|Frequently Asked Questions|
The Irish flute is really just the type of flute which was around in the 19th century before the modern flute was invented. Until the late 1970s, Irish traditional players used old flutes that were sometimes nearly 200 years old, but now flutemakers like myself make instruments, which although based on this type of flute are specially designed for playing traditional music and can really be called "Irish flutes"Top
What is the difference between the flute used in Irish traditional music and the sort of flute played in marching bands, classical orchestras, or in jazz?
The classical, or Boehm system, flute, which is the type of flute normally played in all of the above situations was invented by Theobald Boehm in the mid 19th century. Before then, all flutes as used in western music were known as simple system, or cone-bore flutes. The major differences between the two instruments are:TopBoehm Flute1/ The body of the flute has a cylindrical bore, but the head tapers, i.e. gets narrower as it approaches the embouchure (where it is blown).Simple System Flute
2/ The holes are operated by a system of keys which means that there are no open holes for the fingers to cover.
3/ The flute is almost always made of metal, though you will come across examples made of wood.1/ The head of the flute has a cylindrical bore, but the body tapers towards the foot.
2/ There are six open finger holes giving diatonic scalse in several keys. Other holes controled by keys give the semitones of these scales. (Although there are keyless flutes as well.( see below))
3/ The flute is always made of wood.
It's a question of tradition on the one hand, and the fact that the techniques of traditional playing have been developed for the simple system flute. The fact that the player is in direct contact with the air column via the open finger holes allows various techniques such as bending notes to be used with more facility. The tone of the cone bored instrument, being much richer in overtones and harmonics, is much more suited to traditional music.Top
Basically the answer is no, but of course it depends on the person. The basic techniques for each instrument are the same, and the fingering is slightly different. In general, people who are already Boehm flute players will be in a much better position than complete beginners.Top
The simple system flute is in general more ruggedly constructed than its orchestral equivalent. Because the keywork is simpler, consisting for the most part of closed keys, which act independantly of each other, it is in fact much less prone to damage than the more delicate and complex Boehm system. The wood itself is no more prone to climatic changes than the wood of clarinets or oboes, and the same regieme of care will prevent the climate from exacting any damage.Top
NO! Our keyless flutes are identical in workmanship and quality of materials to the more expensive keyed instruments. The only difference is in the absence or presence of keys.Top
In fact if you have bought a keyless flute you can upgrade it to a keyed instrument by swopping the keyless middle section for one with keys. Even if this new section only carries one key, the blocks for the other potential keywork will be there, so that these can be added when ever it is thought necessary.
Some people get confused about the difference between the tin whistle and the Irish flute, but what we in Ireland call a tin whistle is just simply a penny whistle, and is more closely related to the recorder than the flute.Top
Many people begin on the tin whistle and then progress on to the flute. The almost identical fingering makes this a natural progression. bu when you are playing the flute for a while, you will realise that the two instruments are very different and you can't just play the flute as if it was a big whistle. That doesn't mean to say that you can't play the two instruments side by side, enjoying the precision of the whistle and the power of the flute.