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Re: [Native Flute Woodworking] Re: musing about the effect of material on sound

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  • Bob Child
    Early in my flutemaking, I made about 5 flutes where I took a rectangular piece of wood and used a forstner bit at either end to drop a 1 diameter hole about
    Message 1 of 10 , Mar 4, 2013
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      Early in my flutemaking, I made about 5 flutes where I took a rectangular piece of wood and used a forstner bit at either end to drop a 1" diameter hole about 2" in...then crafted the SAC exit hole, flue, and TSH into the top of that block.  For the flute I'm writing about, one that I kept and to this day consider it my go-to medicine flute, I married Eastern Red Cedar/Juniper to a block of Purpleheart.  Not a combo I'd duplicate again, but that flute has a voice and playability unlike any other I hang on to.  I've always wondered what effect that rock hard Purpleheart had interacting (or not?) with the vibrating cedar barrel...because it is otherworldly, though it wets out after a long song  :-)

      Bob


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • kuzinbruce
      Most studies of wood s effects on timbre are done on the hardwoods sele cted for reasons that made them applicable for those European flutes such as water
      Message 2 of 10 , Mar 4, 2013
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        Most studies of wood's effects on timbre are done on the hardwoods sele
        cted for reasons that made them applicable for those European flutes such as
        water resistance, ability to hold the hardware drilled into them and the
        such.These woods are for the most part hard, and dense woods. When these were
        put up against each other and various metal flutes the difference was hard
        to detect by trained ears.
        With this style flute we're working with woods that wouldn't be given any
        consideration for a European style flute, such as Western Cedar.

        The timbre difference that we as makers notice and many players notice as
        well is simply the soft wood 'absorbing' sound, the higher harmonics being
        the first to 'disappear'.
        If there's a need to find out how sound is changed when presented with
        different mediums maybe searching for various ways that are used to dampen
        sound, especially high pitch sounds and not so much flute experiments.
        Kuz


        In a message dated 3/4/2013 5:25:03 P.M. Mountain Standard Time,
        little_raven_flutes@... writes:

        Since my original posting on this, I spent some more time with my books on
        acoustics and in digging on the internet. It almost seems like one of the
        most understudied topics, and one which there seems to be little agreement
        on. Several scientific papers, for example, conclude that there is
        little to no real difference in timbre imparted by varying the body material of
        a flute (here we are talking about western metal Boehm oncert flutes), but
        while many of these studies were performed "blind", they still relied on
        human perception of timbre and on human players playing the flute. One more
        recent study of varying materials for Boehm type flutes found that varying
        the material of the headjoint did have a small impact on the actual measured
        harmonic spectrum of the flute (although they concluded that construction
        differences as seen between manufacturers had a larger impact on the
        harmonic spectra, which isn't too surprising to me). Many sources on acoustics
        claim that wall v
        ibration in a wind instrument is negligible and should be "designed away"
        as much as possible, stating that any vibration in the body is just robbing
        the air in the resonant chamber of energy. I did find one senior thesis
        from about 14 years ago that looked at actually measuring wall vibration in
        metal resonant tubes driven by a mechanically produced airflow through a
        plastic recorder mouthpiece. This is the only study I have found that
        suggests empirically that the flute body may vibrate (particularly near the
        finger holes) in such a way as to constructively interfere with the air column
        and actually serve to amplify certain harmonics. I also know Barry did some
        spectral analysis of a number of native flutes in different woods (but
        also sporting a wide variety of other design differences).

        So that's what I've found in terms of science. Many flute players and
        makers (myself included) do seem to believe that all else being equal (as much
        as is possible), different materials do make some difference in the
        harmonic spectra and thus timbre of a flute. I'm still searching for why this
        might be. So far, actual body vibration strengthening and/or weakening
        various overtones seems the most plausible to me, but there seems to be little
        empirical scientific data to confirm or refute this supposition.

        There are certainly plenty of other factors in flute design which clearly
        modulate the harmonic spectra of native american flutes, and my flutes are
        not CNC machined or anything, so there is a certain amount of variance even
        on two flutes that I intend to be near-identical. Nonetheless, after
        making a lot of flutes out of varying woods, I have enough experience to
        convince me that material does have an influence on tone. Other than actually
        constructing a physics experiment designed to remove all other variables to
        the greatest degree possible, and measuring the harmonic spectrum and
        attempting to record the vibration of the flute body, I am not sure I see a way
        to definitively answer the question of why material makes a difference...
        I'm not sure if I have the time, money, and inclination to go to those
        lengths.

        Thanks for the responses to this question so far... I know there are a few
        other people on here who have given a lot of thought to the physics of the
        flute, and would be interested in hearing more opinions on the reasons we
        see some contribution of construction material to flute tone.

        Thanks,

        Jeremy



        --- In nativeflutewoodworking@yahoogroups.com, "wro713" <wro713@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Nice post Jeremy.At the Shakuhachi web site(www.navaching.com)article
        #18 Flute body vibrations .Western Red cedar is by Far my favorite wood to
        work with ,its easy on tools and easy to shape.Like you said it really has a
        nice buzz.I found if to many coats of poly are applied it changes the
        tone.I now use Howard feed and wax gingerly . that way it stays close to the
        raw wood vibration.I can feel the vibration on my fingers hands and lips.
        John Singer also wrote on this subject (chikuin).Bill .
        >




        ------------------------------------

        Yahoo! Groups Links






        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Barry Higgins
        Few comments - I do live sound reinforcement for concerts and use Speedy Specturm Analyzer on my android phone good for quick look when ringing out a room
        Message 3 of 10 , Mar 4, 2013
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          Few comments -
          I do live sound reinforcement for concerts and use Speedy Specturm
          Analyzer on my android phone good for quick look when ringing out a
          room (checking for acoustical room problems) - can do most FFT stuff
          and can zoom, freeze, and etc. In my studio I have a LOT of different
          products for analysis and editing.

          now the hard one...

          Jeremy is right not a lot out there but the concrete flute thing sure
          gets around. I think most of the problem is that the NAF is a folk
          flute. A lot more is a stake by tweaking a $20K symphony silver flute
          than a $200 folk instrument. I am not one of those that subscribes to
          "all woods" sound the same but then again it is nearly impossible to
          make any two flutes the same e even out of the same stock. But we can
          use the known science, rough edged cellar workshop research, and
          experience to point us in the likely right direction. In my 20+ years
          of flutes I have used over 300 species of wood to make flutes. Some,
          never got revisited after the first flute. I will disagree a bit with
          Dan about soft woods needing to be thicker to an extent in small/high
          flutes it is not that important but in Bass flutes it is more
          important - In my book it has to do more with the strength on wood as
          an arc. Small diameters like 5/8" have a tighter arc so more strength
          while a 1/8" or less - 2" bore you can crush between your fingers
          because the arc is shallow. As to resonance I do not use soft woods in
          high flutes because I prefer fewer harmonics in high flutes (less
          squeaky) so exotics or figured woods give me the dryer tone without
          the edginess. On the opposite end, Bass flutes, I do like soft woods,
          as hardwoods make them sound too dry and even have a "perceived"
          higher pitch than a warm resonant soft wood. Also factor in they are
          lighter to support while playing.

          While you can not really compare a NAF to a violin we can learn from
          them. The strings traverse a bridge (filter/transmitter) sitting on a,
          typically, wide grained Spruce top. The wood is chosen as it best
          supports the vibration of the strings though the bridge to the top.
          The back is most often curly maple, hard and reflective. I find the
          higher the specific gravity of a wood the drier the sound (less
          amplitude to the 2nd and up harmonics) while soft woods tend to
          enhance the 2nd and up harmonics. I also feel beyond the base specific
          gravity of a wood the thickness of the material and/or number of glue
          joints, inlays, wraps, and figuring. have a dampening effect. If you
          want a flute with more buzz soft woods and thin walls are a good
          starting point among the other effective design elements. All this can
          work to your advantage and disadvantage make or player. If you do solo/
          personal playing I would go for the rich warm harmonic sound but
          playing with a combo of instruments the harmonics are over shadowed by
          the frequencies of the other instruments so one if better off with a
          flute with a dry sound and volume over harmonics.

          I don't find fetish/bird wood density to add or subtract it is more an
          issue of heat sink, wet-out, and maintaining edges.

          2 cents.... Barry WC





          On Mar 4, 2013, at 7:58 PM, Bob Child wrote:

          > Early in my flutemaking, I made about 5 flutes where I took a
          > rectangular piece of wood and used a forstner bit at either end to
          > drop a 1" diameter hole about 2" in...then crafted the SAC exit
          > hole, flue, and TSH into the top of that block. For the flute I'm
          > writing about, one that I kept and to this day consider it my go-to
          > medicine flute, I married Eastern Red Cedar/Juniper to a block of
          > Purpleheart. Not a combo I'd duplicate again, but that flute has a
          > voice and playability unlike any other I hang on to. I've always
          > wondered what effect that rock hard Purpleheart had interacting (or
          > not?) with the vibrating cedar barrel...because it is otherworldly,
          > though it wets out after a long song :-)
          >
          > Bob
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Daniel Bingamon
          I wonder who actually did that concrete flute thing? It does get around.
          Message 4 of 10 , Mar 4, 2013
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            I wonder who actually did that concrete flute thing? It does get around.

            At 09:25 PM 3/4/2013, you wrote:
            >Few comments -
            >I do live sound reinforcement for concerts and use Speedy Specturm
            >Analyzer on my android phone good for quick look when ringing out a
            >room (checking for acoustical room problems) - can do most FFT stuff
            >and can zoom, freeze, and etc. In my studio I have a LOT of different
            >products for analysis and editing.
            >
            >now the hard one...
            >
            >Jeremy is right not a lot out there but the concrete flute thing sure
            >gets around. I think most of the problem is that the NAF is a folk
            >flute. A lot more is a stake by tweaking a $20K symphony silver flute
            >than a $200 folk instrument. I am not one of those that subscribes to
            >"all woods" sound the same but then again it is nearly impossible to
            >make any two flutes the same e even out of the same stock. But we can
            >use the known science, rough edged cellar workshop research, and
            >experience to point us in the likely right direction. In my 20+ years
            >of flutes I have used over 300 species of wood to make flutes. Some,
            >never got revisited after the first flute. I will disagree a bit with
            >Dan about soft woods needing to be thicker to an extent in small/high
            >flutes it is not that important but in Bass flutes it is more
            >important - In my book it has to do more with the strength on wood as
            >an arc. Small diameters like 5/8" have a tighter arc so more strength
            >while a 1/8" or less - 2" bore you can crush between your fingers
            >because the arc is shallow. As to resonance I do not use soft woods in
            >high flutes because I prefer fewer harmonics in high flutes (less
            >squeaky) so exotics or figured woods give me the dryer tone without
            >the edginess. On the opposite end, Bass flutes, I do like soft woods,
            >as hardwoods make them sound too dry and even have a "perceived"
            >higher pitch than a warm resonant soft wood. Also factor in they are
            >lighter to support while playing.
            >
            >While you can not really compare a NAF to a violin we can learn from
            >them. The strings traverse a bridge (filter/transmitter) sitting on a,
            >typically, wide grained Spruce top. The wood is chosen as it best
            >supports the vibration of the strings though the bridge to the top.
            >The back is most often curly maple, hard and reflective. I find the
            >higher the specific gravity of a wood the drier the sound (less
            >amplitude to the 2nd and up harmonics) while soft woods tend to
            >enhance the 2nd and up harmonics. I also feel beyond the base specific
            >gravity of a wood the thickness of the material and/or number of glue
            >joints, inlays, wraps, and figuring. have a dampening effect. If you
            >want a flute with more buzz soft woods and thin walls are a good
            >starting point among the other effective design elements. All this can
            >work to your advantage and disadvantage make or player. If you do solo/
            >personal playing I would go for the rich warm harmonic sound but
            >playing with a combo of instruments the harmonics are over shadowed by
            >the frequencies of the other instruments so one if better off with a
            >flute with a dry sound and volume over harmonics.
            >
            >I don't find fetish/bird wood density to add or subtract it is more an
            >issue of heat sink, wet-out, and maintaining edges.
            >
            >2 cents.... Barry WC
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >On Mar 4, 2013, at 7:58 PM, Bob Child wrote:
            >
            > > Early in my flutemaking, I made about 5 flutes where I took a
            > > rectangular piece of wood and used a forstner bit at either end to
            > > drop a 1" diameter hole about 2" in...then crafted the SAC exit
            > > hole, flue, and TSH into the top of that block. For the flute I'm
            > > writing about, one that I kept and to this day consider it my go-to
            > > medicine flute, I married Eastern Red Cedar/Juniper to a block of
            > > Purpleheart. Not a combo I'd duplicate again, but that flute has a
            > > voice and playability unlike any other I hang on to. I've always
            > > wondered what effect that rock hard Purpleheart had interacting (or
            > > not?) with the vibrating cedar barrel...because it is otherworldly,
            > > though it wets out after a long song :-)
            > >
            > > Bob
            > >
            > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            > >
            > >
            >
            >
            >
            >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            >
            >
            >------------------------------------
            >
            >Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
          • Mike Jones
            I also think there is the aspect of the finish of the various woods have inside the bore. Softer woods tend to NOT have as smooth a finish as the harder woods.
            Message 5 of 10 , Mar 4, 2013
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              I also think there is the aspect of the finish of the various woods have
              inside the bore. Softer woods tend to NOT have as smooth a finish as the
              harder woods. For those that route their bores, take a look at the router
              finishes of the various woods you use, I think you will see a difference and
              THAT affects sound absorption, and air velocity inside the bore. That also
              explains why several layers of a good finish inside the bore affects the
              timbre.

              Mike Jones

              -----Original Message-----
              From: nativeflutewoodworking@yahoogroups.com
              [mailto:nativeflutewoodworking@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
              KuzinBruceFlutes@...
              Sent: Monday, March 04, 2013 7:15 PM
              To: nativeflutewoodworking@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: Re: [Native Flute Woodworking] Re: musing about the effect of
              material on sound

              Most studies of wood's effects on timbre are done on the hardwoods sele
              cted for reasons that made them applicable for those European flutes such
              as water resistance, ability to hold the hardware drilled into them and the
              such.These woods are for the most part hard, and dense woods. When these
              were put up against each other and various metal flutes the difference was
              hard to detect by trained ears.
              With this style flute we're working with woods that wouldn't be given any
              consideration for a European style flute, such as Western Cedar.

              The timbre difference that we as makers notice and many players notice as
              well is simply the soft wood 'absorbing' sound, the higher harmonics being
              the first to 'disappear'.
              If there's a need to find out how sound is changed when presented with
              different mediums maybe searching for various ways that are used to dampen
              sound, especially high pitch sounds and not so much flute experiments.
              Kuz
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