Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Here’s the thread you wanted. I’ve never heard or heard of Chris Norman so I can’t say if I like his playing or not. I don’t play flute but I’ve been picking it up, right now I’m using a homemade PVC jobby that fits the bill. I like my PVC flute because it sucks (as strange as that sounds) its a hard work out & there is no slacking with it. When & if I get better (or more serious about it) I’ll probably go with a Healy flute, I think his flutes are really playable & have a good low end.
As far as players go, I pretty much like them all - I like Matt Molloy’s playing even if it gets a little bombastic at times. I have had the pleasure of hearing his son Peter play - his playing is *really* nice. It’s a lot less ornamented but his tone is hard & reedy with no huffy-puffy sound to it. As far as style I like a pulsing/flowing style rather than the “pipe” style. I do have to say I find playing tunes by ear or memory a lot easier on the flute than the fiddle, maybe it’s just me.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Hello, Brad,

in my previous life, i used to play in a R&B band where i tried to use as many flutes as possible. One of my favourites was made out of a piece of copper pipe, with a plastic stopper at one end. The darn thing was pretty much in tune. Hammy Hamilton has cheap practice flutes made out of pipe too, which must be pretty good, considering his reputation (i’ll probably buy one of those to have in the office or in the car).
Having an expensive flute is not really required. The main advantage of having an “Irish” flute (instead of, say, a good bansuri) is that you won’t have to fight it so much to make it sound “Irish”. But there are cheap versions available that will take you a long way in your learning. I can’t seem to praise my M&E enough. At $350 it’s not exactly cheap, but i was able to use the money that George Bush gave back to me, to get it. 🙂 (Thereby immediately sending the money out of the country instead of investing it in the US-ian economy… oh well.)

I have a CD by Chris Norman called “The Man With The Wooden Flute”. It’s a very nice CD, with all sorts of trad tunes and very good accompaniment. He’s a flute player who plays some Irish tunes, not primarily an Irish trad player.

I’ve played flute for 20+ years, but right now i’m struggling to get a more traditional Irish sound, especially with the pulse that you mention, using glottal stops to achieve this underlying pulse. My natural tendency is to be much more understated with my breathing and articulation; Irish tends to be more “in your face” as they say in the US. My natural tendency as a flute player is to be more discreet, to blend in with the other instruments, but to play Irish you have to be willing to play much more forcefully. So, this is also helping me expand my flute vocabulary.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff


Chris Norman is a very good player if you like his style. He’s very soft and non-percussive to my ear. He’s not one of my personal favorites, but he’s got wide appeal with plenty of people. He also runs the Boxwood flute festival in Nova Scotia (www.boxwood.org), which is wonderful and life changing…or elitist and overpriced…depends on who you talk to. I’ve never been to the festival so I can’t say.

I like Matt Molloy a lot for listening purposes, but he HEAVILY ornaments his tunes. Horrible if you’re trying to learn from CDs. I knew one fellow who used music software to slow down one of his tunes and was despondent to find that Molloy rolled, half rolled, barrel rolled, cut, tapped, and bludgeoned every note in the tune. Fair play to him, though. He’s got the talent and chops to get away with it.

My favorite contemporary players include Paul McGratten, Harry Bradley, Conal O

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff: Chris Norman

All that i know about Chris Norman is from listening many many times to “The Man With The Wooden Flute”. From this insufficient data…

Chris Norman strikes me as someone coming from the Classical side and bringing a classical sensitivity to trad music (trad here in a broad sense, including Irish trad). I think his technique is great, and as i said before, the quality of the arrangements in “Man with the wooden flute” is phenomenal, but he’s not really in the Irish flute playing tradition (other than for the fact that he plays a wooden flute).

His ornamentation is mostly Baroque / early Classical. He really likes the “flattement” finger vibrato, which shows up in Irish only rarely. Instead of rolls, he uses mostly mordants and double mordants.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff: why i like the flute

* It’s portable. I’d hate to be a piano player and have to use whatever instrument was available at the place.

* It’s simple. The flute is just a tube with holes in it. Playing flute you feel that you’re doing something natural and unpretentious. Compared to the whistle, the flute is even simpler (no fipple).

* It’s expressive. In this simplicity there’s an infinite number of things you can do.

* Chicks dig it (not!).

* It’s not too loud. You can make yourself heard, but you can still be soft enough that not many people will attempt to do you bodily harm when you’re practicing.

* It sounds nice.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

At the risk of entering every thread and rapidly wearing out my welcome, I just want to thank all of you flute players at The Session for speaking so passionately (Glauber, you con man you, *grin* )about what you do. After investing 20 years into Irish fiddling, I’m finally following the other voice in Irish music that’s always called to me–flute–and you’re the culprits who convinced me to go for it. It helped a lot to find out that relatively inexpensive plastic flutes are available, and that they sound good in the right hands. Based on that input here, I bought a plastic Tony Dixon tuneable whistle and found out how easy and satisfying they are to play. So my Desi Seery flute is on order, and I’m thoroughly enjoying learning the fingering on a bunch of tunes so when the flute arrives I’ll have some airs (and even a reel and jig or two) in the bones and can concentrate (for months if need be) on embouchure and breathing.

I won’t stop fiddling, but I’m really enjoying learning this other voice to the tunes!

Thanks all!


Posted .

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Nice to hear that you are picking up the flute, Will. I never thought about it before but a plastic flute sounds like a good idea now. I could carry it around all the time and practise whenever possible.
Glauber, “it’s simple”? that’s just referring to the system by which the sound is produced, isn’t it? When I fist played my flute it wasn’t simple at all to produce any sound. Sometimes I think about playing another instrument. Something where you “put your finger(s) here and do something there” (pick a string or push/pull the bellows) and your instrument plays this note. No hoarse, bended notes somewhere near the one you wanted to hit. And no running out of breath. I hope that someday breathing will just come naturally (well, it does but that rather interferes with my playing most of the time).
Well played the flute does indeed “sound nice”. I love it. I especially like it paired with a banjo, I really do. A soft, flowing flute with a, well, (how to say it?) .. banjo.
Does any of you play a keyed flute? Do you really use the keys? I bought an old keyed flute in a junk shop. It has a nice soft sound but it isn’t really loud enough for a session. I hardly ever use the keys and the flute gets rather heavy after a while. The only key I ever use is the one for g sharp. So most of the time I play my simple system wooden flute which isn’t that heavy and sounds much stronger on the lower notes.
What about Eb flutes? Does any of you play one of those? They sound very nice on recordings. Are they a modern thing or have they been played all the time?
I need to go now and wrap all those presents. A happy x-mas to all of you (oh, and I really look forward to hear you on the “mighty crack”)

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Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff


The truth is that you can play about 80-90% of the common session tunes using a keyless flute. Keys do come into play for certain tunes or when a more advanced player experiments with a tune. So, while they are not useless, they are not required until you reach a level where you’re tinkering with some relatively remote material.

Keys also add another level of maintenance to a the flute…maintaining and replacing pads, oiling the flute without getting oil on the pads, keys that stick or lose their responsiveness, pads that leak (which might be why your keyed flute sounds soft), etc. It’s better to not go down that road until you’re really ready to dive into material that requires the added hardware.

But they do look really cool…

Eb flutes have been around for a while as far as I can tell. They’re good for solo work but not that great in a session setting. Again, when you hit a skill level where you’re doing solo performances, recording CDs, etc., it’s not a bad investment.

Take care,
John Harvey

Keys etc

In a keyless flute, you can play very easily in 1-3 sharps; other keys are hard. The 2 hardest notes (for me at least) are d-sharp and f-natural, so if i went for keys i’d get those 2 notes first. There are 2 f-natural keys, and you’d probably want both. The oldest keyed flutes had only a d-sharp key, and in fact that’s the only note that’s pretty darn impossible to do without a key.

Another thing to remember is that the keys in the “Irish flute” are not the same as they are in the modern concert flute (Boehm), not as easy to use, not as quick on the fingers. I think most people who have keys don’t use them. For example, you could use the c-natural key, but it turns out that using the cross-fingering is quicker, easier and still acceptably in tune.

I use a keyless flute for Irish music, most of the time, but i also enjoy playing Irish music on my Boehm-style keyed flute. The feeling is different, but you can do it, as long as you keep your mechanism in good condition.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

I’m a really bad flute-player who up until now has only read the discussions on the Session - but now you’re onto things that torment me continually!!! I played a Boehm system flute for about 7 years (classical only) before getting my new, wooden keyless flute which I love but find a devil to play (that was about three years ago, but I’m also practising two other instruments so progress not as good as if I was ‘focused’) I play as a beginner fiddler with a group of other fiddlers (about 10-20 of them) of mixed ability and am dieing to be able to play my flute as well - aside from anything else you CAN (in spite of what the others think) have too much of a good thing (in this case, the fiddle). Anyway, coming to the point - I have some big problems in this whole set up:
FIRST the fiddlers often play tunes in keys which I can’t manage on the flute - eg. one of FEW tunes we have in common which I can play to any decent speed (Out on the Ocean) is not played in the easy (for me) D maj but, I think, in A with the extra sharp which I find impossible to manage by half-covering a hole. Jenny Picking Cockles is another tune I’d love to play but can’t due to the significant F natural in the version we play (although I privately practise it on the metal flute!). In fact there tend to be quite a sprinkling of F nats in the tunes we play - glad to hear Glauber finds these difficult - as a beginner I find them impossible! I’ve tried (in advance, out of the session) working out which notes I could skip/substitute in order to ‘get by’ but in some tunes, it seems so often to be the very note I can’t manage which gives the tune character. The only solution that I’ve worked out is to buy a keyed flute (coming in about 1 year from Hammy Hamilton). I’m dismayed to discover that you think I’m going to find this even trickier to play and that most people don’t use their keys anyway - my current wooden flute is actually quite nice, although very quiet and (I’ve been told) hard to blow. HOW IN GOD’S NAME ARE these others without keys MANAGING? - or am I just playing with a funny group of fiddlers? (well actually I knew that anyway!) Any other solutions that you can think of - is it a question of just persisting, (for years?) with learning to half cover holes to get the right tone?
SECOND Also, I find that the speed I play at is pretty dismal, even though I’ve played metal flute to a reasonable (classical) level. Particularly discouraging have been lessons with Scoiltrad since the ornamentation even in the beginners tunes will take ages for me to build up any speed with - it would mean I’d have to be a beginner for the next 5 years at least … The last time I sent an assessment in, Conal O’Grada e-mailed back with the comment that it was not played ‘to the performance speed he would have chosen’ - well for goodness sake, I’m a bloody beginner! Otherwise he’s terrificly helpful and the lesson was well worth doing. Its just that four months into his ‘Filthy Reel’ beginners lesson (my second lesson), I know there is no point whatsoever in sending the assessment in at the speed (with ornamentation) I am playing! I’ve had comments that the problem with speed is ‘often in the player’s own head’ - oh, that’ll be why my hands hurt after I’ve been practising a bit….Recently I’ve finally realised that actually one of the main problems is that playing the flute actually requires a LOT OF STRENGTH particularly in the left hand - totally unlike the metal flute, which requres incredible dexterity for the classical flute repertoire - but not STRENGTH as such. Am I alone in finding it difficult to understand how I could practise and practise and still be playing after a few years at only half speed and with very little ornamentation?
What do you other fluters out there think? And, if anyone agrees, why do we not hear more about how really difficult the wooden flute is to learn - people who start playing and then two years later are playing at top speed in pubs or with a band (I have met them) are NOT AN ENCOURAGEMENT to idiots like me!!! Sometimes I would dearly love to just focus on the metal flute, but the sound of the wood is really seductive and sexy in comparison …. they are virtually different instruments and I can’t seem to quite give up on the wood…. I live in Buckinghamshire in England (you all seem to live in the States?) and really have no one to discuss my flute playing problems with - am even reduced to boring my fiddle teacher with them!!! Wish I had someone close to give me a flute lesson!

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Hello, Cathyt,

The flute is easy to play, but very hard to play well. I said it’s simple, not easy. Irish music is especially hard.

Maybe the Filthy Reel is not a good lesson for you. I would email Conal Grada and ask him for a suggestion of something less hard. I’ve been struggling with this same lesson right now, for over a month, and i’ve been playing flute for over 20 years. The problem there is, the way Conal wants us to finger the rolls, the roll on B clashes with the G roll that follows it, in a very annoying way. Fingers fly everywhere. I actually think this lesson should be called “Filthy Rolls”. I would look for something simpler and try that again later.

The wooden flute – it’s a different beast from the classical. You need to blow harder, and blow “different”, only experience will show. Try covering half of the blowhole with your lower lip. Blow more air “inside” the flute than you would with a classical flute. Ask someone else, if you have another wood flute player in your area, if that’s a good flute you have. It’s no use killing yourself over a bad instrument. Some wooden flutes are actually very good but very hard to play. The “Pratten” model is infamous for requiring a couple extra pairs of lungs. For a beginner, usually something with smaller holes is better. I have an M&E polymer flute (http://www.irishflutes.net) and it’s easy to play, but it still took me about a month to get the blowing right, and sometimes i still do it wrong. I know when i’m blowing right, because then all notes are equally strong, especially the low E. If i blow this like a classical flute, the low E is lifeless and pale.

Like i said, you can do most flats and sharps by cross-fingering, except for 2 notes: f-natural and d-sharp. These 2 notes are pretty much impossible to do fast. For the f-natural, sometimes i finger like i would in a Baroque flute: finger a f-sharp, then close the d hole. This will give you a slightly flattened f-sharp. Then turn the flute inwards to flatten it some more. Sometimes this works, and it’s better than half-holing. D-sharp, you have to half-hole, and in most flutes the d hole is too tiny for you to be able to do it. These things may be a challenge in a session dominated by fiddles. Ask these people to play more traditional music, in G and D.

You don’t need more hand strenght for the wood flute than you would for the metal flute. The fingers may be spread farther apart, and this may make it harder, but if you start feeling pain, it’s time to take a break; don’t force yourself.

And if it helps, play your classical flute. There’s no law against playing Irish music on the modern flute. I heard the flute player in the band “Cherish the Ladies” does it very well.

Don’t give up. Take it easy, it will come to you in time. The important thing is to have fun with your instrument. Pick up your wooden flute and just play with it, *don’t*practice. Play little ditties by ear, play scales, just annoy your family.

Unfortunately i’m in the States, but if you want to chat about flutes, feel free to email me (you can click on my name under this post, then search around for the “send and email” link in the member profile page.

LONG winded reply, here…

Cathy, I can’t speak to the flute problems (being one of those pesky fiddlers myself), but I CAN talk about problems being “in the head!” As an Irish stepdance teacher for Heritage Irish Stepdancers here in Denver, I always tell my students that a good 80% of ANY art is up in your cranium – some students get what I mean immediately and others take a while to figure it out, but here’s what I tell them about it:

First off, we do not allow the word “CAN’T” in our classes. A student may say, “I find this very difficult” or “I’m having some problems with this” or even “I am getting REALLY frustrated with this,” But CAN’T very often means WON’T, or at least, “I don’t THINK I can, and therefore I won’t try in a way that will help me to succeed.”

Sounds stupid, yes? But 98% of the time, if I have a student saying “I can’t do this,” once they stop using “can’t,” very often their problem starts getting worked out much faster and with less frustration. I don’t know why this works (although I have plenty of suspicions), but it does.

So stop saying “this is impossible” to yourself – start saying “I’m having problems with this, but I AM going to work this out.”

Secondly, the reason speed issues are truly in a player’s head is because it’s usually a relaxation problem. The fact that your hands hurt after practising should be ringing a little alarm bell in your head, and not just because pain is your body’s way of saying “stop that!”

One of the things Shannon Heaton tells beginning (AND more advanced) players over and over and over again is RELAX. Relax the physical muscles. Relax your mindset. Stay loose. You can’t relax your body if your mind isn’t relaxed as well. If you actually watch great players, you’ll note that they’re relaxed about the shoulders, easy in their necks. Their arms may be held in a certain position, but they are relaxed into those positions. It sounds contradictory, but in order to go faster, you have to be relaxed to do it – it does little good for you to tense up and rush into playing music faster than your fingers and your mindset can allow yet. The great players are confident in their abilities and they know that they can relax into the music – you’ll get there too, if you keep trying.

Surely you have some things you do very well and easily that you have lots of experience in? (Perhaps playing your silver flute on a piece?) You do this thing without thinking, without worrying about it, and, very importantly in this case, without tensing up. You just flow right into doing whatever it is. Most people, for instance, drive fairly relaxed (and considering what a dangerous machine a car actually is, probably too relaxed!). They don’t think or tense up about turning on their turn signal, or backing out of their own garage. Yet driving a car is fairly precise, and if a driver is very tense, the car is jerky and alarmingly dangerous feeling. (Think of a beginning driver, or someone driving in a filthy temper.)

In Irish dancing, there are some very precise things that you simply must do in order to be dancing correctly. But you have to be effortless in holding your body to those standards – your turnout, for instance, must never disappear, but there must be no effort in keeping your hips open and the whole leg turned out to the side. Otherwise the dancing becomes stiff, stilted, and uncomfortable to watch.

Glauber is very right – if rolls are your bane, then it might be time to stop trying to get The Filthy Reel for right now. E-mail Conal and tell him about your frustration and that you want to come back to that one and which lesson would be more appropriate for you right now given that you’re so frustrated about rolls? Come back to the Filthy later. Work the rolls on a tune that isn’t quite so roll intensive, and therefore not so stress inducing. If you work the rolls on a tune with only one or two rolls, you’ll probably find that The Filthy Reel will come a lot easier later. Besides, right now for you it’s emblematic of your frustration. (You’re having problems with it, but it isn’t an insurmountable problem. Right?)

If you DO decide that, dammit, you’re GOING to get the Filtny Reel with every single meshugana roll in it, then *relax.* You ARE going to get it sooner or later, so you might as well not hurt yourself by playing tense. Play it even slower than you really can play it, and hold yourself to that speed for a week or two, playing it through at least five times a day. Then step it up only ONE notch on the ol’ metronome and play it that way for a week, no matter how bored you are or how much faster you can play it than that. Then do that again and again and again until it’s up to speed. Record yourself playing it over and over again and then listen to it and sing along with yourself, until you can sing the thing in your sleep.

One last thing: beginner status is very cozy. “I’m a beginner” is a great and useful mantra to keep yourself from being tensed up about how good you should or shouldn’t be. And yet it can also be a terrible crutch, keeping you from really working at a problem.

Our dance school has five main points that we begin working on from basics classes onwards. The champions hopefully do these things automatically, but in practice often have to be reminded. The beginners are not allowed to progress further until they have those five things down pat. ALL of our dancers work those five things, in both drills and within their steps, regardless of beginner status or not.

In regards to this, I’ve noted two general groups of kinds of beginning dancers: first, those that need to be told that Irish stepdancing is NOT a natural dance form, and they should stop beating themselves up over not being able to simply walk into class and fall into doing it. The second group are the ones that have to be told that being a beginner is not an excuse to not work on those un-natural ways of dancing. (Often, a single dancer will flip-flop between those two groups.) Yes, it’s hard. And yes, my job is to help the dancer work at it!

Given that, forget about being a beginner. You’re a fluter, and you’re having some difficulties with certain things. You’re working on those things. Playing a flute or a fiddle or anything else is NOT something that humans do naturally, or we’d have them attached, like our vocal chords.

Stop beating yourself up. Keep working at it.

I hope this long windedness helps somehow or other. You’ll find everyone here has had your frustrations at some point or other or will in the future over something or other. It’s a great place to get some commiseration!


Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

First of all, I

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

you’re absolutly right about relaxing. I tried to record something for the “mighty craic” and I got a pain in my left hand. I never had a real pain while playing the flute before. It took me some time to realize that I never was so tense while playing. Sitting in front of the tape recorder, determined to get everything right, put all the ornamentation in, take a breath in the right moment - I definetly wasn’t relaxed. So I got a pain in my hand and thought “don’t stop, you’re nearly through” which, of course, made it worse. I gave up on that in the end. Now I just leave the tape recorder on while playing for myself. Maybe I won’t get the perfect recording this way but I’ll have much more fun.
Being determined to learn THIS version of a tune with exactly THIS ornamentation doesn’t work for me. If I know that I can do the rolls and that I play tunes with simillar phrases but just “can’t” put it together in this one I’ll get really frustrated. But even if I get everything “right “ I’m mostly not happy with tunes learned this way. Learning the basic tune and experimenting with my own ideas for ornamention or variation normally takes the pressure off and that way I really get to know the tune. Cathy, keep at it. Start slow - there are lots of tunes that are very nice played slowly, Dunmore Lasses, I think, is a particularly nice “slow reel”. (I hope that’s the right name for the tune I’m thinking of.)
Good luck and a happy New Year to all of you

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Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Thanks for the topic Brad!
After reading your posts i think that we all share a common idea about this thing. How such a simple instrument is so hard to blow? No idea, but maybe that’s the reason why flute is so appealing. Think of Uillean pipes (chanter, keys, drones and regulators), multi-buttoned concertinas; guitars are mathematics to me with so many positions and so on. I don’t have any musical or classical knowledge so I think flute is more suitable than many others. However, no matter how many times I listen to M Molloy recordings he stills turns the flute to be so exciting! 4 years playing and it’s becoming more and more demanding, and I like it!
Glauber says that it is emotionally powerful and it’s true. Fiddle apart, (the perfect duo, Brad, reckon the most balanced and complementary) I think that flutes might convey a wide range of feelings according to the tune, style, player’s personality or even mood. All in a “table leg” as a friend of mine says. He’s just jealous cause he has to pull from Uillean and Galician pipes and a bouzuki to the sessions and gigs.
To me it’s quite shocking that most of you play with PVC or similar. I consider them less romantic but it’s maybe the future. As for the sound…perhaps a bit different but synthetic materials may have even better sound properties. Besides, they don’t crack so easily and are much cheaper. I don’t know a lot about them but I’ve heard that they might be a bit weak, is that true?
I usually play an ebony keyless pratten flute by HARPA. Though they are Spanish (like me) they have been producing quality Irish flutes and pipes for years. Believe it: Paddy Moloney is one of their customers (two chanters so far, I think.)
I also have a 120 years old Martin Fres.French, Cocus, Five keys,maybe a bit out of tune but so delicate, I love it for hornpipes and waltzes.Though, keys are not so important. Crossed fingering may help, but: Do you really had to choose that tune? John’s right, the vast majority is unkeyed (taken that you’re playing with guys using your key). I also had for a time a Gilles Lehart’s flute from Brittany, France I miss it everyday. Powerful and sober, really Irish. Mc Godrick plays his Lehart’s unkeyed in D, no comments. He openly recommends it for sound and price! Someone above talked about HAMILTON’S flutes. Excellent stuff! I tried a pratten one and it was really demanding (hard blowing), but well balanced and fine finish.
Cathyt, take it easy, You are on the right lines. If someone says that his/her instrument don’t offer any difficulty, either he’s not telling the truth to seem pretencious or he is not really demanding about himself. Feeling that you don’t control the instrument is the best way to improved and not getting bored, don’t you think?
Sorry for being so long. Favorite players…M.Molloy, Paddy Carty and McGoldrick on one side and McGrattan, Seamus Tansey and O’Grada on the party one. Nothing new to you I’m afraid.

Dunmore Lasses

I posted the ABC for this slow reel that was mentioned in this discussion by Irina.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff - Great Support

Hey- what a great crowd of people you are to have been so busily responding to my moans while my computer was switched off!!. Its really nice to have a chance to chat about these things with other fluters since the only two players I know at the moment are even less experienced than me - although one is an ace fiddler.

I have totally absorbed all comments - and thanks particularly to Zina for the relaxation comments. Actually this is the key I think really - along with realising that sometimes people think its cooler to talk about how easy something was for them than how difficult it was. A lot of the fiddlers I am playing with do this with regard to how fast they can play fiddle after (say) only three years. And it really, really freaks me out because there is no way I can play my fiddle so fast and still have it sound sweet to my ears - and sweet it does sound sometimes!

Zina - you said the magic word metronome - I’ve started playing really slowly (fiddle and flute) to the metronome - I like John Harvey’s ‘glacial’ speed - I think that’s appropriate to me!!! and I find that the ticking noise and the slowness just makes me switch off so much that I really do relax properly for the first time while playing an instrument. Its almost like meditation. No wonder Yehudi Menuhin was so hot on yoga.. IT WORKS just like John and Zina say. I even used it recently for a metal flute exam when I had to play a very fast bit of Bach which I both adored and was terrified of - with the metronome it was the first time I relaxed into the piece (didn’t do so hot in the exam!)

I think the thing that’s most difficult however, is trying to play with others that don’t have the ‘speed problem’ I have. Still - you have to do your own thing in the end, don’t you?

So - any other new fluters out there - I’d definitely recommend Zina and John’s combined advice and maybe try the ‘glacial metronome method of playing’ !!!- I’ve also given up smoking, specifically so I could calm down generally in my music - nervousness was always my greatest enemy - ‘The claw’ is a very appropriate expression John!

I am also reconsidering the old ‘key’ thing - my own flute was made for me about 3 years ago by a man from Essex who had learnt his method from someone in Ireland - I paid about

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

I have enormous admiration for anyone who takes up the flute in adulthood. I could probably be called reasonably competent on the whistle, and I own a flute (my main instruments are of the plucked string variety) - you might think I’d be more than halfway to playing it. But I’d be hard pushed to get through a couple of bars without stopping. I’m 27 years old and in good health, I don’t drink or smoke, yet I swear I’d die of exhaustion before getting a tune out of a flute - not to mention my fingers losing the holes every time I lift them off, and seizing up when I attempt a roll, and my lips losing their embouchure.
“Practice - half an hour every day,” I hear you say. But after playing the flute for half an hour (if such a thing were possible) I’d be out cold for a week.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

“I think the thing that’s most difficult however, is trying to play with others that don’t have the ‘speed problem’ I have. Still - you have to do your own thing in the end, don’t you?”

Somewhere, and I’m too lazy to go look through our old threads to figure out where and exactly what, we discussed when you should start playing in sessions, when do you know if you’re ready, etc. We came up with some pretty salient points:

1) First off, define “speed problem” – in some cases, you’ll have people who can play lightning fast, but they’re not really playing particularly well or with a really good feel. A friend who is an expert organist at a local cathedral once told me that the correct speed for any piece of music is the one that you play it best at.

2) It can be good not to start playing out in your first few years – you can pick up some fearfully bad habits in sessions if you start too early. This is especially true when the session is filled with beginners like one’s self.

3) If the session you currently attend is too fast for you, either go to a slower session or start a slower session on your own! If the music’s going too fast for you to play to, stop and listen. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and in fact you can pick up some very useful things out of listening – I can’t remember who said it, but one of us once said that in Irish music, listening IS practising.

Oh, and something you might want to think about, Cathy – very often, once you’ve mastered (or at least, gotten competent at) one instrument, it’s very often much easier to then pick up another instrument, because you already know the tunes. It may be that you may be able to learn all the instruments you wish to play faster overall if you just learn one, and then pick up the next after you’ve gotten reasonably familiar with the tunes and style issues.

I started when I was about 38, myself, futzing about with sheet music and such, and only really got going last year. Your musical years will stretch out as long as you have breath in you (rather literally for you fluters!) – don’t panic about how many years you have left!

David – try running. *grin*


P.S. You’re very welcome, Cathy! Helping other musicians in my same boat is really a sort of karmic workout. 🙂 Selfish of me, isn’t it? I hope it’ll come back, y’see!

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

You saying I’m fat?

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Is there such a thing as being breath challenged? *grin*


Ornamenting the C#

Is there any option except for the tap?

Ornamenting the C#

This got buried because I didn’t use a period, but here we go again - is there any other option for ornamenting the C# on a flute besides the tap?. (

Ornamenting the C#

Hmm, maybe ribbons? Stickers?

You can roll on it, but it may be hard at first. It helps if you keep your right-hand fingers down. Most people don’t bother ornamenting it.
There are other suggestions here:

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

It says, “I think my friends Aran Olwell and Michael Lesley came up with this. Play a C#, move your left hand up the body of the flute (towards your head), spread your fingers, and slide them down rapidly across the C hole, producing a series of crisp, stuttering cuts. It works best if you play with a flat-fingered “piper style” left-hand position. “
But I don’t get it, there is no “C” hole? anybody able to clarify this???.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

He probably means the first hole, the one that gives a B when closed and a C# when open. I think this ornamentation technique is apt to send your flute flying into the ear of the musician playing on your right (hopefully it’s the banjo player) 🙂

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

That ornament does seem to be kind of dumb, I was just tinkering & came up with this…
o x o o o
o o o o o
o o o x o
x x x x x
x x x x x
x x x x x

What do you think Gluaber?

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Mr. Baloney - Excuse my not being a flute player, but shouldn’t there be 6 holes? Your diagram only shows 5.

Also, I just tried the previous ornament you mentioned, with the sliding fingers (I do have a flute). Silly as it may look, I think that well executed it could be quite effective. I can see that it would be quite a challenge to get the timing right, since the fingers are not moving independently. You could used just two fingers for a short “roll” and for a long one, either tongue the initial C# and then tip with two fingers, or tip with 3 fingers. Come to that, you could use 4 fingers to get a real piper’s cran - now that would be silly.

Re: Flutes, Fluters & related stuff

Oops I was going for a vertical perspective, insofar as the sliding your hand around ornament - I tried it & it sounds great by itself, but if you put it into a real playing situation it’s likely to flip the flute out of your hands. Generally (I may be wrong) but I think it’s a good idea to keep each finger over each hole & not move them out of position.