Boehm system low whistle

Boehm system low whistle

Boehm system low D whistle?…..
Is it possible?
Has it ever been done?
Might be controversial to some on here, but it would be a lot easier to play. I suppose it might even be chromatic. The "piper’s grip" requires quite a stretch if you’re not used to it.
Just curious……

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And I forgot, in the early 20th century there was a German flute maker who made flutes with a Boehm system key mechanism (or at least a key mechanism where all holes were covered with keys!) and sold them with a flute and whistle headjoint. I don’t have the name in mind… the instrument was called something + "Schnabelflöte", I’ll leave a post as soon as I remember it!

I wonder if there is some intrinsic problem that has prevented (Boehm style) keyed whistles from becoming a popular thing? I mean even for orchestra music I think it could be cool thing, if flute players could change their sound easily, using a whistle / recorder headjoint.
Especially for playing early baroque recorder concertos it could be cool, getting a sound out of a boehm flute that is a bit closer to the instrument the music was written for.

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…‘it would be a lot easier to play’ for who? Sounds more complicated to me.

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A Boehm low whistle would lose the sliding notes and finger vibrato that define it’s sound. It’s too complicated and expensive a thing to bring into the market. There are quite a few whistle heads designed for Boehm flute body though. Search for David O’Brien whistle maker or the “elklute”. Susato offer some whistles with plastic keys covering some holes to help with reach.

There are a few chromatic low whistles. I saw a photo of one six keyed by a recent French maker. It was impressive looking.

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Re: Boehm system low whistle

There’s also this whistle head for a Boehm flute coming to market in 2021:
https://www.fliphead.net/

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Thanks for the replies, folks. Interesting.
Regarding " A Boehm low whistle would lose the sliding notes…" - that could be overcome with an open-hole system of keys. I agree with the finger vibrato issue though, and yes, these features do partly define the LW sound.

As for: "…‘it would be a lot easier to play’ for who? Sounds more complicated to me."
- Answer: for me. As I play simple and Boehm flutes. So, no, it wouldn’t be more complicated. For me.

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Bear in mind that you will have a whistle that does not finger like a whistle. If you can switch between Boehm and SS for Irish, it’s a moot point. I played Boehm for ten years before I started Irish on a SS. I still can’t deal with the juxtaposition of the F and F# keys. For Irish, I stick to the SS.

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Can I get my ocarina retrofitted with Boehm keys?

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"I wonder if there is some intrinsic problem that has prevented (Boehm style) keyed whistles from becoming a popular thing? I mean even for orchestra music I think it could be cool thing."

I think the thing that’s kept a Boehm system whistle from becoming popular is simply that there’s not much market for such a thing. There’s no major niche it would fill that’s not covered by existing things.

Trad players aren’t very interested for the reasons people have outlined above.

Orchestra players wouldn’t be very interested because there’s little or no call for such a thing in their repertoire.

And there probably would never be a future for such a thing in the orchestra. Been there done that!

In the Renaissance and Baroque periods instruments with little or no dynamic range could fit in well enough in the ensembles, so Recorders, Harpsichords, even Bagpipes were successfully used.

When dynamics became of paramount importance such things were cast aside. Those instrument just couldn’t do what orchestras now required them to do.

A whistle, like a recorder, is only in tune at one volume level, and would have extremely limited use in an orchestra.

Yes there are a number of makers making Low Whistle heads designed to fit on Boehm flute bodies. The same thing could be done with Piccolo.

BTW in the Fife world it’s common nowadays to have fully chromatic fifes with no keywork whatever.

There are fingerholes for the little fingers and thumbs. I borrowed one for a while, it was surprisingly easy to get used to the extra fingerholes. What I couldn’t get used to was the tiny blow hole!

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In addition to the Nick Metcalf option of using a legitimate whistle head on a regular keyed Boehm flute body, Bracker offers a 9-hole "Multi Mode" chromatic whistle in Low D (even offers it in Low C). They also offer a slightly different "9-hole" chromatic whistle in alto G and alto F (and higher). I haven’t played a Bracker myself, but the audio samples sound very good.

https://music.bracker.uk/Whistles/Multi-Modal-Whistles.html

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@Richard D Cook
Recently I started playing my old Boehm flute again because I wanted to play some baroque music again - and many compositions are so much easier on the Boehm than on the keyed simple system flute!

When playing Vivaldi concertos that had originally been written for the recorder and not for the flute, I thought that a recorder / whistle headjoint for the Boehm flute would be very cool to get a little bit closer the original.
I know that a (c) Boehm flute with a whistle headjoint is still faaaaar away from a baroque recorder in f or g, but probably a bit closer to it than with the regular flute headjoint.


But yeah, good call with the problem of dynamics - there really isn’t much room for such a hybrid instrument. Probably only using it as an effect in Jazz or some modern music or getting amateur musicians a little bit closer to a recorder sound.

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What about simply using an alto or a tenor recorder? They are chromatic and for small hands there are tenor recorders with a key for the low c.

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Following up on dunnp’s post [near the start of the thread]

O’Brien Whisolo is described at http://www.obrienwhistles.com/OBPWwhisolo.html .
I saw /heard one about a year ago, and the owner said it was a whistle head on a Chinese piccolo body. Thus equivalent to a high D whistle in terms of pitch. Sounded pretty good in her hands … then it turned out she was a music teacher !

Getting closer to OP’s question: O’Brien also does a Chromolow which is a whistle head on a flute body, thus low whistle equivalent. See http://www.obrienwhistles.com/OBPWchromalow.html

I think you might need quite long arms to reach the Eb/C#/C keys on the foot joint, and you might find that the right hand position would need to be bent upwards in an uncomfortable position.

Gudrun K makes a good point about alto or tenor recorders. You could ask around and maybe borrow one to see how you get on. Try Society of Recorder Players - they have 3 branches in London.

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Much more question than comment. I have always been told that playing low whistles requires a piper’s grip to avoid hand cramping/fatigue. On the very few occasions when I’ve tried to play one I found that to pretty much be the case. Wouldn’t playing a Boehm flute, made to play with fingertips be the first obstacle? Could you even reach all the keys?

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Closed-hole Boehm flutes have a much shorter finger reach than a low whistle. I was able to play one at age 6.

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@Ross - you finish your post with " Could you even reach all the keys? "

I agree - that’s what I was trying to say with my comment " I think you might need quite long arms to reach the Eb/C#/C keys on the foot joint, and you might find that the right hand position would need to be bent upwards in an uncomfortable position.".

My comment was based on holding a Boehm flute end-on, as if with a whistle head, and trying to reach the foot joint keys. I do have long arms and it was a stretch, as well as uncomfortable.

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Yers Colin, I have arthritic hands and wondered if it was just me.

And Michael, I probably could have tested the reach but I can’t find my shiny silver flute. I’ll keep looking. Glad to take your word for it. I never could get comfortable with piper’s grip. Hmmm, I’n not comfortable with it so I don’t try it … I don’t try it ‘cause I’m not comfortable with it. Is it the chicken or the egg?

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Ross, you might find the Boehm whistle setup comfortable at a 45-degree angle if straight out isn’t comfortable. I’m assuming a closed-holed flute. If it’s an open-holed flute, you might want to consider blocking the holes with corks. While I was able to play a closed-hole Boehm flute even as a child, I am unable to seal the holes on an open-holed Boehm flute comfortably as an adult, my hands are too small.

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Thanks for the tip Michael. My Boehm is closed. I just wish I new where it is!

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"Recently I started playing my old Boehm flute again because I wanted to play some Baroque music again - and many compositions are so much easier on the Boehm than on the keyed simple system flute!"

There is a certain irony about turning to Boehm flute for Baroque music, because the Boehm flute was designed specifically for a rather different sort of music, the flute repertoire of the mid-19th century.

It’s my personal perspective, I suppose, because I used to play Baroque music on Baroque flute. Quite true that it’s much easier to play Baroque music on Boehm flute, but IMHO so much of the character of the music is lost when not performed on the instrument the Baroque composers had in mind.

The same is often felt about playing ITM on Boehm flute, yet we have people like Joannie Madden proving that ITM sounds quite good on that instrument.

One thing about ITM flute/whistle players taking up Boehm flute, I found that it was better to use a Boehm flute with perforated keys due to them allow you to simplify the fingering.

Because E is a bit flat on a "plateau" model Boehm flute unless you put down your lower-hand little finger and depress the Eb key. On a "French" model Boehm flute you don’t have to do that.

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The late Jacky Proux, fine low wistle-maker based in Quinçay (just near Poitiers) built a unique chromatic low-wistle. The instrument is played by Jacob Fournel, flute player in the french "irish group" "Doolin" (https://www.doolin.fr/)