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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2001 5:40 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2001 6:00 pm
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Location: Belfast, N. Ireland
Does anyone know the main differences to playing an Irish flute and a Fife. As a young boy I played a flute in a marching band and became a pretty competent player (Both 1 key and 5 keyed). Many years later I've noticed that I can still remember most of the tunes, (like riding a bike) but now want to play an Irish flute. I currently "fiddle" about on a tin whistle but really want to buy a flute. Is there anything in particular I should be aware of.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2001 7:47 pm 
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Other than a tighter embouchure on the fife and wider spread on the flutes, not to mention the issue of tonguing notes on the fife and "no" tonguing on the Irish flute, that's really it for aesthetic differences. Expect to use more air on your flute.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 02, 2001 8:13 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2001 6:00 pm
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Location: Belfast, N. Ireland
Thanks very much for your reply David.
Funny you mention the tonguing bit. A friend, with an Irish folk background, remarked that I was a little too heavy on the tonguing with my whistle. Something I never thought about, and am now working to correct.
All I need now is a flute.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2001 6:17 am 
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Hi Rab. Keep on tongueing. Many irish whistle players do tongue on every note, and if that is a skill you've mastered, then hang on to it! Mary Bergin and Sean Smyth (when he plays the whistle) tongue quite a lot whem they play, but they do it so well it's not very obvious. It makes their playing wonderfully tight and clean.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2001 1:37 pm 
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When i mentioned tonguing on the flute, or lack thereof, that's why I called it "an issue." There are many schools of thought on it, and others who don't believe it should be used at all. Players vary, too, on whether you do or don't.
With the whistle, I've always believed some tonguing was good, more as an accentuator and bit of variety. Some are heavy tonguers, such as Sean Ryan and Sean Potts, while others aren't as much, such as Larry Nugent and Joanie Madden.
Again, variety is the spice of the instrument. The player who told you that you're tonguing too much may have a preference to less tonguing. The key question is: How does it sound when I'm playing? Choppy, smooth or stylish?
Those really should be your barometers, not to mention what you seem to gravitate to more naturally.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2001 9:10 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 05, 2001 6:00 pm
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Location: Yarmouth, ME, USA
It has been a while since we have checked into the ol? C&F forum; didn?t
even know that there was a section here on Irish Flute!

And it?s good to find another Fifer in here! I play with the 3rd Maine
Volunteer Infantry (American Civil War Reenacting) Field Music
( http://www.powerlink.net/mcgill/page5.html )
on a Bb Military fife by Sweetheart in African blackwood. Since the fingering is
essentially the same as the whistle, it wasn?t too hard a transition. The most
challenging parts have been learning to sight-read (I always played by ear) and the
3rd (?Battlefield volume?) register, which can get a little squirrely.

Being too cheap a Yankee to shell out the $500 or so for a decent ?Irish
Flute?, I rummaged around the shop for a good scrap of black walnut, snugged up
the leather belt on the 1905 Frasse lathe, and set about making one. Technical
information accessed via this very C&F Forum, by the way, was instrumental in the
creation of what has become my low ?G? (The ?Gilead?) open-holed (6) flute. For
all intents & purposes I suppose you could call it a ?Tenor Fife?.

It just so happened that a small knot passed through the blank at one end,
so that is where we located the sound hole, in the middle of dense grain surrounded
by secondary annular rings. The bore is about 5/8? at the ?muzzle?, and I rigged a
reamer / bore scraper so as to ?jug? the bore towards the breech, which seems to
give it a nice, mellow resonance. The tone holes are on the big side which allows
for nice rolls and slurs, and I offset the #3 and #6 holes left & right respectively for
ease in fingering over a moderate ?stretch? (not nearly as daunting as most low-D
whistles). As long as I keep her well saturated with oil (I use black sesame oil,
although experts might preffer mineral oil) and warmed up, she sounds a lot better
than an amature-made flute probably ought to. It was used in my first CD (such as
it is) ?Home from the Hill?, which is pretty much a demo for Family and friends.
(I?m keeping my day job!)

Personally, I transfer all of my skills, tecniques, kinks and quirks between
instruments with reckless abandon. If some guy is telling you that this or that is
?right? or ?wrong?, you do as you see fit - but I would ?take it under advisement?
as the Judge sez, and take it semi-seriously only if I was paying the bloke for
lessons. Gratuitous advice, we have found, is usually worth about as much as we
pay for it.

Things like tounging, slurring, etc. may be quite appropriate for some tunes,
and perhaps not work so well for others. As to the ?expert? who offers his
bargain-basement critisizim - if he wishes to constrict his music to established
convention, by all means let him huddle securely therein. As to you and I, Pard;
(unless that fellow is paying for our gig), let us express the music we cherish in any
way that blesses us, or those who might care to listen in.

?...Mind the Music and the step;
and with the girls be handy!?

?Uncle Jaque?, Fifer
3rd Maine Volunteers


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2001 1:13 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2001 6:00 pm
Posts: 138
Location: Los Angeles
Regarding the tonguing: I'm currently absorbing the latest Crawford CD, as well as the latest Lunasa CD, where he has a few solo spots. I've noticed that he uses tonguing vary sparingly - but he does not totally eschew it. He likes to throw in the tonguing every once in a while, particularly in jigs, on the 2nd and 3rd eighths or the 5th and 6th eighths where he wants to accentuate the "skipping" rhythm. And the sound of the attack is noticably different: there's this little burst of high pitched airiness on the attack.

So it's an effect. Another addition to your palette. Probably you should use it sparingly, because most flutists in the tradition use it not-often or not at all. Get to where you can play everything without tonguing, then use tonguing sparingly when you feel like it.

Whistle, BTW, is different: many whistlers use tonguing. This is a wierd thing: tonguing is as viable on flute as on whistle, but the tradition on flute is to use it much less than some whistlers do.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: jomac on 2001-11-06 14:15 ]</font>


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