Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Ideas and innovations in Indian classical music
Vayoo Flute
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#1 Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 15 Jan 2018, 04:10

Carbon fiber is an ideal (probably the best) material for making flutes, combining the advantages of both wood and metal. Please visit the following channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClMVWC ... 2Bk8nvgdpg

Here you will find a presentation on this, as well as Flute Jayanth playing on an experimental one.
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shankarank
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#2 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by shankarank » 15 Jan 2018, 05:12

The making of more Dalits! I remember a story about Flute Ramani selecting fultes from a flute maker where he will reject about 49 of them to pick one!

It seems now, we need people to whom art will make sense. Not art makers. So we need to make more Dalits!
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uday_shankar
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#3 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 15 Jan 2018, 06:59

Dalits ? Carbon fiber ? Whatever.

I personally think wood ( bamboo or a pipe turned on a wood lathe) is an ideal material for flutes because it is a renewable resource. There is no good argument for making a simple instrument like an Indian flute (north or south Indian) with an exotic non-renewable resource whether carbon fiber or delrin/acetal.
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Vayoo Flute
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#4 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 15 Jan 2018, 09:06

I did not expect such ultra conservativeness here. The whole point is that you should look at modern technology and if new materials can improve on traditional instruments by way of facility for the artist and by way of producing musical things not capable with existing materials, why not try it out? This outright rejection ..... I just can't believe it. What does renewable/ non-renewable got to do with music instruments - which are not going to make an iota of difference. Better to concentrate your renewable efforts on things more meaningful, such as cups, plates, etc. No point in standing on such a high pedestal and pontificating.

I don't understand the comment about Dalits here. The reason why Ramani, and for that matter Mali before, rejected most of the flutes brought before them was that the quality of workmanship, musically, was quite poor by most makers. I have experienced this myself. Virtually all the bamboo flutes that I have (and I have plenty), I had to re-engineer and some substantially for sruti alignment.
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uday_shankar
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#5 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 15 Jan 2018, 09:26

Vayoo Flute wrote:
15 Jan 2018, 09:06
I did not expect such ultra conservativeness here. The whole point is that you should look at modern technology and if new materials can improve on traditional instruments by way of facility for the artist and by way of producing musical things not capable with existing materials, why not try it out? This outright rejection ..... I just can't believe it.
That's funny. Just to clarify, I play a one of a kind flute that I crafted myself out of aluminum extrusion and coated with Teflon... And it is an ongoing experiment (Flute Jayanth will confirm).

I take your point that if we consider flutes as not being a mass market of the scale of water bottles, etc. And it is not disposable. OK, you've sold me on the irrelevance of renewability :). That said, I'm still working on migrating my experiments to wood (environmental conservation runs deep in my circles)... Extremely difficult to work with due to warps and cracks etc...

In my experience the material of the flute is irrelevant except for the thermal properties and stability... of course the chimney depth of the embouchure matters...
So carbon fiber is OK on that count..

Did you consider the biocompatibility of the material..
For example I use brass for the mouthpiece instead of aluminum.

Also to consider would be whether there is long term carcinogenic effects, formation of mesothelioma, etc etc. In my project I had to create a cocktail of lubricants/sealants for the sliding arrangement and I finally came up with a combination of food grade additives and water (though it is not guaranteed that all things marked "food grade" are non-toxic !!!)
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Vayoo Flute
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#6 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 15 Jan 2018, 09:47

So you are an experimenter just like me. Only difference is that we are working with different materials. This means that I understand your initial outright poo-phooing even less!

Carbon fiber is so thin that you absolutely need a chimney depth. FYI I am also using a brass mouthpiece. My finger holes also are brass rings, to provide some depth there too. It seems to help that the mouth piece and finger holes are of the same material, because these are the parts of the flute that vibrate and there is good correspondence between the two.

You are talking about potential carcogenic danger and you are playing with teflon?????

Material DOES make a difference. I am sure you have compared different material flutes to notice this. The more rigid a material, the more responsive it is. Bamboo is very rigid and that is what makes it good flute material. Carbon fiber is even more.
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Vayoo Flute
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#7 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 15 Jan 2018, 10:44

Just read a Hindu review of you and was your website. So you are the Uday Shankar that Sankaran Sar and Jayanth have mentioned to me! That chitravenu looks exceedingly difficult to play. Congratulations on coming so far.

I myself toyed with the idea of making a trombone like flute a couple of decades ago but gave up because I didn't think that I had the necessary engineering skills and also I worried that playing fast passages would be impossible.
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uday_shankar
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#8 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 15 Jan 2018, 19:32

Vayoo Flute wrote:
15 Jan 2018, 10:44
Congratulations
Thank you!

I did look at the toxicity if Teflon... The general consensus is that it is a an inert, non-carcinogenic substance which had been widely used for coating non stick cooking utensils worldwide for more than two or three decades.

Among the non-musical considerations I looked at over the years, and still looking at are/were:

1) Posture and ergonomics - avoidance of repetitive stress injury
2) Biocompatibility and non-toxicity
3) simplicity of construction (all traditional instruments in the west and east were made by craftsmen as opposed to mass produced in factories)...
4) Renewable resource... Zero progress so far

When I say the material of the flute doesn't matter I mean over and above the given fact that the walls are rigid.The acoustic resonance of a pipe, depends, in theory, only on the length, diameter and of course the bore (cylindrical/ conical). The material of the walls have no role in the model, the pipe is just a column of air. And the material does not affect the tonal color so long as the temperature, humidity etc have settled, although human prejudice and love of mythology knows no bounds. For example aluminum or carbon fiber or delrin "sounds" just as good a bamboo but people will often tell you "something is missing". "Moongial kaathu madiri varaadu Saar".

John Coltman, a physicist, did a controlled experiment with professional and amateur flautists with different kinds of simple flutes made of metal but made to look like wood and vice versa. The randomness of the preferences and the reasons given (some loved the "deep earthy timber of the wooden flute" while others found the " metal flute too tinny") can keep one laughing for a long time.

Best wishes in your project... I will try out one of those sometime if Jayanth had one !
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Vayoo Flute
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#9 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 15 Jan 2018, 20:43

<The acoustic resonance of a pipe, depends, in theory, only on the length, diameter and of course the bore (cylindrical/ conical). The material of the walls have no role in the model, the pipe is just a column of air.>

Yes, I know. That is what the physics of sound seems to imply, but I don't completely buy it. Human prejudice and mythology aside, the fact is that material does have a significant impact on temperature, humidity variation along the column. Bamboo, being wood, absorbs some moisture while CF, hard plastics and metal don't. Also, it is not just the column of air that vibrates. The mouth hole and the first open finger hole (also a few succeeding ones but less so) also vibrate with the column of air. The material out of which the blow hole and finger holes are made come into play here. Metal, for example, is more sonorous than bamboo or CF. Jayanth (just as I do) has a preference for thicker bamboo because the lower notes seem more solid. Shashank seems to prefer thin flutes, possibly because they are easier to play and they are also quicker to respond during rapid passages.

Ultimately the quality of the musician is of course much more important. This why I don't understand why in the West, many go for these very expensive flute costing around $40K when a much cheaper one can do just as good a job.

Talking about toxicity, both of us are using brass mouthpiece. Have you looked into the toxicity of brass? I would be interested to know. Also, what do you do to prevent oxidation (especially in the salty Chennai air), and the brassy smell? I use a coating of shellac (which is non-toxic and is in fact used for coating medication capsules).

BTW, I thought your darbAri kAnaDa was wonderful. Your instrument seems to be ideally suited for the meditative Hindustani style of rAgA elaboration.

I have given Jayanth a couple of CF flutes that he is trying out.
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uday_shankar
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#10 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 16 Jan 2018, 09:05

Vayoo Flute wrote:
15 Jan 2018, 20:43
Talking about toxicity, both of us are using brass mouthpiece. Have you looked into the toxicity of brass? I would be interested to know. Also, what do you do to prevent oxidation (especially in the salty Chennai air), and the brassy smell? I use a coating of shellac.
Here I'm piggy backing on tradition. Before the widespread use of stainless steel, brass or pithalai was widely used for cooking pots, coffee tumblers, etc... For cooking pots the interior was coated with tin/eeyam but the tumblers in which coffee was drunk was not. Ignoring the type of brass alloy (percentage of copper, zinc), if they are roughly equivalent, then we can presume that the biocompatibility and non-toxicity of brass has been empirically established via tradition :). I suspect brass doesn't do well with combination of tamarind, salt and spices and hence the eeyam coating for cooking pots.

As for oxidation (and the posterior streaks due to saliva, ugh!), I clean my mouthpiece with scotch Brite and sheeyakai (or the dishwashing powder by Krya organics, who have done a superb revival of traditional health and hygiene products), like I might any brass dish.

I forgot to mention that one of the most attractive reasons to use brass is the ease with which we can work on it, whether on a lathe or with hand tools. For chimney depth, hole shape, and other embouchure experiments, I lack the sheet metal skills (yet :-p) for making the riser and mouth plate. So I end up creating whole pieces of different wall thicknesses in a lathe shop. The cost alone may drive me to develop sheet metal skills !
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Vayoo Flute
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#11 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 16 Jan 2018, 10:28

Thanks.

I too don't have sheet metal skills nor do I have a lathe. Purely hand tools. Yes brass, being a relatively soft metal is easy to work with and that is why I also chose it. However, I want to try stainless steel also. Steel is more rigid, and stainless steel will not have the same oxidation problem. I also tried carbon fiber and that also seems to work well but lacks the sonorous quality of metal, and brass looks nicer, especially on a black carbon fiber tube.

My chimney is pretty rudimentary, consisting of a mixture of epoxy and wood putty with an outer coating of pure epoxy (the strongest JB Weld Metal epoxy, used for joining metal pieces). Seems to work OK. Epoxy may be toxic even after being cured fully, but my lips are only contacting the brass, so I think I am safe.

I am trending towards a squarish mouth hole, as many modern Boehm flutes seem to use. This will make the construction of a metal chimney easier on the most important side: the side you blow against. I will probably try this with a stainless mouth piece.

Nice to exchange notes here.
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uday_shankar
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#12 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 16 Jan 2018, 15:10

Vayoo Flute wrote:
16 Jan 2018, 10:28
Nice to exchange notes here.
Yes, India is a very lonely place for non-utilitarian gentlemen tinkerers. Armchair theories have better traction than anything practical.

I use JB Weld for a pipe miter joint on the chitravenu, close to the place where we attach mouthpiece. JB "Marine Weld" to be precise. Don't know about its toxicity but there is no adhesive or epoxy I trust more.

The whole mouthpiece business is the weakest link and continues to be a dark art ! I have copied the Boehm flute norms in terms of chimney depth (~4.5 mm) and undercut (~7 degrees). I've made dozens of them with different hole shapes (including rectangular) and chimney depths and under cut angles, and so far have only a handful of mouthpieces a are somewhat satisfactory... The bore taper and the miter joint add another unusual dimension to the chitravenu and there's a separate story behind that...
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Vayoo Flute
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#13 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 16 Jan 2018, 19:17

Perhaps we should continue this exchange of information/ideas by private email. Firstly, this technical exchange is not likely to interest too many rasikas, who are the target of this website. Secondly, I am not sure we should be sharing so much information over a public board, especially information that has been painstakingly gathered over the years.

Please email me at [email protected].
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SrinathK
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#14 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by SrinathK » 16 Jan 2018, 20:21

A Carbon fibre flute is an interesting idea. On a side note there have been experiments made with carbon fibre violins

Here's Bach G Major Sonata #1 played on a Carbon Fibre violin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8_OdFBZj8U

And here's the wooden violin for comparison (note, I am comparing a student player to Itzhak Perlman on maybe the Soil Stradivarius, but still)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etB8MAjNaz0

I wonder if the tonal properties of carbon fibre can match wood better on the flute. Now carbon fibre bows are out there -- the word seems to be is that they handle a lot better (and stiffer) than many wooden bows up to the 4 digit range, but in a tonal contest a good wooden bow still has better tonal quality.
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Vayoo Flute
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#15 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 16 Jan 2018, 20:30

My experience has been that, in terms of tonal quality, bamboo scores over CF in the mandhra sthayi, with its rich natural warmth. Anything above the first SA, I find that CF produces a richer and more penetrating note, and with more volume and strength consistency.. This is because CF is a lot more rigid. This rigidity also improves significantly the responsiveness during rapid passages. In this respect, it is closer to metal, without metal's disadvantages.
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uday_shankar
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#16 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 16 Jan 2018, 21:41

Vayoo Flute wrote:
16 Jan 2018, 19:17
Please email me at [email protected].
Done !! See you sometime soon !

BTW I know a person in North Carolina who makes outstanding sitars out of carbon fiber.
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srini_pichumani
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#17 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by srini_pichumani » 09 Feb 2018, 21:06

Day UDay,

Hold on !!! I insist that your discussion with Mr.Vayoo Flute carry on here. Else I am coming after you both on anti-trust 😀

Best regards,
-Srini.
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Nick H
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#18 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Nick H » 09 Feb 2018, 21:12

I insist that your discussion with Mr.Vayoo Flute carry on here.
It has certainly been one of the more interesting threads of late. Some of us are interested in the technology of musical instruments, even though we don't play them.
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Vayoo Flute
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#19 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 10 Feb 2018, 10:15

SrinathK wrote:
16 Jan 2018, 20:21
A Carbon fibre flute is an interesting idea. On a side note there have been experiments made with carbon fibre violins

Here's Bach G Major Sonata #1 played on a Carbon Fibre violin
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8_OdFBZj8U

And here's the wooden violin for comparison (note, I am comparing a student player to Itzhak Perlman on maybe the Soil Stradivarius, but still)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etB8MAjNaz0

I wonder if the tonal properties of carbon fibre can match wood better on the flute. Now carbon fibre bows are out there -- the word seems to be is that they handle a lot better (and stiffer) than many wooden bows up to the 4 digit range, but in a tonal contest a good wooden bow still has better tonal quality.
I listened to the two violin links, and certainly, IMO, Perlman's violin seems to have a "richer" tone. We may be biased in thinking "richer" means woodier. The carbon fiber violin certainly generates volume. As you say, these comparisons might be quite meaningless as there are so many parameters at play here. Foremost is maestro vs student. Then bowing techniques are very likely different, etc... Most importantly, this is an early stage CF violin and you are comparing it to an instrument whose craft has been honed through centuries, and if this is indeed a Stradivarius, then you are comparing with the top of the class.

Then projecting to flutes the violin comparisons is even more fraught with dangers. The violin is intrinsically a more complicated instrument with many parts: the body, the strings, the string tightening mechanisms, the bridge, the bow, the laquer, etc... By comparison the flute is a relatively simpler instrument. Then, there is bowing vs blowing.

In my experience, preliminary for sure, the CF flute lacks the woody warmth in the lowest octave (below the first SA) when compared to the bamboo flute, but makes up for it in the higher notes, which are stronger and more consistent. There seems greater correspondence between the octaves. (The higher octave is generated by blowing harder with the same finger positions, but the flute is generally an imperfect instruments and you invariably have to make some adjustments to get the octaves to match by a combination of various things. These adjustments seem to be less with a CF flute. This may have something to do with bore uniformity - you would expect a machine made CF tube's bore to be pretty uniform whereas there will always be some slight variations with a natural product like bamboo.) The CF flute, due to its superior rigidity, is more responsive during fast phrases. The higher notes are also easier to produce. I was amazed at how little time it took Flute Jayanth to get used to one - you can watch him play on one in my Youtube channel. These are early days for CF flutes, and I am sure there is room for a lot of improvements to the early prototypes.
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Nick H
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#20 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Nick H » 10 Feb 2018, 13:25

Two violin samples played by different people?

Comparing apples and androids!
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Vayoo Flute
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#21 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 13 Feb 2018, 01:46

Here is an evaluation of a carbon fiber violin.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T-W97SeyKs

Surprisingly (perhaps or perhaps not) he reaches conclusions very similar to my observations comparing the carbon fiber flute with the traditional bamboo one. Makes me more confident that there is a future for carbon fiber violins and flutes.

The website for the company that makes this violin gives some technical information, for those interested:
http://www.carbonfiberviolin.com/
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uday_shankar
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#22 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 10 Jun 2018, 14:27

Carbon fiber slide (in lieu of the current glass slide) shows a lot of promise for chitravenu. Still some work needed to get rid of slip-stick action but very very promising.

Puzzlingly, gives a better tone too... need to get to the bottom of why... in theory the material of the slide (i.e., flute "wall" if you will) shouldn't make a difference. This thread has mixed up string and wind instruments but that's comparing apples and oranges. The material of the string instrument, especially the sound board picks up the vibrations of the strings and generates the timber, so it is of paramount importance. On the other hand, in a wood-wind, brass, etc... i.e., any kind of wind instrument, only the inner dimensions and shape of the air column matters... it's a purely air-column based standing wave. The walls have no effect (so long as they remain quasi-rigid), at least in a first order model. But obviously both vayoo flute's and my experience indicate that second order effects are quite significant. :).

Vayoo Flute, you stand vindicated.. I'm a carbon fiber convert :P

The following facebook link, showing the carbon fiber experiment, is public:

https://www.facebook.com/uday.shankar.9 ... 118688710/
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Vayoo Flute
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#23 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by Vayoo Flute » 12 Jun 2018, 09:56

Uday Shankar:

Glad you have become a CF convert. Welcome to the club. You are the only other member, as far as I know!

I never subscribed to the theory that flute material makes no difference. It never made any sense to me. When you blow on the mouth hole, the area of the wall around the mouth hole vibrates - you can feel it. The area of the wall around the first open hole also vibrates (and also subsequent open holes but much less so). The vibration of the area immediately around these holes is what gives each flute wall material its unique tonal characteristics (think drums: surely the skin material makes a difference). I have tested this out by using the same carbon fiber body but different materials for the lip plate and the tone hole coverings. There is also some "communication" between the blow hole and the first open tone hole. The more rigid the body material, the faster this "communication" resulting in faster responses during rapid phrases.

Whenever a flute is made up of more than one tube (the Western Boehm flute is 3 interconnecting tubes), you are always going to lose something at the connection, no matter how good the fit. This usually translates into a slightly reduced volume. I suspect that in your case, the carbon fiber slide provides a tighter fit than the glass slide. An increased volume would also change the tone characteristics.

I am continuing with my experiments - mainly trying different materials for the lip plate and finger holes. Also working on a key mechanism for hard-to-reach notes that would be useful for the longer bansuris. The key cannot be like the typical Western flute key - which is basically just OFF or ON. The key should provide a continuous opening and closing to enable the meends and gamakas. That is the tricky thing! Also, if the key mechanism works, then you can give your other fingers some work to do and expand the range of the instrument.
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uday_shankar
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#24 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 12 Jun 2018, 13:09

Vayoo Flute wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 09:56
(think drums: surely the skin material makes a difference).
The analogy is not right but we can agree to disagree. I've spent a whole paragraph trying to say it's all about air column standing wave. When it comes to stimulus, flute is called the "air-reed", i.e., just the vortex of air at the embouchure provides the stimulus for resonance (aka standing wave). Hence this model is completely independent of the enclosure material. In a drum head, the vibration of the head is the stimulus. A better analogy would the material of the reed in a clarinet or sax... any change in that will affect tone, just like drumhead material. Similarly, for brass instruments like trombone and trumpet, the players' lips provide the stimulus, i.e., they vibrate. But in the flute, any material vibration as you describe is a secondary phenomenon...the primary action is all air movement - first the vortex at the blow hole, and then the induced standing wave inside the column. Anyways we don't have to debate this. We can work with our own theories :).
Vayoo Flute wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 09:56
I suspect that in your case, the carbon fiber slide provides a tighter fit than the glass slide. An increased volume would also change the tone characteristics.
Quite the opposite on both counts... carbon fiber is a looser fit, hence huskier tone, lowered volume. Glass is tight and bright. But very difficult to safeguard.
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uday_shankar
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#25 Re: Carbon Fiber flutes for Carnatic Music

Post by uday_shankar » 12 Jun 2018, 19:00

Sorry to belabor the point (against my instincts !) but the following paper is a good start..

https://iwk.mdw.ac.at/?page_id=97

I am cutting a pasting the introduction and conclusion from the above paper so we don't have to labor through the whole thing:

Introduction
The role that the wall material plays in determining the tone quality of flutes has long been a subject of argument. Laboratory measurements of sustained tones in artificially blown wind instruments made by J. Backus in the 1960’s [1,2] generally showed no evidence that the wall material has an appreciable effect. But players and instrument makers didn’t accept these results because of the fact that the instruments were artificially blown. Therefor J. W. Coltman worked out an experiment with flutes made of three different materials (silver, copper and wood) and with different wall thickness. They were blown by the author himself and four different professional flutists [3]. The experiment was completed by listening test with 27 observers. The result of statistical analysis was that “no evidence has been found that experienced listeners or trained players can distinguish between flutes . . . whose only difference is the nature and thickness of the wall material of the body, even when the variations in the material and thickness are very marked.” Nevertheless instrument makers, players and listeners continue to insist that the nature of the wall material does indeed have an effect on the instruments’sound. Perhaps, from the point of view of flutists, there is a stigma attached to J. Coltmans´ experiment: the flutes where built especially for this experiment and without any keywork

To terminate this discussion once and for all (which, as J. Backus pointed out [4], probably started in early Stone Age circles with assertions that a flute made from a human thigh bone had a much better tone than one made from a stick of bamboo), we chose seven identical flutes made by Muramatsu which only differ in the wall material and could be purchased by everybody (Fig.1).

Conclusion

Tests with experienced professional flutists and listeners and one model of a flute made by Muramatsu from 7 different materials showed no evidence that the wall material has any appreciable effect on the sound color or dynamic range of the instrument. The common stereotypes used by flutists and flute makers are exposed as “stereotypes”.
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