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 Post subject: Sam Murray Flat Bottom D
PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 1:33 am 
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Hi all,

I recently bought a 6 key Blackwood Sam Murray

Fantastic flute but with one small issue - the bottom D is extremely flat

Changing the embouchure and rolling the flute outward, and following Terry McGee's advice on blowing downwards towards the centre helps greatly ... but still falls a bit short of being in tune

The A and B notes are sharp in comparison ... and I was wondering does anyone know of a person who could fix the tuning issues (such as shortening the foot).

I'm based in Donegal but happy to travel anywhere in the country to get it sorted out ... as it's driving me a bit demented lol

Thanks in advance for your time


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:39 am 
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Much better players than me will chip in, I'm sure ...

... but every Sam Murray flute I've tried has a very flat bottom D ... until it's played by someone who really knows how to play them. My understanding is that that's how they are deliberately designed. The players who get it right manage to get a huge, booming sound out of a spot on, in tune, bottom D. I can get close ... but no cigar.

Might it be a case of getting someone to show you how they do it and then just persevering?

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:22 am 
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It's the way they are supposed to be. They are made to achieve a particular sound. Once you know how to handle them and get the sound they are made for, everything falls into place and you're rewarded with a great powerful sound. It takes work though, getting to that point and then staying there.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 3:47 am 
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Thanks for the feedback - Rudall and Rose type flutes were always renowned for having flatter notes at the lower register, but modern manufacturers are tweaking the design to make the flute more in tune with itself

I know of an All - Ireland winning flute player who could not endure the flat D and sent it back to Sam (as far as I know) to modify .
He is an astounding player, and yet was unable to achieve the exact pitch required for the note

I appreciate your comments on getting used to it - but people are sending them somewhere to get "fixed" - and I'd love to know where :)


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 4:52 am 
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It will come as no surprise to some that I don't think it was how they were "designed". It's how many 19th century flutes were made (for a range of historic reasons), and Irish players in the mid 20th century learned how best to deal with them. Not everybody can, but those who can can make them work very well indeed. So, the practical problem becomes can you learn how to do it?

Forget anything anyone says about "lipping up the note". Nobody can lip a note that far. It's all about getting rid of the low D entirely, shifting all the energy into the 2nd D and the higher harmonics. Any remaining low D content will make it sound flat.

The extraordinary thing is that, when we hear the harmonic series minus its fundamental (ie the rest of the harmonics but without the low D), we still imagine we hear the low D. And we interpret it as a very hard low D.

Interestingly, I'm having a bit of a play with a spectrum analyser while I'm typing this. And when I'm the most successful at "hardening" the Low D note and removing the Low D fundamental content, the bulk of the energy is ending up in the third harmonic, which is second octave A. But it continues to sound like a very hard D.

You might find it helpful "seeing" what you are doing. Here's the URL for Tatsuaki Koroda's Autotuner, which features a simple spectrum analyser as well as measuring the pitch.

http://www.shaku6.com/soft/s8tuner_e308.zip

In the Display pull down, select FFT Log 0-2700. Low D fundamental is just under 300Hz on the horizontal axis. The 2nd harmonic (2nd D) is the peak just under 600 Hz. Third harmonic (2nd octave A) is just under 900Hz (880Hz, or 440Hz x 2, to be precise). Try to minimise the first peak at 300Hz, and steer the energy into the others.

Then check the tuning.

The alternatives are, change the flute for one you can manage, or have the flute retuned. I've had to do a few over the years (mostly originals), but you should be able to find someone a lot closer than I am!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 5:44 am 
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Yes! This is pretty well known among bass players. Your low E is typically 41 hz,, and lots of bass amplification gear doesn't really go down to 41 hz. And if it does, lots of energy at 41 hz sounds like mud. But if you manage the overtone series of a 41 hz tone right, people will hear it as "bass" even if the actual bass frequencies are missing

This is famously the story of Motown, which managed to make James Jamerson, the great Motown bassist, audible on 2 inch transistor radio speakers that could not get close to 41 hz. When I have bass students I tell them "don't turn up the bass! Turn down the bass and try to increase the lower midrange. You'll sound more bassy."


Last edited by PB+J on Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:04 am 
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Quote:
It will come as no surprise to some that I don't think it was how they were "designed".


Ofcourse it doesn't. But I would suggest Sam knew very well what he was doing and what he wanted to achieve when he made those flutes. They were made to achieve a certain aesthetic of the style of playing he intended them for.

The suggestion by one flutemaker to have work by another altered by a third party I find particularly distasteful.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:09 am 
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Ha ha, spot on, PB&J. By favouring the lower midrange, you are doing exactly what I'm recommending to Simo, shifting the energy to the harmonics. And our extraordinary brains, by doing FFT (Fast Fourier Transforms) in real time, still manage to report the original intent. Bravo!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:13 am 
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Mr.Gumby wrote:
The suggestion by one flutemaker to have work by another altered by a third party I find particularly distasteful.

Ah well, you pontificate a little too early. When faced with an unplayable flute by a modern maker, I make a new section to retune it to within the owners capabilities.

I recommend this for pragmatic as well as ethical reasons. The original flute had a certain value as an artifact. The modified flute might play better but not attract the same price.

Now, it does raise another interesting ethical issue. If you were a flutemaker making flutes that a "normal" flute player (i.e. one not tutored in the mysterious rituals required to play your flute in tune) could not deal with, wouldn't you feel some obligation to mention this in promotional material? I know of several such flute makers, but I don't remember seeing any such advice.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:23 am 
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Terry McGee wrote:
And when I'm the most successful at "hardening" the Low D note and removing the Low D fundamental content, the bulk of the energy is ending up in the third harmonic, which is second octave A. But it continues to sound like a very hard D.
Now I understand. If you don't have that third harmonic A (or fifth harmonic F#), you end up hearing a second-octave D. That's what happens when you overblow the low D into the second octave. With a strong third harmonic A and some second harmonic D, though, your ears will hear the difference as a low D. (How you accomplish that on the flute, I have no idea.)


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:24 am 
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What is the deal with McNeela music? He sells "Sam Murray" flutes. But I though Sam Murray retired? McNeela says "Yes, Sam had taken a break from making flutes for a few years but we're delighted he is back making them for us at McNeela Music." Hmmm. Are these really being made by Sam Murray?

Are the Desi Seery flutes made by Mr. Seery?


Why am I so cynical? McNeela sells "The NEW Irish (Cocuswood) Flute" for $278. Call me skeptical that it's cocus or that it's made at McNeela's shop for $278 There's a video clip of McNeela fussing over a flute on a wood lathe that seems more symbolic than actual.

Note: These may be great flutes and great value for the money, there just seems to be some sleight of hand going on


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:43 am 
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Tunborough wrote:
Now I understand. If you don't have that third harmonic A (or fifth harmonic F#), you end up hearing a second-octave D. That's what happens when you overblow the low D into the second octave. With a strong third harmonic A and some second harmonic D, though, your ears will hear the difference as a low D. (How you accomplish that on the flute, I have no idea.)

Yes. The ear recognises that, since the spacing between the harmonics is 293.7Hz, the fundamental must have been 293.7Hz (low D), even if you've successfully eliminated the fundamental. You can demonstrate the phenomenon very easily by taking a note rich in harmonics (e.g. a square wave) and using a notch filter to remove the fundamental. The ear won't be fooled.

To accomplish it on the flute is not hard, and really worth learning how to do. The classic advice to beginners is to blow "across the hole, at the far edge". Do this on low D and you'll get a lot of the fundamental and reducing amounts of energy in the harmonics. You can use that simple FFT analyser in Koroda's Autotuner to visualise what's going on.

But now shift to the "Irish" approach to embouchure - blowing down into the flute, as if aiming for the bottom of the hole rather than the top edge. This "jet offset" (and here I'm snitching words I learned from my friend the late and legendary Prof Neville Fletcher) makes it harder for the fundamental to form, and easier for the harmonics. A tighter embouchure and higher pressure help here too. You should see the energy shift from the fundamental to the harmonics. You should hear the tone change from "beginner" to "Irish". Interestingly, Nicholson talks about this, but in coded language. He regarded the hard tone as normal, and the simple soft tone as a special effect.

Better players and teachers than I might be able to fine-tune the instructions on how to do it. Feel free to step in with what works for you. In the meantime, this might help:

http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Getting_the_hard_dark_tone.htm


Last edited by Terry McGee on Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 6:53 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Why am I so cynical? McNeela sells "The NEW Irish (Cocuswood) Flute" for $278. Call me skeptical that it's cocus or that it's made at McNeela's shop for $278


I certainly have never seen cocuswood of that colour. Sheesham (from Pakistan) certainly.

Real cocuswood blanks would cost about $278! And you still have to make the flute!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:11 am 
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PB+J wrote:
Are the Desi Seery flutes made by Mr. Seery?

Certainly not Desi, RIP 2015. Nor his daughter, Natasha, who had set up a workshop in Galway, and did some of Desi's turning, until her death in a tragic auto accident. The design still appears to be Desi's (based on a Hudson).

He did have a son, I believe, but I don't have any info. The flutes (and whistles) are still made to order by somebody named David, at the same workshop address.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:21 am 
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PB+J wrote:
What is the deal with McNeela music? He sells "Sam Murray" flutes. But I though Sam Murray retired? McNeela says "Yes, Sam had taken a break from making flutes for a few years but we're delighted he is back making them for us at McNeela Music." Hmmm. Are these really being made by Sam Murray?


I hope so!!
Although the turnaround time of six weeks for a custom made 6-key flute also shocked me

But I believe that it is indeed genuine due to the tone .... and the flat D !


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