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 13, 2011

Hum-a-Tune : a vintage low grade copy

Probably made in the 70's, the Hum-A-Tune was a plastic nose flute made in Hong Kong. Its name refers directly to « Humanatone », and the shape is a pure copy of the well-known model.

Only the « true tremolo » hole is missing. The low grade (very soft) plastic is not well trimmed on the edges, notably the blade.


On a similar topic :

- Hum-a-Tune : a vintage low grade copy
- Hum-a-Tune : different colors
- Bullwinkle's Hum-a-Tune and Humanatone
- Humanatone copy from 1997


Home made : a very neat design

Mr. Nagashima Isao blowing its home made nose flute. Pure design.

Aug 12, 2011

Protect your flutes from rust

Vintage metal nose flutes are easy preys for rust. Made of tin plate or low grade alloy, in contact with human grease that coats hands and nose, resting in humid basements... they rust. There are a lot of ways to get rid of oxydation, for instance by applying a coat of mineral oil or a spray of varnish. Another technique is to willingly create a coat of resistant oxyde, which will prevent from rust.
Iron is subject to several kinds of oxydations. The rust [Fe2O3], is the naughty one, because it is formed by irregular crystals which grow (they use more space than actual iron). But other kinds of oxydation may form a regular and hard coat of protection.
Below feature two easy ways of getting rid of rust adapted to nose flutes.

I have a vintage Humanatone which was just lightly rusted, and I wanted to clean it and protect it from future attacks. I didn't want to change much its color, just to fix it in a stable state.

An easy trick for that is to dip the thing in phosphoric acid. This acid transforms the rust Fe2O3 into iron phosphate FePO4, which forms a stable protective coat. OK, but where to get phosphoric acid ? So easy! Coca-cola!
So, I opened a bottle of Coke with a Pfaff Nasenpfeife (High-tech german nose flute which includes a bottle opener (!)), and let my Humanatone dabbling for a night in its Coke bath (yuk!).

Next day, I rinsed the flute (don't drink the Coke!!!) in water added with baking soda (to stop acidic action) and, brushing with a piece of very soft steel wool (000), I got the shiny back. I just sprayed some lubricant (WD40 or so) all over the nose flute (inside included) and wiped it with a paper towel.

More, with the action of phosphoric acid, the different alloy layers had appeared, as if my flute had been forged with Damascus steel!

Another nose flute I have got was seriously rusted when I got it, really attacked, and the method explained above would not have been efficient enough. So, I tried the hard way.

The hard way requires more products, but gives an incredible result. It consists in blueing the flute, exactly as one would do with a gun barrel. That is applying a special oxydizer ("Gun Blue") which will form a very hard black oxyde (magnetite Fe3O4) protective (and beautiful) coat.

First, I performed the Coke bath trick, and the next day removed all the oxyde with a Dremel drill mounted with a polishing disk (plus red paste), then by sanding with very soft steel wool (000) (pic 1). I sprayed some grease remover, wiped the flute with paper towel, and avoided to touch it with my fingers anymore (pic 2). I put some Gun Blue in a (clean:) cat food tin (pic 3).

I applied a nice coat of Gun Blue all over the facing side of the the flute with a paintbrush (no worry, the Gun Blue washes with water) (pic 4) and let actuate during a minute (pic 5). Then I wiped the remaining slimy residue (pic 6) and applied the same coating on the back side.

For sure, I didn't forget to coat the inside, using a Q-tip (pic 7). After that, I sanded the flute with steel wool, medium pressure, not to take all what I did away, but just to egalize (pic 8); I sprayed some grease remover, and re-did the whole blueing process again (one minute application again), and then sanded very lightly the flute with steel wool, just to get back the shiny. Finally, I sprayed some lubricant (kinda WD40) (pic 9).

The I wiped the whole flute with paper towel and Q-tips (for the inside) and got a great result in that, that the patina is still visible, but the flute is well protected (just compare with the original state...)

In conclusion : two methods, the light one and the heavy one, for two very different results. Please feel free to ask questions if something is unclear.

Aug 11, 2011

Garrett J. Couchois : the first modern design

On the year 1899, Garrett John Couchois, a New York musical composer and publisher, filed 2 documents.
The first, on 26th of january, in association with Albert Leech, is a patent [US641025, registered jan. 9, 1900] for a Self playing whistle. Primarily designed to be played only by blowing with the mouth, thanks to a little tube meant to be bound up against the palate by the operator's tongue, the whistle has a second destination as a nose flute, by inserting the tube in the nostril.

« Assuming that the device is in position as described, it is only necessary to blow through the tube, and by proper expansion or contraction of the mouth-cavity the pitch of tone may be changing at will. Similar results may be obtained by inserting the end of tube direct into the nostril, as indicated by dotted lines in Fig. 1.»

The Leech-Courtois' system still requires the whistle part to be inserted in the mouth (for the benefit of a hand-free playing), but it is not clear if the instrument would allow both a mouth- and a nose-blowing play (by bending the tube ?). It rather appears that the principle would have required two different productions for two different models, one for each blowing mode.

The second document was filed oct. 21, 1899 by Garrett J. Couchois on his own, and is related to the design for a whistle [Des31876, patented nov. 21, 1899]. This model is obviously a pure nose flute, with a very elegant design quite similar to the current mass production. Certainly, the instrument provides a cylindric whistle to be stuck in the mouth, but it features the first mordern-shaped nose cap, shape which is more or less still is use in current industrial production.

Both of these patents were used as official references by followers, notably by the first nose flute called Humanatone (there will be very different models wearing the name) on which base is stamped : U.S. PAT. Nos 477167 31876-641025, which refer to the Carter's patent followed by Couchois and Leech's.

In 1905, Garrett J. Couchois was honored by the newspapers fame for another reason. Convicted of piracy for having published "spurious copies" of the music piece "Hearts and Flowers", he got in jail for 30 days (no joke with copyright infringement then:). "A number of other suits are pending against the prisoner" says the paper...
And in 1913, Couchois was involved in a blackmail case against Steger pianos Mfg.

Anyway, Couchois bequeathed the first elegant nose cap design to his followers.

Video : Der Grindchor (Nasenflötenorchestra)

The Grindchor, a.k.a. Nose Flute Orchestra of Kreuzberg Heights (Berlin) is a band of insane punk-rock nosefluters who perform in such occasions as popular fests as well as fashion shows, burial ceremonies, vernissages...
They play Arnold Stölzel (swan logo) nose flutes and wear great "noseflute'n'bones" black t-shirts.

Their official site is

Here is an excellent short TV presentation documentary :

Lots of other videos can be found with that search on YouTube.

Aug 10, 2011

Saitama : a beautiful and funny design

Japanese Saitama nose flutes made by ceramic artist Sasaki Hiroaki.
They can be bought at

William Carter : The Pioneer and his Nasalette

Filed november 19, 1891, and registered june 14, 1892, it seems that the musical instrument patented by William Carter, Albion, New York, was the first modern metal nose flute [US477167]. The design is rudimentary, but already rather compact and hand-free, with a nose-cap, a tube sucked by the operator and a rubber passing though a little conduit at the end of its nose and ended by some kind of temple tips to hook the ears.

« This invention consists in an instrument of novel character and which may appropriately be called a «nasalette», inasmuch as it is a means designed to be used in the production of sound by the passage of air from or blowing through the nose and regulating and varying the sound so produced to obtain any desired tone by the player working or changing the position of his tongue, substantially as hereinafter described, and more particularly pointed out in the claims. »

[Notice that the operator clearly wears a rug.]

I do not know if a prototype was realised, but I doubt the configuration shown on the templates (Fig. 1 & 2) would have produced a good result. In my opinion, the air expired from the nostrils would hardly reach the tapered duct and in no case with a sufficient flow to activate the whistle. However, with minor modifications to the nose-cap, the whole system would perfectly be efficient.

Apparently, this is the only patent the pioneer left to us. The Carter's nasalette was only referenced by another patent, in 2002, regarding a curious theatrical dental apparatus with ornament [US6450814].

Aug 9, 2011

Inaugural post

One of the Winds of the Αέρηδες (Tower of the Winds) in Athens, Greece.

Welcome to! As you can read onto the fronton of this temple dedicated to the nose flute, we won't deal with ethnic instruments here, but mostly with the modern shapes of the nostril whistle.
Why ? First, we are not acknowledged for that. There are so many local forms and names, stories and usages for the original nose flutes that only serious anthropologists or ethnomusicologists could afford filling a blog with. As you'll be invited to read in the future posts, nose flute is just an amusement for us and we won't write a thesis on this delightful topic.
More, we are a ukulele player, and we need both of our hands to play. We sometimes even dream of letting grow another pair of them. Hence are we involved in playing nose flutes which pitch is driven by the bucal cavity. Only the modern form of nose flutes allow this feature, attached to the head by a rubber band, a ribbon, or a dedicated included system.

In these pages, we'll produce reviews, write some elements of history, promote the best videos or dedicated sites, teach the heavy knowledge and the sweet art of playing the nasal flute, enter some fabrication techniques, and more if needed.

As an inaugural show, here is a video I made several months ago. I called it "Humanatone review", but it was not. At this time I only had got in my possession recent Humanatones and some wooden vietnamese ebay items, and was not able to make a specific review. This was mostly a joke. Hope you'll enjoy it anyway.