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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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