Tips for learning the fife

Tips for learning the fife

Hi,

I recently decided to start learning a small portable instrument to take with me where taking the fiddle isnt possible, and decided on the fife.

So onto ebay i went to buy a cherry fife in D from Angus fifes. (D seemed to make more sense for playing irish tunes on)

It arrived a couple of days ago and it looks great, but now im trying to figure out how you play the thing! I can get a short burst of D on it, but as i rise up the scale i just end up puffing furiously at it. What shape should my mouth be as i blow? how hard should i blow? at what angle? etc etc

Any advice on it would be great

Thanks

Jake

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Re: Tips for learning the fife

Sorry, no tips for you, but I do know that the Wikipedia article on fifes says that they can be heard three miles away through artillery fire, so no problems cutting through at a noisy session!

Re: Tips for learning the fife

You like a challenge, don’t you? Fife is much more difficult to play than the regular wooden flute - it takes a very strong embouchure. Your lips need to be tight - try putting a piece of dry rice between your lips and blow until it pops out (I’m serious)…this will give you an idea how small the hole in your lips needs to be. You may need to roll the embouchure hole towards you and away from you a tiny bit until you find the point you can play further up the scale. You also need to be patient…it will take time.

It would have been much easier to take up the whistle…it’s the usual gateway instrument for flutes and fife players.

Eric

Re: Tips for learning the fife

I did think about the whistle.

but your right, i like a challenge, and seeing as its the fife i want to learn, why not jump right to it. I am prepared to have to work at it, and it will provide an alternative source of frustration other than the fiddle.

Thanks for the advice Jayhawk

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Re: Tips for learning the fife

Playing the fife in tune is pretty hard (at least I know playing the piccolo is…). And because you _will_ be heard, it is rather important to be in tune.

Still, best of luck. And don’t just think about the lips - think about where the air is coming from. That is the most important thing in all flute-like instruments. Breath support. As recently said on some forum or other (C&F i think), decent flute players can get three octaves out of a beer bottle, so you know where you need to be heading. (Really really good flute players can play a two foot piece of plumbing pipe with no holes other than the two ends chromatically…)

‘bye,

chris.

Re: Tips for learning the fife

I second the advice to buy a whistle. Fifes are challenging, and from my limited attempts to play them, I myself find that the D fife is even more difficult than the more common Bflat fife. Embrochure is extremely important, and it would probably be best to get in touch with a teacher to get you off on the right path if you must stick with the fife.

Re: Tips for learning the fife

I would have thought that if you planned to play with other people in a session type situation, that fife mightn’t be the best choice! There is a good reason why it has a military & marching band background. BTW, there is an excellent book on the Fife & Drum tradition of Orange marching bands in Northern Ireland by Gary Hastings.

Re: Tips for learning the fife

I always remember that classic one when Gazza was playing for Rangers and his hun pals taught him that after he scored a goal, a really cool thing would be to go up to the cround and pretend to play the fife. And the poor brainless sod did it.

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Re: Tips for learning the fife

crowd

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Re: Tips for learning the fife

I dont plan on playing it at any sessions, i just fancied having abit of a go at it. I’ve been put off now though!

i think i’ll buy a whistle and practice tunes on that, so when i can actually get a noise out of the fife, i’ll be able to get abit of a tune going.

the fiddle is still my main interest, you just can’t beat it.

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Re: Tips for learning the fife

I’ve just bought one today after learning to play the Tin whistle inside of two months, had a go on a flute, years ago and was able to play a single note, but found the Fife to be a little more tricky. however after some googling, came up with some info about the embrochure: basically, you seat your bottom lip a third the way over the hole , whilst extending your top lip slightly forward, keeping this position as tight as possible, then giving a blast of air, should produce a fairly clean note. However combining this with the fingering of the holes, takes more practice. I always practice and learn in stages and usually find improvement when I come back to the instrument.