This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Feb 22, 2014

Nose flute on Himalaya

A great new video shot on Himalaya (Nepal), in which Mr. Ketsuago Nyorai plays the irish song Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór with his ukulele and his wooden nose flute. Great playing, beautiful images... Note the nose flute holding system which I assume to be a modified harmonica holder

Jan 16, 2014

A pack of early Grover-Trophy Humanatones

I found a pack of 12 red humanatones, probably dating of the late 60's. They were still made of injected polystyrene, and not yet moulded polypropylene, as they are nowadays. They are made of a translucent material (in fact they are the exact model shown here)

But these nose flutes are already "Trophy USA" branded (not "Gretsch" anymore, and not "Trophy Music Co." yet). They belong to the first series of Grover-Trophy Humanatones. On the back side, they mention the patent number, but no "Made in USA" as they have been doing since.

(Left: the 60's model, Right: current one):

Look and feel the different qualities of plastic :

and hear it: first the polypropylene falling on my desk, then the polystyrene :

In the bag, there were also a dozen of user manuals:

What is interesting there, is that the user manual is very similar to another red Humanatone I have, which is... a Gretsch one, with a "Trophy Music" user manual — meaning it was a transitional model (made by Gretsch, but sold by Grover) – and thus, the 12-pack is very likely from the first productions by Trophy, as stated above.

(Left: the Gretsch user manual, Right: the Trophy one):

The only differences lay in:
- the font used for the title and address lines
- the change of "take care to have the MOUTH WELL OPEN" for "

On the nose flute side, both late Gretsch and early Trophy are identical, both in polystyrene (the Gretsch is not translucent), same font for the patent number mention, no "Made in USA"... And the only difference lays on the duct cover with a "Gretsch" mention on one hand, and "Trophy USA" on the other.

Jan 15, 2014

Adjustable nose flute

Shuenping Chiou (YW), our friend from Taïwan who likes to invent and build special nose flutes, has produced a « range adjustable nose flute ». On this purpose, he coupled a nose flute and a big syringe, forming a slide nose whistle.

The principle is to allow a modification of the size of the resonance cavity 'by default' (increasing more or less the air volume of your mouth). So, with the same mouth opening, you would get different notes, depending on how you set the slide).

Here is the test video:

This idea was patented by Joseph Goldstein in 1926, but we don't know if the model was manufactured.

Also, Maikel Mei had tried a such a device, but a bit more complex, grafting a slide and a recorder to a nose flute.

Jan 14, 2014

Homemade nose flute by Steven Parkes

Steven Parkes is a British citizen and has been a nose flute fan since he got his first in the late 50's, from a mail-order company called Ellisdon's. His story is typical and touching:

« Of course, by its delicate nature, it soon got broken and I used to think how good it would be to make my own, strong version out of metal and wood, though it was completely beyond my abilities to turn my vague, childhood dream into a tangible reality.
Many years later - in the 1980s - I spotted a red, plastic 'humanatone' in a music-shop window. A different model to my earlier one, and much flimsier and more delicate, too! I entertained my children with it for a short time, but then, it too got broken into many pieces! Devastated, I tried desperately to save it by sellotaping the pieces together, but it was no use! Once again, my noseflute-playing days were over, as the shop no longer stocked any more of them.

Then... came the internet! And Steven discovered different nose flutes, in plastci, metal or wood. He was particularly impressed with the models made by Martin and Martina Sommer in Berlin (see this topic)

« I like the fact that their air-duct is round-sided and so is their sound-hole. I am not proficient with a sharp chisel, so I would be able to make my own, similar noseflute using drills and half-round files instead. »

And Steven began the re-design and the making of his own wooden nose flute, accompanied with interesting technical and practical thoughts.

« Their design starts with a routed-out, U-shaped length of wood, however, and I couldn't copy that, so I had to come up with an alternative idea. That's when I thought of the arched fipple-plate, where the sides of the arch would strengthen the whole thing and also protect the delicate labium when carried around in the pocket, much as the Sommers' nasenfloten have their raised sides to protect their sound hole.
I made my first prototype out of a leftover piece of soft, pinewood - not an ideal material, but all I had available at the time.

Steven took snapshots during themaking and sent them to us, for our greatest pleasure! Here are some of them:

The basic parts and the "venturi effect" air duct:
The final instrument, after sanding :

Steven made a great job there! Welcome to the small world of the nose flute crafters! And that's not all, folks! : Mr. Parkes also made a test video, playing notably... the french national anthem :).
Here it is, with my respectuous greetings to our new collegue!

Thank you Steven!

Jan 10, 2014

Funny performance by Mosurin

A funny performance, but with a skilful playing, by sensei Mosurin. I don't know what exactly is the little puppet, but she does like to dance on the rhythm.

Jan 9, 2014

The Magic Flute

I recently had the great opportunity to purchase an old tin nose flute from Scott B., a gentleman living in North Carolina. There was no difficulty at all in identifying the instrument, since it has a very perculiar shape and is stamped with... its name. Many thanks to Scott for having helped me building the collection: the Magic Flute is a real milestone in nose flute history.

This nose flute is easily recognizable by the right angle formed by the top of its air duct. Another typical feature of this instrument is the vertical rectangle shape that has had been cut for the air entrance (remember that this cut is an horizontal oval on a metal Humanatone). Also, and due to its construction, the two nose wings are convex into the nose shield, while they are concave on other models where they form a nose cup.

So, let's say that the Magic Flute is very different from an early Humanatone, but only for the top half, since the mouth shields are very comparable. It is interesting to see both intruments together to make obvious the differences:

But most peculiar characteristic of the Magic Flute is that it was made with only one piece of tin plate. As far as I know, it is the only manufactured metal nose flute that has ever been made from only one piece at the stamping press. I designed for you the template of the flat instrument :

The Magic Flute production was frugal in metal plate, since the pattern interlocking is nicely efficient:


The Magic Flute appeared (for the 1st time?) in the music instruments Howe catalog, in Chicago, 1903 issue (which means a probable 1902 printing), meaning its production is prior to the Stivers' Humanatone [July 1903] (but the brand "Humanatone" is earlier: 1893-94).

On the other hand, the Magic Flute is stamped on the air duct cover:

Now, the patent dates appearing here refer to... Garrett J. Couchois' patents

Since we know that the Couchois' whistle was really produced, the Magic Flute was the third model of nose flute ever manufactured (afaik), just before the Humanatone. We may state that the order of appearance was:

1- The Nasalette, by W. Carter, in 1892-93 (probably launched at Chicago World Fair, maybe under the name Humanatone)
2- The nose flute by G. J. Couchois, in ±1900.
3- The Magic Flute by ??, in ±1902.
4- The Humanatone by J.J. Stivers in july 1903.

And according to this, we are able to specify that the Magic Flute was the first nose flute with a mouth shield, invention that became typical of any metal or plastic nose flute (metal Humanatone, Wunderflöte, plastic Humanatone, Schwann, Bocarina...). It was also the very first model proposing a lip rest (that is still in use on the Schwann model).


My hypothesis - but whether I already possess "sparse pieces of evidence", I built no real "historical proof" yet - is that William Carter launched his nose flute under the name Humanatone (the patent name was "Nasalette") at the Chicago Columbus fair in 1893 (there is a 1894 record of the Brand Humanatone, plus a late testimony in a 1922 journal of the presence of the Humanatone at the fair). Chicago Fair is where Couchois (piano seller) discovered the instrument, then built his own in New York, which clearly is an improvement derivating from the original Nasalette. Did he buy/use the brand Humanatone? It is likely, because a 1905 testimony state that Couchois , as a "fakir", was playing and selling Humanatones "4 or 5 years ago", that is, in 1900-1901. This is the moment when Couchois' nose flutes are manufactured. Can we imagine that Garrett Couchois would have produced his own nose flute but sold another one? Certainly not. So his own should have been named "Humanatone".
Then, in 1902, the Magic Flute is issued, stamped with Couchois' patents numbers. (Was it produced by Couchois too? I have no idea on that point). What is sure is that the next year, the Stivers bought the rights from Carter's and Couchois' patents, and registered the trademark Humanatone. But that's not all: they also bought the brand Magic Flute (check my evidence here). It is more than likely that the shape of the Humanatone was an improvement of the Magic Flute model (but the Humanatone is stamped with Carter's and Couchois' pat. numbers). Then, both the brands Humanatone and Magic (Nose) Flute were used to sell the same instrument, depending on the "sales target" (Humanatone as an instrument, Magic Flute as a toy), and finally with no regards on the type of public anymore. In 1943, Fred Gretsch bought the name Humanatone and associated it to another model of nose flute, the plastic injected one, patented by Ernest W. Davis in 1940.


One last word, and maybe the most important. The Magic Flute was a good instrument, with a precise and powerful sound! Here is a short sound sample:

And big thanks again to Scott B. !

Jul 3, 2013

FIUL 3 !

The Festival International d'Ukulélé de Lerrain took place this year in... Charmois-devant-Bruyères, a welcoming village in the Vosges region, France. Many ukulele playing, for sure, but also some nose flute, thanks to the Nosy Diva and yours truly.

Here is a short footage from Vosges Télévision (some nose flute in the middle)

And here a montage of the Nosy Diva on stage:

Jun 17, 2013

Frühling Konzert

Summer is almost here, so this "Frühling Konzert" (Spring concert) video, dating of April 28 is already a bit old... However, a nose flute footage shot in a church is rare enough to be noticed. The concert took place in Michaeliskirche, Hannover, Germany, with the Nosy Diva at the Bocarina.

Jun 14, 2013

Today is International Nose Flute Day!!

To the readers of this blog: I've been away from for a long time. In April, I had to face a lack of new info deserving publication and at the same time, I had to focus on the completion of my work for an art exhibition. Then I got longly sick. Finally I'm back, here, but the posting rhythm may slow a bit down, from now on. Thank you for your loyalty, and particularly to those of you who enquired about my "disappearance"


Today is the 2nd INFD - International Nose Flute Day. The 14th of June was chosen last year as an anniversary of the registration of William Carter's Nasalette patent. Have you planned something specific? Are you going to celebrate this day?


Here are some pictures of the exhobition « En Quête de l'Ange » ("In the Quest for the Angel"), set in Nancy, Lorraine, France, for which I built 3 composed pieces. One of those photographic compositions is called « Le Souffle des Anges »("The Angels' Breath") and is totally devoted to nose flute playing.

This collective exhibition - with great names! : Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Eric Poitevin, Dominique Petitgand ... — encounters a good success: 5,000 visitors so far, and in just more than a month. If you happen to pass by Nancy, pay us a visit!

En Quête de l'Ange
May 4 to August 4 — (Wednesday to Sunday - 10AM to 6PM)
Galerie Nancy-Thermal
Rue du Sergent Blandan - Nancy


- The official exhibition page : En Quête de l'Ange
- En Quête de l'Ange blog
- En Quête de l'Ange Facebook page