A unique Pratten style flute :-D

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A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

I was given permission by all involved to post a picture of my first Pratten style flute. This was sort of a desperate attempt to patch various misdrilled blanks together, try out conical bore making ideas, and mostly to find out what a Pratten style flute might play and sound like. The fact that I mistakenly placed the embouchure 3cm out of place regarding start of conical section means top notes in second octave are way out. The result though was a very unique instrument, a one piece olive wood "Pratten" :

Image

https://i.ibb.co/34LhdM6/sketch-1630102547772.png


And this is a short clip of me just playing around on it, I include it just to show it is playable for songs that fit within an octave or so :-) ..... or just for fun and to learn on. No effects or eq.... and this flute is louder so not needed to be brought so close to mic on mobile, so less blowing hiss.

https://e.pcloud.link/publink/show?code ... bm4Jk03tRX



When I eventually make a proper version I will post a picture and recording also.

[I will just add that the techniques I have written about in the essays on making flutes, I wrote after and from the experience of making flutes like the above. In other words those essays are with the solutions I found. The above flute had to have a bore of 10mm or so to accept the reaming guide, and I had no 10mm steel bar to make an 11 or 12mm solid bit.... hence the misdrilled blanks and some of the explanation in those essays about various drill bit types...etc. The reaming itself, including conical, went smoothly. The design error for embouchure was a detail I knew about but then overlooked when building. ]
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Tonehole »

Very original post with more humour than many dry session players!

Your first octave sounds very convincing and great pitch too!

Well done - looks like an upcycle venture could really make a stand .. or a flute stand.
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

Thanks Tonehole, the encouragement is very appreciated, and it helps remind that it is worth the effort of sharing.

I am learning about flutes from scratch, and wherever that takes me, but one thing going about it like that is that I'm not starting by expecting a certain sound from any flute. Instead I am just very slowly making one flute after another and finding out how they play, what sounds are possible from them. As I'm still much a beginner player that sort of combines quite well, because I'm prepared to keep trying any flute, because I don't realise they could be easier by a better design or that I'm learning technique more suited to another kind of flute, and all that because I'm learning tunes by ear from good players and trying to match them as far as possible with what I have at hand.

It's a shame I cannot get consistent recordings so far. Not only do I find recording distracting and generally don't enjoy playing when recording, the results are all over the place. The clip I linked there came out clear enough first go , but on my usual flute I haven't managed one clear recording yet, even though it does play cleanly . For me it isn't about my playing because it is where it is, it is more about showing what is possible with different kinds of flute. I'll eventually figure out a room and setup and mic position that works.

The main main thing I noticed on the flute pictured is the strong steady base octave. Each note seemed to be either on or off. On the renaissance style flute I can get deep base notes well when I'm on form, but it is harder. Instead that flute is more melodic, almost too much so because it speaks every nuance in change of fingering, reacts a lot to position held and so on. Smaller finger holes would make the articulation a bit cleaner but with less room for improvisation I guess. Anyway, the next flute I plan to build is a Rudall Rose dimensions one, so I will see if that is somewhere between the two, plus I have a Boehm conical one to finish which might be even closer to Renaissance style... plus I plan to build a more proper Pratten style one... and also a cylindrical bore after a Radcliff but keyless... and more renaissance flutes to try to find out how I managed to get top notes in tune... and so provide a basic working design, but in D....

:-D

So in return for all the effort of the making, most of which I enjoy anyway because it is all in my own time...well I guess it is like someone ordering a flute and having to wait for it to be made... except how the flute will actually be is more of a surprise....like the one above :-D


If it wasn't fun somehow I don't think I would be making flutes...not having a degree in technical harmonics of subtropical wood species would be too much of a barrier... but if you look at all the instruments played over time, especially before mass production, you find every sort of construction imaginable... and people still played them because it brought them something. So in a way it is a privilege to be able to add to that even if the offering is simple or improvised. It is also a way of saying "thank you" for the enjoyment of playing, and most of all for the times when you hear someone else playing and it changes your day for the better ;-) .
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Tonehole »

The recording sounds reasonable, even if a little closely picking up and dry.

What is your recording method like? I've done a few amateur studio recordings and live (terrible balancing). One of the biggest mistakes was to use a low frequency Hertz cut-off and not realise this effectively muted the bass response whilst I was playing away hearing myself happily ... and no one else hearing anything.

Good luck building the Pratten. I think if you come up with a solution for fixing flat foot syndrome without amputation of the short foot, that would be be amazing. Balancing the sonority across the three octaves ... wow what a challenge!
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

Sorry for being so long to reply Tonehole, my attention is pulled in many directions and so I tend to check in (say to Chiff forum) when I know I have the time and right disposition.


My recording method is improving :-D and has gone from balancing a phone on my knee while playing to dangling a standard headphone set with built in mic over the brim of my cap. I have a Samson usb mic in another country, but it is too far away to pick up my flute playing ... it would be a help though if I ever manage to get hold of it again. I'm just learning how the equalisers can be used to damp unwanted sounds, but I don't like using them at all because they always take some nice part of the tone away. So I think it has to start with a clear recording, and I think even cheap mics are not terrible as long as they are located right. That is judging proper distance from embouchure also. There is more complex noise removal software around but that really isn't for me, in fact I would be happier recording on analogue media than digital !

I didn't use any adjustment in that recording if I remember , the only ones I have tried are mid-high frequencies that take out wind noise (from having mic too close), but I always note that when presenting a recording. Anyway, I seem to have found a way to record acceptably now (not perfectly), that catches most of how any flute sounds when played... at least good enough to share so anyone gets a fair idea.

Adding reverb would have given it more depth also, and would be just about my limit. I know roughly what is possible nowadays with digital editing and don't really plan to go that direction.

It is a Rudall I was making. I'm having a lot of ideas about the flat foot and I have half written a post to open a discussion on it. Terry found a kind of solution I think, but my thinking is going towards how that all evolved... and conical bores are pretty weird I think. We hear about cylindrical renaissance moving to conical partly for top second octave being out, but I find conical even harder to tune ! They are somewhere between ocarina and cylinder, the flute bore at end not much larger than a tonehole, to my thinking (and baroque flutes more so).

So I have my ideas, and they bring in playing embouchure. Ideally similar effort would give similar pitch and tone across the whole range, which is sort of what we expect nowadays. On the new flute I am able to play two octaves in tune (and I insist on not tilting the flute to achieve this) , but the lower notes I have to play more open (which sounds ok or even better than blowing down and raises pitch) and the rest by using classical style of kissing out (and so closing flute embouchure a bit as well) and also blowing down more , which gives those good tone and lowers their pitch to correct. So I'm just wondering if they weren't built for the style of playing or of embouchure of the day ? The only reference I have of technique then is Nicholson's, and he seemed to suggest that it all could (should?) be controlled by embouchure.


The main pivots of putting in tune any note between two octaves on conical seems to me for now to be between embouchure and tonehole diameter (the amount of release at each) , where the bore shape (the angle of volume of cone) sets the parameters for that relationship . This is only a theory I am working with...and to get third octave in tune I have to be able to play it, so far am only able to on lowest notes :-) ... but already I am able to pick out some of the harmonics that make up any note and so slowly building up a picture of how that works... and after trying to figure it all out, I'm not surprised Boehm eventually chose cylindrical design. It is definitely a challenge :-D
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Sedi »

GreenWood wrote: Fri Nov 05, 2021 7:02 pm
We hear about cylindrical renaissance moving to conical partly for top second octave being out, but I find conical even harder to tune !
That's not true. Renaissance flutes can be played in tune (but tuning standards were also not very uniform in that time). But the fingerings are different for the 2nd octave. To this day there are flutes made that way, like the Korean Sogeum. On that one the stopper is very far away from the embouchure hole which means that the fingerings for the 2nd octave are different than from the first.
Why the baroque flute was made conical is not documented. Some suspect - especially when looking at the transitional Haka flute - that the reason was the E flat and the introduction of one key to close the extra hole. On a cylindrical flute, this hole would have been too small and unusable.
You can make a (completely chromatic) cylindrical flute with good intonation - I know because I have done it. But it has a number of disadvantages over a conical design. To be loud enough the holes should be as large as possible (that's why Boehm introduced keys to close all holes) and there is a very small "sweet spot" where to put the stopper. It needs to be closer to the embouchure than on a conical flute.
So the flute I made, especially in combination with being chromatic (which involves a lowest hole as big as possible to be able to half hole) is a monster - design wise and playing it. You need huge hands and fingers. It would never catch on and appeal to the masses that's why I buried the idea of making these for sale. I just made a few in the chromatic design and gave one away as a gift.
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

@ Sedi

Yes, but this story of tuning does wind into the whole narrative we find, and I expect there is a bit of truth to it somewhere. Usually it goes "Boehm introduced a conical top piece to overcome the tuning errors found on previous cylindrical renaissance flutes, which had previously been solved by using a conical baroque bore, he moved the conical body to a conical top " .

My renaissance style flute is in tune for two octaves without cross fingering also, it has larger than normal holes and thicker wall around top notes. I just read they used to taper their thickness previously to some degree apparently, thinner at foot, but still cross fingered. There are not many examples around from then, a couple hundred or less, and all orchestral or similar, I think with small toneholes. I did see one contemporary slightly larger tone holed one somewhere as well though.

Another reason given for conical is that it moves finger spacing closer. My impression is that baroque conical was something to do with copying the sound of recorders, which were a favoured instrument around then . Renaissance has beautiful tone when played well, but it is not the same as the baroque sound which is closer to recorder...in my opinion.

So I think it is a whole jumble of ideas and influences that find their way alongside whatever is preferred at the time in terms of style or tone.

Renaissance flutes aren't loud, but they are plenty loud enough for playing in quieter environment. Boehm flutes are louder, but don't have the same tone (not better or worse)... there are always trade-offs between main design features.

For loudness, Rudall flutes are loud and they achieve that without oversize holes, I think the volume is channelled to the embouchure. The Radcliff flute as well seems loud enough, though it maybe had larger toneholes. The point is that the sound created will come off of the flute in one way or another, and the feat is to have as much air converted efficiently to sound at the level wanted.

So that would be to balance out embouchure, flute diameter and tonehole size to get the right "resistance" and so loudness as per chosen. So I think loudness on cylindrical flute with acceptable sized toneholes is possible, but for chromatic by half-holing (especially D#) it is not obvious, and it is quite a skill to play half holed scale, and even harder or impossible for certain embellishments etc. I suppose there is also the possibility of a double hole, as on recorders (and some flutes had those) to make that scale easier. Finger spacing is maybe harder, but I don't think making exact same size toneholes and spaced per scale is very feasible, so probably means bringing at least the lowest notes closer together as is usually done, or add simple keys for the two notes above D ? Also making with E as foot note would resolve some of those difficulties, though I guess people look for D normally.

Well, I'm going to be working with renaissance flute designs without cross-fingering because I enjoy how they play, so if I find any sort of parameters or ideas that work that seem good that might provide answers, I will share them here.
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Sedi »

GreenWood wrote: Sat Nov 06, 2021 7:00 pm @ Sedi

Yes, but this story of tuning does wind into the whole narrative we find, and I expect there is a bit of truth to it somewhere. Usually it goes "Boehm introduced a conical top piece to overcome the tuning errors found on previous cylindrical renaissance flutes, which had previously been solved by using a conical baroque bore, he moved the conical body to a conical top " .
But that narrative is completely wrong. And we shouldn't spread it any further IMO. Boehm didn't develop his flute to overcome tuning errors. He developed it because it is louder and the sharps and flats could be played easier and in an even sound quality compared to the romantic era flute.
Renaissance flutes played in consort. With multiple instruments in different sizes playing together. They needed to be well tuned and makers at the time were absolutely capable of that.
Of course they had tuning problems to solve. Some makers used chambering to make the tuning better.
Apart from that it's however not at all easy to even find out how these flutes played when they were new. Surviving specimen are very old, wood has deteriorated, etc.
But what bugs me is that notion that somehow the makers of old times didn't know what they were doing and the instruments were out of tune, etc. So somebody had to come along and "fix it".
The reason for new developments was most of the time a changing taste. Music changed, people wanted more volume, more range, etc. A baroque flute is for example not loud enough to be played in a large orchester.
And more often than not - the new designs were in some aspects inferior not better. Flute making was and is always a compromise as you certainly found out already :). Change one aspect of your instrument and you need to change something else as well. The baroque flute sacrificed pure intervals for bigger range. The boehm flute sacrificed sound color for more volume and uniformity.
The boehm taper in the head solved a problem of that particular instrument itself when Boehm went from a conical bore to a cylindrical. They keys solve another problem. He wanted to place the holes at an acoustically better position so they were no longer reachable with you fingers and also too big to be sealed. And so on.
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

"But that narrative is completely wrong. And we shouldn't spread it any further IMO. "

It is definitely misleading, although there is a grain of truth to it somewhere which allows it to continue...probably the difficulty of top second octave being hard to line up and conical (or parabolic) form adjusting that. We just need to make a parabolic flute instead of conical now to see if that takes off (pun intended, not that it is a very good one which is why I have to mention it :-) )....I wonder if anyone tried a parabola for conical curve though ?

"But what bugs me is that notion that somehow the makers of old times didn't know what they were doing and the instruments were out of tune, etc. So somebody had to come along and "fix it"."

I agree on that, in my opinion experienced makers knew exactly what they were doing and why. However, instruments did need to be "fixed" as playing style and technique, music, scale type changed, and those often because of improved/"improved" instruments. So that is why it is hard to draw a clear line of what occurred, it is in a thousand interrelated details, many if not most of which aren't available for our study.
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Terry McGee »

Heh heh, I wouldn't get too excited about the magical properties of parabolas in this application. Firstly, compare Boehm's head bore (in navy blue below) with the classic parabola form (in orange) and you'll see it's really just a bit tapered. Boehm used the expression "approaching a parabola", presumably to make clear that it wasn't a straight conical taper. We might describe it as a "slightly fattened conical taper". But you'd need to exaggerate the X and Y scales a lot to appreciate the slight amount of fattening.

Image

This might all be of very little consequence until suddenly we find Carte saying in a promotional puff piece:

"The parabola-head-joint seems to effect that for propagating sound, which the parabolic reflector does for propagating light. The vibrations are concentrated in, and propelled from the one, as the rays of light are concentrated in, and transmitted from the other, both with superior velocity and power."

Woah! Superior velocity? You mean like exceeding the speed of sound?

This is of course why one should be very careful not to accidentally find yourself downwind of a Boehm flute player. The sonic blast could take your head off....
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by kkrell »

Terry McGee wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 12:09 am This might all be of very little consequence until suddenly we find Carte saying in a promotional puff piece:

"The parabola-head-joint seems to effect that for propagating sound, which the parabolic reflector does for propagating light. The vibrations are concentrated in, and propelled from the one, as the rays of light are concentrated in, and transmitted from the other, both with superior velocity and power."

Woah! Superior velocity? You mean like exceeding the speed of sound?

This is of course why one should be very careful not to accidentally find yourself downwind of a Boehm flute player. The sonic blast could take your head off....
Apparently the parabolic reflector is also able to exceed the speed of light. Impressive. :lol:
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Sedi »

Terry McGee wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 12:09 amThe sonic blast could take your head off....
Add a little Covid to the mix and we might be getting somewhere. "Ultra high velocity virus delivery system".

But joking aside. Sometimes I wonder if all these so-called "improvements" were really that. I've read somewhere that people complained about how Böhm made the flute sound like a trumpet losing all the nice ethereal quality the flute sound once had. I never got along with all those keys that was one of the reasons (apart from not wanting to practice the things I should have) I quit. If someone had told me at 13 that there was actually a 6-hole transverse flute that has the fingerings of a tin whistle (because that was the instrument I picked up next) -- I might have kept playing the flute and not have taken a break for about 30 yrs. Unfortunately I don't live in Ireland and it was the times long before the internet. So I knew nothing about "Irish flutes" or baroque flutes, etc.
For me personally -- I think the baroque flute design was the pinnacle of flute designs for classical music. Fully chromatic with just one key and all the nice cross-fingerings that I actually like. Unfortunately not really all that useful for Irish music. I wish someone would push the keyless design to the limit with a chromatic 6-hole-flute with conical bore by enlarging the holes to a point that E flat can be easily half-holed and maybe some cross-fingerings of the baroque flute might still work (probably not possible). Or I should just get a flute made by Beaudin. Too expensive for my taste so I'll just stick with the monstrosity I made in my basement :D .
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

Terry McGee wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 12:09 am Boehm used the expression "approaching a parabola", presumably to make clear that it wasn't a straight conical taper. We might describe it as a "slightly fattened conical taper". But you'd need to exaggerate the X and Y scales a lot to appreciate the slight amount of fattening.
I didn't have a satellite dish in mind exactly though, what came to mind was to get a good transition of whatever kind parabola might be better than straight cone. So for example any suitable part of a parabola could be used

Image


Designers and inventors, as well as musicians, are often doted with much imagination, and I suppose Carte was no exception :-D
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by GreenWood »

Sedi wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 2:27 am [I wish someone would push the keyless design to the limit with a chromatic 6-hole-flute with conical bore by enlarging the holes to a point that E flat can be easily half-holed and maybe some cross-fingerings of the baroque flute might still work (probably not possible).


You mean you want the (harmonic) tone of cross fingering or you just prefer them ?

I haven't played a baroque flute yet but plan to make one eventually, so a bit out of my depth except for what they sound like and what others have written. It is said the difference in tone across the range was adapted to or used for the style of music played. On my renaissance flute the tone is not far off baroque flute though, definitely not Boehm cylinder , it is a sweet tone but not quite as "glassy" or recorder like as you hear on conical bore. On that with larger (but not very large) toneholes the cross fingering I tried works like on small holed renaissance flute. For the chromatic scale though I'm not experienced how that was done on Baroque (and fingering charts won't teach me)...and half holing I find awkward for faster music. So I'm going with new key design as solution and on cylindrical of renaissance sound , but could equally work on conical, and will post that if I get it working...will be medium toneholes chromatic but played like keyless ...but with keys :-)... not usual keys though. The reason I thought it up is because of need for chromatic... but with near same feel to playing keyless. Adding and learning lots of levers is awkward also, so that is also avoided to a great extent. Even if it doesn't work (I feel sure it will), I will post up the idea anyway for anyone to try, but I'm not presenting it cold because it would take from my own endeavour somehow.
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Re: A unique Pratten style flute :-D

Post by Sedi »

I would prefer cross fingering over half holing for accidentals. But it's just not possible for some notes (even on the baroque flute some cross fingered notes need to be corrected by the player because they are too sharp). I think that is the reason some flute designs ad just one more hole at the bottom (slightly different from the baroque flute however) which makes some cross fingerings for the low notes possible (like the Japanese Shinobue and German marching Band flutes for instance). But that changes many other fingerings as well.
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