Vessel flute

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Vessel flutes
Ocarina shops.jpg
Ocarinas on display at a shop in Taiwan
Zwiebelflasche 1750.jpg
Blowing across the opening of empty bottle produces a basic edge-blown vessel flute.

A vessel flute is a type of flute with a body which acts as a Helmholtz resonator. The body is vessel-shaped, not tube- or cone-shaped.

Contents

Most flutes have cylindrical or conical bore (examples: concert flute, shawm). Vessel flutes have more spherical hollow bodies.

The air in the body of a vessel flute resonates as one, with air moving alternately in and out of the vessel, and the pressure inside the vessel increasing and decreasing. This is unlike the resonance of a tube or cone of air, where air moves back and forth along the tube, with pressure increasing in part of the tube while it decreases in another.

Blowing across the opening of empty bottle produces a basic edge-blown vessel flute. Multi-note vessel flutes include the ocarina. [1]

A Helmholtz resonator is unusually selective in amplifying only one frequency. Most resonators also amplify more overtones. [2] As a result, vessel flutes have a distinctive overtoneless sound.

Types

Fipple vessel flutes

These flutes have a fipple to direct the air at an edge.

A referee's whistle is technically a fipple vessel flute, although it only plays one note.

Edge-blown vessel flutes

Borrindos, vessel flutes made of clay, often by children. Borrindo.jpg
Borrindos, vessel flutes made of clay, often by children.

These flutes are edge-blown. They have no fipple and rely on the player's mouth to direct the air at an edge.

Other

The shepherd's whistle is an unusual vessel flute; the fipple consists of two consecutive holes, and the player's mouth acts as a tunable vessel resonator. A nose whistle also uses the mouth as a resonating cavity, and can therefore vary its pitch.

Acoustics

Sound production

Air pressure oscillating in the body of a vessel flute with no fipple. These are sounded by blowing across a hole, just like blowing across the opening of an empty bottle. In this case, the labium is the edge of the far side of the hole. Just as in a fipple flute, the airstream alternates quickly between the inner and outer side of the labium; another diagram, with fipple. Embocadura.gif
Air pressure oscillating in the body of a vessel flute with no fipple. These are sounded by blowing across a hole, just like blowing across the opening of an empty bottle. In this case, the labium is the edge of the far side of the hole. Just as in a fipple flute, the airstream alternates quickly between the inner and outer side of the labium; another diagram, with fipple.

Sound is generated by oscillations in an airstream passing an edge, just as in other flutes. The airstream alternates quickly between the inner and outer side of the edge.

The opening at which this occurs is called the voicing. [3]

Some vessel flutes have a fipple to direct the air onto the labium edge, like a recorder. Others rely on the player's lips to direct the air against the edge, like a concert flute. Fippleless flutes are called edge-blown flutes.

The pitch of a vessel flute is affected by how hard the player blows. Breath force can change the pitch by several semitones, [4] [5] though too much or too little air will also harm the tone, [6] so the usable range of tones is much smaller. The optimal breath force depends on which pitch is being sounded (according to the instrument's breath curve). [7] This is why it is hard to learn to play a vessel flute in tune.

Vessel flutes generally have no tuning mechanism, partly because they rely on variations in breath pressure and partly because the volume of the chamber and the size of the voicing need to be matched to produce a good tone. A few have plungers that change the chamber volume. [7]

Fingering holes and fingers that are too close to the labium disrupt the oscillation of the airstream and hurt the tone.

Amplification

At first the sound is a broad-spectrum "noise" (i.e. "chiff"), but those frequencies that match the resonant frequency of the resonating chamber are selectively amplified. The resonant frequency is the pitch of the note that is heard. Vessel flutes use the air in a vessel for amplification; the vessel acts as a Helmholtz resonator.

Other things being equal, vessel flutes are louder when they use more air, [6] and when they are being played at higher pressures.

Pitch and fingering

The resonant frequency of a vessel flute is given by this formula: (heavily simplified, see simplifications) [8]

From this, one can see that smaller instruments are higher-pitched. It also means that, in theory, opening a specific hole on an instrument always raises the pitch by the same amount. It doesn't matter how many other holes are open; opening the hole always increases the total area of the open holes by the same amount.

A vessel flute with two fingering holes of the same size can sound three notes (both closed, one open, both open). An vessel flute with two fingering holes of different sizes can sound four notes (both closed, only the smaller hole open, only the bigger hole open, both open). The number of notes increases with the number of holes:

Number of holes012345678910
Number of notes12481632641282565121024
Powers of two 20212223242526272829210

In theory, if the smallest hole were just big enough to raise the pitch by a semitone, and each successive hole was twice as big as the last, then a vessel flute could play a scale of 1024 fully-chromatic notes. Fingering would be equivalent to counting in finger binary.

In practice, the pitch of a vessel flute is also affected by how hard the player blows. If more holes are open, it is necessary to blow harder, which raises the pitch. The high notes tend to go sharp; the low notes, flat. [5] To compensate, fingering charts soon diverge from the plain binary progression.

The same pitch can be made with a variety of vessel shapes, as long as the cavity resonates as a Helmholtz resonator. This is why vessel flutes come in a variety of shapes. The chamber shape does, however, affect the acoustics and ergonomics; it is not entirely arbitrary. [9]

Overtones

The resonator in the ocarina can create overtones, but because of the common "egg" shape, these overtones are many octaves above the keynote scale. [2] In similar instruments with a narrow cone shape, like the Gemshorn or Tonette, some partial overtones are available. Overblowing to get a range of higher pitched notes is possible on the ocarina, but not widely done, because the resulting notes are not "clean" enough.[ citation needed ]

Multiple resonant chambers

Double-chambered ocarina, for playing chords and extending range. Budriodouble.jpg
Double-chambered ocarina, for playing chords and extending range.

Some ocarinas are double- or triple-chambered, often with the chambers tuned an octave or a tenth apart. This allows the player to play chords, but it also allows an increased range.[ citation needed ]

A chamber with a smaller range can be more tuned to better characteristics throughout its range; a chamber with a large range will, for basic physical reasons, have more borderline characteristics at the extremities of its range. Splitting a large range over multiple chambers makes for a smaller range per chamber. So for the same range, multichambers can have a better tone. The optimal air pressure can also be more consistent between notes (a flatter breath curve), making multichambers easier to play, especially for fast music with large jumps in pitch. [10]

Physics simplifications

A less-simplified formula for the resonant frequency of a Helmholtz resonator is: [8]

Where f is the resonant frequency, v is the speed of sound, A is the total area of openings in the vessel, and V is the volume of air enclosed in the vessel.

The pitch of a Helmholtz resonator is also affected by how far the air has to go to get in or out of the resonator; in other words, the thickness of the material the holes are cut in.

Variations in the speed of sound

The speed of sound, assumed to be constant above, is in fact somewhat variable.

The speed of sound in air varies with temperature, meaning that a vessel flute's pitch will change in hot or cold air. However, varying the playing airspeed can change the pitch by several semitones. [4] Unfortunately, most of this range is not usable, only about third of a semitone / 30 cents (for music with rapid or complex note transitions, the practical limit is only 5-10 cents). [5] [7] This is enough to cancel the expected pitch effects of moderate temperature changes (±20-30 Celsius for simple music, ±4-5 Celsius for complex music). The low notes can be made to sound good and in-tune at a variety of pressures, but the higher pitches are substantially less sensitive to changes in pressure. At low temperatures, the high notes may squeak before the player can blow hard enough to bring them in tune; at high temperatures, the high notes will require so little air that they sound too airy. Ocarina makers can give information on the temperature a specific ocarina was tuned for, the temperature which will give its designed tone. [5] [7]

Air pressure variations do not affect pitch. The ratio of pressure to air density in an ideal gas is constant. Air pressure and density changes therefore cancel, and have no effect on the speed of sound; air is nearly an ideal gas, so there is nearly no effect.

Humidity has a comparatively small effect on the speed of sound. Going from zero to 100% relative humidity should change the frequency by less than a two-degree-Celsius change in room temperature. [11] As the player's breath has ~100% relative humidity, the humidity can't vary that much anyway.

See also

Related Research Articles

Clarinet type of woodwind instrument

The clarinet is a family of woodwind instruments. It has a single-reed mouthpiece, a straight, cylindrical tube with an almost cylindrical bore, and a flared bell. A person who plays a clarinet is called a clarinetist.

Flute Musical instrument of the woodwind family

The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Recorder (musical instrument) Woodwind musical instrument

The recorder is a family of woodwind musical instruments in the group known as internal duct flutes—flutes with a whistle mouthpiece, also known as fipple flutes. A recorder can be distinguished from other duct flutes by the presence of a thumb-hole for the upper hand and seven finger-holes: three for the upper hand and four for the lower. It is the most prominent duct flute in the western classical tradition.

Overtone

An overtone is any frequency greater than the fundamental frequency of a sound. In other words, overtones are higher pitches resulting from the lowest note or fundamental. While the fundamental is usually heard most prominently, overtones are actually present in any pitch except a true sine wave. The relative volume or amplitude of various overtone partials is one of the key identifying features of timbre, or the individual characteristic of a sound.

Tin whistle Six-holed woodwind instrument

The tin whistle, also called the penny whistle, flageolet, English flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, tin flageolet, Irish whistle, Belfast Hornpipe, feadóg stáin and Clarke London Flageolet is a simple, six-holed woodwind instrument. It is a type of fipple flute, putting it in the same class as the recorder, Native American flute, and other woodwind instruments that meet such criteria. A tin whistle player is called a whistler. The tin whistle is closely associated with Celtic and Australian folk music.

Ocarina Ancient wind musical instrument

The ocarina is an ancient wind musical instrument—a type of vessel flute. Variations exist, but a typical ocarina is an enclosed space with four to twelve finger holes and a mouthpiece that projects from the body. It is traditionally made from clay or ceramic, but other materials are also used—such as plastic, wood, glass, metal, or bone.

Overblowing is a technique used while playing a wind instrument that causes the sounded pitch to jump to a higher one primarily through the manipulation of the supplied air rather than by a fingering change or the operation of a slide. Depending on the instrument, and to a lesser extent the player, overblowing may involve a change in the air pressure, in the point at which the air is directed, or in the resonance characteristics of the chamber formed by the mouth and throat of the player. In some instruments, overblowing may also involve the direct manipulation of the vibrating reed(s), and/or the pushing of a register key while otherwise leaving fingering unaltered. With the exception of harmonica overblowing, the pitch jump is from one vibratory mode of the reed or air column, e.g., its fundamental, to an overtone. Overblowing can be done deliberately in order to get a higher pitch, or inadvertently, resulting in the production of a note other than that intended.

Fipple

A fipple is a constricted mouthpiece common to many end-blown flutes, such as the tin whistle and the recorder. These instruments are known as fipple flutes and are indicated by the code 421.2 in the Hornbostel–Sachs classification.

Resonator Device or system that exhibits resonance

A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior. That is, it naturally oscillates with greater amplitude at some frequencies, called resonant frequencies, than at other frequencies. The oscillations in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical. Resonators are used to either generate waves of specific frequencies or to select specific frequencies from a signal. Musical instruments use acoustic resonators that produce sound waves of specific tones. Another example is quartz crystals used in electronic devices such as radio transmitters and quartz watches to produce oscillations of very precise frequency.

Scientific pitch notation

Scientific pitch notation is a method of specifying musical pitch by combining a musical note name and a number identifying the pitch's octave.

Tonette

The stub-ended Swanson Tonette is a small, end-blown flute made of plastic, which was once popular in American elementary music education. Though the Tonette has been superseded by the recorder in many areas, due to their price, durability and simplicity, plastic Tonettes are still in use in elementary schools around the nation. The range of the Tonette is from C4 to D5. A skilled player can produce notes above the principal register by over blowing and half covering holes. Similar instruments are the Song Flute, Flutophone, and Precorder.

Steam whistle Audible warning device powered by steam

A steam whistle is a device used to produce sound with the aid of live steam, which acts as a vibrating system.

Gemshorn

The gemshorn is an instrument of the ocarina family that was historically made from the horn of a chamois, goat, or other suitable animal. The gemshorn receives its name from the German language, and means a "chamois horn".

Helmholtz resonance Phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity

Helmholtz resonance or wind throb is the phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity, such as when one blows across the top of an empty bottle. The name comes from a device created in the 1850s by Hermann von Helmholtz, the Helmholtz resonator, which he used to identify the various frequencies or musical pitches present in music and other complex sounds.

Native American flute Flute designed by Native American peoples

The Native American flute is a flute that is held in front of the player, has open finger holes, and has two chambers: one for collecting the breath of the player and a second chamber which creates sound. The player breathes into one end of the flute without the need for an embouchure. A block on the outside of the instrument directs the player's breath from the first chamber—called the slow air chamber—into the second chamber—called the sound chamber. The design of a sound hole at the proximal end of the sound chamber causes air from the player's breath to vibrate. This vibration causes a steady resonance of air pressure in the sound chamber that creates sound.

Acoustic resonance resonance phenomena in sound and musical devices

Acoustic resonance is a phenomenon in which an acoustic system amplifies sound waves whose frequency matches one of its own natural frequencies of vibration.

Bass trap

Bass traps are acoustic energy absorbers which are designed to damp low frequency sound energy with the goal of attaining a flatter low frequency (LF) room response by reducing LF resonances in rooms. They are commonly used in recording studios, mastering rooms, home theatres and other rooms built to provide a critical listening environment. Like all acoustically absorptive devices, they function by turning sound energy into heat through friction.

The Turkish ney is an end-blown reed flute, an Ottoman variation on the ancient ney. Together with the Turkish tanbur lute and Turkish kemençe fiddle are considered the most typical instruments of Classical Turkish music. The ney also plays a primary role in the music of the Mevlevi Sufi rites (semâ).

Wind instrument Class of musical instruments with air resonator

A wind instrument is a musical instrument that contains some type of resonator in which a column of air is set into vibration by the player blowing into a mouthpiece set at or near the end of the resonator. The pitch of the vibration is determined by the length of the tube and by manual modifications of the effective length of the vibrating column of air. In the case of some wind instruments, sound is produced by blowing through a reed; others require buzzing into a metal mouthpiece, while yet others require the player to blow into a hole at an edge, which splits the air column and creates the sound.

Hand flute

The hand flute, or handflute, is a musical instrument made out of the player's hands. It is also called a 'Hand ocarina' or 'Hand whistle'. To produce sound, the player creates a chamber of air with their hands, into which they blow air via an opening at the thumbs. There are two common techniques involving the shape of the hand chamber: the "cupped hand" technique and the "interlock" technique.

References

  1. For a linguistic analysis of the possible origins of the word ocarina, cf. Perono Cacciafoco, Francesco. (2019). A Prehistoric 'Little Goose': A New Etymology for the Word 'Ocarina'. Annals of the University of Craiova: Series Philology, Linguistics, XLI, 1-2: 356-369, Paper.
  2. 1 2 Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics. Arthur H. Benade pp.473–476
  3. Hickman, Richard. "An introduction to the ocarina's fingering system". pureocarinas.com. Pure Ocarinas. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  4. 1 2 Hickman, Robert. "Playing the ocarina in tune - ocarina intonation". pureocarinas.com. Pure Ocarinas.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Hickman, Robert. "Playing the ocarina in tune - ocarina intonation - Pure Ocarinas". Pureocarinas.com. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  6. 1 2 Hickman, Robert. "How air temperature affects an ocarina's pitch". pureocarinas.com. Pure Ocarinas. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Hickman, Robert. "Playing ocarinas in tune in warm or cold environments". pureocarinas.com. Pure Ocarinas. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  8. 1 2 "Ocarina Physics". ocarinaforest.com. Archived from the original on 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  9. "Interview with Robert Hickman". The Ocarina Museum. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  10. Hickman, Robert. "Increasing ocarina range - adding holes vs adding chambers". pureocarinas.com. Pure Ocarinas. Retrieved 8 March 2021.
  11. Sengpiel, Eberhard. "Calculation speed of sound in humid air and the air pressure humidity moist air water vapor density of water atmospheric pressure - sengpielaudio Sengpiel Berlin". Sengpielaudio.com. Retrieved 21 November 2018.

Further reading