point


For those not familiar with this app, see my previous post on this topic. It's a fantastic resource, and just to recap, notes in green are within 10 cents of pitch, those in yellow from 10-20, and those in red, more than 20.
Now we all know that the tuning of the cone bore flute is far from perfect, and that in practical terms anything within 10 cents is workable, but as you can see this is horrific.
Remember that musically this sort of tuning was considered quite acceptable, and that the above record comes from an experienced player who has been playing this flute for almost 40 years ( me...)

Now here's the same thing played on the same occasion on a flute that I made a few years ago.

A good improvement, you'll have to admit, and the flute was tuned to a440 using the G in the lower octave as the tonal centre. The C# is still out, but that's cone bore flutes for you, and would be correct if I bothered to use the long C.

And so to finish.
Good flute makers never stop trying to improve their instruments. That's the challenge. That's what makes it interesting. I made a few tweaks to my design in the last year or so, and did so mainly with regard to tone and response, but here's the tuning result for it.

not happy yet though....

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Dante's Satan....

I've been thinking about this concept for quite a while now, but, as always, getting around to doing something about it is rather more difficult. In fact I had this head made and working last August, and have meant to post about it since.
It's common knowledge that different types of embouchure,( and here I refer to the embouchure on the flute, that you blow into...or across, or into and across...that's a discussion for a different day)
suit different players, but if you're looking at a flute from this point of view and then comparing it with another, the problem is that you can't isolate just the embouchure. For example if you tried to compare embouchures across series of flutes, even those by the same maker, many other factors apart from the embouchure are changing, making comparisons of little value.
So the idea was to have a head which could stay on the same flute, but which would have interchangeable embouchures. Simpler to explain in pictures......

So essentially I took a length of head tubing, and milled a large squarish hole in it, centred on where the embouchure would normally be drilled.
Next I prepared three tubes of delrin, as you can see above. You might think that the upper and lower ones are superfluous, and in fact the head would work fine without them, but what you'd have then would be essentially a thinned head, and would give a different sound, not attributable to the different  embouchures. It's the middle piece that's the crux of the thing, and I'll have to explain a bit about that since it's impossible to show it effectively in one photo.
 What I did was to carefully machine this section so that it could rotate on the tube. I then cut three different embouchures separated at 120 degrees.
When the whole thing is assembled, it looks just like a normal head.

It also plays like a normal a great extent. The fact that delrin is denser than blackwood, that the head is essentially  lined as opposed to unlined, and that there is a very minimal bore distortion, due to the inner edge of the tube not meeting the inner edge of the embouchure, will have a minor effect.
Here's a close up of the three embouchures on this particular middle section.
I've put a piece of white paper in the bore to make them easier to see.

In fact, although these might not seem so different when looked at from this point of view, what you can't see is the undercut on each embouchure which is where a lot of the significant difference lies.

Of course, because the middle section can be replaced with others, the amount of options open for testing a particular embouchure against a particular bore is almost unlimited.

By the way, the reason for the title of this blog is that in Dante's inferno, satan has a head with three mouths. He might have found this head handy...

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Ath Bhliain Faoi Mhaise Díbh Go Leir

Well, I'd intended to do a series of posts over Xmas, but now I'm having to wish you all a Happy New Year instead.
       Recently, I've been putting a lot of work into our Cruinniú na bhFliúit festival, the more so since we got a nasty surprise just before Xmas in the form of a letter from the Arts Council, informing us that they were cutting our grant to zero, zilch, nada, faic!
However we're pushing on ahead and have launched the festival for this year - details and registration over on the webpage
      We weren't the only ones to suffer, and if you're interested there was an interesting article in The Journal of Music about these cuts, which in fact have caused a bit of a stir, as they seem to be targeting festivals which are traditional music based.
      One thing we did to try to promote Cruinniú na bhFliúit was to make a short film which shows what we do at the Cruinniú, and hopefully puts across something of the wonderful atmosphere of the event. See it here
I'd appreciate it if readers could pass on the Cruinniú links, as we really need a high level of registrations this year in light of funding cuts.

While we're on the subject of videos, someone sent me a link to the RTE archives  of what I think was the very first piece of film ever shot in my workshop.
I think the flute that I was demonstrating and playing was the very first flute I ever made!
Note how I have not aged at all since long as I keep my cap on...

Anyway, now that I've broken the ice for 2016, hopefully more flutey posts coming soon.