Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

In a recent thread, I voiced an opinion that Boehm flutes are problematic for Irish trad. I had been playing Boehm for ten years prior to taking up Irish. Since I was very familiar with simple-system flutes for Early Music, I accepted making the change to SS because, for irish, SS was the instrument one used, right?

There were a few problems with Boehm that immediately reared their ugly heads. The tonal color seemed off (metallic and lacking any of the desired reediness), the R1 key on a Boehm is F natural, not F#, and (for me) the Bb thumb key was constantly in the way.

After over 20 years of playing SS, I developed a hand and foot condition that limits tactile sensitivity, so it became a challenge to cover the tone holes reliability. I have been on a 15-year odyssey dealing with this, mostly by buying flutes that offered more keys (Siccama with 10 keys and the fully keyed Radcliff). I have met with a fair degree of success, but the above-mentioned thread got me wondering if maybe I needed to disenthrall myself from the romance of playing a 19th Century "Irish" flute and revisit my trusty Boehm, which I play all the time for non-trad. Here’s what happened:

First, I had already gotten a custom wooden head for my Boehm, which essentially makes the flute sound like a wooden flute (however, let me stipulate the Boehm flute is a far superior instrument). Getting the flute to sound Irish is a matter of embouchure. Remember, 19th Century classical players did not sound like Matt Molloy. Second, although I had found the R1 Fnat-not-F# thing to be awkward in the past, I don’t find it so now (don’t know why, but I’ll take it). Last, I eliminated the Bb thumb key problem (that might not be a problem for anyone else) by removing it. It is not mechanically necessary and there are two alternate fingerings for Bb - some flute player’s never use the Bb thumb key.

My conclusion is that, for me, the Boehm is the way to go. You can’t beat the sound, the power and the ease of playing it. It is not necessary to use a wooden head, but highly desirable, imho, but they aren’t cheap. Mine is by Chris Abell. I liked his best after being given the opportunity of living with about six wooden heads in my home for a week. I was shamefully slow to coming to this embarrassing but happy place wherein I believe my odyssey has reached a most successful conclusion. I hope you enjoyed the tale and can benefit from what I was so slow to learn, especially if you started with a Boehm.

Cheers.

PS - I don’t consider the slight key clatter an issue. My flute is closed-hole, but almost all Boehms are open-holed, so you can do any ornament or finger vibrato that meets your fancy.

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Nice topic! Have a listen to Lucie Périer, in my opinion she is a very good example that Irish Traditional Music can be played with the boehm system.

She has three playlists like this one in her YouTube channel:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhwNVRSn-dXahM0pp5W2_UJ9lqRZEeZlT

For sure another very good player is Joannie Madden. She needs no introduction.

Have a listen to this one, extremely good:

https://youtu.be/9mE6j-WjE18

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People make it work, for sure. Great examples.

I’ve only been at the "irish flute’ for about three years, and I’ve had a boehm flute around for most of that time—a Nuvo plastic one, which is actually pretty good, and an old E.L. Deford with open holes, made in Elkhart. I find the Boehm hard to manage-the tactile experience is so different. The feeling of blowing is different and the fingering feels so different. It would be good to master ITM on the Boehm, because they’re around everywhere and they’re durable and I think it’s true that objectively they are better instruments, with more uniformity of volume and timbre. Not as fun to play, it feels like. but I’m just a novice

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Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

I started with the Boehm. Playing the simple system flute helped me to find the sound(s) I want when playing folk music in general. It also improved my way of playing Boehm in folk music.

Today, I play 85% simple system 15% Boehm. Both the tone and the velocity I get from my simple system flute are nicer with my ss flute, the reason why I still use the Boehm is for some weird key tunes that are too tricky to learnwith the ss.

As much as I’d love to be able to get the sound of Philippe Barnes on my Boehm I just don’t see how it is even possible … At least, not on a student 600€ yamaha instrument?

The number of people I know that are good enough to play folk music on a Boehm flute can be counted on the finger of one hand tbh. If everyone could get as suitable tone as easily as you would on a ss flute, I would acknowledge that the Boehm is superior for folk music but as it is now, most people using a Boehm in folk music just have a bad/inapropriate tone imao.

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Speaking for myself, I think it is fair to say that getting the sound I get now cones as a result of playing both for many years. In the early days, I couldn’t come close. Most of that was because I didn’t know how to get the sound I wanted on any flute. No internet or The Session in 1983.

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Thank You Ailin. Your post is both thoughtful and enlightening. My hope is that more players will be open to your experience. I know one other player from North Carolina who shares your thoughts and is equally proficient on either instrument. I have a notion that more players would be enticed to this music if we could just rid ourselves of judgement and the, frankly, incorrect idea that there is only "one true path".

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if some classical musicians would quit thinking of our music as "the stuff slack-jawed yokels play". But that’s a topic for another time!

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@Ailin: I started my flute playing career on a simple system flute 33 years ago and I see no reason to change to the Boehm flute. I get the tone I want. I have much easier maintenance with 6 keys instead of umpteen keys.
A wooden mouthpiece is not an important difference. The most important difference is the bore - straight in Boehm flutes, conical in simple system flutes. This is what affects the overtones and hence the tone of the flute. As you say, however, the embouchure is also very important for the tone. This is something I’ve noticed when comparing with "classical" players.
Besides, the keys are in the way when doing ornamentation. I’m not saying it’s impossible (many proficient players can do it well), but the keys just make it harder.
By the way, Ailin, I remember you posting a link to a Youtube video of yourself playing some tunes, but I can’t find it. Can you point me to it again?

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Thanks for your reply. My post was intended to inform, not persuade, so hang on to the flute you have.

I do have some corrections to make::

Keys do not get in the way. They promote faster and more accurate playing.

Keys do not increase maintenance unless you don’t care for your instrument.

A wooden head affects the sound substantially. My flute has both wood and metal. I can tell.

A conical bore makes for a weaker sound with less volume. That fact accounts for one of the reasons the Boehm flute was developed.

I love my simple-system flutes. They have their place, for sure, but personal need has allowed me to take a step back and honestly evaluate the value of using a Boehm flute for Irish. That is what I wanted to present.

My YouTube video is not Irish music and features me on alto flute. Here it is:
https://youtu.be/6tnVo73djyY

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First time I went to music camp in Mendicino, CA I brought an M&E polymer flute & my silver flute. Jack Gilder had a flute workshop. For introduction we each played our flute. When it got to me everyone was looking at my fingering (must have been an F#). That was what they wanted to know, how is that the fingering? I thought how amazing it was to be surrounded by all those wooden flute players.

Come to think of it the only other time I remember seeing another silver flute (@ Lark Camp) was the next year when a 17 year old fluter brought hers. A couple of days later Casey Burns had equipped her with one of his. I remember it was one he had with two different kinds of wood. This was around the turn of the century.

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Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

The only time I have seen a Boehm used in person was in a band called Banshee In The Kitchen. Her flute had a wooden head.

I will debut my Boehm at my regular session tomorrow. Let’s see if it gets a reaction. If it does, I’ll report back.

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The only time I’ve seen a Boehm player in a session was at Willie Clancy, Miltown Malbay, 2001. We heard nothing but long notes.
"I’m playing chords!"

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I play both Boehm and simple. But not both at once.
I have several of each, my fave Boehm being a Rudall Carte standard Boehm (not Radcliff - BTW I also have a Rudall Carte 1867, which I find unplayable - another story…)
I also attempt to play some other yokes, but again, that’s another story….
I’m probably a bit handier on the Boehm, just because I’ve played on it for longer. But I do see - and feel - the advantages of the simple system: more responsive for ornamentation, etc. I also perceive advantages of the Boehm: louder, generally easier to play, chromatic (yes, I know SS’s with all the keys can *in theory* be chromatic, but not really in the practice of playing fast reels etc as is required in Irish trad music.)
For me personally I just like to chop and change, relishing the said advantages of each. And I do that at sessions as well….but not in the middle of a set of tunes.
BTW, Phillipe Barnes, in a video posted above, also plays exquisitely on simple system flute. And pipes. And guitar.

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Ailin, can you describe how you alter your embouchure to get your desired sound? And do you position your headjoint differently, eg turning more on or out?

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Most flute player’s favor angling the hole toward your lips, but that does nothing for me. I extend my jaw forward just a bit, tighten the opening of my lips a bit and angle the air stream downward a bit. I bear down on the airstream to get a reedy sound. This is crucial, takes practice and is difficult to maintain until doing it becomes habit. Take it to the point where you rasp, pop up to the second octave or lose the tone altogether. Back off from that and practice finding the sweet spot where the tone remains solid, but gutsy, strong and reedy. The feeling when you get it is unmistakable.

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Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

A thing to consider is that Boehm introduced a number of separate innovations

-all metal construction
-cylindrical bore
-large square blow hole
-covered (plateau) keys for all holes
-Boehm F/F# fingering
-rods and axels to allow fingers to govern distant holes

and an innovation not by Boehm, but by Briccialdi

-B/Bb thumb lever (which the Boehm flute lacked).

These various things being a la carte, Boehm (and others) did make Boehm system flutes which were wooden with conical bore and traditional oval blow-hole and open holes (with ring keys like Boehm-system clarinets).

Such flutes would play and sound the same as wooden simple system flutes, only having the advantages (and drawbacks) of the Boehm/Briccialdi fingering system.

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Even though someone else came up with the Bb thumb key, Boehm did so later with a much better design that did not prevail. Boehm’s had the B key to the left and the Bb to the right (as the Radclff flute did later). What we have today is the opposite. So the most comfortable hand position favors Bb when it should favor B. My thumb tends to slide over to the Bb key, which is directly under my left forefinger - the natural hand position. That’s why I removed the Bb key altogether and play Bb the way Boehm originally intended.

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Thank you Ailin re. embouchure, that makes sense.

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There is another option as yet unmentioned. A wooden flute with Boehm system keys.
Now I don’t like to play Irish music on mine - I have a simple system Casey Burns flute I’m very happy with. But I grew up with the standard silver flute, and I find it invaluable for playing the tunes of my other musical loves ie Klezmer and Balkan music. For which you need all the accidentals.
So when the chance came to get a 100 year old ebony flute with keys, I grabbed it. Wonderful tone. Ease of playing in all keys. Marvelous instrument.
NB it currently has some problems, but I am soon leaving here (India) and going to a kinder climate and with the possibility to encounter a clever clogs who can deal with the spring that is out of place and makes e flat impossible. (My eyes are too bad to see where the spring has sprung from.)

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Philippe Barnes is awesome, has an MA in Irish Trad from University of Limerick and had dedicated significant study to how Boehm flute can blend with the expected sound/idiom for Irish trad. He’s also a damn fine player of SS flute. He’s not just multi-instrument but also multi-genre. But foremost when he plays trad he totally is in the zone. He can also dial in just a little of the jazz swing and remove it to play pure drop.

Joanie Madden of Cherish The Ladies is an All-Ireland Fleadh champion! She’s a world class whistle player and 100% reared ‘in the style’ of trad. She’d be welcome at the top of the table in any session with her sparkling silver flute.

The lady Lucie Périer is obviously very accomplished - WOW. Thanks for sharing the link. What interested me in her YouTube channel was her openness to lots of world traditions - and her obvious sympathy to not wish to impose a classical style upon playing any of the various genres. She ‘gets it’ and her Irish trad music is excellent. She’s obviously spent a lot of time in the right (or the wrong) company and nailed the ITM genre.

To the above list you can add Sara Allen from Flook. And Eimear McGeown. And if memory serves me right, Aoife Granville studied classical flute and is an pretty accomplished Boehm player as well. I’m guessing Eimear and Aoife wouldn’t be found wanting for some tasty jigs and reels if they were ‘stuck’ with a Boehm flute instead of SS.

Which brings me to… it’s not the instrument that is (sometimes) the problem. It’s the classical or jazz training in combination with zero or little experience playing Irish trad. Being an awesome classical player doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to play trad well without putting in the groundwork.

Apart from the technique/playing style issues if the musician isn’t experienced playing trad… there are three elements of Boehm flute playing that, in the wrong hands, could lead to a negative reception. Firstly, the Boehm flute is a fair bit louder than SS wooden flute if the volume knob is pushed to the max. So the player should be conscious of the mix/balance when introducing the silver flute to the session - especially if playing alongside other SS wooden flutes. Secondly the intonation of the silver flute may be more ‘technically’ correct but not in tune with the playing of the wooden flutes (especially the cross-fingered C-nat and C# and A’ and B’ notes). I’d suggest the silver flute player should be looking to blend with the intonation of the wooden flutes by lipping where required. Thirdly, the normal ornaments are tricky to replicate faithfully on Boehm. I don’t know what the answer might be but the potential for the classical flute to clash with the idiomatic ornamentation certainly exists.

Assuming the silver flute player is a solid traditional musician - even so, getting a sympathetic blend of silver flute and wooden is challenging. Molloy and Galway made for an uncomfortable duet IMHO. Sarah Allen on the other hand blends magically with McGoldrick and Finnegan so it can be done.

Ailin - you explained why, perhaps with some regrets, you find yourself having to move back to Boehm because you can no longer comfortably play the wooden flute. This is understandable. And if you have the experience in Irish trad that you suggest I don’t expect you will find it hard to make it work. Best of luck.

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Gbyrne - Extremely well-written piece. Thank you, it’s coming quite well. I’m barely worthy of swabbing out the flutes for the names you mention, but my many years playing SS inform my Boehm playing and I am pleased to have that grounding. Rather than regret the change, I’m glad I finally overcame the obstinancy to do so.

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Thank you Ailin for this unbiased post. I’ve always wondered why there is such a resistance against the silver flute when it is an instrument that can sound as Irish as a SS flute with the right embouchure. Both Joanie Madden and Lucie Périer are great exponents of this.

A few months ago I was looking to purchase a new flute and I was seriously considering a silver flute due to the impossibility to find a good simple system in my budget. I ended purchasing a M&E polymer because I didn’t like to look as the odd duck with the shiny flute and not looking traditional enough in a scene (in this place of the world) where many try to outpope the Pope. I’m sure that as soon as the "key bug" bits me, I will choose a Boehm instead of mortgaging my car for a keyed SS.

By the way, the M&E sounds great.

How was your session with the silver flute?

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I don’t think the bias is against the instrument, its more the playing of those coming over from classical flute who don’t make the effort to learn what it takes to play the silver flute with the right sound for traditional Irish music.

I was originally an accomplished classical flute player from age 6 through college, solo competitor and all that, and it took some considerable effort 25 year ago to unlearn the years of classical training to learn to properly blow a wooden flute for traditional Irish music.

I only recently gave my nice silver flute to my sister who continues to play classical music in community bands, but before I gave it to her, I tried playing some trad on it for the first time in probably 15 years. I was absolutely able to make it sound traditional, but I found that I far prefer the feel and intimacy of my wooden flutes.

I was happy to pass the silver flute along to someone who would get and create far more joy with it in the future than I ever would.

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Many good posts here - intelligent, balanced, knowlegeable.
But one thing many people forgot or omitted to mention - is the *wooden* Boehm system flute. Or at least I couldn’t see it mentioned in the discussion. Apologies if I missed it. And I also forgot to add in my previous post that my Rudall Carte is one of those, a black wood flute. I also have an Ueller (?) black wood Boehm. As is my aforementioned 1867 RC.
And I for one do believe that the black wood material contributes to the reedy sound you can get from these flutes. Maybe you can mess around with your embouchure to achieve reedy wooden sound on a silver job, but if you play a wooden Boehm, there’s no need to change your embouchure. Oh, and they still look "trad", being made of wood, if that is your concern. So the begrudgers who call them typewriters can just eff off.

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"I don’t think the bias is against the instrument,"

Well, for some of us it sort-of is. 🙂

But not necessarily because we dislike Classical flute players. There can be many more reasons. The fingering of a keyless simple system flute is the same as a tin whistle, and the fingered ornaments for both flute and whistle are adaptations of ornaments that probably originated on the pipes. So there is a family resemblance with the other traditional woodwinds in Irish trad that’s appealing.

And then the famous artist factor. When you first get interested in the flute for Irish traditional music, it’s hard to miss that most of the famous artists are playing simple system flutes. I can certainly appreciate the tone and skill of players like Joanie Madden on a Boehm flute, but when my other flute heroes are all playing wooden SS flutes, it’s hard not to think that’s what I should probably be playing too. I’m not an advanced enough player to think I should be striking out on a less-traveled path in this music.

There is also the aesthetic appeal of wood under one’s fingers for many of us. Wooden Boehm flutes are rare animals compared to the availability of simple system wooden flutes in both keyed and keyless types. I came into this music first as a guitar and then mandolin player, and we stringed instrument players tend to develop a fetish about wood as a material for musical instruments.

Anyway, I’m just pointing out that a bias against Classical musicians doesn’t have to enter into it. There are other things in the mix. And I would never look sideways at someone who brought a silver Boehm flute to a session as long as they could play the tunes.

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My point was not that there is a bias against classical musicians.

It was about the sound that classical musicians get from silver flutes played with a classical embouchure and blowing style combined with not putting in the effort to learn to play in the traditional style.

For example, as a classical flute player, the 7 cycle/second diaphragmatic vibrato takes a deliberate effort to unlearn and not automatically constantly do on sustained notes.

Many of the amateur silver flute players I hear who have come from classical into trad, even some with years of experience in session playing, still fall into this habit. That combined with the pure tone of the classical style and dodgy execution of ornamentation just comes across as very odd sounding. Of course, there are others who are able to do a great job both in terms of tone and style.

I agree, it’s not in the instrument, it’s all in the playing.

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Now that I’ve seen a few posts mentioning wooden Boehms, let me again state that having a wooden head definitely will give you all a wooden body will. A wooden Boehm is thick, heavy and expensive, and although they look cool, a silver flute with a wooden head looks pretty exotic, too.

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Thanks for this! In terms of sound and style, this is more or less what I sound like, or at least aspire to, so I’m thrilled to have heard this. It’s absolutely what I’m after.

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I’m afraid it will always be foreigners (to Ireland) who will prove again and again that it can be perfectly done with the Boehm system flute.

Very difficult that will be proved by Irish musicians, because in Ireland is almost compulsory to play the SS flutes.

But not too long ago I discovered with the help of Carl Hession, an Irish musician that plays both systems and to a professional level: Eimear Mcgeown.

Look for her in YouTube, wonderful musician.

I was very surprised to see that she uses SS for Irish trad and the Boehm system for Classical Music.

Then I commented this to Carl Hession and he said he asked Eimear and the answer was:

"Boehm system is definitely not as good for ornamentation".

What a pity, she could be the first one in Ireland to prove it.

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Prove what?

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I think we already established there are Irish players who can "do the job" on a silver flute. Have we not?
I thought you might be addressing the ornamentation(?)

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Sorry AB, I must admit I haven’t read all the comments. Maybe in the ones I didn’t read I missed other Irish musicians that play the Boehm system flutes.

Anyway I think this may have to happen more often, more Irish musicians have to have the choice for this wonderful instrument because the presence of Boehm system flutes in the Irish Traditional Music is tiny, almost to the point of non existence. It would be nice if at least they had the recognition of the Piano Accordions.

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Cheers, Fernando. I appreciate the video of Seán Moloney. Check out the comments I think you will find this discussion is pretty inclusive of a range of perspectives on the pros & cons of playing either flute with Irish trad. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

Ben

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Thanks Ben! no problem at all! I saw the comments went very technical, I will go over them eventually. All the best!

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Not truly germaine to the subject-but that flute Maloney is playing certainly looks the Franken-flute, The ´graft´ between the headjoint and the body of the flute is certainly ´free-style´. At one point, you can see a close-up of the Eb key, an extremely old school articulated key pad.

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Just got home from my session. Very interesting and gratifying. First and foremost, I played my first session with a Boehm at my very best. Second, no one seemed to notice the Boehm, or at least no one commented. Best of all, with no conversation having taken place about my flute at all, the husband of our host (and the only Irishman present) commented how much he liked the sound of my instrument. No mention of it being a Boehm or anything related to it being unusual. Couldn’t ask for a better compliment or from a better source. All in all, a very wonderful and successful evening.

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Putting a wooden head on a Boehm flute doesn’t make it ‘trad’. Nor, for that matter, does having a silver lined head joint on a wooden flute make it ‘somewhat Boehm’ in sound.

The differentiation between Boehm and simple system is more to do with the bore dimension, conical versus cylindrical bodies, size and placement of holes, direct interaction with the fingertips versus indirect action via keys, cylindrical head joint versus parabolic, the small circular embouchure versus the deeper squarer design, the peculiarities of intonation compromises to support baroque era cross fingerings (all of which was left behind in the acoustically ‘correct’ Boehm design). The aforementioned dynamics are more significant than the material of construction to the tone and colour produced.

Perhaps Eimear McGeown proves the contrary - given the choice (and the talent/experience to play either brilliantly) the simple system wooden flute is preferred every time for Irish trad. It is the right tool for the job. The ability to somewhat bend/blend the Boehm to the task doesn’t negate the generally preferred taste for the wooden flute sound in ITM.

The silver flute is as likely to establish itself as a mainstay in trad circles as the recorder is to transplant the tin whistle. On the other hand the wooden flute is unlikely to make a comeback after two centuries and displace the Boehm in the Berliner Philharmoniker or the LSO. Theobald can rest easy on that one. And the fact that his design has changed so little in the 170 years since its introduction is testament to the amazing qualities, in the right context, of the modern instrument.

@Ailin - well done on your first outing. I’m sure it sounded great. I admire your determination to overcome any obstacles and keep playing the tunes. Scaoil amach an bobailín.

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Perhaps transferring the discussion to a different context might give another perspective.

I couldn’t imagine either the Boehm or the simple system flutes capturing the soulfulness of the bamboo instrument for playing Indian Carnatic ragas. That doesn’t mean you can’t interpret that repertoire on the modern flute. But they will have lost the enigmatic breathiness and blended notes that really only can be achieved on the bansuri.

Same would go for playing Albanian tunes on western instruments instead of Kaval. The character of the music and its traditional instruments are intrinsically tied together.

Authenticity, is that the word I’m looking for? When you transpose traditional folk musics onto modern instruments are you adding or taking away? To what extent does the character and tone and expression (and limitations) of traditional instruments shape the music? The true ‘sound’ is more than just the notes or the rhythms.

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I have an Irish flute by Chris Abell and and old wooden Haynes that I love. It’s been good me to learn Irish music on a keyless flute but ultimately I prefer the boehm wooden flute. I love the warm wood sound combined with the access to all the notes in the chromatic scale. That being said with the keyless I can get notes between the notes. I never play the silver anymore, just love the sound of wood .

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Gbyrne - I think there is a hole in your argument. Irish trad did not originate on flute of any variety. Flute wasn’t even used for the music until long after the Boehm flute became the standard. SS came to be used by default because they were cheaper.

By the way, Boehm, himself, wrote about the difference in character between wood and metal. I don’t think bore characteristics are as fundamental for tonal color as the material. Neither the cut of the embouchure. To me, that has a larger affect on response to the player.

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True… inasmuch as the only very old traditional Irish instruments are fiddle, harp and Uileann pipes (bodhran?). When do we draw the line? The theory that the wooden flute was adopted due to it being cheap and available (post Boehm era hand-me-downs) in reasonable numbers was discussed and debated at the Cruinniu in 2019. Jury is out on the evidence to support the cause/effect here. What is evident is that the flute started to become a common instrument from mid 19th C onwards. And this may have been significantly shaped by the post Famine times emigration.

Interestingly, 1847 was the year of the Boehm flute and also the Irish potato famine.

Similar argument goes for banjo, concertina, button accordion - all of which jumped the shark at some time to be come authentic and part of the traditional canon. Strong evidence for these having made their way ‘back’ to Ireland having first been adopted within the diaspora in UK and USA. So fully agree regarding the origination point but it was definitely a solid part of the scene from 1880 onward and through the Céili band era (1920-1950s) and was absolutely in-situ and accepted by the Celtic revival times from ’70s onwards. The established stronghold for fluting excellence in north Connaught, Sligo/Leitrim was rolling by 1900s and forward.

There are also instruments nowadays accepted as traditional which only arrived in more recent times (Bouzouki and mandolin for example). So it’s not an entirely closed shop. It would be very challenging to suggest nowadays that the wooden flute isn’t entirely traditional - to the degree that the quintessentially English instruments (Rudall, Pratten et al) are nowadays called "Irish flutes" LOL having been entirely appropriated and associated with the genre.

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Odd that after I talked about wooden Boehm flutes a number of people said they hadn’t been mentioned!

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Really interesting discussion! A few observations from my vantage point as someone who played classical music on the Boehm flute for about 14 years and traditional music on the simple-system flute for another dozen…

Either type of flute (assuming a good flute) is capable of tonal variety. Flute design does influence tone—for instance, the conical vs. cylindrical bore does affect the ‘feel’ and the harmonic structure—but tone is ultimately in the hands (well, embouchure) of the player.

Simple system flutes and Boehm flutes each lean toward a general type of embouchure cut, but there is a lot of variation within the general ‘oval’ or ‘rectangular’ styles; finding a embouchure cut that fits the player is an important part of the flute selection process.

Boehm’s own preferred arrangement was a wooden headjoint on a silver body.

Ardal Powell’s fascinating history, The Flute, makes a compelling argument that music and instrument are intertwined with one another: musical style influences instrument design; instrument design influences musical style. It would follow then that Irish trad seems more naturally suited to the simple system flute; that’s what was adopted (adapted?) by players of Irish music, and that choice of instrument also affected the evolution of a style of playing (alongside other factors, too, like imitating the pipes).

The major tactile difference between the two types of flutes is the fingering/keywork (or lack thereof). Notable to me is Paddy Carty’s preference for a Radcliff system flute, which is a hybrid: Boehm’s bore, with a modified Boehm-ish key mechanism that more closely follows 8-key flute fingering (particularly the RH1 F#). In terms of bore design and hole size/spacing, Carty played a Boehm flute, and I’ve never heard anyone fuss about his sound or style!

For me, transitioning from the conventions of classical flute playing to the conventions of Irish flute playing was made somewhat easier by switching instruments, but I don’t think that’s a prescription. In the end, an instrument is a tool to facilitate aesthetic expression, so whatever instrument makes that possible is appropriate.

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Heh heh, can’t resist tossing in this anecdote, Ailin. In London, in 1974, along with a number of our band members. Became regulars at the Favourite, and were put upon by Jimmy Power to do a set. I’m still playing metal flute, having picked up a wooden flute from Tony Bingham (At the Sign of the Serpent) but not yet having made the switch. After our set, old flute player Tommy Healey came up and asked me to show him my flute. I did so, and tried to show him how to finger it, but to no avail. I think it was the thumb key that foxed him. Tommy boldly announced to all around that "you’d have to be very smart to play a flute like that"!

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"Irish trad did not originate on flute of any variety. Flute wasn’t even used for the music until long after the Boehm flute became the standard. SS came to be used by default because they were cheaper."

Was that the only reason simple system flutes became the default for Irish trad, that they were cheaper? Or was it because the open tone holes allowed the most direct adaptation of fingered ornaments played originally on the pipes, and these articulations are at the heart of the music?

I suspect that ease of ornamentation on open tone holes was, and still is, the primary reason these flutes became the default for Irish trad. Not just affordability at the point where these flutes were being discarded in favor of the Boehm model in orchestras, or even the difference in sound between wood and metal.

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I doubt that ornamentation per se had much to do with it. More likely it was the similarity to tin whistle that made it feel more comfortable and familiar. Rolls, cuts and the like are actually easier on Boehm, imo, and the hard D is dramatically better.

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FWIK, they became the default flute for Irish trad because they didn’t work for classical music anymore. They are at their best chamber instruments. When orchestras began to explode in size — when chamber orchestras and brass/military bands got slapped together and you suddenly were sat together with trumpets and percussion — the conical bore flutes were too reedy and quiet to be heard. If you blew loud enough to be heard, you went out of tune.

There is (somewhat of) an urban myth that Boehm invented them to outdo Charles Nicholson, but really the Boehms were invented to solve this crisis — to play with extreme clarity and more volume in order to be heard over the 100+ instrument monsters that the orchestras were becoming in the mid 1800s.

Thus classical musicians decamped entirely to them and left their 8-key ones in secondhand shops for pennies because no professional flute players wanted them anymore. (This process took a few decades.)

From there, they got sucked up by Irish folk players simply because they were cheap; they also had the added benefit of being dog-simple to play in fiddle-friendly one and two sharps without using the keys. Ornamentation is no easier on 8-key than on the Boehm. The only thing that’s really easier on the Boehm is playing high and even; I can get onto the 6th harmonic without the barest possible embouchure change on my Boehm, whereas I have to work just to get to the F# on my simple system. (The A? Nagahappen.)

TL;DR — the entire history of the transverse flute from medieval times to now is the history of moving the bulk of the workload from the mouth to the hands, and making it louder. The simple system ended up in Irish music only because it got obsoleted out of classical music and could play really easily (without using the keys) in one and two sharps, same as fiddles.

And full disclosure: I play both but greatly prefer my simple system, and while I play some Irish jigs and reels for fun, I play a lot more classical tunes on it.

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I don’t think anyone has mentioned so far in this thread that Philippe Barnes has published a book which sets out his approach to playing trad on the silver flute and has very precise detail about how he executes ornaments on different notes. It’s a slim book, packed with information:
https://philippebarnes.com/product/irish-music-on-the-silver-flute/

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While entirely plausible, the inexpensive hand-me-down hypothesis as the Boehm grew to dominate classical/art music from the 1850-1900s is an attractive story but without strong evidence to back it up. It’s cool to think that emigrant Irish musicians spotted the opportunity to corner the market on the professional instruments of a bygone era.

As Ailin correctly points out - the Boehm and Simple System instruments were both available to musicians during the time that the flute was becoming a popular instrument and somehow the ‘decision’ to favour the older generation coalesced to the dominance of the wooden instrument within the genre today. Had the Boehm offered the kind of obvious advantages it does for classical music performance.. one might reasonably have expected that at some point in the evolution there would be enough well to do fluters that the Boehm might have gained popularity.

Which makes me think Conical Bore’s idea about the open holes and piping ornaments might be on the right track. I presume the canon was then, as it is now, dominated by music played in the keys of D/G/A and the relative minors. In which case the need or value of the keys would have been marginal - and even an old SS instrument with dodgy keywork might have have made a perfectly good ITM instrument.

I don’t know the older history of the Pennywhistle / tin whistle but the gateway drug ‘toy’ was being mass-produced and was widely available from the 1840s onwards. Perhaps the tin whistle was also the onboarding instrument for traditional musicians to learn the repertoire and it too favoured the path to the (same fingering, ornamentation) wooden flute. Does anybody know when it came to be a very widely played ITM instrument especially for learning?

It’s interesting to reflect that the choice of wooden flute might have been a conscious and considered preference which has endured. As a few of the posters above have pointed out - nowadays the ‘value for money’ pendulum has swung back to the silver flute - with student/ improver silver flutes available to order for reasonable prices whereas keyed wooden flutes in good playing condition are blessed with long waiting lists and significant premium pricing.

Apparently the saxophone, clarinet and piccolo all had their break-through possibilities during the early 1900s but none gained traction.

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My first encounter with Phillipe Barnes was as one of the guest fluters for FluteFling workshops : http://www.flutefling.co.uk

The Dec 2020 workshops was with Claire Mann and the April 2021 one with Tom Oakes. Both awesome. Anybody who’s enjoyed the banter above, is passionate about flute in Scottish / Irish trad (silver or wooden) should keep an eye on the above URL or subscribe for updates.

The online concert on the Friday evening preceding the workshops in April featured Aoife Granville, Kirsi Ojala and Philippe Barnes along with Tom Oakes. When it comes to reflecting on traditions and folk musics and instruments from left of field - the interview and playing of Kirsi Ojala was inspiring.

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Probably the best evidence to support the price explanation of SS popularity is just how big the price difference was. A Boehm or Boehm hybrid in I922 sold for up to 3,000 USD in today’s dollars. An eight-key was a fraction of that, especially by that year.

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Just happened to see this image today

https://www.itma.ie/digital-library/image/irish-pipers-club

San Francisco Pipers Club photo 1913
Boehm player third in , James Barry.

The history of the flute in Ireland and traditional music can’t be packaged into nice little narratives that confirm our own biases at least from what I’ve seen. It’s much more complex, with lots of things happening over long periods of time.


The earliest collection of printed Irish music :

Neal’s Celebrated Irish Tunes
A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes: Proper for the Violin, * German Flute* or Hautboy / John & William Neal [eds]
Dublin: John & William Neal, 1724

German flute in this context means “not a recorder”.


As mentioned above Hammy Hamilton has done a lot of good research and anybody wishing to learn more should check out his talks and for info on Irish flute makers, his blog.

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Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

The San Francisco Piper’s Club image is similar to O’Neill’s Music Club of Chicago image from 1901:

https://ptjams.com/mb/img/flutes/Irish-Music-Club-Chicago-1901.jpg

The resolution isn’t high enough to tell exactly what kind of flutes are being used, but I don’t think I can spot anything obviously Boehm-like.

These were well-off gentlemen, employed and with a hobby of playing the music of their former country. Nice suits, and those Uilleann pipes must have cost some serious coin to purchase and maintain. These gentlemen appear to be able to afford any instrument they want, and yet they’re playing (mostly) wooden simple system flutes. I don’t think it’s because they were the cheapest flute they could get their hands on.

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Cheers, dunnp!
"The history of the flute in Ireland and traditional music can’t be packaged into nice little narratives that confirm our own biases at least from what I’ve seen. It’s much more complex, with lots of things happening over long periods of time."

Cheers, Hammy Hamilton!
"…Hammy Hamilton has done a lot of good research and anybody wishing to learn more should check out his talks and for info on Irish flute makers, his blog."

Cheers, Conical bore!
"These gentlemen appear to be able to afford any instrument they want,…"

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Yes, Chet, it is a cylindrical bore Boehm.

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Well, well, well! Lots of support these past few days for old TB and his bouncing baby silver flute. As a person who came to this music during a very romantic period when Irish was just picking up international interest and Rudall and Rose was the gold standard for flute, I was never inclined to learn on my Boehm. All these years later, my hands need the help only the Boehm can unequivocally provide and now I can play better than I ever have. The lesson for the rest of you is that there are a variety of good reasons to start or stick with the simple-system flute, but no rational reason to not consider the Boehm, especially if you already play one.

Cheers, everyone!

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Can anyone provide a recording - audio or preferably a video - of anyone playing a "cran" on a Boehm system flute ?
PS - that Tara Breen clip is outstanding, would love to hear more.

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I’ve always wondered why the flute is prominent in ITM and not in other contemporaneous traditions. You would expect the whole narrative of "upper class types giving the SS flutes to the servants" would be present in other countries. But flute does not play much role in Appalachian music or the music of the American south generally, as far as I know. It’s in the vernacular music of Cuba and Brazil, but not in the US.

Francis O’Neill says “No musical instrument was in such common use among the Irish peasantry as the flute,” and “From the ‘penny whistle’ to the keyed instrument in sections it was always deservedly popular,” because it was cheap and durable—it needed no string or rosin or bow hair or reeds. These things should be just as likely to make it popular in other traditions, but the historical record doesn’t show enslaved people playing the flute, for the most part, and while O’Neill talks about the flute heard over the hills in the evening, I’ve never seen similar recollection from the hills of the Appalachians. I’ve sometimes wondered if climate played a role—the flute was much more likely to crack in the US, maybe, than in Ireland.

At the same time, the Sears catalog was offering SS flutes by mail order well into the twentieth century, so maybe our sense of what "tradition" looked like is wrong.

As to the Chicago Irish Music club, some of those people were wealthy, but some were not—Edward Cronin worked as a "grinder" at the Deering harvester works and Adam Tobin worked in a slaughterhouse. A lot of them were cops, and some cops were really rich—James Kerwin was a beat cop but inexplicably had a big mansion and was said to be worth $150, 000 at a time when a cop’s salary was $1000 a year. O’Neill was wealthy and his brother in law Barney Delaney was pretty wealthy. John Ennis was just a beat cop and never got rich. So not all of them had money.

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Mention was made of Boehm using a wooden head piece for his metal bodied flute. I believe in his correspondence he explains that later in life he had to switch to the wooden head because his front teeth fell out and he found that he could not maintain the embouchure on the metal headed flute. Boehm also later in life played by preference a Boehm flute with the lowest not of G below middle C. He regarded this as the best tone quality of flutes and allowed the traditionally weak Middle C and low C# to be fingered in a range of the flute that allowed more power and tone control. Prior to submitting his final design to Rudall and Rose, Boehm experimented with tube of different dimensions, his choice was based on the need for an instrunent that could play three octaves, wooden flutes such as the Prattern perfected have a wider bore that the Rudall and Rose and and stengthen the low notes/octave. No cylindrcal boehm system flute has been designed for two octaves it would be interesting to know if such an instrument would give a tonal effect similar to the wooden flute conical bore design.

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@Ailin, you wrote:
"I don’t think bore characteristics are as fundamental for tonal color as the material".
Well, science says something different. The bore affects the overtones, which are what gives the tonal colour. The material has comparatively little effect.

"Keys do not get in the way. They promote faster and more accurate playing."
Oh, yeah? In what way?
And you can’t do a slide up to a note on a completely keyed flute.

"A conical bore makes for a weaker sound with less volume."
That may be so, but I don’t need more volume. When I got my Sam Murray flute that I’ve had for more than 25 years now a friend of mine dubbed it "the trumpet" because of its strong volume.
What do you mean by "a weaker sound"? From the way you phrased it I guess you mean something else than volume.

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There is common thread within the Boehm players mentioned including Tara Breen, Philippe Barnes, Eimear McGeown (and I think at least two others referenced above) - classically trained to the very highest standard. And traditional music alongside (also to world class).

I have noticed that for workshops/masterclasses in Scotland - there is a significant representation (>20%) of Boehm players and that the participation of Boehm adherents is actively encouraged. It remains quite rare to see Boehm flute at session or classes in Ireland.

There seems to be a big and growing contingent of Breton traditional musicians playing with wooden flute (perhaps led/inspired by Jean-Michel Veillon, Sylvain Barou, Erwan Menguy, Malo Carvou and others). No idea how common or not the Boehm flute is on the Breton traditional scene. They have wonderful community of notable wooden flute makers in Brittany (Lesouef, Lehart, Jezequel, Morvan, Le Bot…) so I assume the interest in the instrument is a healthy one.

@hnorbeck - I’m pretty sure neither Harry Bradley nor Conal Ó Gráda were ever concerned with the challenge of 🙂 insufficient volume 🙂 from their wooden flutes. I expect the phrase "a weaker sound" wasn’t intentionally pejorative - but a referencing the ‘feature’ of simple system flutes in the varying sizes of the tone holes which lends to imbalance in the relative strength of the (unvented) E, A and C# notes and the cross fingered version of C-nat. I expect some of us like our oldie wooden flutes because of and not despite these differences.

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@gbyrne: No, insufficient volume is definitely not a problem when it comes to proficient simple system flute players. 🙂
As for "a weaker sound" I just wonder what Alain meant by that. I’m not sure your guess is correct. I’d rather hear it from himself.

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I assume you have never played a Boehm flute. It is louder and far more powerful in the lowest four notes. It is also clearer and more penetrating in the upper octaves. No contest.

I have an advantage over you in that I have a silver and wooden head for the same flute. The difference in tonal color is startling. There is also quite a difference between metals. A nickel head is substantially inferior to solid silver. Pretty much any Boehm player will confirm that. I’ve never noticed anything other than a softer sound from a conical flute and I’ve played dozens. My Siccama is by far the best and most powerful, but still no contest.

Regarding keys, I have never heard this played on an eight key, but I don’t fancy your chances!
https://youtu.be/Gf1ngUirGD4

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I’ll see your James Galway and raise you an Ana Benić. And look ma, no keys! (Well just that Eb/D#). Baroque flute. Can only imagine what she might achieve with a couple of keys 🙂

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl6R4Ui9blc


If memory serves me right it was Brendan Mulholland who pointed me to some of that lady’s recordings. Awesome. The flute is authentically for the era of the composed piece. Bach never heard a Boehm. But I’m sure he would have been happy with Sir James performance too.

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@Alain:
Yes, I have tried many Boehm flutes over these years. Borrowed flutes. Good flutes. But I never got the urge to start playing it seriously.

You’re absolutely right that the Boehm flute has more volume on the lowest notes and is definitely more penetrating in the upper octaves. But you’re missing my point - I DON’T NEED THAT! My simple system flute has more than enough volume and power. I seldom need to use its full volume. But I prefer its tone over the tone of a Boehm flute, just like I prefer a Generation tin whistle over a Susato. Yes, there are differences between different heads (and this of course applies to simple system flutes too). But still the difference the bore makes (straight or conical) is much bigger. And by the way the way the blow hole is cut also makes a much bigger difference. But of course (and I hope you agree here) the biggest difference in tone comes from the embouchure of the player.

As for Badinerie, I have played it on my six key simple system flute, no problem. I’ve played far trickier tunes than that. But it probably sounded a bit non-baroque and a bit Irish in style when I played it 🙂
I’m glad @gbyrne just exposed your ignorance of what’s possible to do on a simple system flute by posting that clip of Ana Benić. It never occurred to you that the tune James Galway played was composed for the simple system baroque flute, right Alain?

By the way Alain, you never answered this:
What do you mean by "a weaker sound"? From the way you phrased it I guess you mean something else than volume.

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Of course I realize the piece can be played on the instrument for which it was written. I’m not even fond of Galway’s version, but his tempo makes my point. The lady is laboring to maintain a slower tempo, despite achieving superb results. Your question was the basis for favoring keys; that’s my answer.

I have been clear that I have no intention to convert anyone to Boehm, so you needn’t state what you don’t need or want in caps. However, there is no reason to avoid using one, especially if you have one now.

The Boehm is louder, more even throughout all octaves and more easily produces a strong tone. This is without question. The only issue for our purposes is if Boehm is well-suited to our music. My conclusion is that it is.

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I’m guessing it’s in Auchtermuchty? Wonderful to see a statue that no one could possibly have a valid reason to pull down …

Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

Anyway… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvKihX9mLWc


@someone… the Sash is regrettably missing from the database here.

This has been an entertaining and enlightening discussion and thanks to Ailin for challenging the orthodoxy and robustly defending Theobold’s honour. Lots of really interesting ideas… for me the biggest one is to reflect on WHY over 150 years a transition to Boehm never seriously threatened. I also thought the point made by @Hark! wondering WHY the Irish (almost exclusively) conscripted what was already a superseded instrument but no similar moves by other folk traditions elsewhere to avail of those cheap and plentiful hand-me-downs.

It’s been Trillin’
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbM-RQeP_4Y

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Lovely melody there Johnny Jay…..Help ma boab! Whut am ah sayin’? Don’t anybody I said that!
Aye, Sir Jimmy. My erstwhile flute teacher knew Galway personally and she called him Jimmy.
Glad that an element of levity has crept into this discussion. Finally.

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Don’t TELL anybody, that is.

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It’s so personal, whatever makes your heart sing and brings the tune alive. I appreciate all that I’ve learned in the last few days. Happy fluting!

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You make me wish I’d kept my old Boehm flute from long ago.

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"My conclusion is that, for me, the Boehm is the way to go. You can’t beat the sound, the power and the ease of playing it… I was shamefully slow to coming to this embarrassing but happy place wherein I believe my odyssey has reached a most successful conclusion."

Alan, you have nothing to be embarrassed about nor ashamed. You found your path for playing Irish trad on the flute(s) of your choice; & your taste. If you have arrived at some conclusion I’m happy for you. My only suggestion is wherever you have arrived for now music can continue taking you to different places.

Now, what did you mean about the weaker sound with a conical bore? Sorry to have to ask but I don’t quite know specifically what is "weaker sound"?

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For a short time I had ahold of a flute made by Boosey (some form of Boosey any way don’t think it was Boosey and Hawkes but could have been). It was what is described as a Pratten cylinder in the old catalogs. I remember it’s date of manufacturer was around 1922 based on the serial number. I purchased it for 100 quid or so on eBay.

It has Boehms bore and headjoint but an elliptical embouchure instead of a square shape/ modern shape if I recall correctly. Simple system fingering worked as it should. But all holes were plateau key covered.

It was a sound cannon. I felt it truly could be pushed but it’s tone was rather uninteresting and one dimensional to me. But there was something pleasing about playing it.

Unfortunately it was incurably high pitched. I played it in the house for a while but I had a lot of flutes at the time so I sold it.
Had it been playable at modern pitch I might have held onto it and made something of it.

It was most like Paddy Taylor’s (Rudall Carte?) flute.

Having all the tones try and be homogenous and equal temperament sounds like an attractive idea but in practice it was much less interesting to play at least for me who mostly listens to fiddlers and pipers. I often wondered in Taylor’s use of this style of flute had anything to do with the rather homogenous sound of the B/C accordion which was coming into popularity in London at the time.

How could I imitate the sliding half hole c of the pipers or the f /f# natural pipers slide (many pipers who have keys still use this slide despite the key.) I have flutes that I use cross fingering on to produce different effects despite the keyed notes.

As an interesting aside here is Patsy Brown , Boston piper/ maker, with his covered keyed chanter. History has it he struggled with sealing the holes as he aged due to arthritis so came up with this solution based on the covered keys of the flute.

https://irishboston.blogspot.com/2017/12/scottish-bagpipers-and-irish-uilleann.html?m=1


All that said I wish I had the money to offer Ailin for his 440 Radcliff . I think his is silver mechanism and would have been a very high spec flute in its day.

Best of luck with your Boehm flutes. Just be aware they carry some preconceived notions and weight with them as this thread has shown in the responses. I must admit it takes a fine player using the system to its full advantage to hold interest even with my rather liberal flute tastes.

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One of our music teachers at school was called "Boosey". For a long time, I used to think it was because he liked a dram or two but then I realised the "Boosey and Hawkes" conenction.
🙂

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To me , the nub of it is - who’s the player of a Boehm system flute who can play "The Bucks Of Oranmore" as well as Matt Molloy does on his simple-system flute ?

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@Kenny - that’s a bit of a high bar 🙂 . Is there anybody with SS flute that can play it as well as MM other than MM?

The criteria are (or should be) the same for Boehm and SS players. Player knows the tune; sympathetic to the rhythm, phrasing and ornamentation; plays within the ITM style/ idiom; intonation and volume complementary to the other performers.

I’d suggest our fiddle brethren might have the same worries if a classically trained violinist with zero trad were to sit alongside - even though the trad fiddle and the classical violin are one and the same instrument. Same goes for a classically trained bodhran player.

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Hmmm. An unusual expression.

I searched Google for "classically trained bodhran player" (with inverted commas to mandate an exact match). Got one hit (https://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?p=1075919)

I also got exactly one hit for "classically trained tenor banjo player" https://www.amazon.com/Classically-Birthday-Anniversary-Graduation-Instrument/dp/B07923Y8W1

On a roll now, I Googled "classically trained Irish Flute player" which led me to https://www.amazon.com/irish-flute/s?k=irish+flute&page=6 . Go down a row or two….

I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead….

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"To me , the nub of it is - who’s the player of a Boehm system flute who can play "The Bucks Of Oranmore" as well as Matt Molloy does on his simple-system flute ?"

Spot on, Kenny!

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Re: ‘I’ve just tried googling "Classically trained spoons player"’
I have studied alongside someone who played the spoons on stage at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire. I was there, and I do have a video of the event, but it is private, so you’ll have to make do with her ukulele orchestra: https://fb.watch/7LtDDqHqRi/

As for "classically trained bodhran player", that’s definitely a thing. It’s taught on the Traditional Music degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. For example Craig Baxter of Gnoss, TRIP, etc., (https://modernbodhran.com/craig-baxter/) studies/d Bodhran there alongside pipe band snare drum. His bodhran tutor there was Martin O’Neill.

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Thanks for the great discussion here!
I’d like to add that I’ve played boehm flute since I was 9 years old. My latest flute was an upper level student model.
I took up tin whistle in my mid 40’s. I always tried an Irish flute but couldn’t make the hand span. Then I found Casey Burns and got one of his folk flutes which was manageable for me. Still trying to get that sound right.
Things happen and life gets lived - I decide to purchase a professional model silver flute. Irish tunes never sounded so beautiful to me - the quality of the instrument is wonderful. Tunes I struggled with on the Irish flute just flow with my new Yamaha 677 - not too fancy - just fancy enough. I love it for Irish trad 🙂

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The difference for me is not so much between Boehm system and simple system, as it is between the metal flute and the wood flute. On the metal flute I often hear a resonance that comes when the cup bangs shut on the tube. I don’t hear that resonance on a wooden flute. I assume it’s because the wood — and fingers - absorb some of the overtones created by the slap of the closing cup.

I also assume that a gold or silver flute, or a more expensive model flute, would have more attention devoted to this issue by an experienced maker of high-end Boehm system flutes. I also assume that worn out pads would contribute to this effect.

The issue of volume is not really worth discussing, is it? People like Conal O’Grada, Ciaran Somers, and Matt Molloy are certainly loud enough to make the question irrelevant. Hammy, Pol Jezequel, Patrick Olwell — and a number of other makers — make flutes capable of being played loud enough to suit any serious traditional fluter.

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Agreed, I just really love the warm wood sound.

Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

Not to disagree too much from the above at all and I play a boxwood early Monzani (modified heavily in its life to be like later flutes) and that in preference to very good new and old flutes I’ve owned, but to me here the physics of bore and embouchure cut trump all.

That said I remember this old thread on chiff and fipple , and I think at the time, I guessed wrong on which flute was which at the time.

Simple system fingering / Boehm Bore
Conical bore / simple system fingering ……

Materials / bore / bias

Sometimes we hear what we want to hear too.

The samples are long gone but interesting conversation

http://forums.chiffandfipple.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=90136&hilit=Calum+worrell

Calum went to a Morvan (?) (conical ) I think and now he plays mostly pipes.
The flutes that followed
Rudall and Worrell modelled after it went to different players and sold a couple times since.

Calum though!
Some man on any bore!

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Re: Revisiting Boehm Flute For Irish Trad

This is a personal note. No one ever had to convince me that a silver flute is suitable for playing Irish Trad.
It was never my personal choice but that’s not dismissing it’s place in the music for other players.
I’ve always appreciated this music for the player first & then the instrument. I don’t think it’s ever
been the other way around.

Having said that my flute is a part of me. I don’t know how to say this in words. Forgive me. A good flute, maybe
a great flute, isn’t about how it compares to other designs. I like to get to know a flute once it gets my attention. It may sound crazy but I don’t think it’s different from getting to know someone in a very close way. A bit awkward to begin with. But sometimes flutes are exactly like people. It’s worth whatever it is getting started once you know you’re going to be together for a long time to come.
In my case it looks like simple system. For some of my favourite people to play with it’s silver flute. Maybe some of you are happy with both. I don’t know. It’s not for me to say. It’s easy to say who are the best trad players. I would include Matt Molloy & Tara Breen. No problem.
The bit which is not easy, or less so, is the lifelong, personal pursuit for an instrument which speaks to me & I through it. It can happen early or it can take place in stages.
End of ramble.

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