Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Hey guys!!

So I have been involved in Irish dancing for many years and love traditional Irish music. As well as being involved in the dancing, I am a classicaly trained flutist am currently studying flute at the university level working twards my bacholers in music. I have always wanted to play the Irish flute, but have never had any time with all of the other practicing I needed to do. I’m thinking of trying my hand at the Irish style of flute playing, but I have a few questions…

1. What are the main difference in playing the Irish flute and Classical flute. I understand that there is less tounging in traditional irish music, less vibrato and the player wants a more reedy sound. Is there any other differences especialy in the embouchure (I have been trained in the popular french school….relaxed corners and lip covering at least 1/2 of the hole), or any thing else I should know about.

2. Where can I get a quality simple system flute on a low budget. I would love to get the best, but since I just spend 8K on a haynes silver flute, I do not have so much cash lol. Is the Casey Burns folk flute a good deal?

Thanks so much. I can’t wait to start learning 🙂

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Where are you? Not exactly, ball park will do? I think you need to sit down with some people who play the music. There will no doubt be lots of specific advice posted here about tongue here and not there and learn rolls and don’t learn tunes off sheet music etc etc, and some of it will be good advice and some will be bad, but how will you know?

Find some people who play, sit with them, get inspired by them, get friendly with them, chat with them, make music with them. All you are gonna get here is bickering contradiction from people who you have no idea whether they can play or not.

(ps, I’d say play your good silver flute until you really want to commit to this music and can afford a decent wooden one. And if you are after feeling what it feels like to play an instrument with just six holes, get a tin whistle. It’s possible that because it is so simple, playing a whistle might get you into the music easier)

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Casey Burn’s folk flutes are good. I have one for my campfire/travel flute.

I comeoriginally from the Boehm Flute too. Firstly, recognise that it is not the instrument that makes the difference and that not all the rights and wrongs of the classical world apply to the ITM/STM world.

That said, my recommendations would be:
1. Get a simple system flute. This style of music fits it very well.
2. Breath support is still very important.
3. The desired tone is a bit different from the classical ideal - much more mixing in of overtones - people talk of a “dark/reedy” tone. Listen a lot and fiddle with your embouchure until it sounds right. Don’t be afraid to maybe pinch the lips a _little_ bit and blow a bit more down into the flute than you’re used too. Don’t be afraid to do what feels like overblowing at times.
4. If you get a simple system flute and the maker offers a choice of embouchures then try and get a fairly traditional oval/elliptical one.
5. Listen to lots of this sort of music and try to figure out how they do it.
6. Some call it ornamentation, but it is really articulation. A cut is not a grace note, rather it is an accent on the start of a note. Again, listen and copy.
7. You do not need to copy the bad posture or piper’s grip of other simple system flute players that you may see.
8. You do need to find a way to sit comfortably in a pub in a fairly cramped space while playing.
9. Get used to figuring tunes out by ear. Use slow downer software if you want. That said, sometimes transcriptions from a known good player showing some articulation, breathing, phrasing and other alternatives can be very inspirational.

Your classical flute experience will be very valuable, as long as you do not let it be a barrier between you and possibly different ways of doing things. For example, the traditional flute players often wave their fingers around far more than classical players are trained to do - sometimes this is excessive, but sometimes it is done to get the right percussive efect on articulations.

Good luck.

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Oh yeah, and Llig’s absolutely right about finding some people to play with. And using the good silver flute is an option, but I personally get uneasy leaving my good silver flute on a pub table… And I usually take the wooden one with me whenever I leave the table too, unless I have a trusted sidekick watching over it.

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I think that it’s not really much about the instrument at all. The music is such a different mind set, such a different approach, such a different platform from Western Art Music (a more specific term than the loosely referred “classical”). And these differences far outweigh the specifics of any instrument. There is a danger that if you focus too much attention on the instrument, you may well be missing the bigger picture.

But having said that, the music does sit more comfortably on certain instruments, fiddle, pipes, flute and whistle, but this is only because traditionally it has sat on these instruments longer - that the articulations common to these instruments shaped a large part of the music.

And it’s no coincidence that during the last half of the 19C there was a great period of creativity in this music that coincided with the replacement of the simple system flute in Western Art Music with the boehm flute. A glut of excellent quality wooden flutes flooded the market and became available very cheaply. It must have been a great time to be a flute player.

Can you imagine if somebody invented a metal violin that was embraced as being better than the old wooden ones by orchestras etc? Wouldn’t it be brilliant, all those old wooden violins flooding the market and you could get one for a tiny fraction of the cost of just a few years before?

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Apart from the “bickering” comments, Michael’s (Llig’s) first post is spot on.

Personally, I’d say go for an 8-key rather than a keyless, when you do finally decide to take the plunge and buy a simple system flute. But that’s personal preference on my part. I’d rather have an instrument that’s capable of playing in all keys, which is hard work to say the least on a keyless flute.

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Look at Gromit’s link above - someone is selling a Sweet Resonance in blackwood for a little over half price - a real bargain (it’s not me, btw). You could buy that, play it, and resell it if you find you don’t like it for about what you paid. Aside from that, you are probably talented enough to play your Boehm in a session, so just bring it to one and see how it goes. DO hold onto it the entire time, though, or re-case it when you need to use the facilities.

Aside from visiting a session, there are LOTS of videos on line (YouTube and others) and I especially recommend the Comhaltas site for authentic Irish music.

I came the other way to the Irish flute, btw. I am a trumpet player… Tried the whistle, moved to the Irish flute, and now play the Boehm as well!

Enjoy the journey - it’s a LOT of fun!!!

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I don’t have classical training so this might be my prejudice - but I have seen a number of classically trained fluters and only about 1 in 10 actually end up playing “irish” music (this is of course a subjective assessment). They are just not getting the pulse, the rhythm, the lift, the nyah and all those other undefinable things.

Reasons?
- classical training is both their biggest asset and biggest obstacle
- they learn in isolation (sheet music, recordings)
- they have an affinity with teachers who don’t really get it either

I second Llig’s advice, both on the stick with the great instrument you have and on the find someone to sit down with and play.

I would further it by listening to players who are at the furthest “extreme” from classical style and try to emulate them - particularly those who don’t appeal to you. Harry Bradley immediately comes to mind - as do many others with similar styles.

You will hear matt molloy’s playing, and JM Veillon and Sylvain Barou - all people with great chops, a great understanding of irish music, and an ability to play other stuff - and you will think “that’s what I want to do” - which is all well and good, but you run the risk of ending up half way between classical style and their style - a place which I personally find very irritating. I don’t know whether it’s different strokes for different folks or not…

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I would be wary of learning the tunes on the silver flute. The fingerings are sufficiently different that the ornaments are pretty well impossible to execute naturally, and you’d end up relearning the tunes when you shift to a timber flute.
The tin whistle is probably your best bet. Learn the tunes there, and try to play a number of timber flutes while you’re doing that. Since you’ve got the embrochure for the flute already, you should be able to go into a shop and ask to demo some decent instruments and be taken seriously.
Probably some players at sessions would also be willing to let you take a test drive on their flutes, if they know that you’re a serious player interested in finding the right instrument.

If you put away some cash each month while you’re learning the tunes on the whistle and trying out different flutes, you’ll find that at some point you’ll play an instrument and it’ll be the right one for you, and you can afford it. At that point, you’ll have a flute.

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vivace1 -
Get stuck in there - A Classical Flute player comes in late to our Saturday Night session after teaching Silver Flute - At first it was lovely just to here and play along with him in O’Carolan Tunes -
But now he’s playing Jig’s and Reel’s too on that silver machine, lol.
And getting better all the time - I’ll record him next week - and put it into You-tube.. So you can hear just how good the silver flute can be in Irish Music session’s etc,,,,
jim,,,

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A lady named Joanie Madden is a well-known ITM flautist who plays the Boehm flute. Check out her CDs.

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@Tiron,

I can not help but find your comments very disturbing.

First of all as a “classicaly” trained flutist I do not play in one style. There is a huge difference between playing Mozart and Messiaen and these composers requires a different sound and approach.

Second I do not understand why you would dissocourage anyone from learning this art form. As a music educationr, I understand the importance of encouraging artistic exploration.

Third. While I undestand the issue of sheet music, it is important to undesrstand that even classicaly trained musicians have the ability to play by ear especialy good ones. Please do not assume that becaseu I am classicaly trained I am also deaf.

Sorry if I come off to harsh, but I just wanted to clear the air about how as classicaly trained flutist, we are no dummies.

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Nobody said you’re a dummy.
And full credit for wanting to have a go.
BUT: it’s the training you’ve had so far that is partly the problem; imagine you’re a competent driver on the public highway,and you’re suddenly stuck in a demolition derby; some of the rules are the same, but most are completely different, yet you’re still driving.

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Pete - I live in Boston. I see this all the time. (The competent driver who suddenly finds himself in a demolition derby, that is!)

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Could you give some specific examples of how the training is detremental. I don’t fully undstand. I know that the overal approach is different, but if someone is truly a good musician, he or she should be able to make the transition.

Music is muisc……and while there are difference..I think it is the similarities that should be celibrated.

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imho, (almost) everyone who comes from another genre ends up deciding to do a bit of unlearning. Humility helps, though it is not always self evident when listening to the advice of experienced traditional players. It’s impossible to know how much unlearning is involved until you’re completely immersed.
Simple advice, listen as if you never heard the tunes before. Start there & be patient. ;)

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examples … theory tends toward modal ~ ionian, dorian, mixolydian, but even that gets in the way. ornamentations aren’t note embellishments but rhythmic, atonal articulations. Variations are important, you can overdo these but, once you know a tune, try not to play it exactly the same each time through. For myself I enjoy a bit of a dark tone, there is a bit of a bark for low notes on flute …
While you want to sound good allow yourself to make mistakes, that’s something you probably don’t get with formal classical training. The crack is crack.

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Flute players in the classical tradition learn to use the tongue a lot, don’t they? Gotta get rid of that. You might add it back in much later, for a particular effect, but as a reflex your classical articulations are wrong.

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I just reread Crackpot’s response & it’s very good. There is alot a said about ornamentation vs articulation, & I trust there will be more said. Crackpot already made one good point,
“For example, the traditional flute players often wave their fingers around far more than classical players are trained to do - sometimes this is excessive, but sometimes it is done to get the right percussive ef(f)ect on articulations.”

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I came from the classical world, though fortunately I never played classical flute. There is an awful lot to unlearn, although we have some useful ensemble skills and general musicianship.

Classical training is detrimental because you have focused on all the wrong things for many years. Classical musicians learn to reproduce a passage so that it sounds the same every time the baton drops; Irish is about playing differently every time. Classical is about the notes; Irish is about the rhythm. (And a classical player has no clue what Irish players mean by the word “rhythm”.) Classical musicians learn by sheet music; Irish musicians learn almost exclusively by ear if they’re good. Breathing is different; phrasing is different; tone is different; articulation is different. You have to un-learn it all.

Classical flute is particularly problematic, as you have to unlearn that awful diaphragm vibrato habit. I’m fortunate to have grown up playing clarinet, where most players soundly reject heavy, constant vibrato. I can always tell the classical flute players, because they never entirely get away from classical tone and vibrato, even when it hurts their Irish playing.

I like the driving analogy, although I think of it more like driving in the US for ten years and then going to Britain. Driving on the left is actually harder in many ways for an experienced right-side driver than it is for a teenager learning the first time. You might operation of a motor vehicle better, but you have to overcome deep habits that are actively detrimental.

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Oops. Cut/paste error. That’s what I get for actually working at a post. “You might understand operation of a motor vehicle”…

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Vivace, hope you don’t mind my butting in here, but I am always interested in experiences of classical musicians who try this music, and some of the overtones of your comments caught my attention. If you’re new here, you won’t have seen the pasting I let myself in for a couple of months ago because of my insufficient appreciation of these differences. It’s not only training - it’s entire mindset that’s different.

For a start, seeing this as ‘just another genre’ is a very classical/academic outlook - for many of those who play, it seems that trad *IS* music - point. Being too quasi-academic about it has held me back for many a year.

I play the mandolin, but although I have been playing ITM for around 30 years, any musical training I have had has been classical (piano when younger, then the trombone and finally a decade in a choir). It’s very hard to unlearn everything that you unconsciously assimilate - such as taking written notes (or even clearly- defined notes at all) as gospel, right through to assuming that trad musicians have the same attitude to the discipline of practice, rehearsal and the importance of ‘correct’ technique. For better or worse, many are far freer spirits than many in the classical world would be happy with, though this is not to say they aren’t serious about their music.

I have found the biggest hurdle to be getting out of my head the ingrained notion (learned especially from the choir) that the point of playing is somehow to emulate a defined standard as stipulated by a composer (O.K. and as mediated by the conductor). I have also been legitimately criticised for being *too* note-accurate at the expense of the indefinable character of the music. This is all far more organic and flexible.

I am also finding that my preferred means of playing - i.e. getting a small group of people together to do some serious work on some tunes - just does not seem to appeal to the majority of trad, or at least session musicians. Again, I guess my instinct comes from my background.

As I am learning to do, you need to take all of these things as you find them, otherwise you risk encountering some of the frustrations and dead ends that I did/do. Taken at face value, sessions are great, but in my experience, don’t go looking for serious musical fulfilment there. You need to take the music back to its roots for that.

Not much about flutes, but I hope it’s useful - you may find your comment about it ‘all being music’ is rather less true that you think - which is not to say for one moment that it isn’t a great music to be playing…

Ian

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Like Ian said. If you come off as pedantic you’ll receive tons of banter. Mostly friendly.

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Oh - and by the way, to a classically-trained musician, the frequent inability of trad musicians accurately to describe the sound they achieve or the way they do it, can also be intensely frustrating. But there is a reason for it. and it’s not as dumb as it might at first appear (I have also experienced the condescention of many classical musicians to what they considered to be inferior or ignorant practices). The only way is to listen - that’s what an oral tradition means!

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You must have missed the very detailed descriptions I have heard, Ian.

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Some trad players spend a lot of time thinking about the mechanics of their playing. Some don’t, and ability or lack of ability to explain oneself in this music doesn’t correlate with ability to play the music.

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Best flute instructor who has ever taught me about playing flute & playing traditional ~ John Skelton.
Not that I have had several instructors, just that he was very direct, very informative, very fun.

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Ben - I have had some detailed descriptions too - but they seemed to bear little resemblance to the desired outcome 😉

Jon - I was not for one moment suggesting that it did.

But I nonetheless have found that even a rudimentary classical grounding such as mine equipped me with a mindset and a vocabulary that I have found to be scarce amongst the players of other kinds of (less formal?) music. Or maybe classical just *pretends* to be able to define the indefinable? 🙂

I did wonder whether the foregoing might set a few felines amongst the feathered - but that was not at all the intention, just a well-meant set of personal impressions.

Right now, finding a group of people who want to do something more formal to a reasonable standard is proving to be a bit like herding cats…

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Fair play, Jon. Which brings it all back to finding another player who knows the tradition, doesn’t need to be flute. The aural tradition may have changed over time, but whatever is available probably beats listening to another lecture.

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“ Which brings it all back to finding another player who knows the tradition, doesn’t need to be flute.”

Some of the best guitar instruction I ever got was from a fiddler. We would sit and play tunes, and he’d say “Don’t do that” if he didn’t like something. It was a great help.

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@Elain T

Becarful about how you classify classical musicans as many of your misconceptions are incorect.

While at an early age you are right that we are tranied to play everything the same each time we play it. But as we progress, there is alot more artistic freedome than you realize. I may decide that Mozart is saying this one day and then the next day on a performace play it differently becausa at the particular moment I feel somthing different.

Classical playing is not just about notes…and by notes I assume you mean pitches as the wrong pitch in the wrong rhythm is a wrong note. Music from the baroque and classical period is extreamly rythmic. When playing in this style it is more important that thr rhythm is correct and in time rather then getting mearly the pitch right.

With the vibrato…Any good flute player has complete control over whether the vibrato is “on or off” and I know that in my case when I do not want to use vibrato (which does happen in classical music) I can easily turn it if.

While I can see how playing classical can make it diffucult to learn the Irish way, I also see how it can be benificial. Being clasicaly trained I have lots of controll over my sound and I have a very good ear.

I’m starting to notice that there is a negitive stigma attached to classical flute players who want to play ITM. I feel that instead of disscouraging me to try this type of music, I should be receving genuine HELPFUL advice rather then comments that are negetive twords classical flute players.

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Welcome to the board. Thanks for the additional information about your experience. I think all the responses, even Michael’s, have attempted to be helpful. Seeing how you are a dancer, are you playing traditional tunes with any of the musicians you know from dance?

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I have played some of them…..some on flute but most on piano….Have always wanted to take Irish flute lessons, but my mom wanted me to take so classical lessons first. Fell in love wih classical playing and never got around to learning the irish flute. Would still love to learn. Love Irish dancing and culture

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What I meant to ask was, do you know musicians who have played for your dancing & would they be someone whom you might have an opportunity to play some tunes with?

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I do know some…I plan on talking with them when I finish my semseter exams and hopefully find a good teacher to take some lessons with. I know that my classical playing will blead over and I will have a more classical take on the music, but I do not think that I will fail and I believe that many of my classical techniques will come in handy.

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Vivace - you are getting a lot of helpful advice, if you take it on board. Crackpot’s post, for example, is quite useful. The best advice I’ve seen is one I’ve already concurred with: learn the tunes on the whistle while you’re finding the right trad flute for you. But there’s a lot of good stuff in here. Take what seems gooe to you, and never mind the begrudgers.

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No one is being negative towards classical flute players, but quite a lot of posters here have had the experience of playing with classical players who think trad is “just another genre”* and pretty much play it the same way as they’d play a classical piece. It doesn’t come out sounding like an Irish tune. It sounds like a bit of classical music. While there’s no question that a good classical player *can* become a good Irish player, they have to be willing to immerse themselves in it and adopt a kind of “beginner’s mind” towards it.

That said, it depends on what you want to do. I have met people who would rather play a zillion different styles of music with a fair degree of mediocrity all around, but enjoy it immensely and claim they’d be bored if they only focused on one style. I’ve also met the rarist of species who can play multiple styles of music completely convincingly.

*Nothing is “just another genre.” If an Irish player wanted to become a good bluegrass/jazz/classical/whatever player, they would have to immerse themselves in that, figure out what gives it its unique sound, and unlearn some stuff they’re doing on Irish tunes.

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I don’t think people are trying to discourage you. I think that they’re pointing out the potential pitfalls that they’ve experienced, or witnessed.

I play with a classical flute player, who plays and teaches professionally. She has also been playing Irish for a couple of years now, and it has taken her that long to start to get an Irish feel in her playing. She is good at listening, and sounds pretty good when she is playing with other people. She still struggles to sound Irish somewhat when she is playing alone. But she’s getting it.

I think that people here are pointing out that it isn’t necessarily an easy transition, and that you need some immersion in the trad music to be able to understand it. Some players never get it, some get it quickly. But to be able to do it well takes time and dedication. If you have the time, and demonstrate the dedication, I think you’ll find that you’re welcomed with open arms!

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Vivace, please understand that I have no intention of discouraging anybody from doing anything. I do see why you perceive them as such.

Re-reading my post, you will see that I claimed that your classical training will be a huge asset (for the reasons you have already mentioned), but, assuming you want to play “pure” irish music (this is a strong assumption - many of the classical players I mentioned are perfectly happy playing what they are playing - I just avoid playing with them - I would suspect the vast majority of people on this board would do the same), I would expect your training to be a disadvantage.

You are under the impression that your training has given you a wide range of skills which makes attacking a new genre of music something which should be within your grasp. However, just as I am incapable of discerning the difference in style between your interpretation of Mozart on two different occasions, it is highly probable that you will initially not be able to differentiate the range of subtleties I am able to differentiate in irish flute playing (note that I’m not implying that you’re deaf at all - I’m implying that you’re used to approaching music from a different angle and listening to different things).

I have no doubt that, once you are able to *hear* these subtleties and if you *agree* that they are important, you will be able to leap straight into reproducing them with your awesome technical chops.

But consider that I’m telling you that I, with my 4 years of mostly self-taught flute playing, can hear things/play things that you cannot.

Is this something that you can believe? I know it sounds pretty crazy, but it’s the only explanation I have for so many amazing musicians not succeeding in playing irish music.

My point here is that it isn’t a specific aspect of your training which will be an obstacle (aside maybe for the approach to music, i.e. what the essence of a tune is to you and what playing differently each time means to you), but the confidence you have in your training having equipped you with the ears and tools necessary to tame a new kind of music. To a certain extent it has, but you will certainly face the rather humbling prospect of being a complete beginner again, not of a new instrument, but of a new music.

Assuming you read this far, I will take a guess that you are thinking something along the lines of “this guy must have it in for classical training, he doesn’t want to believe that my training is enough, he is the type who is arrogant enough to be criticizing someone who has been playing 4 times as long as he has”.

That thought there, and thoughts along similar lines. They are what will prevent you from playing irish music, unless you are willing to let go of them.

-------

I am personally faced with this battle all the time, as I move from French trad dancing - which I’m pretty good at - to Lindy Hop. I’m having to take lessons with complete beginners who can’t dance at all. In fact, I don’t believe even the instructor is as good a dancer as I am (because deep down, it is *all music*/*all dance*). But I’m having to suck it, because at the moment, Lindy hop is not beyond my skills, but *outside* of them.

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You could buy a banjo. Might be cheaper. Banjo’s are better than flutes.

~

Timing is everything, when it comes to telling a funny joke.

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Fair play, Reverend. It’s always good to hear specifics, about someones’ experience, rather than going purely from general assumptions and antecdotal biases. Not that the board would ever do that. Still, thanks to Elaine & vivace for opening a window on the variant styles of training in the classical world.

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Vivace, the more I read this discussion, the more I’m getting convinced that you should first attempt the tunes on a tin whistle. What I’m wondering is, are you preparing to suffer the ignomy of going back to being a beginner? Or are you relishing the thought of beginning a brand new journey?

You seem convinced that your developed technique can be nothing more than a help, but what I’m not sure you are getting is that technique matters exponentially less with this music. If you take a simple jig on your flute and play it pretty straight and deliberatly slow(ish), the first thing you’ll be feeling is how almost painfully easy it is. How small it is - 16 bars, how repetitive it is, how harmonically constricted. You’ll be like “Bloody hell, is that it? Give me another one.”

But play it again on a tin whistle. And you may be be like, “Ah for god’s sake, what am I doing with this daft little 16 bar tune on a stupid bit of tin and injection moulded plastic when I’ve just forked out eight thousand bucks on a proper instrument to play bloody Mozart on?”

And maybe, you might have learned your first lesson.


( … by the way, I think it’s important that you mentioned that good classical players have good ears. Of course they have.)

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~

I will say the (Irish) dancers I have known who went on to learn a melody instrument typically brought with them a good sense of the rhythm for … you guessed it, dance tunes. Much better than players from other genres.

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Welcome back, Mr. Gill.

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Tinwhistle is a fine instrument. But how is it the desired way to go from concert flute to Irish flute, aside from the obvious lesson of humility?

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Considering that yon OP has said that they just bought a pricey silver flute and don’t have a lot of green at the moment, and considering they don’t know a lot about playing the tunes at all, it seems to be the best thing to get an instrument suited for the music and learn the music - and then, when the cash reserves are back in order, they’ve had a chance to learn a bunch of tunes and play a bunch of timber flutes and get an idea of what they want.

Beats going out when you’re low on cash and springing for an instrument that might or might not be what you end up wanting. Patience is a good thing, sometimes.

(The other option - learning the tunes on the silver flute - should not even be considered, especially if the goal is to wind up on a proper flute.)

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-Drop the vibrato completely to start out with.
-Drop the tonguing except after a breath
-Use your fingers to articulate whenever your instinct tells you to
tongue a note.

All that is just to get started with it. Later on - after listening to
hours and hours of Trad flute players - you can relax those rules.

Don’t get me wrong. Imho every traditional play should have a tinwhistle. It’s just that if your primary instrument is something else (or going to be something else) then you probably should play that instrument as soon as possible. For flute, I’d say there is only so much you can learn with tinwhistle. I love tinwhistle, but it is not a flute.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Oh pleeez not Sir James Galway on a hornpipe. You might as well post Master Lessons on Vibrato.
See what he does on this reel;
Matt Molloy & Donal Lunny Bucks of Oranmore
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS7NxJDp4zQ

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

That’s a much better piece of playing to listen to, sure - and I love seeing Galway turn a little green around the gills when he realizes that he’s got nothing in this league - but for the contrast, the Bluehill clip is quite instructive. James Galways knows the tune perfectly well. He could probably play it backwards, inverted, if you gave him a few minutes to think about it. He can play it fast, and he can put a lot of bits into it. But he can’t play the tune in a way that would pass in any session you’d ever find yourself in, unless the players were very patient folks.
Vivace - this may sound like I’m taking the p*ss, but I’m actually trying to give you a look through the eyes of the people you want to be playing with. Galway’s playing might sound fine to you, but if you don’t hear how it doesn’t sound like Irish music, you haven’t heard Irish music yet.

That’s why I posted that one, rather than the Bucks - or this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtSjM3YU7Qw


“Not bad, not bad at all”

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Well it is true, I have watched many more poor examples of playing Irish music, more times, on YouTube than I would have were I not a member. 😉

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Yes, for flute, I’d also say there is only so much you can learn with a tin whistle. But the geezer says he can already play the flute. What he’s after is the bigger picture of learning the music and for this, the instrument doesn’t matter as much.

Classical music is big music. It’s long, it’s complicated, it’s got a lot of constantly changing rhythms and dynamics and harmony. I think that psychologically, the intimacy of the tin whistle is perfect for someone with a mind set that is used to big music. What would normally be described as the tin whistle’s limitations are turned into advantages that encourage listening for other stuff. It’s diatonic, has only two octaves (usually less) and has no dynamic range. It is the music.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Emily & Michael both, for different reasons ~
Grand! Brill! Spot on.

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now I’ll go play my Clarke whistle, which is sadly bent in 3 places. ;)

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

You can do it Vivace1.
Your attitude seems well intentioned.
You love the music.
Immerse yourself in it completely.
Go to festivals.
Attend workshops.
Listening to it is more important than playing it.
Throw the dots away as quick as you can.
It is not classical music, therefore it should not be approached as such.
James Galway sounds as though he is wearing a straight jacket with bricks stuffed in it.
Matt Malloy sounds like a bird on the wing.
You already have plenty of good advice here.
Pay attention to the gems of knowledge that appear when you least expect them.
Hope to see you at a session someday!
Welcome 😀

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

And probably the only reason playing the whistle hasn’t worked for poor old James Galway is becuase he can’t be bothered. But why can’t he be bothered I wonder? Has he no respect maybe?

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I’d be interested to hear Vivace on James Galway fails?

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Thanks everyone for their advice and help………I am very excited to start exploring TIM 🙂

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

The music is great. You can met some fine people. Just pass your exams & don’t spend all your time on TIM sites.
Or on improving vibrato.

Ben

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Vivace, why do you think James Galway is so sh*te? I’d be interested

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

How about, “Why is Micho Russell’s whistle playing enjoyed by so many traditional players?” If we’re talking whistle.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

There’s an ambiguity in your phrasing, Mr. Gill. I think you mean
“Vivace, why do think it is that ( James Galway is so sh*te )”
and not
“Vivace, why is that (you think James Galway is so sh*te)”.

(since we haven’t established what vivace’s opinion on Mr. Galway is yet)

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I hope this isn’t just another self fulfilling prophecy. A bit of instant gratification.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

While I respect Jimmy Galway, His playing is not my faviorite. While there are times when I love his brilliant tone, it is sometimes not appropriate lol.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Vivace, for some immersion into Irish flute playing, may I (humbly) suggest you give a listen to the 7 hours of mostly solo playing from 120 different (again, mostly) traditional flute players on the Wooden Flute Obsession CDs (3 volumes, 2 CDs each)? Audio samples at http://www.worldtrad.org

Lots of opportunity there to listen to the differences in articulation, phrasing, tone, rhythm, etc.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Yes, great is the veritable banquet of variety on those CDs. But it still won’t come close to sitting down with real people. You still don’t say where you are?

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Absolutely! Get the WFO triple set of double CDs. Listen to it. Also get Conal O’Grada’s two CDs (Top of Coom, Cnoc Bui) - my personal two favourites at the moment.

And most real players of this music will be happy and helpful, despite the somewhat negative kneejerk reaction on this board.

I have seen both problems, classical players coming in to a session convinced that they know it all (Fiddlers in this case) as well as traditional players badly in need of a bit of discipline in their playing and practice as regards things like tone production, tuning, timing, pace, not blurring their articulations, etc.

I think the problem can take two forms: The truly great classical player, such as James Galway (also not my favourite as it happens, but undoubtedly one of the major influences of the last fifty years.) who cannot be bothered to try to learn the idiom of this music properly, but instead take the bare bones of the tunes and play them in their own existing style. Pity. I’m sure he could do better. These are the examples you see often quoted on youTube.

The other form is the mediocre amateur player with classical training who thinks that there is only one true way (probably because they had a teacher who told them that) and everything else is “wrong” or “inferior”. These are the ones who probably can’t turn off their vibrato at will. These are the examples you see turning up to a session once or twice, then mostly leaving in disgust/disdain. We’ve all met them.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

_happy to help_…

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Crackpot, I think it really is that simple - there are people who just don’t get that there are different techniques you can use to play the same instrument that serve different styles of music, and who think that those who don’t play the way they were taught are doing it wrong. This obviously is going to get people’s backs up.

Now, these same people probably have no problem with the idea that you can play the same guitar by fingerpicking in a classical style, bluegrass flatpicking, or just strumming chords or doing boom-chuck accompaniment, and other ways besides. Why they find this hard to extend to flutes, fiddles and the like I don’t know.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Somewhere there is an interview with James Galway (it may be in that documentary about the Chieftains) in which, IIRC, he admits to not having traditional ‘piping style’ fingering techniques and tells of Paddy Moloney making a joke along the lines of “we will make an irish musician out of you yet” whenever he learns a little more of the whistle technique.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

@Red Menace
Yes, it really _is_ that simple.

I mean, a _good_ classical flute player has to learn different things for different styles of music. Nothing worse than hearing baroque dance tunes or Bach vibratoed to hell and beyond. How they deal with this is a fairly reliable indication of whether the player is capable of approaching _this_ music with the right attitude. (My classical flute teacher calls this sort of ubiquitous, rapid and unpleasant vibrato the “Kaninchenficken” vibrato. Or alternatively the “Goat” vibrato.)

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I think I remember, in that same documentary, Matt Molloy being asked, “So what do you think of Galway’s playing”. And Mr Molloy kind of rolls his eyes a little being put on the spot, and eventually comes out with, “… er … he has a lovely tone”.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I remember a review of a Bothy Band concert in Melody Maker or one of those mags in which it was reported that, after Matt M had finished one of his spectacular solos, a punter yelled out, “James Galway is dead!” whereupon our Matt replied, “James Galway is God.” (I’m not making this up.)

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Brilliant. What a gent

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

The telling thing, of course, is that Matt Molloy comprehends and appreciates what James Galway does. It’s just a shame that Mr Galway not only doesn’t in the least bit comprehend what Matt Molloy does, but worse, he doesn’t care either.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Hasn’t James Galway said he regards Matt Molloy as one of the best flute players?

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

In regards to the particular variety of instrument one “should” play, that is secondary to what is in the player’s head. Violin and fiddle are the ‘same’ instrument (with the exception of various folk cross-tunings) and the differences coming out of the instrument between a classically trained player and a roots player are night and day. Even getting away from classical>folk comparisons, you can have two types of ‘folk’ fiddling within (western) traditions, say ITM and bluegrass, and the differences are still just as immediately apparent.

So the argument that a wooden simple system is a “must”, is an exageration, imo. As noted there are ITM players like Madden who play Boehm metal flutes. Frankly, I think you could lock an ITM player in a cave with a shakuhachi, and when you let him/her out, it will still sound Irish, because that is what in in the player’s head, and is what sounds “right” to them.

I took up flute (Boehm) 3 years or so ago, after 35 years on predominantly mando-family instruments, because I wanted something comepletely different. A fiddle or viola was a fretless mando played with a bow. Guitar is an OM or cittern in a different tuning, etc. They were variations on something already there in terms of the mechanics. Flute was something completely different in the mechanics of playing. I happen to like the sound of metal flute and love it in jazz, rock and blues - Tull, Traffic, Jeremy Steig, Derek Trucks Band, James Moody, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, etc. etc., and it is fully chromatic. That said, I still wouldn’t mind getting a simple system timber flute for several reasons: the ability to bend notes via keyless holes and other articulations, AND, being able to flip the instrument over and play from either side. (As a tool for better teaching beginner mandolin students, I took up playing the instrument left-handed to reexperience their travails and “feel their pain”. Actually, from a recreational standpoint, I find activating the other brain hemisphere rather enjoyalbe. )

However, I practice plenty of Irish/UK tunes on flute. I’ve listened to that stuff since the early 70s, including players such as John Doonan, Paddy Carty, Paddy Taylor, Molloy, Tubridy, McConnell, Seamus Egan, Jack Coen, Kennedy etc. etc. But, there are things that I “hear in my head” from versions by someone like fiddler Dave Swarbrick, and it doesn’t matter what instrument I pick up, that’s the phrasing and sound that more-or-less comes out. (BTW - I’m convinced that Swarbrick was influenced in his early days by piccolo player John Doonan.) Same thing could be said of electric guitar stuff I’d learned years ago - Santana, or Richard Thompson or Hendrix wants to come out through whatever instrument is in the hands. Or it might be John Kirkpatrick accordion morris tunes - that’s what sounds “right” to my ear.

So, if the Irish sound isn’t in someone’s ear/mind (through listening), it won’t make any difference how expensive a timber flute a classical player buys…it’s still going to sound “classical.” So just use your concert flute and buy a bunch of Irish CDs, the Grey Larsen book, instead of a timber flute - your money will be put to much better use. And get a couple of tinwhistles - the best instrument value for the $ on the planent - to mess with the open hole finger techniques. But it ALL starts with the EAR - any instrument is only the physical/sonic manifestation of what’s in the EAR and MIND.

Niles H

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Quite right Niles.

And Ben, yes, James Galway has said he regards Matt Molloy as one of the best flute players. But that in no way contradicts with my opinion that he doesn’t in the least bit comprehend what Matt Molloy does. He can gawp at Matt Molloy’s fingers flying about on those brilliant crans on the Bucks, but that’s not comprehension. As is so obvious from every single time I’ve heard Galway attempt anything Irish, he simply doesn’t hear it.

Yes, there’s mutual respect between the two, but Molloy’s respect in not attempting to play a mozart duet with Galway on the Gay Burn show is unfortunatly not reciprocated by Galway with that feckin hornpipe.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Niles - for all you say, I’ve seen people come into sessions bearing silver flutes, and it always ends up with me packing it in early. No matter how much time they’ve spent on it, they haven’t understood that the silver flute just isn’t set up to do this. Listening to Joanie Madden has not convinced me otherwise, though her whistle playing is great.
It just sounds awful when they play all of the notes of a roll or a cran, in the right order, and then look pleased with themselves, as if that were what makes a roll or a cran.
Some things just don’t work. I used to hear a mandolinist who’d convinced himself that he could play rolls on that thing - a similarly awful sound. It was like watching an animated corpse dancing a set.

I would be willing to listen to a flautist who would admit that they were playing a C instrument, and I’d even play my tunes on the C row to play with them. That player might have a chance at this. But if they think that they’re going to play the tunes in D, and get around the inherent limitations of their instrument simply by technique, so far evidence shows that they’re quite mistaken.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeqWduZOkDw


I’m not saying the flute doesn’t matter, I’d prefer a simple system conical bore wooden one. The question here is how much does it matter, compared to not having the music in you?

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Joanie does alot of tonguing. I too don’t know how you would pull off a cran on silver flute. But most of the fingering on the silver flute is similar to a D flute. For example, most concert flautist can pick up D tin whistle easier than playing a C whistle. I know, I have gotten a few flute players started on tinwhistle. Those would be flute players with a good ear.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

>>you’d walk out of this?

Dunno, Michael - I’ll let you know when I get home from work and YouTube isn’t blocked.

Sure I agree that a player with the music can work miracles, and probably a decent player could pull off a tune on a silver flute. But someone who makes a silver flute their main instrument clearly (to me) doesn’t get it. And so far, what I’ve heard has all been rubbish.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I’m not a great fan of Joannie’s style, too much tongue for me too, but we’re splitting hairs here compared to what the thread is about. The idea that I’d walk out if she came in for a tune is ridiculous. I think mandolins and banjos are crap at the music, much much worse than a silver flute, but some of my best mates play such things brilliantly.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

How’s about a deal? You can hate mandolins (and love mandolin players, natch) and I’ll hate the silver flute (and love the flautists, por supuesto). And we can both bang on about how our particular bete noire is the worst thing in the music, and everyone can take it exactly as seriously as they like.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I’d say it’s one of the differences between this music and classical music. Can you imagine what the conductor would say if the first violinist in the orchestra turned up with a bazouki, saying, I just fancied strumming tonight, I might play the odd tune, I’m just learning. Or the principle flautist brought his tin whistle?

Actually, hang on a minute, I suppose if during a 56 bar rest, the back line of fiddles and violas got their bodhrans out that might be going a bit too far.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Cheers, Michael. Joanie’s playing is fine, not rubbish at all. I have to agree with Niles & Llig, if you have the music in you the instrument doesn’t matter. A timbre flute will no more make an Irish player out of someone who tends toward classical techniques than a silver flute would transform an Irish player into a classical player.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

That would be Boston Pops.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Michael Gill, you’re a straight shooting enigma, the most free-thinking cynic on here.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Ben, of course Joanie Madden’s playing isn’t rubbish. She’s a great whistler. Her flute playing… well, it’s better than it’s got any right to be, considering the instrument. I’ll give you that much.

It’s not that buying a real flute will instantly make yon vivace1 into a trad player. The point is that trying to play this stuff on a silver flute will make the job infinitely more difficult, or, if the silver flute players I’ve seen are any indication, impossible.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

@ Jon: A Boehm flute might make it difficult or impossible to become a Matt Molloy clone but it is certainly possible to play lovely Irish music on one. There are people that do (some of them members here): experienced, top-notch musicians, steeped in the tradition, who have honed their skills over many years playing with the greater and lesser heroes of this music.

Give them a break and put your hobby horse out to grass.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Sure, Jeeves. Soon as I hear one that doesn’t make me want to get up and leave the room.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I think Jeeves may be thinking of Sharon Creasey, whom I have heard a few times and her music (with Cyril Maguire and Cathal McConnell too I think) didn’t have me want to leave the room.

Several times I have sat with Paddy Donohue and Vincent Griffin who have a mighty duet going.

There are examples. And why wouldn’t there be.

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Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

The variations on a general type/category of instrument all have their own particular quirks, eccentricities, strengths and “limitations”. But the instrument is only the tool, not the end.

Where is it carved in stone that someone has to use the entire spectrum of articulations and ornamentations playing a particular style of music? If a Boehm system has a difficult time getting certain ornamentions, the most obvious solution is to avoid the ones that don’t work and concentrate on the ones that do. Doh! Find the pitches that rolls work best and use them there. I tend to use mostly cuts. (Some of the intervals I sometimes use on certain pitches are wider jumps and the effect is more like Highland pipes.)

The other thing to consider is how much cross-instrument fertilaztion has already occured; there probably is no completely “pure” style of any instrument anymore, especially with the more recent additions - guitar, mandolin, tenor banjos, accordions, piano etc.

Is it intrinsically WRONG for a flute player to emulate the bowings of a particular fiddle player? (“Oh no,far too much tonguing…if I want to hear Tommy Peoples, it needs to be the fiddle doing it!”) i.e. Bowing patterns (may) = tonguing patterns. Or how about using some accordion player as a model of phrasing or ornamentation (“Oh no!…too staccato!”) . What about putting Billy Pigg (Northumbrian pipes) onto the flute (simple system or Boehm)? (“Heresy….No…double heresy…it’s ‘English’ decadence!”)

Again, it’s what sounds “right” to the musician because of what he/she has put into the mind/ear over years. At a certain stage, the ear becomes the determining driving force, not the hands/fingers. When the musical mind reaches that pont, the particular instrument used to get there doesn’t matter ifadditional instruments are taken up. If I pick up my wife’s viola,something I only do occasionally (though I’ve decided that I should put all my years of mando fingering skills in 5ths to use on a more “vocalesque” instrument) and I play something like “The Banks Of The Sweet Primroses”, all the Swarbrickisms just emerge on their own without really thinking about it. The bow hand changes direction following the what my ear/mind decides “sounds right”. But only up to a certain tempo because those mechanical skills are not ingrained. Curiously, if I play the same tune on flute, it comes out with the same Swarb type of phrasing/lilt..

Of the numerous recorded versions of “Kid On The Mountain” in my LP/CD library, the one that, for me, stands above the rest is Tommy Peoples w/Paul Brady off High Part Of The Road. And that’s what is always in the back of the mind as a reference, though there are some bits for certain parts from other players which I also like and might creep in. (On the other hand, if the tune is “At Last”, I want my instrument channeling Etta James’ delivery!!!)

Again, my view is that what is in the mind/ear of the player trumps the particular instrument in the hands. Not to say that going to a different variation of the instrument may let the player get even closer to what is in the ear.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Since vivace1 has actually asked whether a simple system flute can be had for a reasonable price, wouldn’t it help if people talked a bit more about that, and gave suggestions for getting one, instead of arguing about whether you can actually play the music reasonably well on the silver flute?

I have heard good things about the Rob Forbes delrin flutes. I know Rob, and I know about 5-6 people who own one of his flutes. They’re at least a decent starter, they sound pretty darn good, and they’re polymer, which might ease some of the pain of picking up a somewhat finicky and unstable instrument. And they’re only around $400(USD)

I’m not a flute player, BTW, so take my advice for what it’s worth. http://forbesflutes.com/

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Well done Vivace for inspiring 100 replies!

I have been following this thread lots as I find it quite interesting. I also began on Boehm flute, but switched to an Irish flute in order to try and play the articulations the way they should be done, as the Boehm certainly makes that difficult (impossible?). That doesn’t mean that I suddenly sounded “Irish” - still working on that!

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

And well done to vivace for giving back as good as she got!
I hope she picks through the advice she got, and gives it a go. This music is for people to have fun with. Some of the best times I ever had musically was standing in front of a music stand while my wife and I were first learning dance tunes, playing them from the sheet music together. What we played needed a LOT of adjusting when we took ourselves down to the local pub, but to the two of us it was just as much playing it ‘wrong’ together as it was playing it ‘right’ down at the pub.
I do agree with llig, a tin whistle would be a good place to start learning the tunes and the style, still a wind instrument, but different enough that the new habits of the different style can be learned.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Something ironic here.

There’s a lot of advice for the OP to buy a whistle (great idea, IMO), and there’s also advice to “stop tonguing.”

Which is weird, because Irish whistle technique is very heavily articulated with tonguing, or at least it is with some extremely influential players. Tonguing in the same manner on a simple system flute doesn’t necessarily work all that well.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

wormdist, I think you’re confusing two sorts of “tonguing”. The articulation used on the whistle is a phrase break, stopping the flow of air cold or releasing it with a snap for an emphatic onset. The sort of articulation which classical flute players have trouble getting rid of is the habit of tonguing notes within a phrase, which is lovely in its place, but its place isn’t in a session.
There’s not a lot of the latter sort of tonguing that I hear in traditional whistle playing, although as you point out the former is quite common (on both the flute and the whistle).

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I doubt if wordiet is confused. The sort of articulation that Sean Ryan, and a good few other whistle players use, is tonguing. Good, old-fashioned tonguing, and not a glottal stop. Loads of whistle players use it, but not all that many flutists.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I have only experimented with a Boehm for a few hours but what struck me was how easy it was get a set of notes in several keys that were fairly well balanced in tone and volume. vivace1 will no doubt have the embouchure to deal with the ‘uneveness’ of a simple system flute’s response but starting on a whistle won’t help with getting used to it.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Arguments for a wooden flute.

1. The music does sit better on it.
2. Vivace is a flute player, not a whistle player. She(?) hasn’t said that she wants to play whistle.
3. People won’t kneejerk into rejection when they see it. I have played ITM on my Boehm and seen this reaction from people. It annoys me and I know it is their problem, not mine, but it is still something one can do without when trying to get into this stuff.
4. - And most important! - a physically distinct instrument can be a very useful psychological crutch in maintaining the boundaries in your head between the different musical styles.

That all said, a Casey Burns folk flute is very good value for the money. I have one and the only thing I would change is to add some rings on the joints and a tuning slide, but then it wouldn’t be a folk flute - it would be one of Casey Burns’ standard models… As it is, the folk flute is my travel/campfire flute for when I don’t want to take the more expensive ones out. Although at the moment my classical flute teacher has it out on loan…

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

And I don’t recall if anyone else has said it in this thread, but get thee to Chiff and Fipple’s flute board for a more flute specific set of opinions…

http://forums.chiffandfipple.com

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

And do not confuse a 19th century style flute with a baroque traverso - both are wooden with 6 holes, but the traverso is not really suitable for ITM.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Surprising that nobody has mentioned the fact that Paddy Carty played a keyed flute (OK, a Radcliffe system, but still). If his music made anybody wanted to leave the room, then it would probably be to everyone’s advantage if they did. Leave the room that is. 😀

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

A post on the reason you should go for a keyed flute (and pitfalls to avoid) from this discussion: https://thesession.org/discussions/20737

If you feel like investing in a great 5-piece flute, also with somewhat smaller finger-holes (which is also easier on the hands), check out Michael Cronnolly’s M&E Rudall and Rose model polymer flutes. Keyless D is around 340 euros, (that’s around £305 these days). They’re beautiful to play. They also have a sweeter, less strident tone than the large hole, large bore, louder, more modern instruments. Here’s a link:
http://www.irishflutes.net/mef/Product_Descriptions.htm
main site: http://www.irishflutes.net/

Just in case it applies to your case, you should make sure you have a good posture, this will reduce physical stress, and especially overstretched fingers. By this I mean a good traditional (and also classical) posture, where you hold the flute lightly, slightly tilted down, elbows slightly out, and the right thumb bears almost all the weight of the flute, and where the flute rests on the left hand just below the index finger (this point acts as a pivoting point). The little finger of the right hand steadies the flute when all or most of the finger holes are uncovered. The upper body is twisted slightly to the left and the head looks slightly left and tilts down slightly to the right. I’m sure much of this is old hat to you, but so many teachers of Irish music say nothing whatever about posture I thought I’d mention it as centrally important.
(In other words avoid at all costs the so called pipers’ grip for flute, where you keep your fingers rigidly straight and rest the flute on your shoulder, twist you windpipe, etc.)

For the embrochure make sure your lips are relaxed, that the stream of air is directed in such a way to give the clearest sound, that it is symmetrical (left & right); Practice in front of a mirror (while you’re looking at the mirror, of course!) And make sure not to press the flute into the lower lip; lots of people do this as it compensates for lack of lip strength in getting a workable embrochure. Also you should practice standing up, in general. As with the fiddler, standing is the optimal position for the flautist, and when sitting you should try to have the upper body as balanced, upright, and free-moving as when standing.

And an interesting post on flute style from this discussion: https://thesession.org/discussions/14096

I’m not sure that having a background in classical flute is necessarily all negative. Your posture will most likely be better than some traditional players for a start. I took up playing the Bohem flute about five years after I began playing the traditional wooden flute. I already used some tonguing for articulation, though typically much softer than is typical in classical music. (You can get very nice triplets by having the tongue slightly back from the teeth.) I read somewhere (perhaps Fintan Vallely’s Timber: the concert flute tutor?) that tonguing in flute playing is usually much less obvious, using the ‘dhe’ tonguing for articulation rather than the ‘te’ attributed to classical players! (I’m afraid I can’t find the source.)

According to Hammy Hamilton:

‘In the classical tradition [articulation] was always done by tonguing, which amounts to making small movement with the tongue which interrupts the air-stream and separates the notes. The classical tutors went to great lengths to explain how the player should pronounce different syllables such as ti, di, did’ll, and tid’ll to cover different groups of notes. Traditional musicians rarely use the tongue in flute playing, a fact which players from a classical background find disconcerting. The technique which traditional players use to separate the notes is unfortunately rather hard to describe.
It took me years of teaching to realise that in fact it has nothing to do with the diaphragm, which I had long assumed to be the case. In fact it is brought about by a movement of the throat, which is probable best described as an undeveloped cough.’
from: Hammy Hamilton, The Irish Flute Player’s Handbook, p.59

I agree that typically most of the articulation is done with the breath but I don’t think that tonguing is always out of order. (I use it quite a lot, and I think many Scottish tunes really benefit from it. And Jean-Michel Veillon, the remarkable traditional Breton flautist, uses soft tonguing to great effect.

Constant vibrato is a relatively recent phenomenon even in Classical music. It was introduced into violin playing by Fritz Kreisler; in instrumental music before 1900 it was sparingly used. My personal opinion is that the vibrato produced with the diaphragm can be nicer on the ear than that produced with a drumming finger, even though that is the dominant method. The ‘finger vibrato’ involves lowering the pitch of the note by a smidgeon during the vibrato rather than wavering higher & lower as in classical vibrato. Classical vibrato can also be made less pronounced.

As to what is ‘authentic’ in flute playing, the recent notion that pub sessions (especially loud sessions) are the main forum for Irish music has often not been kind to flute music. There is a tendency to play very loudly and very aggressively in order to rise above the loudness of pipes, accordions, fiddles, etc. Perhaps Irish and Scottish music is best heard in houses, or if in large crowds it ought to be miked!

The main problem I find in some classically trained players of Irish music (fiddle as often as flute, and also in many non-classically trained players) is a lack of rhythm in their playing — they got no swing! And as with jazz, playing tunes as they are written can be disastrous. I’d say rhythm is the most important thing to work on, and listening to lots of good music is the best way. (I recommend Matt Molloy, John McKenna, Conal Ó Gráda, Kevin Burke, James Morrison, & Hugh Gillespie.) And to hear a very wild, woody tone, rich in harmonics Conal Ó Gráda is superb!

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Wait now… THIS is the post on why it’s handy to have a keyed flute, from this discussion: https://thesession.org/discussions/16122

Keys are very handy indeed. I don’t think I could get used to an unkeyed flute. I like to have easy access to all the notes that might be needed, and it’s possible that someone used to the Boehm flute might feel the same. And a much cheaper, though still excellent, alternative to the very expensive keyed wooden flutes is polymer flutes; for instance, Michael Cronnolly (M&E) polymer flutes:
http://www.irishflutes.net/mef/index.htm
He makes old style small-holed, small-bore flutes with keys. I play a similarly structured Hammy Hamilton small bore keyed flute, which is superb, but they’re pretty pricey now and there’s a very long waiting list.

It’s also handy to have a five piece flute, where the there is a joint between the finger holes of the left and right hands, allowing you to have the finger holes out of alignment, thereby making it easier to play the flute without the fingers being over-stretched. It’s a common complaint of Boehm flute players, and those with smallish hands, that simple system flutes involve a noticeable stretch of the fingers. So a one-piece body might be something to avoid in a flute.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I started on an M & E flute. . . good sound, but heavy as a boat anchor. To the point that I had tendonitis issues which made it unpleasant to play. Things got better with a wooden flute.

For that reason, I’d recommend a Dave Copley polymer over an M & E. Sounds just as nice, but more ergonomic.

To Jon K - where did I make the claim that trad-whistle tonguing is the same as classical tonguing? My point was that it (tonguing) is intrinsic to whistle playing - NOT that it is identical to tonguing in classical music.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

wormdiet - For there to be irony, it would seem to require that the two sorts of tonguing be at least similar. If they’re nothing alike - and I agree that they’re as unalike as apples and artichokes - then there’s no irony.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Fair enough. No pedantry either I suppose!

:P

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Nope. None of that.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Interesting rundown of how to hold the flute ed foot (oops, boot). A wee bit different from how I was taught back in the dim dark days of my youth. I was told not to attempt to hold the flute up with my right thumb, as there is a tendency for the instrument to roll back towards the face. Rather, to push with the ball of the thumb outwards, working in with the pivot of the base of the left index finger to push the flute against the face.

I’m sure though, that vivace has those basics well under control.

I agree with you ed though, that the rhythm is maybe the hardest, and the most important, part to work on when taking up ITM.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I’ve seen that done too. But I’d avoid pushing the flute against the face at all. Some flautists use it as a way of getting some apparent power in the lip when the lip muscles themselves are not strong. The lip muscles need to be strengthened, but they also need to be relaxed and not too tense, so having the flute exert pressure on the lower lip can have bad consequences. The proper balanced hold is necessary so that the left hand bears none of the weight of the flute (and is very free to move) and the flute can be moved about comfortably without having to be pressed to the lip. Some flute-makers even have a B-flat key that is operated with the right thumb (rather that the left, as per usual), implying that both hands must bear the weight of the flute equally - not good!, in my view.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I don’t think it does push against the lip. It pushes against the area under that.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Sorry, you’re quite right, that’s what I meant. The pressure exerted by the flute under the lip means that lower lip itself is under pressure which inhibits flexibility. I’ve even heard an Irish flute “teacher” who told students to push the flute hard below the lower lip to a help make the embouchure rigid to allow the high pressure necessary to play. Just dreadful; wrong that the embouchure involves the lips being rigid, and wrong that there should be a high pressure on the flow of air! He also said that it’s the left hand primarily that holds the flute and takes the weight. Terrible advice 3 out of 3.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I got a comment in PM.
Ed, have you ever seen or played a (simple system) flute with the Bb key operated by the right thumb? I’ve only ever come across ones operated by the right index finger. I’d be most interested to learn about a different design (but I suspect you’re just mistaken?).

Yes, I have seen a flute where the B-flat was operated with the right thumb. It’s clearly a modern innovation, and I was told by the owner that it was made by Sam Murray. So, no, not mistaken!

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Ed, have you ever read this description ? “Place the mouth-hole of the flute to the centre of the upper part of the under lip, but not so high as to prevent the lip from covering at least one-third or half the mouth-hole. This must be done by pressing with the flute the under lip against the lower teeth, the lips remaining nearly parallel; there being a slight projection of the upper lip only. Having proceeded thus far, force an aperture through the centre of the lips with the breath, directing it into the uncovered part of the mouth-hole.”

(acknowledegements and web source for critical review will be given in a later post)

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Nope! No clue! (some great classical flute manual I’d guess)

James Galway has this advice on embouchure (not quite like I have it, I must say), but you can see he’s not jamming the flute into the face:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQg0vScnQ8E

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Nicholson_on_Tone.htm. Terry McGee also provides extracts from other writers on techniques for the types of flute now often referred to as “Irish Flute” and provides much thoughtful comment.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I played classical too and then switched over to simple system. My biggest piece of advice to you is to forget everything you have learnt in regards to your classical flute training apart from your embouchure and your breathing. Playing simple system is like learning a whole new instrument.

The biggest tip i can give you drop the dots (if you use them) and start listening to people in your local sessions, festivals, you-tube is now your best friend find players you like and try to copy what they are doing. This as a classical player took me a long time to adjust to you will have to be patient but once you have it there’s no going back. Believe me.

I went for one of Terry McGee’s 6 keyed Grey Larson preferred and i love it . Its fully chromatic so has meant that i can still play the french and classical stuff on it as well when i need to. I would try to save up the cash for one of these or something similar if you can. A friend of mine has a Casey burns and hasn’t found it to be very responsive and it seems to be out of tune more often than not . So do your research try a few flutes before committing and hit that Mcgee website there is alot of really useful information there so use it. Good luck

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

Hey! I know that this conversation finished many years ago, but I am in the same situation right now as the guy who started it. I have been looking for a flute to buy because I do not feel very comfortable with whistles and I prefer a wooden flute with some keys that can offer me chromatism. The thing is that as I’m starting and I have a limited budget, I’m looking for second-hand flutes but I’ve found one on Amazon that has made me doubt. Is this flute https://www.amazon.com/Natural-Irish-Flute-Keys-Rosewood/dp/B019W15J6W/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1545220913&sr=8-5&keywords=irish+flute+6+keys Anyone tried any of these?

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

buy it, and then after throwing it into the trash you’ll then buy something decent. Copley & Boegli, Casey Burns, and a few others are where you want to start (keyless). A good keyed flute is going to cost you real money - not $250. Irish Flute Store is a good place to start.

In the meantime, nothing wrong with playing a silver flute in a session. As mentioned earlier in this thread you have a lot of unlearning to do and lot of new things to learn, enough to keep you busy enough until your ready to commit and then purchase an appropriate instrument. Go to a local session, meet people, meet flute players. Find out who’s a good teacher in your area. Become part of the scene. You’ll probably find someone who has a decent flute for sale and you’ll learn to play the music.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I agree with the comment above -- that’s more of a flute-shaped-object than a flute. Regarding “chromaticism,” I learned on a good quality keyless “Irish” flute for a few years and only recently acquired a secondhand 8-key version. Irish trad usually centers around just a few keys and modes, so full chromaticism isn’t really required.

I do appreciate the keys, but mostly it’s just a question of slightly widening the envelope to include some of the more non-flute-friendly tunes. Keys are a little easier than half-holing or cross-fingering, but those are useful skills to pick up even when you move to a keyed flute later on. The vast majority of Irish repertoire I’ve learned over the years can be played without the keys. You may just have to avoid a small set of tunes that aren’t easily played unless you have keys… like that pesky Eb in “Crested Hens,” and that isn’t even an Irish tune!

One good option for a wooden starter flute is the Folk Flute by Casey Burns. I think that’s the least expensive decent entry point in wood. There are less expensive models in Delrin. Then get a keyed flute later, and be prepared to spend into the thousands for a good one, even secondhand.

Re: Classical Flutist learning to play the Irish Flute

I really like having the keys, not just for different key signatures, but also for the accidentals.

In the D & G key signatures you are fine without keys, and that gets you 80-90% of the repertoire. Fiddlers play quite a few tunes in A-major/F#minor, and D-Dorian tunes are not that unusual.

In order of necessity:
Eb, as that note is pretty impossible without a key.
F-nat, as that enables playing in C and D-dorion
G#, as that helps playing in A (cross-fingered G# isn’t too bad).

So, that’s 3 keys, although 4 key flutes (with the C-nat) are fairly common. I’ve never actually used my C-key as I’m used to the cross-fingered C-nat.

I use the long-F, although some swear by the short-F. I did find I needed the short-F when I tried to play in flat-keys like C-minor.