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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 12:58 pm 
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Hi everyone!

I'm an experienced bansuri player. I also play other world flutes such as Irish flute, Turkish ney, and Xiao.

Recently, I decided to devote myself to quenacho. I ordered one from bolivian stuff website for about 100$. After waiting for nearly one month, I was really dissapointed.

Although the flute is a bit hard to blow, it has very pleasant, thick, deep, and strong sound. Also its built quality is wonderful. The first octave is fully in tune. However, when you jump to the second octave, the notes are nearly half a note sharp.

Dissapointed, I put the flute aside, and started to search for a better quality quenacho. I was almost ordering a quenacho from Algel Sampedro. But after listening to some youtube videos, I decided to buy one from Alcasami music store located in Peru for about 210$.

The second quenacho arrived yesterday. It has suberb built qulity. It is easier to blow. It has a less strong (still very strong), but warmer and even more pleasant sound. Every detail is made in perfection. I fell in love with this Alcasami quenacho.

But the problem is, again, the second octave is nearly a quarter note sharper than the first octave.

Am I missing something? I have played Xiao and Bansuri flutes that cost only 20-30$, and never seen such a problem. I also made some bansuri/quena hybrits (bansuri flutes with quena style notched blow end), and their octaves were balaced enough. I'm suprised that second octave is out of tune in such high end quenachos..

Is sharper second octave or flat first octave is "the normal" tuning in quenas? Should I correct by changing the blowing angle between the octaves?


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:01 pm 
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I have a quenacho from boliviamall and didn't notice any tuning issues. But I can check it again tomorrow to find out what might be the problem.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 10:49 pm 
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Sedi wrote:
I have a quenacho from boliviamall and didn't notice any tuning issues. But I can check it again tomorrow to find out what might be the problem.


Thank you very much! Actually my quenacho is from Bolivianstuff.com, not the bolivian mall. By the way, I highly suspect that the problem is my blowing method, not the flutes :)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2021 4:17 pm 
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Note I've never played a Quenacho before.

But on whistles and flutes you can effect the tuning by how hard you blow. When I started whistle playing I was always flat in second octave because I wouldn't blow hard enough. While your second octave is sharp, it could maybe be a similar issue of blowing strength? Maybe in second octave your blowing too hard and need to blow less hard but just hard enough to stay second octave.

Just my 2 cents, I could be totally wrong haha.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 03, 2021 9:22 pm 
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I make quena, and in the past I've made a few quenacho--mostly prototypes. A sharp second octave is usually something you have to contend with on a tapered bore quena/quenacho.

If your quenacho has a cylindrical bore, I can't fathom how the second octave would be sharp--usually it's the opposite problem. A flat second octave is the issue and a lot of quena players have to really wail on it to push it up to pitch. But if you are playing one with a taper, a sharp second octave is almost inevitable. On a tapered bore Irish flute (for example), you have the stopper backset from the embouchure hole quite some distance. Now imagine that you pushed that stopper right up against the embouchure hole. Your second octave would go noticeably sharp.

On endblown flutes, your chin is the stopper, so that in itself sharpens the second octave. This is part of the reason that xiao (when well made) have really good intonation despite the cylindrical bore. That and some very effective use of ovaling on the finger holes. But if you take an endblown flute and add a taper, then you overshoot the mark unless you manage to tweak your hole sizes and placements a bit to compensate, and also get the right bore diameter. My quena have a tapered bore, and I used to make them with a pretty narrow tapered bore, and as a result I had challenges with keeping the second octave from climbing too high. I changed the design a while back and increased the bore diameter and that really helped a lot, that and some other adjustments on the holes.

So if you do have a tapered bore quenacho, you might have to be less forceful on your second octave, and maybe lip down a bit. Typically, the tapered bore instruments do well that way because you don't need a lot of extra air to get the second octave to respond. And since higher notes are perceived as louder to begin with, you can play more delicately in the second octave and still have good volume, if the other parts of your flute are working properly (mouthpiece design, for example).

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2021 8:48 am 
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Just checked my quenacho from Bolivia Mall again. Apart from the fact that it is slightly flat overall the second octave is in tune, maybe even a hair sharp. It has a cylindrical bore but super large holes.
I wonder how much of an effect the typical narrowing right at the end of the tube has on the tuning of the octaves. Even my aluminium quenacho has a rubber/plastic stopper at the end with a slightly narrower hole in it.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2021 11:34 am 
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Sedi wrote:
Just checked my quenacho from Bolivia Mall again. Apart from the fact that it is slightly flat overall the second octave is in tune, maybe even a hair sharp. It has a cylindrical bore but super large holes.
I wonder how much of an effect the typical narrowing right at the end of the tube has on the tuning of the octaves. Even my aluminium quenacho has a rubber/plastic stopper at the end with a slightly narrower hole in it.


As near as I can tell, the real effect of that occlusion of the distal end of the flute is to keep the length of the bore a bit shorter. I've messed with adding them to various quena and quenacho and I couldn't perceive any other effect on the tuning apart from flattening the lowest note, allowing for a shorter bore. But I have not explored this with any systematic experiments so that's my impression from doing a handful of tests.

And when looking for a taper in the bore, it might not be an obvious, steep taper. Even a gradual taper might be an issue. And it's hard to measure both ends of the bore if it has the constriction at the opening of the foot.

So far I have never encountered a true cylindrical bore flute that plays in tune through both octaves without some amount of lipping from the player. Some of the best examples of cylindrical flutes with good tuning are well made bansuri. The thin walls, larger finger holes and the proximity of the stopper to the embouchure hole all combine to make second octave tuning really good--so much so that it takes only the slightest amount of lipping to play the second octave in tune with the first, and sometimes no lipping is required. And flutes like the xiao and dizi tend to have oval holes, which helps intonation. The optimal hole location for the first and second octaves are different. For example, if you make a xiao and then place a hole right where it is perfect for that note to be in tune in the first octave, the second octave note will be a hair flat. The optimal location for the second octave note is a bit lower down the bore. Not a lot--maybe a millimeter in some cases. But if you make an oval hole that sort of straddles both hole locations you get the best of both worlds. Elongating the hole going South on the flute bore does not have significant impact on the first octave note, but it sharpens the second. Using this technique, plus some additional undercutting can make for a very accurately tuned xiao. But I've never had the second octave go sharper than the first. Not so when I make nan xiao, which are very like shakuhachi (being the forerunner of the shakuhachi). They have a tapered bore and the same issues with the sharp second octave can plague them.



This makes me think that sharpness of the second octave might be player compensation. Lipping up strongly with more forceful playing dynamics might do the trick.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2021 1:44 pm 
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I make all my flutes (I only make those for my own amusement and mainly for solo play or a little session with my wife on accordion) from cylindrical aluminium tubes and the stopper position compensates a lot. So they all play fairly well in tune. I redesigned the embouchure hole to get the biggest sound with least air in order to compensate for the not optimal stopper position when trying to get that hard, reedy sound. Works pretty well. I don't notice any tuning issues when playing to recordings. Good enough for me. The inner diameter is 2.2 cm and the wall is just 1.5 mm.
I also made one flute from thicker tube with the standard 1.9 inner diameter of a boehm flute and a 3 mm wall -- and on that one I had to indeed use some tricks to get it in tune by using the stopper of a German marching band flute which has a tuning rod, that works a bit similar to a fajardo wedge.
After a while the little "lipping up" on a cylindrical flute comes naturally. But with a more narrow bore, I think it will be impossible to compensate.
And I think that is also the explanation for the issue at hand. If neyzen's bansuri plays slightly flat in the 2nd octave, he might compensate naturally without noticing and therefore blowing the quenacho out of tune.
I also checked the aluminium quena I have (which definitely has no hidden taper) and it also plays in tune. No flat 2nd ocatave. But I guess I compensate instinctively.
After I read a rather interesting doctoral thesis about tuning on boehm flutes and experiments mentioned in it found that even professional players can blow a note out of tune up to 23 cents, I see the whole tuning issues a bit more relaxed. There is no "fixed" blowing pressure one has to use so I see this now more along the line of "a cylindrical flute can play very well in tune when adjusting the blowing pressure" and a tapered bore flute can play very out of tune when not using the correct blowing pressure for that particular instrument.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:24 pm 
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I've talked with a few other makers over the years about the pitfalls of digital tuners. When doing a note-by-note tuning check on a flute, there is a strong tendency for the player/maker to bias their playing to make the tuner read it as being in tune. Takes some conscious detachment to remember to look away from the tuner, sound the note as naturally as possible and then look at the tuner! That's why it's so useful to use an RTTA program of some kind where you can just ignore the tuner and play the flute for a bit, as naturally as possible. Then when you examine the analysis you'll see a more accurate picture of the overall tuning.

So I think that unconsciously lipping flutes into tune is a natural thing that players simply learn to do, and unless the flute is pretty far out they don't really notice much. But the more fastidious the maker can be about getting the notes as true as possible with a neutral blowing style (whatever that is!) then hopefully the less they will bias the tuning. But I had a recent chat with a professional winds player who bought a conical bore wooden flute from a well-known maker who shall remain nameless, and the tuning was severely out of whack. Like two adjacent notes on the scale being the cumulative equivalent of 80 cents apart from each other (one 40 cents flat, the other 40 cents sharp!). There is no lipping that thing into tune.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 04, 2021 5:00 pm 
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Yup, I always use the T-Tuner-App that Terry McGee recommends on his website to check tuning.
https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... unetracker
When playing with others, one would notice anyway if out of tune. When playing alone, it doesn't matter much. Oh, and it is definitely noticeable when crossing into the 3rd octave -- on a cylindrical flute, when C# in the 2nd octave is flat there is a larger interval to the 3rd octave D, which often is well in tune. That can be used as kind of guidance. At least when playing music that goes that high which Irish tunes on flute never do. But classical music does. When increasing hole size for the upper 3 holes, that issue will be much reduced and 3rd octave notes will be easier to play anyway but then C nat cross-fingerings no longer work. I think I will start a thread soon in the flute forum about my quest for a hybrid instrument that can be played chromatically and be used for Irish tunes (and get the typical reedy sound) as well as classical tunes. With just 6 holes. I think the quest was fairly successful.
There are instruments far worse than flutes when it comes to tuning and blowing pressure. I played a lot of ocarina before I re-kindled my flute-playing. Those buggers can be blown a half-tone flat throughout the hole range. So the breath pressure has to be steadily increased the higher you go -- which also means they get louder and louder while playing higher up. Very tough on the ears, so I had to use ear-plugs which made me eventually stop playing altogether. Almost inpossible to get an ocarina in tune when not first practicing with a tuner until you get every single not right. Blowing a flute in tune seems child-play in comparison :D .


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