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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 7:09 pm 
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I enquired about the possibility of buying a flute from a maker
abroad who responded that, given CITES (and the fact that he has no
boxwood) he could only make me a flute in Mopane. My impression over
the years has been that blackwood is favored and that it has a better sound.
Also I wonder if mopane is more heavy. I'd like to know what folks think.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 8:43 pm 
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Mopane is slightly less dense than blackwood. (Lighter) But it has very similar hardness and density numbers, and is an oily wood just like blackwood. Very, very similar.

I haven't played or heard one in mopane myself(at least in person) but logic and physics says that the design and construction will be far more impactful on tone than the material. I'd imagine that you would get as much difference between two identical blackwood flutes as you would between identical blackwood and mopane flutes. The air column and how it is disturbed (meaning the embouchure hole) is the most important part of any flute.

The texture of the interior will have a tiny impact, as well as any bit of resonance the wood has. There is no way to quantify such a thing, but my personal gut feeling is that, for such a similar wood, the difference would be ~1%. Now, if somebody would care to tell me what 1% of personal subjectivity comes to, that's be swell.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:24 am 
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Thank you. This is conventional wisdom, I know. And a consequence is that a delrin flute, a boxwood flute and a blackwood flute will all sound pretty much the same, all other things being equal. I don't believe that, personally, on account of lots of hands on experience. I have a different theory, in fact, which I won't go into in this thread (though I've argued for it elsewhere on this board). I recall that Casey Burns, at least when he began making low key flutes (Bb) made the headjoint of blackwood and the body of mopane, I believe because he thought a blackwood headjoint would sound better and more defined than an all mopane flute. I do not wish to rehearse the hoary debate about whether materials make a difference to sound. I'm actually interested in people who have played both mopane and blackwood flutes and will share their subjective impressions. Thanks.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:30 am 
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I had a head made of mopane for quite a nice looking French flute. I mentioned my experience with it a couple of years ago and did not get any support, but will repeat it anyway. The thing tastes funny! As soon as
I start playing it, I feel like I have just put walnut shells or some wood in my mouth. (I was once a kid too) I don't slobber that badly, but it doesn't take much. Anyway, I don't know if this is the mopane itself, some treatment to it, or a particular allergy. I have not experienced this funny taste with Blackwood, boxwood, delrin, or even cocus. But I do with this mopane head and don't think it is all in my own head. :)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:10 am 
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Most interesting. I haven't had that experience, though I haven't myself played
mopane much. The closest I've come is a desire to eat the flute, mopane looking
so luscious.

p.s. I remember people saying that mopane had a 'warmer' sound than blackwood,
but this was well over a decade ago. I wonder what people say now.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:35 am 
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Jim, you may remember this thread from a few years ago, where Terry made two flutes in blackwood and mopane:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=95193&start=45#p1122765

Casual testing showed no real difference in tone, and weight was almost identical. Just one data point, and each maker's supply of mopane and blackwood might vary more than this, but I thought that was interesting.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:40 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
Jim, you may remember this thread from a few years ago, where Terry made two flutes in blackwood and mopane:

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=95193&start=45#p1122765

Casual testing showed no real difference in tone, and weight was almost identical. Just one data point, and each maker's supply of mopane and blackwood might vary more than this, but I thought that was interesting.


I think the litmus test in a case like this would be swapping the mopane head between the two bodies to see if there's a difference, and then comparing that to the blackwood head swapped between the two bodies.

There are so many variables at play that it's hard if not impossible to do a truly controlled comparison. I've never personally seen two identical headjoints from the same maker; they may say they're identical or close to it, but unless it's all been done by machine with no hand work at all (e.g. no undercutting) there are bound to be some small differences that might affect the sound.

I have a mopane whistle by Chris Abell, and a blackwood whistle. The two of them sound different, but they were made about 15 years apart and he made some modifications to his fipples and the bores during that time so there's no way to compare the two. I will say that a mopane whistle looks kind of like a Tootsie roll. ;-)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:15 am 
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Thanks everybody. Yes, I forgot that thread!
It sounds as though the tonal differences tween
blackwood and mopane, if they exist at all, are
minimal. Also nice to know mopane is somewhat lighter.
Much appreciate everybody's input! Tootsie rolls. Yum!


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:25 pm 
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I've tried every permutation of tests with two flutes of identical design, one in Mopane and the other in Blackwood (Including swapping heads and mixing the woods (as it were)). There is no perceptible difference, I'm sure some people can manage to persuade themselves that there is a difference, but there isn't.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 4:19 pm 
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Hi Jim,
Is it too late to contribute, did you already order it? I've been listening to recordings on youtube (hoping to buy my first Irish flute, and unsure about makers, styles, woods) and I have some things to share.

FWIW, it seems that most people either don't notice any difference, or if they do, feel that it's insignificant. But that doesn't mean that's true for everyone. In my case, it took listening to multiple recordings, back to back, several times, to get a sense of what I think of the different woods, and to me there are noticeable differences, not just in flavor but in how they play. Having said that, I don't want to encourage snobbery, and I know that even a Maple flute can play Irish music beautifully.

I won't share my two cents until I know whether you already ordered a Mopane, but in case you didn't, here's something to go on with, if you're interested. It's a video of Boxwood, Mopane, and African Blackwood flutes, played back to back by Sylvain Barou. They're all Windward, so very tight manufacturing standards, and the room is big so you can hear the acoustics ring out. Densities are 61lbs/cf, 67lbs, and 79lbs, respectively, according to wood-database.com

"Sylvain Barou playing selection of Windward flutes":[url]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-Yo_hZOeDo[/url]

I think this makes as good a test as any to whether or not you personally notice any differences, and if so, whether it's important to you. He's a superb player (putting it mildly), so he can really push the flute and show what it's made of, so to speak.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:04 pm 
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Thank you!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 8:58 am 
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I played a mopane flute for about 12 years, and I really liked the wood as a flute-making material. It was extremely stable, regardless of temperature or humidity conditions, developed a glassy-smooth bore (oiling seemed optional), and looked great (it darkened significantly over the years but retained a bit of a redish-brown tint). I won't wade into the material-effect-on-tone waters, Given the choice between blackwood and mopane, I'd have no hesitations choosing mopane.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:53 am 
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BlueSalmon wrote:
In my case, it took listening to multiple recordings, back to back, several times, to get a sense of what I think of the different woods, and to me there are noticeable differences, not just in flavor but in how they play.

Unless they were completely blind tests, it's impossible to eliminate the possibility of hearing what you wanted or expected to hear.

Quote:
It's a video of Boxwood, Mopane, and African Blackwood flutes, played back to back by Sylvain Barou. They're all Windward, so very tight manufacturing standards, and the room is big so you can hear the acoustics ring out

No matter how tight their manufacturing standards, it's ultimately more a test of different Windward flutes than different woods.

And finally, YouTube sound quality as evidence for crucial differences in anything?

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:43 am 
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Love my mopane Casey Burns folk flute and mopane Glen Watson 4-keyed. Hard to tell the difference with blackwood (of which I've had several), I say go for it. Plus, in my view, mopane has a nicer appearance than blackwood.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2018 3:51 pm 
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Jim, having worked with and played both mopane and blackwood, I'd say the difference will be imperceptible. Mopane is just a few per cent less dense than blackwood. And as has been pointed out, it's very fine-grained and oily, so it takes a wonderful finish.

I haven't found any taste to it as BlueSalmon did. It does have just a hint of a nutty aroma when you turn it, but then it doesn't have nearly the strong scent of many of the rosewoods. I inadvisedly got a couple of new to me species just before the CITES stuff hit the fan (they're called East Indian and, I think, Burmese). Those things stink. If I bring one upstairs after turning it, the whole house smells like a rose garden.

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