What is an Irish flute? Well, there really is no such thing, truthfully. In very recent years the term “Irish flute” has caught on as a descriptor for a particular style of wooden flute that has become associated with Irish traditional music, even though it has equally strong associations with other musical traditions. Wikipedia sums it up as follows:
The term Irish Flute refers to a conical-bore, simple-system wooden flute of the type favored by classical flautists of the early 19th century, or to a flute of modern manufacture derived from this design (often with modifications to optimize its use in Breton Traditional Music, Irish Traditional Music or Scottish Traditional Music). The vast majority of traditional flute players use a wooden, simple-system flute.
These transverse flutes that are designed for ITM (Irish Traditional Music) as well as the aforementioned Breton Traditional Music, Scottish Traditional Music, etc.. They are based upon the antique Pratten’s Perfected, a well known 19th century flute model. They are made from black ebonite, a natural (non-synthetic) hard rubber valued for its stability and amazing acoustic properties, and feature nickel silver bore rings and tuning slide. If you are unfamiliar with ebonite as a material, I recommend reading my blog on the subject. Ebonite was a popular material for many 19th century flute makers.
These are high-performance keyless instruments with a diatonic major tuning that is ideal for many types of folk music.
I offer these flutes with several options. All of them feature a nickel silver tuning slide and nickel silver bore rings. The base model is made with a partially lined headjoint, tuning slide, single section body and foot. A double section body can be requested for an additional $100. The double section body features a joint that allows the two groups of three finger holes to be rotated out of line for easier ergonomics. Colored ebonite is offered as an option for an additional $200.
For a less expensive, high-performance alternative to these flutes, consider the Essential Flute, a one-piece keyless flutes that plays the same scale.
This entire line of flutes is the fruit of a collaboration with Jonathan Walpole, former professor at Portland State University, who is not only an avid collector of flutes but also a gifted amateur restorer and maker in his own right. Jon and I began working together in the Fall of 2012. I had been developing a line of conical bore flutes for more than a year before we met, using information provided by Australian flute maker Terry McGee, but then I had the great good fortune to become acquainted with Jon and ever since he has been an invaluable ally in my quest to make a top flight Irish flute. His attention to detail, his love of ITM and his contagious enthusiasm and curiosity have been directly responsible for the rapid evolution of this flute line. He has shared a great deal of information and insight, has tested prototypes and provided feedback, and has brainstormed with me on almost every aspect of flute making, from design concepts and materials to the manufacture of custom tooling.
It might say “Ellis” on the flute, but these flutes are really Ellis-Walpole creations.
Listen to Blayne Chastain (owner of the Irish Flute Store and ITM musician extraordinaire) introduce and play a sample from one of the new Pratten style flutes.
A feast for the eyes and ears! Gorgeous Smokey ebonite Pratten-style “Irish” flute in the key of D (diatonic major tuning), featuring nickel silver tuning slide and bore rings. Partially lined headjoint and corked joints. Comes with padded flannel flute roll, cork grease and swab stick. I took an extra photo out in the sun to really show the color of the ebonite (it is more subdued than some of the colors and regular photos don’t capture it as well). Powerful, lively tone and response. Perfect for a session down at your local pub!
For players unfamiliar with ebonite, I strongly encourage you to read my blog entry on the subject. It is a truly amazing material for woodwinds of all kinds, and it is all-natural (not plastic or synthetic). Waterproof, stable and demonstrating superior acoustic properties. NOTE: ebonite does have a mild smell of rubber when it is warm, and some players don’t care for it. It seems to fade over time, and personally I don’t even notice it. However, it should be mentioned if you have a particularly sensitive nose.
Making ebonite is as much art as science, and colored ebonite is very expensive (but worth it!), and the finishing process is much more labor intensive than wood. The extra cost for materials and labor is reflected in the price of these flutes.
Sound sample pending.
Irish Flutes price: $1299 to $1449
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