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Thread: Wooden Irish Flute

  1. #26
    Registered User DougC's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    I am surprised that no one has mentioned that some flutes are much harder to 'blow'. There is a significant difference in the variety of flutes used in Irish music.


    I'm not a flute player but I know a bunch of them. Nice people - mostly. :*)
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  2. #27
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    I think the usual term is how difficult or easy it is to "fill" a flute.

    On that subject, I have no informed personal opinion because I haven't played enough different ones. Mostly just this one. Maybe someone else will chime in. From what I've read ("internet wisdom"), there is a general perception that flutes designed to be session cannons -- Pratten style with large bore and large holes -- may take more air than smaller hole flutes like Rudalls.

    However, flute design aside... I've also heard that it shouldn't take more air than you'd use in normal conversation, and it's mainly a question of how good your embouchure is. Beginners tend to lose air across the embouchure hole that isn't actually producing tone, and that gradually improves over time and practice. I'm sure I'm still in that stage, but I don't run out of air nearly as easily as I did when I first started.

    I do like owning a Pratten style flute, because when I'm in the groove, it's nice and loud for session playing. The downside of course, is that all my mistakes are very obvious. It's a bit like taking a resonator mandolin to a session; you'd better know what you're doing if you're gonna play that thing in public.

  3. #28
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    All modern Irish flutes are based on the large-hole classical flutes of the 1800's. They are significantly different from the French and German simple system flutes of the time period - the continental models have smaller bores and fingerholes.

    English classical musicians were happy to adopt the Boehm flute; many of the older flutes were available cheap and the Irish snapped them up and began using them...then fixing them...then making them.

    Many of the players didn't use the keys even when the keys worked - so a lot of the new Irish flutes were keyless models, still based on the old large-bore simple system classical keyed flutes.

    Pretty much they are fingered like a big tin whistle now!

    Along the way, ther flute systems have been used by certain Irish trad players, but overall, especially since Matt Molloy, there has been a tendency to use these "irish" flutes - but they are a relatively new instrument as such.

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  5. #29
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    English classical musicians were happy to adopt the Boehm flute; many of the older flutes were available cheap and the Irish snapped them up and began using them...then fixing them...then making them.
    Yes, and it wasn't only happening in Ireland around that time. Check out this picture of the Irish Music Club of Chicago, from somewhere around 1901-1909. The guy fourth from the left in the back row is Francis O'Neill (yes, that Chief O'Neill), and this was the group of amateur musicians he hung out with, and later managed to write down the tunes (with collaboration) in his famous collections.



    Not a Boehm flute in the bunch, although they were infiltrating the Classical orchestras on this side of the pond too.

    And look at that ratio of woodwinds and pipes to fiddlers! How did that shift so far to the fiddlers in a typical modern Irish session? Well, maybe without the fiddlers we wouldn't have had mandolins and bouzoukis elbowing their way into the music in the 1960's. It's still interesting to see who was carrying the torch for the old tunes back then.

    Anyway, we use this type of flute now, as a legacy from what these earlier players were doing. Both for historical reasons and because it's *that* sound and *that* set of techniques we're using in this music.

    I'm tempted to draw a comparison to the reason why Bluegrass musicians play archtop Gibson-derived mandolins in preference to anything else.

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  7. #30
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post

    And look at that ratio of woodwinds and pipes to fiddlers! How did that shift so far to the fiddlers in a typical modern Irish session? Well, maybe without the fiddlers we wouldn't have had mandolins and bouzoukis elbowing their way into the music in the 1960's. It's still interesting to see who was carrying the torch for the old tunes back then.

    Anyway, we use this type of flute now, as a legacy from what these earlier players were doing. Both for historical reasons and because it's *that* sound and *that* set of techniques we're using in this music.

    I'm tempted to draw a comparison to the reason why Bluegrass musicians play archtop Gibson-derived mandolins in preference to anything else.
    Good point!

    I love that old photo - and yes, there were a lot of flute and pipers. I see no other instruments in that picture. Lots of full sets of pipes, though!

  8. #31
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    My tipp is to stay away from a wooden flute if you are in California. I have a 200yr old Camp flute that got destroyed by the climate in Melbourne Australia despite all the oiling in the world. Now I play an M&E plastic flute which serves me well! The M&E is a nice clear toned, loud flute based on the Rudall Rose. Matt Malloy had some input in its development.

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  10. #32
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    My two cents:

    A wooden flute gives significantly more scope for playing in every style of Irish music you would want. A radcliffe or Boehm doesn't. Yes Carty and Taylor played good stuff on the radcliffe but in cartys case, he took a slow tempoed legato approach to playing wholly unlike any previous player. Even the style of flute playing from his native east Galway handed down by the old ballinakill was nothing at all like cartys music. So if you're looking to play Irish music with all the proper rudiments that flute playing has to offer, you need a wooden simple system. Unless you wanna play like Carty. As for Taylor, meh, he wasn't a patch on Carty overall to begin with and was pretty sloppy anyway.

    As for makers, Martin Doyle in Clare does fantastic affordable instruments. I'm into my 12th year of ownership and it's such a delight

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  12. #33
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Marty View Post
    My tipp is to stay away from a wooden flute if you are in California. I have a 200yr old Camp flute that got destroyed by the climate in Melbourne Australia despite all the oiling in the world. Now I play an M&E plastic flute which serves me well! The M&E is a nice clear toned, loud flute based on the Rudall Rose. Matt Malloy had some input in its development.
    I live in CA and I know many people with working antique and new wooden flutes and no cracks. Sorry about yours.

    However, the M&E plastic flute sounds like a good idea in general - I'll have to investigate.

  13. #34
    Unfamous String Buster Beanzy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Wooden Irish Flute

    On hearing people playing fast tunes on keyed flutes, by comparison with the same tunes with only one or two keys, I get an image of someone trying to sprint in flippers. Things seem to get dominated by the incessant clackety clack flapping of the keys, reminding me of the intrusion of pick noise on Thiles Bach recordings. I’m talking about in an intimate setting or close listening situation, where the mechanics seem to get very intrusive for my ear. My friend (unfortunately now moved to NC) uses one for Irish tunes we used to do on tin whistle, he’s a very good player but because of the clicking & popping of the pads I much prefer when he just leaves the flute and uses the whistle. Yet we go to hear our professional classical flautist friend somewhere like the Barbican and as long as we’re not too close you don’t hear it as her notes soar across the hall. But if she plays at home, there it is again clicking away. I think context accounts for much of what is suitable where. Really it’s probably best to buy something that fits your initially intended situation best, sticking to the conventional initially, then true to most advice on the here on the, keep buying more to cover anything else you might encounter, until people begin talking about you as a collector rather than as a player of instruments
    Eoin



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