Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Flute Arrives!

I know that if you have the same disease that I have (chronic flute fever) then I can only imagine what the image above is doing to you at the moment. I apologize for this Pavlov's dog teaser, but I wanted to you experience the same anticipation that I had as I came home two weeks ago to this beautiful triagular shaped package on my doorstep...

First a little history…

As many of you know, I have been enthralled with discovering all of the other scales which are present on the Native American Flute. In 1999, while on a trip to Monterey CA, I stopped by the farmers market and I saw and heard a fife made from hemlock root stock made by flutemaker and street vendor, Bo Bixler. Here's a picture of one of Bo's wonderful painted fifes:

Note, that I don't own the flute shown above, but I do own one of Bo's other fife's, and it’s a very cool flute. Not a Native American Flute, but a wonder flute none-the-less. The reason that I bring this story up is that Bo also had in his inventory a flute with a scale which he called “Spanish Gypsy Scale”. I was enthralled with the Spanish Gypsy scale, but chose to purchase a diatonically tuned flute instead that day. The Spanish Gypsy Scale, however had sparked my subconscious. The Spanish Gypsy scale is the sound of gypsy’s, of the middle eastern traditional music.

Anyhow, when I got home I became obsessed with the Spanish Gypsy Scale, I had to look up the Spanish gypsy scale on the web and the only sites where I found this scalte were on guitar scale sites. This suited me fine since I am guitar player, and I sat down to translate the Spanish Gypsy Scale from the guitar scale format to the Native American Flute. Unfortunately, I’ve lost contact with Bo. If anyone knows how to contact him, I’d love to find him again. He was a bit of nomad, living in the bay area on his boat.

You can click here to read my earlier NAF playing tip blog entry highlighting the Spanish Gypsy Scale for a typical, modern tuned NAF.

The Present

Fast forward to the INAFA convention last August. I ran into Leonard McGann and he had a few Native American Style flutes tuned with a straight Spanish Gypsy Scale fingering (no cross fingering required). I would have bought one of these flutes from Leonard, but I was out of cash and all he had left at the end of the event was a ‘regular fingered’ flute. I still have one of Leonard's Spanish Gypsy tuned flutes on my wish list.

The latest design from Stephen DeRuby…

Fast forward to last month. I was browsing the Zion Flute Festival and saw an ad flash up for Stephen DeRuby and his new “Gypsy Flute”. I was immediately hooked. Stephen is good friend of mine and one of my favorite flute makers, so I called him up and ordered one of his new “Gypsy flutes”.

Here’s the details on my new flute which arrived in the box pictured at the top of the blog entry, I have had two weeks to play around with it now and I really love the sound and the scale of this flute. The key difference in this flute (along with Leonards tuning as well) from the cross-fingered version which you can play on any modern-tuned NAF, is that the first note fo the Spanish Gypsy scale has been put into these flutes. The first interval of the true Spanish Gypsy Scale is a half step, and unfortunately this interval is not avialable on a modern pentatonic NAF, where the interval between the root/fundamental note and the first hole is one and half steps. (OK, before you flute techies send me nasty email, it IS possible to make a half step note if you 'quarter hole' the first hole of the flute, but I don't think that this is practical for most folks and it's really difficult to play fast...). The picture below shows the unique fingering of the Gypsy Flute design. Note that there are 7 finger holes on this flute:

Note that there are only two holes for the bottom hand (index and pinky) and there are five holes for the upper hand (all four fingers plus a thumb hole on the bottom):

I’ll admit that this flute fingering takes a little while to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, it works pretty well. On your bottom hand, you keep your thumb and middle and ring finger on the barrel of the flute and this provides the stability to remove all of the fingers and thumb of your top hand when you play the octave note.

Note also that the mouthpiece for this flute is designed like a recorder/whistle, rather than the traditional Native American Flute fipple design. I asked Stephen about this design change and he described the sound quality as much brighter and more stable for this scale than with a the NAF fipple design. I was skeptical, until I received the flute. I’ll admit now, that this is a very bright flute, and I’ve already played it with my Middle Eastern drum circle. I was able to play above the drumming with out amplification.

The only negative that I have found with this flute is that it tends to water out faster than any other flute I have in my collection. I am not sure why that is, but I attribute it to the different fipple design for now.

The wood on this flute is spalted maple, and it has a beautiful vein running through it (I don’t think that the pictures show it’s complete beauty). If you’re interested in owning one of these, contact Stephen directly or check them out at the upcoming NCFC/NoNahme Spring Festival on April 21, 2007. Stephen will be a vendor at this event. This flute is only available in the key of D.
I'll post an MP3 of this flute later, once I get a chance to get into my studio for some recording time.
UPDATE: 3/17/07 - Stephen emailed me to inform me that he is also producing this in the key of A now. He'll have a few with him at the NCFC Spring Festival...

For more information:

Love Flutes
Stephen Deruby

Lone Crow Flutes
Leonard McGann
(540) 297-6077
email: caveratlc AT aol DOT net

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bo is my uncle. You can contact him at: