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Thread: Wooden Irish Flute

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    Default Wooden Irish Flute

    My wife is a flute player and is interested in getting a wooden Irish flute. She plays a mid-range standard C flute today but would like to play something more authentic in beginning to approach Irish music (seeing a Lunasa concert helped prompt this desire).

    Does anyone have any ideas of good vendors? We live in Northern California, but would of course be comfortable with online retailers.

    Thanks!

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    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    You might want to check out ChiffandFipple forums and for sale listings:
    http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewforum.php?f=35
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    Just send an email to rob.meldrum@gmail.com with "mandolin setup" in the subject line and he will email you a copy of his ebook for free (free to all mandolincafe members).

    My website and blog: honketyhank.com

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    You might want to look at Davy Angus's website. He is based in Donaghadee in County Down in Northern Ireland. Davy makes flutes, fifes and drums and I reckon you cannot get more authentic than an Irish-based maker! I have met him a couple of times while we were playing at concerts over in Northern Ireland and I recently have been listening to a friend who has bought one of Davy's instruments. The friend is a pro player and he rates the instrument very highly. I have NFI in Davy's products.

    http://shop.fifeanddrumshop.com/epag...324/Categories
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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    You are in luck. There is a fantastic store that specializes in Irish flutes and whistles, both new and used. They have an impeccable reputation and are very knowledgeable. NFI.

    https://www.irishflutestore.com/

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    The Chiff and Fipple link above is good for used flutes. There is also a good flute forum there, although it moves a lot slower than this one.

    For a specialist retailer here in the USA, I've dealt with The Irish Flute Store, where I got my current flute and also a few whistles. They're a good outfit, but a small one, so email or phone contact isn't always immediate.

    You may have already done this research, but just in case... an "Irish Flute" is basically a modern recreation of late 19th Century conical bore designs, pre-Boehm. They're available keyless or keyed. There are some advantages to the keyless versions like the one I play, like a bit more immediate response for Irish ornaments, bending notes, etc. The drawback is you'll need to cross-finger C naturals, and half-hole F naturals and G sharps, same a a tin whistle in D. But it's do-able. Keyed "Irish" flutes can get pretty expensive, but they allow access to those notes.

    Depending on budget, you can get a Delrin conical bore flute at the entry level (the actual entry level is PVC straight-bore, but I wouldn't recommend that), or a Casey Burns "folk flute" as the least expensive wooden instrument I'd recommend. The Burns Folk Flute is good, a friend of mine has one. Or you may want one of the models carried by the Irish Flute Store. Just beware of cheap Pakistani-made wooden "Irish" flutes on Ebay, they're basically garbage.

    The sky is the limit from there, again depending on whether you want keys, or you're dealing with one of the more costly and high reputation makers. The good news, is that there's an upper limit compared to many other instruments.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    My wife took this step. Expect a laborious phase of finding the embouchure and hand attitude needed to fill the flute, be comfortable and slippage-safe.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Reportedly Jim White, Athens, GA singer/songwriter of "Wrong Eyed Jesus" fame, has one he might be looking to sell. https://www.facebook.com/jimwhiteofficial/?pnref=lhc

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    en kunnskapssøker James Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    If you are looking for something more exotic, can HIGHLY recommend Hind Ocarina. I know you said flute; could not help to chime in for future recommendations. This fellow knows how to make high quality instruments and can even adapt some for missing digits or impairments. Almost bought a sweet potato even though am missing the right hand ring finger.
    • Seagull S8 • Weber Y2K6 • David Hudson Bloodwood Didgeridoo (C#) •

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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    A really good wooden flute is going to be significantly more expensive than an equivalently good metal flute.

    You can play Lunasa-type music on a standard concert flute. It's really not the material, it's understanding the idiom.

    And by the way you can get a whole lot of music out of a tin whistle, at all ...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEH9p79YfmI

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    or a Casey Burns "folk flute" as the least expensive wooden instrument I'd recommend. The Burns Folk Flute is good, a friend of mine has one.
    I am a friend of Casey's and his entry level Irish "folk" flutes are quite good. You can't go wrong. He also has models for smaller hands, too. Of course he has fancier models too.

    http://www.caseyburnsflutes.com/

    http://www.caseyburnsflutes.com/ff.php

    http://www.caseyburnsflutes.com/cat_d.php#rudall

  12. #11
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    A really good wooden flute is going to be significantly more expensive than an equivalently good metal flute.
    That's true, due to the huge market for student-grade band and orchestra instruments. However, the Burns Folk Flute isn't much more than an entry-level student metal flute. As long as you're not looking for keys (which aren't essential, especially for a beginner or transitioning Boehm flute player), the cost for a good wooden flute isn't exorbitant.

    You can play Lunasa-type music on a standard concert flute. It's really not the material, it's understanding the idiom.
    I disagree. Understanding the idiom is important, sure, and there are a few famous players of metal flutes in Irish trad. But the vast majority of both pros and amateurs are using plastic or wooden conical bore flutes for a reason.

    Classical flute players go for a pure, sweet, beautiful tone in perfect chromatic pitch. The silver Boehm flute is ideal for that. In Irish trad, there is a preference for a "hard" tone, a little dirty and edgy. Flute-maker Terry McGee has a good article about the "Hard, Dark Tone" it on his web site. Maybe the technique can transfer to metal flute, but it's a quality that's easy to develop on a good conical bore flute. I'm not talking about the difference in material, but the difference in bore design.

    There are a few other quirks with a conical bore flute, like the tendency of a cross-fingered Cnat on a keyless D flute to be slightly sharp of the "correct" 12TET pitch. It's the diatonic "Piper's C" or "C Supernatural" that matches the characteristics of tin whistles in D, or session pipes. It makes it easy to lock into those instruments at a session (the fiddlers will instinctively follow, the mandolin players are out of luck!). This is a case where *not* having a fully chromatic and perfectly in-pitch instrument like a metal Boehm flute is actually an advantage, as long as you're playing a specific genre like Irish trad.

    And by the way you can get a whole lot of music out of a tin whistle, at all ...
    Sure, and I think it's probably a good idea for everyone interested in Irish trad to try whistle. It's the classic gateway instrument. There are limitations compared to flute though. The main one is lack of dynamics, because you shift octave if you breathe harder or softer. It's closer to the pipes in that respect. I like the the way I can get a rhythm pulse going with breath/diaphragm dynamics on a flute, in a way that's simply impossible on whistle. It's the embouchure that controls the octave jump, not how hard you blow.

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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    T
    I disagree. Understanding the idiom is important, sure, and there are a few famous players of metal flutes in Irish trad. But the vast majority of both pros and amateurs are using plastic or wooden conical bore flutes for a reason.

    Oh, I agree that if you want to take up the flute a metal one isn't the optimal instrument to get if ITM is your field of interest. But the OP's wife already has a metal flute and plays it, so she might do well to just work on playing what she has in Irish style. This comes up a lot on Chiff & Fipple: a lot of people seem to think that classical players are incapable of playing in any other style. That may be true, somewhat paradoxically, of the world's top-ranked touring pros, who have spent decades honing and perfecting their own sound. I don't think it's especially true of the vast majority of classically trained players.

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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    However, the Burns Folk Flute isn't much more than an entry-level student metal flute.
    Huh?

    It's not a metal flute and it is hardly not "much more than entry level." have you played any of Casey's flutes?

    I've been around all the Irish flute players at Lark Camp and that includes Mickie Zekley and all the guys from Ireland he's had teach there over the decades. Casey's flutes are well regarded by people that know, including Matt Molloy.

    What you all are right about is that it is possible to play Irish style on nearly anything.

    Is it easier to get the current flute style on a 6 hole simple system-based instrument?

    Sure.

    Have people played well on other type of flutes?

    Certainly.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    a lot of people seem to think that classical players are incapable of playing in any other style.
    Well, no offense, as a classically trained player, I've met many that are pretty limited in musical scope. They play well, off score, but cannot play folk music to save their life.

    However, I've also met classical players that can blow you away with authentic folk stylings. Even Irish music with the "nyah" (sic) in it.

    Even on Boehm flute.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Huh?

    It's not a metal flute and it is hardly not "much more than entry level." have you played any of Casey's flutes?
    Sorry, that was poor formatting on my part. I was responding to an earlier post saying "A really good wooden flute is going to be significantly more expensive than an equivalently good metal flute." When I replied that the Burns Folk Flute isn't much more than an entry-level student metal flute, I meant the cost, not the quality of the flute.


    Like I said, a friend has one and it sounds fine, easy to play (she has the small-finger version). The only minor issue compared to other wooden flutes is that it lacks a metal tuning slide. It can be tuned by adjusting the tenon length on the head joint, which is a little fussier than a smooth-working metal slide, but it works. Not having a metal tuning slide helps keep the cost down, and gets a true conical bore wooden Irish flute in the hands of a lot more players.

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Well, no offense, as a classically trained player, I've met many that are pretty limited in musical scope. They play well, off score, but cannot play folk music to save their life.

    However, I've also met classical players that can blow you away with authentic folk stylings. Even Irish music with the "nyah" (sic) in it.

    Even on Boehm flute.
    +1 to that. I've seen both sides of that, especially with violin players. Classical training isn't an impediment per se, but some "get it" and some just can't grasp the feel, with different genres outside Classical.

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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    The only minor issue compared to other wooden flutes is that it lacks a metal tuning slide. It can be tuned by adjusting the tenon length on the head joint, which is a little fussier than a smooth-working metal slide, but it works.
    I think Casey offers other flutes with the tuning slides.

    Thanks for your response.

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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Copley flutes are an excellent, inexpensive option. The keyless, delrin flutes are wonderful. Like Casey, they offer a wide range of flute models, keyless and keyed.

    http://www.copleyflutes.com/

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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    I play both mandolin and Irish flute. Going to the wooden flute does help a metal flute player understand the important stylistic differences that are borrowed from pipes as well as getting away from the classical sound, not withstanding Joanie Maddens exceptional (and rare) playing on a metal Boehm system.
    As a newbie to wooden flutes never buy one on spec from an auction etc. The odds of it playing well and in tune are small. Have an experienced player go with you to play, or buy from the trusted sources mentioned above. Ask around any local sessions for one that has served someone well but is moving up.
    If you have contacts in the early music world some but not most of the keyed flutes made for music circa 1750 to 1900 are suitable if on the larger hole and louder end of spectrum and importantly designed for A440. Good luck. Try to find an in-person local mentor.
    Gan Ainm
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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    I disagree. Understanding the idiom is important, sure, and there are a few famous players of metal flutes in Irish trad. But the vast majority of both pros and amateurs are using plastic or wooden conical bore flutes for a reason.

    Classical flute players go for a pure, sweet, beautiful tone in perfect chromatic pitch. The silver Boehm flute is ideal for that. In Irish trad, there is a preference for a "hard" tone, a little dirty and edgy. Flute-maker Terry McGee has a good article about the "Hard, Dark Tone" it on his web site. Maybe the technique can transfer to metal flute, but it's a quality that's easy to develop on a good conical bore flute. I'm not talking about the difference in material, but the difference in bore design.
    A classical violin player will sound out-of-their-genre playing US/Irish/Nordic/etc "fiddle tunes" regardless of whose fiddle/violin is in their hands. And it's going to be same (at least at first) even if a classical flute player went to a wooden flute because tone, dynamics, intonation etc. is in the head of the musician more than in the instrument. "Tone" as they say, is 50% or more in the individual player, not the particular instrument.

    Aside from some "classical" material, I don't really go for that prissy classical flute sound. Yeah the sax doublers always come in for criticism by the flute purists as being flute frauds, but you know, in 9 out of 10 cases, I almost always prefer to hear jazz flute played by a doubler than someone indoctrinated by "serious flute" training. Yeah, Roland Kirk can be a bit on the raw side at times, but I'd prefer that to super clean Dave Valentin or Hubert Laws. Actually, I like players like James Moody, Yusef Lateef, Johnny Almond, etc. ...maybe they do play their flute more like a sax, but that's WHY I like it more. (Remember, people used to think that an amplified guitar was supposed to be "distortion-free," and bending-free!!!)

    Yeah, it's kind of a drag to be limited as to pitch bending on a closed platform flute, but then again, it's not something worth giving up being able to playing in any key. (And if it ever really starts to bug me, I'll get a relatively inexpensive low D whistle).

  25. #20
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    Yeah, it's kind of a drag to be limited as to pitch bending on a closed platform flute, but then again, it's not something worth giving up being able to playing in any key. (And if it ever really starts to bug me, I'll get a relatively inexpensive low D whistle).
    If you're playing more genres than just Irish trad, then sure, I can understand the need to play in any key. It's irrelevant for Irish trad though. Whether it's worth giving up or not, might depend on how deep you are into the tradition, and especially if you're playing things like slow airs, where the key-less holes allow deeper expression.

    Check out this clip from an Irish TV show back in the 70's featuring James Galway and Matt Molloy, where Matt plays the air "Dark is the Colour of My True Love's Hair" at 10:56 in the clip (I hope I've embedded it to start there). Watch the closeup of his fingers, for an example of what can be done on open holes instead of using keys. You'll never get this on a Boehm flute, along with that "dark" tone:

    Bonus Donal Lunny bouzouki content backing Matt!



    Most of us will never achieve that degree of expression. I certainly won't in my lifetime. But at least the potential is there, and it's completely idiomatic for this style of music mimicking what can be done on the pipes, which is where all this heavily ornamented simple tune stuff probably originated. They didn't have keys and fully chromatic instruments. They couldn't even pause the sound with the early pastoral pipes. So they had to find other ways to make simple tunes sound interesting.

    Anyway, that whole show is interesting to hear the two types of flutes played by masters of the respective styles (rewind the clip to start). I know it's not easy to separate the very different playing techniques and musical intent from the type of flute being played, but I think it's possible to distinguish the more "pure" sound of the metal Boehm flute vs. the more edgy, "hard" tone of the wooden flute.

    At the very end of the show, there is a duet by Matt on flute and James on whistle, playing "The Boys of Blue Hill" together. I think this is a good example of a Classical musician who can certainly play all the notes but doesn't quite "get it."

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    You can do a fair job of using Irish ornaments on a Boehm flute - this is just the first example I could find:


    It depends on what the musician hears in their head.

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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    For the contrast with David’s example

    Eoin



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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by Beanzy View Post
    For the contrast with David’s example

    link not showing up...I was curious

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    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    http://www.oldflutes.com/articles/radcliff.htm

    Paddy Carty and Paddy Taylor, played Radcliff system flutes. Didn't impede their "Irishness"


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  33. #25
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by mandocrucian View Post
    http://www.oldflutes.com/articles/radcliff.htm

    Paddy Carty and Paddy Taylor, played Radcliff system flutes. Didn't impede their "Irishness"
    To be clear, I'm not saying it's impossible to play Irish trad well on a metal Boehm flute, or the Radcliff key variant. There are enough examples out there.

    However, I think it's clear that the vast majority of both amateur and professional flute players who focus primarily on Irish trad, are using conical bore flutes based on a few iconic templates like Rudall & Rose, Boosey/Pratten Perfected, or mix-and-match characteristics based on these models. Players of metal Boehm flutes are the exception at Irish flute workshops, festivals, and professional performance.

    There's a reason for that. It's not just for the vintage appearance, but because this type of flute facilitates expression in this particular style of music. It's difficult enough to play as it is. An instrument that feels and sounds like a natural fit to the music just makes it a little bit easier.

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