Instrument Collection

iaian7 » blog » projects   John Einselen, 11.04.07 (updated 17.10.11)    

Arraigned roughly by instrument type, the information is subject to change, especially the PVC instrument section as I work on modifications and make new ones. Audio samples were (quickly) recorded for each instrument, and posted with minimal editing (volume is bumped for a few, and they all have a little ambience mixed in).

Key: The “base” key for the instrument, unless listed otherwise, this is also the lowest playable note.

Tuning: Will list chromatic, diatonic, minor SA (South American, used by Stephanie), or pentatonic minor (Asian minor).

Accuracy: Rated out of five •••••. This can be slightly perceptual, but I’m double checking everything with a graphed tuner as well. Most instruments can be bent +/- 40 cents with breathing changes, I’m attempting to test this range, as opposed to absolute tuning.

Range: Measured in octaves, this gives a rough estimate as to the workable range of the instrument. Keep in mind many of these instruments get pretty dodgy when pushed above the first register (overtones, breathiness, and tones all change in the second register, and not for the better).

Tinwhistles (fipple based flutes)

Clarke Sweetone


Key: D
Tuning: Diatonic (with modification, minor)
Accuracy: ••••
Range: 2+ octaves
Plastic mouthpiece designed by Michael Copeland, enameled conical bore. Good tone, easily played, works nicely in multiple registers.

Edit: I now have this same whistle in C, but it’s not quite a good as the D.

Shaw


Key: C
Tuning: Diatonic (with modification, minor)
Accuracy: ••••
Range: ~2 octaves
Conical bore made of nickel, wrapped around a wooden fipple; very traditional design (I’ve used it in reenacting for ages). Takes more air than some tinwhistles, with a great breathy sound favored by many trad players. Sweet tone and excellent “chiff” (note chirping / overtones, especially with the lower notes). I prefer playing it in the lowest register; though it’ll go higher, the tonal changes are more readily heard in the second octave.

Edit: I now have Shaw whistles in C, E, Low G (rather nice), Low D (poorly tuned in places), and possibly High D (can’t remember!).

Generation


Key: Bb
Tuning: Diatonic (with modification, minor)
Accuracy: ••••
Range: 2+ octaves
Plastic mouthpiece, straight brass bore. Has a slightly more open sound, quieter than the others, and is slightly more mellow.

Edit: I now have Generation whistles in Bb, C, D, Eb, F, and G (all are roughly comparative, with one or two tuning issues that should be fixable in a quick hot water treatment to the head).

Recorder (fipple based)

Sopranino


Key: F
Tuning: Diatonic
Accuracy: •••• 1/2 (with a couple fingering variations)
Range: 2+ octaves (I really only play the lower 1.5)
Yamaha 300 series, specially designed for accurate notes and better tones. Clean pure sound, a nice chirp to the playing. Fingering is a little more complex than some, which induces more chirping as fingers can easily get crossed.

Mixed flutes

Fife


Key: Bb
Tuning: Diatonic
Accuracy: •• 1/2
Range: 2+ octaves, in theory
Straight bore maple, traditional fife design (used for awhile in reenacting). I really only play the bottom register, so not a great example of period playing styles! The tone is passable, but has slightly odd overtones (it’s changed somewhat over the years, and I have suspicions of wood shrinkage). The lowest note is the flattest.

Quena


Key: F# (somewhat lower)
Tuning: Minor SA
Accuracy: •••
Range: ~2 octaves (upper range is dodgy)
Purchased from Bolivia (or Ecuador…), straight bore of unkown wood (likely a variation of bamboo). Great organic tones, breathy, and “open”. I’m assuming the natural tuning of the instrument is traditionally south american in nature, it also matches up to the minor key in use by Stephanie.

Edit: I’ve added three more wooden South American flutes; two Quena in D and one Quenacho in G. Quality and tuning is significantly improved over the previous instrument.

Panpipes


Key: ?
Tuning: selective notes: B D E G A B D E
Accuracy: ••••
Range: ~2 octaves?
7-8 tubes of bamboo or reed, the tone is ok, with the obvious blowing sounds of the panpipes. This is possibly one of the oldest instruments ever, and has permutations in just about every major cultural group (though it’s associated primarily with Greek mythology or SA music).

Suling flute


Key: B/Bb (lowest note is flat, the rest are sharp)
Tuning: Diatonic
Accuracy: •• 1/2
Range: ~2 octaves
Of Indonesian or similar ancestry, this instrument isn’t quite an end-blown flute since there’s a rudimentary fipple structure. Made of bamboo, the tone is clean and pure. Though the bottom note is off, the rest seem to be decently in tune with itself. With minimal modification, it shouldn’t be hard to make it quite reliable.

Vessel flutes

Edit: I’ve added an Italian style (sweet potato) ocarina from Sixth Street Ocarinas in key of C. Good tuning, good tone, fingering takes a bit more work.

Langley [ultra] Soprano (mini) Ocarina


Key: D (I tend to play it fairly sharp)
Tuning: Chromatic
Accuracy: •••• (with variations)
Range: 1+ octave
Ceramic, made in England by John Langley. Tone is downright twittery, has more chirp than some birds, and is sweet and bright like none other. The tuning is good and has a range of an octave and one note. The notes can be shifted quite a ways with blowing technique; the base note (D) on this instrument can be bent from C# to F#. It can still go a little flat, depending on the fingering, in the upper notes. It might be noted here that hardly any ancient instruments are capable of fully chromatic scales (though the Greeks seem to have used a scale with far smaller intervals than our chromatic divisions today), but with six sound holes, the ocarina can play most any note. While it’s undergone variations and modifications (this design was developed merely 30 years ago), it can be classified as a vessel flute and should be somewhat close sound wise. Keep in mind that materials could create a rather significant difference in tone, so think of this as a clay vessel flute.

Edit: I’ve added Langley ocarinas in G (soprano, tuning is iffy in places) and D (alto, great tuning).

Generic Bass (large) Ocarina


Key: D
Tuning: Chromatic
Accuracy: ••• (with variations)
Range: 1+ octave
Made of ceramic and glazed a deep blue. A softer (though louder) version of the above, much deeper, and more mellow in attack. Range is one octave plus one note, and the notes are still about as pliable as those of the Mini Ocarina. One of the top holes, however, does need a small amount of clay added to make the tuning more accurate.

Edit: The modifications have been made, and it now plays in much better tune.

Edit: I now have this same size in a Langley ocarina, which is better tuned and has a subtle tonal difference (more…resonant? reedy? harsh?). It’s hard to define, but the Langley is a better instrument.

Reed based

Edit: I also have a Zaphoon with upgraded synthetic reed. Reliable tuning, but highly pliable notes…in the end, I’m just not good with reed instruments!

Chanter


(I’d recommend not listening!)
Key: A (fairly flat)
Tuning: Diatonic
Accuracy: •• (technically better after I modified it, but playing a tune is pretty hard to get “right”)
Range: ~1 octave
Rosewood practice chanter. I’ve modified the holes quite a bit to get the notes better tuned, but it’s possible I was tuning off the lowest note, and it was supposed to be tuned off the third note or something. The tuning is, in theory, not terrible. In practice, the notes are completely off.

Sipsi


Key: Bb
Tuning: n/a
Accuracy: n/a
Range: ~1 octave
Made of various reeds, imported from Egypt. The notes are…random. I don’t even know if they’re accurate for middle east tunings. It used to be a Double Mijwiz (traditional Egyptian instrument), but I got tired of trying to play the two barrels in tandem. Cutting them apart, redressing the edge bindings, and modifying the reeds has made it a little more playable (and the resulting Sipsi would be of Turkish origin).

Endblown and Transverse PVC

Edit: I now have three bamboo Shakuhachi made in California in 1.7 (bad tuning), 1.9 (good tuning), and 2.1 (maudlin tuning), along with the Shakuhachi Yuu in 1.7 (student model in specially designed plastic – the bamboo plays ever so slightly better, but the Yuu is more exacting in construction and behaviour).

1/2” CPVC reconstruction


Key: E (slightly flat, but varies)
Tuning: Diatonic
Accuracy: •••
Range: 1- octave
Based on excavated remains from a Chinese dig site dated at many thousands of years BC, they are the oldest instrument remains ever found. This is a CPVC reconstruction, about 2 whole tones lower than the original (based on audio samples from one of the researchers). Tone is clean and simple, though it does waver a bit and reacts strongly to small variations. Just 1/16 of an inch difference in hole placement or shifting your lips a little can change it by 15Hz (about one chromatic increment at this pitch). The tuning is remarkably modern, and should easily disprove any notions about ancient music being underdeveloped!

1/2” Quena


Key: G (slightly sharp, mostly the base note)
Tuning: Diatonic
Accuracy: •• 1/2
Range: 1+ octave
It’s ok, can’t say I like it that much. The smaller bore makes the lower register more likely to stall (and this one does), but the upper register is nigh impossible to reach. The smaller bore should also have a “brighter” sound. Not sure if that really plays out though.

3/4” Quena


Key: G (slightly on the flat side)
Tuning: Minor SA
Accuracy: ••••
Range: 1 octave
Decent tuning, good sound. Surprisingly similar to the wooden Quena, the sound is cleaner and slightly less muffled by texture (or however it should be said).

3/4” Shaku + Flute



Key: C
Tuning: Pentatonic Minor
Accuracy: ••••
Range: 1+ octaves
Interchangeable heads; one Shakuhachi / Quena style (end blown, and accidentally tuned slightly sharper), one transverse flute (side blown). I plan on making more bodies with different tunings, but this is it so far. The tone is good; breathy and sharper with the Shaku / Quena mouthpiece, clear and simple with the flute headpiece (surprisingly good in tone, I’ve found it easier to play than a modern silver flute). There’s a third head piece I made transverse style, but with a thinner mouthpiece. It plays much like the aforementioned, but with a thinner, reedier sound that should work well with a Dizi body (chinese flute with vibrating membrane). This is one of the experiments I’m currently working on, and will post new instruments as they are finished. The fingering of the body piece is currently inline, which makes transverse playing rather adverse for the wrists.

1” Shaku + Flute




Key: G (slightly sharp)
Tuning: Minor SA
Accuracy: ••• 1/2
Range: 1+ octaves
About three heads (one end blown, two transverse), just like the previous instrument set. The Shakuhachi / Quena style mouthpiece is breathy and open, the flute style heads are more closed, warm, and tight in their intonation. The upper notes (G# and Bb) are slightly sharp, something I hadn’t noticed when I first made it, but rather obvious now. Not sure how that got messed up, but I’ll probably tune this up to a standard Diatonic, and make a new Minor SA tuned body.

1” Shakuhachi (square embouchure)


Key: G (a little sharp)
Tuning: Pentatonic Minor
Accuracy: ••••
Range: 1 octave, maybe more
An experimental squared mouthpiece gives nice loudness and perhaps a mellower tone. Most plans I’ve found for Shakuhachi are around 23” long, this one is over 32”, and has a much larger bore than most flutes I’ve come across. This is definitely my deepest flute, and by the time we reach this size, breath requirements go up a bit.

1” Shakuhachi (more traditional embouchure)

Key: G (a little sharp)
Tuning: Pentatonic Minor
Accuracy: ••••
Range: 1 octave, maybe more
Perhaps less breathy than the version above, it’s tuned very similarly, but with a somewhat more “traditional” mouthpiece. Tones are sometimes cleaner, but less stable? Then again, sometimes there could be more wind noise with this one (something that might be attributed to the head joint). It’s hard to tell which one I like better.

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