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.

Aug 17, 2011

Review : Sasaki Hiroaki clay nose flute

Today I received two nose flutes by ceramics master Sasaki Hiroaki (佐々木浩章さん) I ordered at Temiruya.

Regarding this online shop, I have to say that Mr. Sudare Tetsuyuki is a very kind man, prompt in giving info, and who speaks a perfect English, so it's quite easy for a Japanese language ignorant like me to send an order by e-mail ( pbc03434 [at] nifty [dot] ne [dot] jp )

Sasaki Hiroaki is located in Chichibu, in the province of Saitama, Japan. After a travel in the USA where he got a Humanatone, he decided to produce hanabue (鼻笛), i.e. nose flutes. He created this funny face design, with some traditional look of japanese masks. Mr. Sudare told me that Shinto shrines are used to sell small masks of clay for amulets and that in Japan, the sound of mouth whistles is supposed to call the deads.

So, I received those stunning magical flutes made of raw clay with enameled strabismic eyes and swirled (Gidouille in french!) cheeks.

The coarse clay, with visible translucent sand grains, is certainly rougher for delicate skins than the plastic surface of an industrial nose flute, but that is the (small) price to pay to have the privilege to play this little work of art. And the texture is as beautiful as grandma's cinnamon cookies.

The very simple shape is obtained by molding the clay, and then, I suppose, intervening with sticks of different shapes to make the holes. Then smoothed a little bit (I can see a fingerprint on the back), air cured, enameled and baked.
The baby is a bit heavy (respectively 84 and 88 grams = 3 ounces).

The nose flute is ready to become hand-free, with its 2 « temporal » holes, provided that you add a leather lace. Contrasting with the raw material, some details make the object very pleasing. The enameled eyes for sure, with divergent shiny black pupils, a little seal stamping a さ (hiragana "Sa") for the initial of the surname Sasaki.

All in all, the Sasaki's hanabue measures 8 by 6 cm.
The windway is quite thin, and decrease from around 2mm at air entrance to less than a millimeter at the exit, allowing the Bernouilli effect, which accelerates the flow, lowering air requirements.

Compared to a Humanatone, the air duct is much longer (3.4 cm vs 1.6 cm), and the mouth hole smaller (0.5 vs 0.7 in height). Despite the coarse clay, the double-cut blade is quite sharp.
This configuration drives to a large range : I can reach far sharper and lower notes than I can get on a Humanatone. I personally can reach G to G (2 octaves) with clear sound, while I go from A to E (1.5 octave) with the Humanatone, and with blurry sound at the edges of the range (blend with "shhhhhhh" noise). [People with heavy puff and another mouth configuration than mine could certainly get both larger ranges, maybe 3 octaves, but the fact is that the Sasaki's nose flute is much better in response that the Humanatone.]

In exchange, the sound amplitude is a bit more discreet than with the plastic reference, probably because I cannot get a perfectly hermetic junction with my nostrils.

Price ? Well, prices may vary with time. Currently, this clay hanabue is sold ¥2800 at Temiruya, plus shipping (I'm not a shareholder :).

In conclusion, the clay nose flute by Sasaki Hiroaki is well designed in two ways : techno-musically on one hand, with a nice playability, and esthetically on the second hand, with its gorgeous, funny and... magical mask face.
It surely costs more than an industrial plastic flute, but it is reserved to the connoisseur !

Mr. Sasaki Hiroaki and a drawing he made to explain the correct use of hanabue :

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