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Cooperman Fife
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Author:  AngelicBeaver [ Sat Jan 05, 2019 6:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Cooperman Fife

I picked up a Cooperman Bb fife off eBay. Does anyone have experience with these? I figured it might be fun and improve my embouchure a bit. I'm noticing that the Bb bottom note seems very flat. Is that common in fifes, or is it a problem with this particular fife, or am I just embouchuring wrong?

You can see my pitiful attempt to play it below. In the comments, I marked the point at which you can really hear the flat bottom note. I was thinking that, once I got my mouth shapes sorted, it might be easy to take some material off the bottom to get it to play in tune, if that was the issue.

I've also got another Bb (keyed) fife/flute on the way. I don't know what to expect from it, but it will give me another reference point.

Author:  jim stone [ Sat Jan 05, 2019 11:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

You sound fine to my ear. The tone will improve as will the control.
If you want to lift the bottom note (forgive me if I now tell you what you
already know), when you get to it lift your chin and blow more across the
hole. This will lift the pitch. Flute playing is a lot like singing. Just as one
keeps correcting one's voice to hit the right pitch, one blows the flute in tune.

I like Bb fifes, especially ones made of blackwood.

Author:  fatmac [ Sun Jan 06, 2019 3:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

I'm no expert, but I think it is just a matter of finding your embouchure, (it sounds quite similar to my German fife).

I also bought mine to improve my embouchure. :)

Author:  AngelicBeaver [ Sun Jan 06, 2019 6:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

Well, after working at it for a while, I was increasingly unhappy with the Bb note, especially with tunes that really sit on it. As I only spent $8 plus shipping on it, I decided to try taking off a bit of material. I ended up cutting off around 5 or 6 mm of material, and while it still sounds a touch flat, I think it's much improved. You can see the results below.

Author:  plunk111 [ Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

Not sure if this has any bearing, but true fife music almost never goes down to that low Bb. In fact most fife music is played in the second and third octaves. I took a week of lessons once and found out that the instrument is not for me because of the 3rd octave - it physically hurt my ears! The reason I mention this is that the maker may have optimized the instrument for the upper octaves. The other interesting thing about fife music is that it is usually written in D or G and played as if the Bb fife was actually in the key of D! Sounds confusing, but basically you finger the fife as if you are playing on a D flute... Good luck with it!


Author:  AngelicBeaver [ Sun Jan 06, 2019 7:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

Thanks, that's very interesting. I planned to play it more like a Bb whistle, but maybe you're right about the optimization thing. I might explore that avenue in the future, but my ears are pretty sensitive. Thanks again for the information.

Author:  AuLoS303 [ Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

Sounds good in the second video. And you're little one is cute!

Author:  MichaelRS [ Wed Jan 09, 2019 4:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

My lay research into fifes found a lot of people saying that that particular one is all you need to get started. But you can't prove it by me. I worked on mine for a little over two months before I just decided to keep it in the car as a defensive weapon.

Author:  jiminos [ Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

I could be wrong... But...

Fifes are really meant to play in the second and third octaves. Military ones, anyway. So you should expect the first octave low note to be flat.

For playing tunes in first and second octaves, I have a Billy Miller Bb bamboo and a Sweetheart Rosewood Bb. For military, I have a T. D. O'Connor and a Peeler. Both Bb.

Different courses require different horses.


Author:  AngelicBeaver [ Fri Jan 11, 2019 1:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

AuLoS303 wrote:
Sounds good in the second video. And you're little one is cute!

Yes she is, and smart and strong willed. I keep trying to teach her whistle, but so far she has resisted.

Thanks for all the responses. I don't think I want to play much in the third octave, though I'd like to be capable of it, eventually. I do feel like playing this fife gave my regular flute embouchure a boost. After working at the fife for a while, my flute seemed much easier to play, and I'm actually starting to worry about things like tuning and intonation, which is a first for flute. I've always been most concerned with basic sound production (still a concern, but easy enough now that I can make sounds while thinking about other things).

I've got a keyed Bb thing coming on Monday, so I'll be eager to see what's different on that one. I don't know much about my new one, new or old, wood or plastic. It'll be a surprise, I guess. Hopefully, a good one.

Author:  ytliek [ Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

For details you may want to inquire with Musique Morneaux as Joseph apprenticed with Cooperman. Joe is the gent who took over the Sweetheart Flute Co.

Author:  plunk111 [ Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Cooperman Fife

Just a little off topic... You say the Bb helps with your D embouchure - my fave "embouchure builder" is a delrin F that I bought from Dave Copley. It's in 3 sections, so it fits in a jacket pocket, has super-manageable tone holes, and sounds awesome. Highly recommended!!!


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