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 Post subject: Whistle vs notch flute
PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 7:03 am 
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I'll ask this here, in the world woodwind section, to hopefully catch some comments from quenacho or xiao players.

It's my intention to get a vertical flute or two at some point, but I want to also try and avoid duplication of keys with whistle and flute. In other world, I'd only want one Low G whistle OR equivalent vertical flute, not both.

I know xiao flutes tend to be offered in F or G, but their nomenclature is different, and these equate to C and D in Western terms. Quenas and quenachos seem to be offered in C and G. At the moment, I only have two alto whistles (A and Bb), so I won't clash there. What I'm looking for insights on, is any given key (alto G, and tenor C & D), what pros and cons exist between choosing whistle or flute. For example, do these flutes offer a lesser or greater tonal range, or does whistle sound better in one, and flute sound better in another? Are there any other differences I might not be aware of?

Let's assume for the sake of this thread, that I want one G or F whistle or flute, and one C or D whistle or flute. I appreciate this is all highly subjective, and there'll be variations between individual instruments, and individual musicians, but I'd appreciate hearing other people's experiences if they have/play both end blown flutes and low whistles.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 7:35 am 
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Availability would suggest getting a G or F whistle, & a low D or C flute.

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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:49 am 
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I don't think availability is too problematic. Quenas in G are quite readily available. Quenachos in C are less common, but freely available Xiao (C & D) cover that.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 1:01 pm 
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"what pros and cons exist between choosing whistle or flute. For example, do these flutes offer a lesser or greater tonal range, or does whistle sound better in one, and flute sound better in another? Are there any other differences I might not be aware of?"

Fipple flutes have a limited dynamic, tone modulation and power compared to notch flutes.

The notching style is very important for the sound - the quena and quenacho types are more rounded than t. he more eloquent xiao notches compared to the more breathy and expresive V shaped shak notches.

Usually players go for the kind of notch flute according to repertoire - not according to key. If you are thinking that a common key can be used in a notched flute to transpose ITM or another kind of music - the breath dynamics of notched flutes are harder to control and take more skilled practice to effect rapid changes in phrasing compared to fipple whistles. Anyone can pick up a whistle and make some kind of sound. A notched flute takes way more skill and patience. The quenas are easy as a fipple compromise - fingering spacings vary between notch flutes of different ethnic origins. You'll find the shakuhachi minor pentatonic flute and half-holing technique based on the smaller number of holes, more limiting for music with minor chromatic changes compared to a seven, eight, nine holed holed notched xiao flute which has more chromatic potential but then is also slower with the number of holes.


Good luck.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 4:16 pm 
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Tonehole wrote:
"what pros and cons exist between choosing whistle or flute. For example, do these flutes offer a lesser or greater tonal range, or does whistle sound better in one, and flute sound better in another? Are there any other differences I might not be aware of?"

Fipple flutes have a limited dynamic, tone modulation and power compared to notch flutes.

The notching style is very important for the sound - the quena and quenacho types are more rounded than t. he more eloquent xiao notches compared to the more breathy and expresive V shaped shak notches.

Usually players go for the kind of notch flute according to repertoire - not according to key. If you are thinking that a common key can be used in a notched flute to transpose ITM or another kind of music - the breath dynamics of notched flutes are harder to control and take more skilled practice to effect rapid changes in phrasing compared to fipple whistles. Anyone can pick up a whistle and make some kind of sound. A notched flute takes way more skill and patience. The quenas are easy as a fipple compromise - fingering spacings vary between notch flutes of different ethnic origins. You'll find the shakuhachi minor pentatonic flute and half-holing technique based on the smaller number of holes, more limiting for music with minor chromatic changes compared to a seven, eight, nine holed holed notched xiao flute which has more chromatic potential but then is also slower with the number of holes.


Good luck.


Thanks Tonehole. Very helpful. I actually prefer the slower tunes for whistle anyway, so I think the notch flutes should fit just fine. I wouldn't be trying to play fast jigs on them. The reasons I'm interested in the flute, is not just the tonal qualities, but also the challenge, so I am expecting a greater learning curve.

I wasn't quite sure what you meant by the xiao being more elequent, could you expand on that please?

Point taken on the hole spacing, and that's one of the reasons I want to keep the array to a minimum (that, and the fact I have a pile of other instruments I want to spend time with too). I reckon the more I have, the less my fingers will get accustomed to each of them. I had noticed the shakuhachi were predominantly pentatonic, and they also tend to be a lot higher priced too. I think I'll stick to the quenacho and xiao, or maybe even one of the East European rim flutes, as I think they have more holes and versatility.

I think next port of call is vids to see which I like the sound of


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 4:53 pm 
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Hi,

both are very challenging without a tutor (the quena is far easier).

The classical xiao has a U shaped embouchure - just the physics of the airspeed against the embouchure render it smoother and more eloquent: https://wwuw.youtube.com/watch?v=elkEHPf4lkA

The V shaped embouchure of the shakuhachi style splits the air,and hence the richer overtones and breathiness. This is not a shakuhachi - more iike root bamboo flute with the same diatonic Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C (contrabass) and D contrabass) tunings. You can hear the overtones and the force of the breathe reverberating - the xiao (above) doesn't do this and instead creams off the upper octave smoothly. The U shaped embouchure goes back to a historical tradition in the xiao notch flute. In skilled xiao flutemakers, it is also undercut - just like the V shape of the traditional root bamboo flute.

Winson Liao cuts his own embouchures like the V shape on his own bamboo harvest-probably the best known xiao/root bamboo flute maker in the west. I have no idea why root bamboo flutes are so pricey - maybe a reflection of the efforts to dig out and forage for the quality bamboo or to grow for years and harvest. It's very different from western flute makers who ream and bore theirs from blocks of wood -the bamboo flute maker spends more time selecting the bamboo grade since the bamboo cannot be altered in the way a conical or parabolic headjoint and tapering bore can be. The tuning can only be as good as the bamboo itself with all the variations (knobbly bits of bamboo).

V cut embouchure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swxijvFFduY

Generally an 8 hole F flute is more advantageous than a 6 hole; - you can get the F and the F# easily with separate holes than half-holing -similar to the B and Bflat. My favourite xiao flute at the moment cost £8. It's incredibly rich in tone and made from bitter bamboo. its previous owner thought it was broken and couldn't get a sound from it :)


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 6:06 pm 
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Tonehole wrote:
...bitter bamboo.

Could you explain this, too? A search on that only got me advice for leaching the objectionables out of fresh bamboo shoots; I couldn't find more detail about the term when searching "bitter bamboo flute".

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 6:43 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
Tonehole wrote:
...bitter bamboo.

Could you explain this, too? A search on that only got me advice for leaching the objectionables out of fresh bamboo shoots; I couldn't find more detail about the term when searching "bitter bamboo flute".



Oh sorry. I forget that the term is geeky and misleading for the non-bamboo people.

There are 3 major kinds of bamboo used in playing:bitter bamboo; purple bamboo and queen's tears. The root bamboo is self-explanatory and tends to come from the base of the bamboo plant, being much thicker walled (and therefore the pitch scales can be shorter, than the longer slender xiao types. The bitter bamboo refers to the commoner garden type used across shorter and longer flutes. It is prone to cracking and using usually requires binding at intervals,or is made up of shorter sections (unlike the higher grade expensive root bamboo flutes which are one piece)

They all have their specific genus and Latin name equivalents. Bitter (white) bamboo is soft. It is usually cut into sections - and so a sectioned flute can come from different bamboo which affects the tonal calibre. It vibrates highly due to the ligher density - and is louder. More popular in northern pip staccato music giving sharp attack and intonation. It looks striated with uniform lines. Outside is usually stained, however on cross-section, the phloem inside can be seen to be pale (bitter white).

Purple bamboo gives a more melodious sound. It is darker in texture and density. It is the same name given to the famous folk song: Purple Bamboo Melody.

Unfortunately there are a lot of have-a-go Harrys who enjoy it and play it willy-nilly on anything: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucpHnqPYd3I

Queen's tear bamboo has tear drop mottling (lacrimae deae or Tiger bamboo). It is the densest of the lot and paler - usually unstained. Also the most expensive and has a beautiful dark melancholic gravitas.

It's a different world than cocuswood, blackwood, grenadilla etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 7:02 pm 
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Thanks!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 8:51 pm 
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Thanks for great insights, Tonehole.

£8!!! Wow! I have seen a few listed around that price on the bay, but didn't think they'd be worth the gamble. The other very cheap ones I've seen, are branded Atlas. I think they're usually around the £15 mark. I get the impression they're a lottery though, and if you get a good one, great - but you might not, and you won't know till you try to play it. Would that be a fair assessment?

What makes the quena so much easier, as they seem to be a similar notch to my uneducated eye. Is it just the fingering and number of holes?


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:19 pm 
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Quote:

£8!!! Wow! I have seen a few listed around that price on the bay, but didn't think they'd be worth the gamble. The other very cheap ones I've seen, are branded Atlas. I think they're usually around the £15 mark. I get the impression they're a lottery though, and if you get a good one, great - but you might not, and you won't know till you try to play it. Would that be a fair assessment?


It's a used one from the UK by a decent maker. Generally the new ones listed on Ebay are all CNC cut and made with laser etching and very limited voicing. If you see anything by Atlas or Anmoon, best avoid it unless it is a real knock down low price. They are a shell company labelling brand for a mass producer and they only ever make average instruments. Thomann (Germany) is also a brand name/company for mass produced products although they draw on European makers too. If you are happy with a machined pennywhistle, there's no reason why you shouldn't be happy with the Atlas or Anmoon brands. Their pitch variation may vary up to 30-40 cents particularly below the fundamental. They arent bad, and they aren't great - they are still more interesting than a plastic Japanese moulded recorder with barely any tonal coloration per note,played either soft or loud.

Where are you based? If you get a xiao player to try it out - they can give you some idea as to what to look for. The materials and the tuning is very important - particularly avoiding any fingering holes located on the nodes of the bamboo.

The quena has a greater surface area and bore than what we term the Tang Dynasty (nan) xiao which is extremely long and slender. It's bore is narrower than a C concert flute but as long as an alto flute. Try and picture this - and you can then imagine the fingering challenges combined with a narrower embouchure down a longer air column. The quena is squatter, with a everted undercut embouchure which helps with a wider embouchure sweetspot. The xiao undercut faces the inside of the bore. There isn't as wide an angle of blowing. A root bamboo xiao is also easier to work around the sweet spot.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:49 pm 
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Thanks again. I'm in the UK, so I'd most likely be buying online and importing, unless I decide to try one of the real cheap ones. I'm not considering one of the real elaborate ones anyway. I've seen some rosewood xiao, but they're well beyond what I'd be looking at paying.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:13 pm 
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You probably don't mean rosewood :)

Wooden carved Xiao have become cheaper (not better btw) than the extensive challenges of bamboo grown Xiao flutes. The CNC toy and 3d printing boom has made them a dime a dozen. Unless you know of a good maker, who uses his voicing expertise to hand cut the embouchure, the high cost premium of these 'rosewood'xiaos go to pay for the CNC machining and profit margin.

If you don't wish to take a risk, there are reputable stores like redmusicshop.com in Beijing, easonmusicstore.com in Singapore which sell renown makers like Teck, Xie Bing and Dong Xue Hua. If you can get to Camden Town, https://b99.co.uk/music-shop/camden-town/ray-man/ is the only store with decent grade Xiao flutes in the UK. You can try Hobgoblin which stock the inferior import grade Xiao. There may be an ensemble near you where the flute players have xiao experience.

The Turkish Institute in Maple Street also run ney rim blown flute classes seasonally. The tutor will help pick a ney flute.

I'm a big fan of the Xiao flute. It is so soft and sublime for late night playing.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 09, 2019 8:14 am 
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Tonehole wrote:
You probably don't mean rosewood :)

Wooden carved Xiao have become cheaper (not better btw) than the extensive challenges of bamboo grown Xiao flutes. The CNC toy and 3d printing boom has made them a dime a dozen. Unless you know of a good maker, who uses his voicing expertise to hand cut the embouchure, the high cost premium of these 'rosewood'xiaos go to pay for the CNC machining and profit margin.

If you don't wish to take a risk, there are reputable stores like redmusicshop.com in Beijing, easonmusicstore.com in Singapore which sell renown makers like Teck, Xie Bing and Dong Xue Hua. If you can get to Camden Town, https://b99.co.uk/music-shop/camden-town/ray-man/ is the only store with decent grade Xiao flutes in the UK. You can try Hobgoblin which stock the inferior import grade Xiao. There may be an ensemble near you where the flute players have xiao experience.

The Turkish Institute in Maple Street also run ney rim blown flute classes seasonally. The tutor will help pick a ney flute.

I'm a big fan of the Xiao flute. It is so soft and sublime for late night playing.


I'm up North, and can't get to London, so I'd probably go for one of the cheaper one piece purple bamboo ones from Red Music to start with. I can't justify the £200+ "concert grade" ones yet, and have already spent a lot of money (too much) on other instruments this year (wind, strings and keys). I'll keep my eye open for quenas/quenachos too.

Thanks again for all your help :)


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