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 Post subject: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:52 am 
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I've recently taken up blowing the transverse flute after picking up a cheap fife as an experiment to see if the embouchure was a challenge I would enjoy or a brickwall. Turns out I've really taken to it. I already owned a couple of Tony Dixon low whistles, the D and G in aluminum, so I purchased his separate flute embouchure mouthpieces that fit on them. Having a lot of fun and they feel and sound great.

Obviously I know the standard is wood or delrin and these are still more whistles than flutes in geometry, but it made me wonder if anyone is producing purpose made simple system flutes in metal and what the impact of the material actually is on the sound of a flute? Should metal even sound different than a hardwood or plastic? I don't think there's any resonance happening like with a stringed instrument, it's just geometry and a nice hard smooth surface for the air to bounce off right?


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:41 pm 
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Welcome to the wonderful world of transverse flutes! You've officially opened the greatest can of worms we have around here. There is the camp that material definitely makes a difference in sound, another that while no sound difference the player enjoys the feel of wood better so go with that, and finally the material doesn't matter camp.

I'm in the latter, but we may be a minority holding such a view. One for the finest flutes I ever played was made of ebonite, but every inch of the tube was lined in metal so...isn't that a metal flute?

Maybe one of the more difficult issues would be making a metal flute that's conical with thick enough walls for an Irish style flute. I think there is a reason the metal Boehm flute is out there.

Eric


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:36 pm 
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I make flutes from aluminium with great results. I don't think that the material has NO influence on the sound but I think other factors have a bigger influence, like the embouchure, the hole size, bore geometry, etc. etc. But -- you can get a sound that is pretty close to a "proper" Irish flute from a simple cylindrical bore aluminium tube. Some claim you cannot get an in-tune flute from a cylindrical tube but IMO that is only partially true because I made more than one flute and they are in fact in tune -- maybe the highest C# can get slightly flat but I don't think that is much of an issue at all. The problem is not so much the tuning but the holes and the layout of those holes. On a cylindrical flute the lowest hole has to be quite small to even be reachable and that will affect the strength of the note. And another problem is the tuning of C natural. Also the placement of the stopper has to be adjusted to the hole size. I had the best results with really large holes but that will make the standard fingering of C natural way too sharp so you need to use oxx xxo to get it in tune. I nicknamed the flute I play "the monster" because of those huge holes. But you can get a hard low D that sounds like a fog horn basically. Another difficulty however is the 3rd octave (which is basically not needed for Irish trad but I like to get there every now and then) -- only with super large holes and a stopper set far enough from the embouchure can the 3rd octave be in tune with the standard fingerings. With the stopper too close (which is necessary when the holes are smaller because otherwise the 2nd octave will be flat) the 3rd octave fingerings will be sharp.
So, yes making purely metal flutes does have it's issues but the advantage is that the material is super cheap and easy to work with. And if one experiment fails, I can always make another one.
There are some makers who make/made metal flutes -- mostly advertised as "beginner" flutes but IMO there is no such thing. You can do anything with them that you can with a "proper" flute. Most makers use a boehm-like taper in the head of the flute to improve octave-tuning but IMO that is not necessary when taking a large enough bore and large holes -- but with the standard boehm size of 19mm it is indeed impossible to get it in tune. I did experiment with "Fajardo"-Wedges at first but they pose the problem that they can weaken the tone or "roughen" it.
Another experiment I made was to use the stopper/tuning rod design of a marching band fife to bring the octaves in tune on a cylindrical flute with 3mm walls and the classic 19mm inner diameter. Because with that diameter it is more or less impossible to get the flute in tune without "tricks". But the lowest hole can be closer up and the note therefore stronger, which is also improved by the deeper chimney. I do prefer the 25 mm (OD) and 22 mm inner diameter standard hardware store aluminium tubes however. With that diameter you can get a strong sound while the stopper is close enough to the embouchure to bring the octaves in tune. I do use a lip plate and a special embouchure cut BTW to improve the tone which I think works quite well. A nice detail is the fact that the inner diameter is exactly right for using a plastic wine cork for a stopper.
Here is an example of one flute I made -- never mind the bad playing. The one I play at the moment has a stronger sound.
https://youtu.be/TneLh3gYmEE

This one is the one I play most:
https://youtu.be/jpQQjRaKFuU

I think you can hear the slightly weaker "hissy" E that is caused by the small hole. But apart from that I think they work just fine. What I really do like is the weight -- they weigh around 180 gram. Quite a bit lighter than delrin flutes.
I think it would be quite an interesting experiment to make a conical aluminium flute with a reamer which should theoretically be possible because you can get those tubes in almost any size and with any wall thickness. But I don't know of anyone who ever tried that.

Almost forgot -- the makers that I know of who make metal keyless flutes are:
Hamilton (not sure if he still makes them)
http://www.hamiltonflutes.com/Practice_Flutes.html

Gary Somers (did he retire? His website is offline)

David Angus
http://shop.fifeanddrumshop.com/epages/ ... %5B1%5D%22


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2021 4:01 am 
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I also have aluminium flutes & piccolos, I have a low 'D' Davy Angus 3 piece, & I have Tony Dixon flute heads on my aluminium 'A', high 'C', & high 'D'.

Other than those, I also have delrin type low 'D' (x2), & a low 'F'; also Tony Dixon high & low 'D' ABS one piece flute & piccolo, & Trad brass high 'D' piccolos (x2).

Keep it fun & enjoy your flute(s). :thumbsup:

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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2021 4:29 pm 
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Thanks for the replies. So I guess aluminum is a good material for flutes afterall. I think the Dixons sound really great with the flute head. I'm sure a better player could point out why the hole placement or embouchure cut is less than ideal for a flute, but as a beginner they feel and sound fine to me.


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2021 4:38 pm 
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As a novice whistle craftsman my 2 cents is that material has some effect but its minor. I've made 3d printed prototype mouthpieces that I could fit on my pvc or aluminum tube and the sound was extremely similar. And my different mouthpieces I've made have heavily changed the tone.

I'm especially novice at flute but I wonder if having a deeper embouchure hole from a thicker material can change the tone. If this was the case you could get a different tone from metal because the walls are thinner so the embouchure hole is less deep. But I'm not sure on this one. And some thin walled flutes use a lip plate to make it thicker like a wood/delrin one.

If nothing else the material heavily effects looks. Which to me is surprisingly important. I love my angus D flute because its a wonderful brown wood and just looks like what I think of when I think of a folk flute.

So yes I think aluminum is fine. It just wont be conical bore like wooden ones but thats not the end of the world as proven by non conical whistles.


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Mon Jan 11, 2021 5:02 pm 
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Oh yes, a deeper chimney for the embouchure definitely affects the tone. That's why I use a lip-plate to get about 4mm wall thickness at the embouchure. It makes all the difference. The sound is much stronger and the flute reacts faster. You can (and I did) also make a flute just from one single piece of pipe with a stopper. But the results I had were not nearly as good as with a lip plate.
I wonder however, how Pat Olwell did it with the simple bamboo flutes he made. But he's a genius after all. And I'd think that bamboo is still thicker than a 1 or 1.5 mm wall aluminium tube.


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 5:27 am 
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Sedi wrote:
Oh yes, a deeper chimney for the embouchure definitely affects the tone. That's why I use a lip-plate to get about 4mm wall thickness at the embouchure. It makes all the difference. The sound is much stronger and the flute reacts faster. You can (and I did) also make a flute just from one single piece of pipe with a stopper. But the results I had were not nearly as good as with a lip plate.
I wonder however, how Pat Olwell did it with the simple bamboo flutes he made. But he's a genius after all. And I'd think that bamboo is still thicker than a 1 or 1.5 mm wall aluminium tube.


Most bamboo I've seen is quite a bit thicker than your typical stock metal tubing used for whistles. Though the Dixon aluminum whistles are really thick walled and sturdy it's somewhat moot as the mouth pieces are plastic. So the material of the tube doesn't impact the embouchure options anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 8:32 pm 
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Sedi wrote:
I wonder however, how Pat Olwell did it with the simple bamboo flutes he made. But he's a genius after all. And I'd think that bamboo is still thicker than a 1 or 1.5 mm wall aluminium tube.


The bamboo species that he used has variable wall thickness, but usually around 2.5 to 3mm for the walls along the bore. But due to the natural internal tapering near the nodes, the wall thickness at the embouchure hole would be slightly more. And he also used lip plates from time to time (I have an Olwell bamboo D with a lip plate). I use this same species for my own bamboo flutes and I've been utilizing bamboo lip plates to get the chimney depth. Often it doesn't need much--maybe an extra 1.5mm of thickness--but it makes a big difference. Some pieces will have naturally thicker walls and the lip plate would be unnecessary, but I find that the best pieces tend to have thinner walls.

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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2021 8:01 am 
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Thanks for the explanation. 3 mm seems good for a nice embouchure cut.


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2021 9:02 am 
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Year ago, I thought I saw a trad flute with brass head (and glued-on lip plate). I thought it was made by Eugene Lamb.


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:36 pm 
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Eugene Lamb (web site seems to have gone missing) does, indeed, make flutes with metal heads on a wooden body. He says that he does that to preclude cracking of the head joint when shipping out of the environment in Ireland. His domestic flutes seem to be all wood.

I confess to liking the look—kinda steampunk vibe.

Best wishes.

Steve

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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2021 3:34 pm 
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Eugene's work very much mimics older German export flutes with the exact same metal head. I assume looking at the headjoint it allows for a cylindrical body of the flute. Pretty cool...I'd just go with a non-wooden flute throughout if you go that far.

Eric


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 Post subject: Re: Metal Irish Flutes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2021 7:08 pm 
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Jayhawk wrote:
Eugene's work very much mimics older German export flutes with the exact same metal head. I assume looking at the headjoint it allows for a cylindrical body of the flute. Pretty cool...I'd just go with a non-wooden flute throughout if you go that far.

Eric

Fits his standard conical body. I have owned one Lambe, and now have one of those that was made with a wooden head. Most Irish-style flutes have cylindrical heads, conical bodies, the reverse of Boehm flutes (supposedly parabola head, cylindrical body).

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