It is currently Fri Dec 14, 2018 3:27 pm

All times are UTC - 6 hours




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] 
Author Message
 
 Post subject: Quena review
PostPosted: Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:34 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sat Nov 03, 2007 7:19 pm
Posts: 391
Location: Hood River, Oregon, USA
Reading the two recent threads on Quenas, and receiving a new Quena recently from Geoffrey Ellis, prompted me to do this brief comparative review of the three Quenas I own. I thought this might be of interest to people considering a venture into these South American flutes, which I highly recommend, by the way. They are a lot of fun to play!.

I own three Quenas that most people would consider fairly high end instruments. They represent three quite distinct points in the design space. The first one I got is from Bolivia, made by Juan Acha. It is made from Cocobolo wood, has a large cylindrical bore, a semi-closed end at the bottom, and large tone holes. The second one is from Argentina, made by Un Mundo de Bamboo (which I abbreviate to UMB below). It is made from bamboo with a blackwood embouchure insert (plus various other tropical woods laminated). It is finished using some kind of clear epoxy, and has a conical bore, due to the natural taper of the bamboo, medium tone holes and a relatively narrow embouchure notch. The third one I got is from the USA, made by Geoffrey Ellis (http://www.ellisflutes.com/). It is made from Vera wood with an epoxy finish. It has a conical bore, more extreme than the Un Mundo de Bamboo flute, and relatively smaller tone holes. Its embouchure notch is the shallowest of the three, but wider than the UMB notch.

Here are some pictures (from left to right, in all three pictures: Ellis, UMB Acha):

Image

Image

Image

Some stats:

Acha: bore cylindrical, 19.5 mm, closed at bottom with 11 mm opening. Top tone hole 12.5 mm. Embouchure 10.5 mm wide by 8 mm deep.

UMB: bore conical, 17.5 mm at top, 16 mm at bottom, open end. Top tone hole 9.5 mm. Embouchure 8.8 mm wide by 7.5 mm deep.

Ellis: bore conical, 18.5 mm at top, 12.5 mm at bottom, open end. Top tone hole 9 mm. Embouchure 10.7 mm wide by 6 mm deep.

Ok, so to the most important consideration: how do they play?

Not surprisingly, the Acha is the loudest of the three. It is fairly easy to play and has a nice tone, which I guess would be considered quite traditional. For my tastes it is a little too loud for indoor solo playing. Outdoors, or in a noisy room it would be great though. It takes some work to keep the volume balanced between octaves (higher being louder). The tone holes are very large, especially if you are used to playing irish flutes or whistles. This allows for expression, but it is also easy to have leaks until you adapt your technique. This might be an issue for people with small hands/fingers.

The UMB flute has a softer tone than the Acha, probably due to the bamboo and it being lighter. It is also breathier, but this might be me. I find its narrower embouchure harder to play. It is a little more balanced in volume between octaves than the Acha, but I find it a bit harder to play embouchure wise. The smaller finger holes still allow for expression, but are a little easier to close than the Acha. On balance, I prefer playing the Acha and I prefer the sound it makes.

The Ellis flute is very easy to play and has a very pure, clear sound. I'm not sure how traditional it is, but I really love the sound I get from it. It is exceptionally well in tune, considerably better than the other two, and is very well balanced across octaves. Its easy to slide between octaves as one would on a transverse flute. The smaller finger holes make the transition from irish flute or whistle playing very much easier than say the Acha. Again, a traditionalist might not like this, but personally I have a strong preference for it. This is my favorite of the three to play and to listen to indoors.

So, all three are very good quenas. The Ellis is exceptional, and in my opinion the best of the three, but it is more expensive than the other two. The UMB flute, which several people were very enthusiastic about in earlier threads is certainly good, but for my personal tastes, I prefer the Acha, which is less expensive and easier to obtain. Purchasing the UMB quena from Argentina was non-trivial for me living in the US. Purchasing the Acha from Bolivia was a little easier. Getting the Ellis quena was easy.


Top
 Profile  
Reply with quote  
 
 Post subject: Re: Quena review
PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:44 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:51 pm
Posts: 49
Jon,
A most excellent review of some very high quality quena's!! Thank you dearly! There is simply not enough discussion on so many wonderful world flutes and I rank the quena and quenacho up there as some of the most versatile flutes in the flute world.

I've heard quena's play Irish Jigs, Classical, jazz on top of it's Andean roots. And I follow the makers in S. America closely to watch for new developments and idea's and hope they get incorporated here.

I am familiar with all those makers as I have the same Ellis Quena, a healthy selection of Angels quena's and one custom quenacho and I did have an Acha Quena and Quenacho which are no longer part of my ever growing collection. They didn't look like your nice wooden one there as they looked like the mass produced bamboo ones sold on Bolivia Mall. They were some of my first quena and quenacho. The quenacho holes were so big that my fingers almost went inside the flute. But another guy on Chiff and Fipple also said he had great experience with a custom flute from Acha.

First, we all know that Geoffrey embodies a true world flute spirit as he is as comfortable with Native American flutes as he is with Irish Flutes and having read the discussions here in the past about his Irish flutes and making the grade, I can say that is entry into the quena world IMO is a raving success. I'm personally very happy to have an American flutemaker of high quality flutes making quena's and hopefully in the future other key's including quenacho's. I know alot of people are hesitant to buy foreign made flutes but I've purchased flutes from Bolivia, Peru, Argentina mostly with no problems. And even one from Paris. One exception where I did encounter a problem but not important right now. Suffice to say that Interpole as an APB out on him :)

I've spent hours upon hours researching this instrument and seeking out makers wherever they might be so I've accumulated quite a stash of different types of quena's.

LIke any flute, each has it's charm and different styles can be used for different types of music. One quena is just not going to cut it for all kinds of music.

I guess it's fair to say that the tapered quena is not traditional. However, they do have some quena's that are made with a reverse taper or a globe that have become somewhat popular. I've tried one but the notch was very very small so I couldn't give it a good comparison. I will have another chance to try a few in a couple of weeks when a Bolivian maker comes to New York for a performance and promised to bring some Ebony quena's in different keys for me to try. The last thing I need is one more but I guess for the sake of completeness, if I like it, I'll add it to my collection. For some reason, he gets a very reedy sound for ebony and the globe doesn't encourage ease of playing. I've noticed clarinet makers now incorporating similar design.

Image

I will agree that Geoffrey's quena in the usual Ellis tradition is finely crafted with attention to detail. I don't take that for granted because I've gotten quena's with splinters hanging out of them by other American makers. Bore and outside lacquered with his special technique. I have no problems bringing it up to 3rd octave C. And it might go higher, it's just I haven't focused on it with any quena. The bigger problem is how do you make music up there although I've heard a couple of guys go up to 4th octave. It can sound a little bit like a balloon letting out air.

His quena does have relatively small finger holes compared to most of my others. But I don't think the volume suffers because his notch is a little wider than most. I would call it a C, notch. V, U and complete squares which are the pre-Columbian notches that give a very beautiful tone but cut down on the range. I think the wider notch in this case compensates for the smaller holes because I have another one with similar smaller holes that I can't go up into the third octave. A lot of that Andean music requires third octave G's and A's so traditional or not, it can do that job.

I do have a background in jazz music which I just can't escape from so I also do like big finger holed quena's, within reason to get chromatics and clean 1/2 hole notes.

As for Angel, I have quite a few of his quena's my favorite being a straight cylinder Guaycon quena. It has an extremely sweet sound with some nice overtones. And I really like that groove he puts in the finger holes so the fingers lay in perfectly and it does make it easier for chromatics. I actually just experimented doing it on one of my Peruvian closed hole models without runing it. Came out quite nice. It is a nice feature, a preference, and not at all necessary. Also, Angel is a very reliable person and so nobody should have any fear doing business with Argentina. His art work on the notch is always exquisite. The bamboo he uses which I was told by a shakuachi maker is actually cane. I don't know. Does have a lot of trouble lasting through cold New York Winters and the resulting tone is much reedier. So unless I move to Miami, no more cane flutes. Some of the larger bore instruments get into extreme stretch tuning where the top note can be a chromatic tone or more off and playing modern music with that can be difficult unless you adjust the playing angle.

So Angels quena's do have a very wide range of plus's and minus's. They might be a little challenging for beginners. Some of them I love and others I don't. And it is not the first quena I pick up. Ellis quena is always in my bag. I prefer Angels' his medium and larger bore but do have a a couple of his small bores that I used when I began.

I'd use Angels quena more for new agey stuff http://youtu.be/280dmeJmB8Q I played one of his chromatic quena's which is a little swiss cheesy but I wanted to try one.

Image

I don't think that many holes are necessary if you have bigger holes. It is also a small bore like the one you have. Apparently a chromatic quena doesn't work so well on medium or larger bore instruments.

I could see using his bigger bores in an Andean band. Playing Virgenes de Sol where you need that third octave G and A to ring out http://youtu.be/3-nucgiyddQ I do think big holes gives a little more burden to the player to control the volume up in the higher register using more back pressure but on a song like that you need to cut through the ensemble.

Anyway, I hope to do a lot more recording with Geoffrey's quena soon. I don't like sharing unfinished pieces but I'm sure nobody will hold it against me. The poo's and phoo's are not the quena. It's the player at 11:30 at night after loosing multiple recordings after the cord got pulled out and they weren't saved. The mastering is pitiful but the improvisation is pretty good if I may say self myself. If Miles Davis can make a career out of poo's and foo's and wrong notes, I'm sure one recording on a quena review won't ruin my career. It's a jazz improve on Sting's Fragile using Geoffrey's G quena which looks a lot like yours. I think mine is a curly maple but a bit darker. I'm real bad with remembering woods. I didn't record the melody on quena but used a NAF so just the quena improv. Better with headphones and a couple beers.

Sorry, I don't have a pic of it but I can add one tomorrow;)

ps: I guess I should mention the blowing end is the angled embouchure not the straight edge. Again straight and angle are matter of preferences and comfort. I'll take either. Angled you play more downward.



https://soundcloud.com/flutetests/fragilepractice


Last edited by hidancity on Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
Reply with quote  
 
 Post subject: Re: Quena review
PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2014 5:51 pm 
Offline

Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:51 pm
Posts: 49
I will add one thing for players looking to buy their first quena. Just go for the well tuned tapered model. It will save you a lot of grief. Because no matter how well the flute is tuned, if you never played a quena, you are going to have to figure out how to play it in tune. Better to have a flute you know is well tuned. You'll never have a question with Geoffrey.

AS you grow, you can venture out and enter the world of stretched tuning or the standard closed hole models to try different things. I have a boat load. I can't tell you how much money I spend looking for one quena that was well tuned. And actually, if you think about it, there is no such thing as a traditional quena anymore. They were bones with fewer holes, sometimes ceramic and even sometimes made out of the bones of pretty virgins:) So the story goes.

LIke all flutes it has evolved. NAF players aren't playing traditional flutes. Irish players aren't so unless you join a small tribe in the mountains of Peru, you don't have to either. Nobody is going to say hey, that ain't want my ancestors played because they ain't playing one either.


Top
 Profile  
Reply with quote  
 
 Post subject: Re: Quena review
PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2014 7:56 am 
Offline

Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2014 11:56 am
Posts: 5
Great discussion on quenas! I own a Ellis quena in G and an Angel quenacho in D. I like both of these alot-quality instruments. I have small hands and slender fingers so the Ellis quena is easier for me to play than the Angel quenacho-I have to work with the quenacho more to make sure i get the holes properly covered. I do however enjoy the tonal quality of the Angel quenacho. Playing the quena has helped me play better the other rim blown flutes that i own-shakuhachi and anasazi flute


Top
 Profile  
Reply with quote  
 
 Post subject: Re: Quena review
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:08 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:28 am
Posts: 1
Hi, everyone. I'm a newbie here. (This is actually my first posting) But I love reading about world flutes. I've played quena and quenacho semi-professionally since I was in high school and also done some recordings with them, so I love reading about everyone's experiences. My family is Bolivian, so that's how I was exposed to Andean music at an early age.

Some 18 years ago, I purchased an ebony quena with a bone embouchure and a tapered bore made by an instrument maker named Alandres in Cochabamba, Bolivia, but alas, one winter's day, I did not warm it up enough before playing and it split. Until about 20 years ago, I had never even seen a wooden quena (only bamboo or cane), but now they are so ubiquitous and it seems like quenas are moving toward something approaching standardization.

Because I play, I've been lucky enough to make the acquaintance of some of the biggest names in Andean music, and what I find interesting is that at that level, all of them make their own quenas. I don't mean that they will go to an instrument maker who will ask them to blow on a quena and then modify the embouchure or the finger holes to suit the player. Rather, they will pick out the bamboo (or hollowed out wood dowell, but interestingly enough, bamboo is still the industry standard among professionals) and proceed to cut the notch and bore the holes themselves. And they generally make instruments only for themselves with rare exceptions. That's probably why I find the move to standardization interesting. The instruments are so idiosyncratic, and that's one of the great things about them.

Keep the comments coming. I'd love to hear about all of your experience with this sweet, soulful siren from South America!


Top
 Profile  
Reply with quote  
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 5 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group
[ Time : 0.186s | 11 Queries | GZIP : On ]
(dh)