FLUTE

Wooden Flutes
Care & Feeding
Anatomy
Pictoral History
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A Pictorial Evolution of the Irish Wooden Flute

Selected Historical Examples

Clementi 1803 The 1700's Live On

Rose 1818 Real Tradtional

Rudall & Rose 1820's Experimental

Rudall & Rose 1830's Straying A Little

Rudall & Rose 1840 Near Perfection

Rudall Carte & Co 1910 Lost Direction

Introduction

The Irish Wooden Flute is a treasure that is maintained by a living tradition - those who carry it from generation to generation and guarantee its continuation. Orchestral and commercial enterprises long ago abandoned the connical bore, simple system wooded flute favored by Irish players.  This instrument leaves the metal, Boehm system flute in the dust in terms of tone quality, ease of play for agressive traditional tunes, and sheer beauty in appearance.  Then why did the metal flute, with its highly complex fingering system and inferiour cylindrical bore, take over?

 A simple system flute is not fully chromatic (only some sharps & flats)

  It is reputed to be unable to stay in tune along its playing range

 It is hard to produce in a factory at reasonable prices

The beauty of the music belies these prejudices.  Irish wooden flutes from quality makers are used in solo and ensembles everyday and leave the audiences captivated by its voice.  The complaints quoted above don't seem to come to anyone's mind during a spirited performance.  The Irish wooden flute is arguably the most human-like instrument and can be pardoned a few quirks and eccentricities.

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'Tis a dream to play a flute such as this.

The ones shown here are from museums
and are rarely available for sale or use.

Fortunately, models are still made today
- by hand - with the same high quality of
craftsmanship

History of the Irish Wooden Flute

Clementi 1803

Clementi is an influential maker from near the turn of the century (1800).  His style epitomizes the traditions of the late 1700's, which is long before metal flutes cast their shadow.  Clementi's favored style and design elements are carried on into even the present day!

 Cocus wood (Blackwood or Grenadilla; Genus: Brya Ebenus)

  The raised bead design on the end cap gives a delicate demeanor

 The use of ivory for ferrules and silver for keys adds an elegant look

Flutes associated with names like Nicholson, Boosey, Pratten, John Mitchell Rose, Willis Fecit, George Rudall, and others honor the same roots from the 1700's as Clementi.

Cocus Flute, 4 Key

FIRST SECTION:

End Cap Decoration: ivory with a small bead

Ivory Ferrule

SECOND SECTION:

Tenon (all string wrapped)

Keys (silver, all block mounted)

THIRD SECTION:

Ivory Ferrule

Key

Tenon

FOURTH SECTION:

Ivory Ferrules

Key

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History of the Irish Wooden Flute

John Mitchell Rose 1818

Rose is held in high esteem for his quality work and exceptional productivity.

 Note the delicate ivory end detail

  Ivory Ferrules

 Block mounted silver keys

Rose later produced flutes with George Rydall.

Cocus Flute, 10 Key

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History of the Irish Wooden Flute

Rudall & Rose 1820's

This flute appears to be a little different from the mode of the typical flutes shown here and may be either a custom order or an experimental model.

 Seemingly 1/2 inch is cut off from the barrel joint to sharpen the pitch

  The mix of salt spoon keys with "pewter plug over square plate"

 Uncommon ivory ring lining inside of embouchure

Boxwood is one of the warmest tone woods for woodwinds, but it is far less stable than cocus.  Some argue that lining the head joint with metal detracts from a wooden flute's warmer tone.

Boxwood Flute in C, 8 Key


SECTION 1:

Wood Cap

Ivory Ring at Embouchure

Metal-lined Head.


SECTION 2:

Tuning Slide in Head (silver)

Ferrules (rings, all silver)


SECTION 3:

Ferrules

3 Saltspoon Keys (all silver)

SECTION 4:

3 Saltspoon Keys

2 Pewter Plug over Square Plate Keys
for C # & C

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History of the Irish Wooden Flute

Rudall & Rose 1830's

This flute can't make up it's mind as to what kind of style it wants to play:

 The fine ivory details are gone

  It has an extra B-flat section

 The emboucher is surrounded by a silver ferrule

There likely won't be many makers today longin' to copy this model exactly.

Cocus Flute in C

4 section to foot to D, with extra foot to B-flat.

silver ferrules, keys, cap, & embouchure ferrule

pewter plug with metal lined D#

tuning slide in head.

6 or 10 keys, round key flaps, block-in-pin, pewter plug over square metal plate for D#; extra B-flat foot with pewter plug over square plates, and with rollers for C , B, B-flat.

Automatic cork & tuning slide adjustment device
(British Patent No. 6338).

At one time had 11th key, but extra lever for B-flat has been removed.

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History of the Irish Wooden Flute

Rudall & Rose 1840

This flute is well at home in the Irish style.  It has shed some of the elegant touches of the past, such as extensive use of ivory and the sole use of saltspoon keys, but it has no shortage of class.

 End cap and decorative bead done in same wood as body

  Tuning sleeve to allow one to play agreeably with others

 An decent number of keys to provide some more accidentals

Flutes very similar to this type are still made today - by highly skilled makers working by hand - in small shops. 

Cocus Flute, 8 Key

FIRST SECTION:

End Cap Decoration:  a small bead, done in body wood

Ring (silver)

Plain Embouchure (opening for breath to enter)

Tuning Sleeve (silver)

SECOND SECTION:

Tuning Sleeve

Ring

THIRD SECTION:

Tenon (all cork lined)

Keys (all block mounted)

Tenon

FOURTH SECTION:

Ring

Keys

Tenon

FIFTH SECTION:

Ring

Keys

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History of the Irish Wooden Flute

Rudall Carte & Co. 1910

After the Boehm system became dominant, the Irish wooden flute was pushed farther and farther to the periphery.  Here you see that influence (is Rose rolling in his grave?)

 Cylindrical bore instead of the more stable conical bore

  Post mounted keys

 Metal lined head

The Rudall Carte & Co. was fully entrenched in the Boehm Metal flute "craze" by the turn of the century.

Cocus Flute in C, 8 Key

3 sections, cylindrical bore.

Silver Ferrules

Metal-lined Head

body & foot joints with nickel silver key work.

Keys are post & rod direct mount with C roller.

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