More on Siccama's 1-key flute
You'll remember, in our first chapter, we made a reconstruction of Siccama's 1-key flute, using the only information we had available, the drawing and brief description in his 1845 Patent. Since completing the flute, it's made its way around the world, to meet its new owner, flute researcher Adrian Duncan of Vancouver, and the professional flute player in our research team, Andra Bohnet, Professor of Flute at the University of South Alabama. As feedback about the flute comes in, I plan to keep you informed here.
3rd Octave Fingerings and beyond!
You'll probably have picked up in the first article how I smoothly skirted around the issue of third octave fingerings. Hey, give me a break, I'm an Irish Flute player, and we have a special dispensation from the Pope not to have to play in the third octave!
But Andra, being a professional flute teacher and player, including playing flute for the Mobile Symphony and the Silverwood Quartet, has no such dispensation. That's bread & butter territory, and was too back in Siccama's time. So I asked Andra to investigate the third octave and report back. She lists several fingering for some notes, with the most successful presented first....
Andra also reports a few useful alternative fingerings:
A full fingerings chart
So we can now show a full fingerings chart for Siccama's 1-key flute. Because the chart gets so long, I've repeated the heading for each octave. "/" indicates optionally covered.
Great work, thanks Andra. So, not only will Siccama's design give a far stronger response and more accurate tuning compared to the baroque 1-key, but a full three octaves as well; indeed up to D''''.
Which finger for the key?
One issue that puzzled us in approaching the reconstruction was which fingers were intended to operate the key. Siccama in the patent document only mentions R1, but the drawing mysteriously places the touch beyond the R1 hole, almost as if the key might be operated by R1 or R2.
If it's only used by R1, it would be best to have it stop a bit before the R1 hole (as most people seem to angle their RH fingers rather than approach the flute at right angles). We decided to go with what the drawing showed, on the basis that we can later shorten it if necessary:
After some experimenting, Adrian reports:
So, looks like the overlong key was probably just a drawing issue.
You'll notice too that the drawing has the key guide very close to the key hinge block. I was worried that this would leave the very long key relatively unprotected against damage if the section got dropped, so I shifted the guide closer to the cup. Seems fine in that location.
"All fingers and thumbs"
One of our concerns in approaching this flute was whether the player could ever become proficient on a flute requiring the use of both thumbs. Thumbs are not our most accomplished digits, and they're oh-so-handy for supporting the flute. Adrian concurs:
But it seems that there's hope, even for this tricky aspect:
I'm reminded of the old expression "all fingers and thumbs". In 1870, The Echo printed a direct reference to the earlier expression "all thumbs":
Seems they could almost have been talking about learning Siccama's flute! But the left thumb was already required to handle the Bb key in the old 4 to 8-key flute, and the c and Bb keys in Boehm's 1832 conical. So it's mostly the right thumb we need to work on.
About at this point, it's interesting to recall the words of Rockstro:
(He goes on to run down the fourth flute, the very successful Diatonic, and Siccama himself, in subsequent paragraphs!)
Since our reconstructed flute was one of the three "worthless" designs, we're forced once again to consider Rockstro's reliability as a witness.
But what does it sound like?
Ah, so explanations, drawings, tables and charts not good enough, eh? You'd like to hear what it sounds like. Well, OK, let's have a listen. Our professional flautist, Andra Bohnet has recorded "The Star of the County Down" twice, to illustrate how the flute sounds in both its high and low ranges. Research team leader Adrian Duncan accompanies on a guitar of the same period. Depending on your download speed, these tunes may take a little time to download, so be patient, it's certainly worth it.
Heh heh, not bad, eh, for a first attempt at a flute based largely on assumption! Nicely done, Andra and Adrian! Sweet and sonorous are my thoughts.
Conclusions, so far
So, Siccama's 1-key hasn't met with total rejection yet, even with
Rockstro's unstinting support, and my colleagues are continuing to
explore its possibilities. I'll keep you updated here as reports
Thanks to Adrian Duncan, Vancouver flute player and flute researcher, and Andra Bohnet, Professor of Flute at the University of South Alabama, for their observations on the reconstructed Siccama 1-key.
Created 17 May 2009