The Meaning of Fife Part Two

The Meaning of Fife Part Two

Not too long ago, i posted a question about switching from pennywhistle to fife, and i got some very good input here. I bought the cheapo learner’s fife for $12, and low and behold, i can actually blow a tune on it….not easily, and not very pretty, but, it can be done. Next question….how much improvement could i expect, if I were to pop for, say, a $30 fife? I really don’t care to invest a lot because this is only for a St Pat’s parade, most likely, a one shot gig. But, while i CAN force a tune out of the learners model, it leaves a lot to be desired. Does anyone have any opinions on the Cooperman or Ralph Sweet fifes in the $30 range?
They’re made of persimmon, and maple, respectively. Many thanks for any input!

Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

Go for the maple Sweet, $30 isn’t really all that much for a middle of the road instrument. Those li’l plastic jobbies are for kids, usually to harsh on the ear for anyone who’s halfway serious about music.

Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

I have a Sweet "Celtic" fife in D, which i play as a pretend piccolo. It’s not bad, it’s in tune and has a sweet sound, if somewhat lacking in bite, but not bad for a low maintenance maple instrument. It cost me $60, probably because being Celtic is automatically more expensive too. :-)

Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

I don’t mean to contradict you brad, but don’t buy a maple fife. It is a souvenier not an instrument. The maple is really a very small step from the plastic, with the exception that it’s less stable than plastic. You’ll be far happier if you go for the $75 dark wood fife, (rosewood, grenadilla,…). Sweethart, Peeler, the mighty Model F, they’re all pretty much the same. You’ll enjoy playing it more. So you might play it more than once. Even if you don’t play it, you can sell it on ebay for what you payed for it. Those maple fifes really are toys, many even worst than the plastic. By the way, Brad, where do you live that there are fife and drum corps that can trace their history to the 1600s?

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Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

I only suggested the maple because the choices ketida offered. I live in Rhode Island, the Kentish Guards & Pawtuxet Rangers both go back a long way. From what I’ve been told Connecticut is only over-shadowed by Switzerland for fife & drum crap, oops I mean corp.

In all honesty I find the musters overall pretty fun, over 1000 people converge on some hapless Southern New England town & drink their fool heads off for a weekend, all while camping out in a baseball field in the middle of a uppity residential neighborhood. The sureality of it is worth it alone, lots of fun.

I agree if your going to buy a fife just go whole hog & get a really good one, otherwise you won’t be happy with it. After all a really good one is not going to cost anymore than you could get for selling it again on ebay.

Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

I just did the research & the KG’s aren’t that old, the seem to date from 1774. Still quite a bit older than most corps & a different feel to them than the Civil War re-enactors.

Maple

Most Sweetheart stuff is in maple. I agree, though, go for grenadilla (blackwood) or cocus, it’s a more robust sound. What you need to avoid is the maple fifes that are sold in museum shops and the like, mass-produced things. There’s also a Yamaha plastic fife that you shouldn’t buy. It’s pitched in C instead of Bb and fingered like a recorder.

Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

Brad;The KG’s militia charter infact does date from 1774. The fife and drum corp was established in 1963 however. There are a small handfull (less than a dozen) of corps in the northeast that can trace they’re history as far back as the 1880s. The vast majority of ancient F&D corps accually were formed in the 1960s & 70s as a result of Bicentenial celebrations. glauber; Sweetheart makes a very decent straight bore fife out of rosewood, which I believe he sells for $70. I know of a couple of corps that use them with good results.

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Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

"The Fife & Drum Corps is the field music for The Independent Company of Kentish Guards. In 1774 the Kentish Guards had 2 fifers and 2 drummers, as befitting a company sized group of 100 or so men."

That’s right from the KG site.

Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

I didn’t expect to find stuff here on this site about fifes but I’m glad I did as I’m thinking of buying one. More so since I went to a Burns night recently in the local Magee campus of the University of Ulster. It was really good for a grey hair night out. Northern Irish folk like me are a tad Scottish although we are in denial right now. Whatever - I still like the auld Scottish influence from the Douglas side of my family, and the skirrel of the pipes still impresses.

While ye can get a good Scottish sound out of a plastic Susato C whistle as an intro to The Piper of Dundee or the Banks of Inverery for example, I think a fife or a pipers practice chanter would be more appropriate. The practice chanter for the Irish pipes would be my preferred thingy but with that rubber hose attachment it’s hardly an attractive instrument. It looks like something that you would use to do unspeakable things to elderly gentlemen wearing a backless gown in a 50’s Irish hospital. My question is this (I’m Irish so I’ve taken the scenic route to it): Is the fife that wee instrument that the Orangemen play on th 12th? If so, my system may reget it.

A different kind of Fife

This slightly off subject, but Fife-lovers who appreciate the instrument’s presence and impact in other musical genres will be sad to learn of the passing of Othar Turner about a week ago. At 92, he was the last living representative of a musical style developed in the American South alongside the Blues.

The world lost a treasure and link to the past…

http://www.iht.com/articles/88325.html
http://www.nmsallstars.com/bioturner.html
http://www.blues.org/newsletters/summer00/spotlight_su00.html
http://www.littletobywalker.com/Pages/othar.html

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Re: The Meaning of Fife Part Two

‘There’s also a Yamaha plastic fife that you shouldn’t buy. It’s pitched in C instead of Bb and fingered like a recorder.’

I know it well! When I was a little kid I started to learn the flute alongside the violin, and got given this to start with :)…now I don’t play the violin so much, but I have been mucking about on this fife a bit of late, partly because it’s so transportable and I missed singing and music in general…

But it’s incredibly annoying that it’s in C! Still, I enjoy the instrument and was thinking of getting a better one. Are the plastic fifes (Bb) not worth the bother even for an inexperienced player? Also, anyone know of a British stockist?

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