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.

Jul 17, 2012


Here is a old lovely and sweet little plastic nose flute that Mr. Piet Visser gently accepted to trade from his collection. It is a two-colored polystyrene toy-instrument, of a rather small size.

And here the "Simmies" from the Piet Visser's collection (photo by M. Mei):

The Simmy proudly wears its name in small parchment roll on the breathplate, with a rather chaotic typo:

As far as we know, according to Mr. Visser, the first Simmy nose flutes date from 1952. They were probably european made, and could have been German. This drove Mr. Maikel Mei to hypothesize that the Simmy was the ancestor of the Swan nose flute.
Well, wether we have absolutely no piece of evidence of such a statement, it's however a real possibility. The Swan was launch in 1958, and the 1952-born Simmy should not have been produced during a very long period, else it would not be so rare.

But more : there are many resemblances between the two nose whistles... They differ by the size (Simmy is smaller) and by the shape of the mouth shield, square on the Simmy, perfectly circular on the Swan. There is no upper-lip rest on the Simmy, and the labium is not beveled as it is on the Swan. But both share subtle morphologic details.

The shape of the nose saddle is the same, with a different airway hole. Both have a trapezoid shape part that connects the nose saddle to the mouth shield. The two model have a flat mouth shield (not concave), with a bottom-lip rest (90° angled, short and rectangular on the Simmy, and rounded, with a 45° angle on the Swan).

The front shows other similarities. Both babies are two-colored, one reserved for the airway cover, which in embossed with the logo. And both show the famous "pair of injection stigamata" which help to date a Swan [like Leda??:)], however smaller in diameter on the Simmy.

There is another detail shared by both flutes that is so singular that it could almost become a piece of evidence... On both babies, the end of the air duct cover goes a bit further than the support rail, and has a short angled ending, produced in order to thin the air flow at its very exit and to orient it properly (?).

So... Is the Simmy the ancestor of the Swan? Certainly. But what's the meaning of this word and what relation do those nose flute have? Impossible to say. Was the Swan an improved model designed by the Simmy producer who was german? Or was the Swan simply "inspired" by the Simmy, but made by another factory? The first element of answer would be to know for sure in which country the Simmy was produced.

A small sound sample recorded with the Simmy, which sound is a bit "blury":



  1. Once more, a great post about the differences and similiarities between 2 nose flutes, yet again with superb photography!

    I do notice that the pink & yellow Simmy does not show the pair of injection stigmata that the other, 'duller'-coloured Simmies share. Could this indicate the same that happened with the Swan logo nose flute, and make the pink one of a later date? I am wondering how both nose flute types measure up to each other. For instance: do the injection stigmata relate?

  2. Thank you Maikel, and thank you for your help in this exchange with Mr. Visser!

    Regarding the pink/yellow : well, it just says its a different mould, with no indication of anteriority...

    The injections stigmata comes from what we call "évents" in french, I don't know the English word. They are free canals added in order to collect supplementary plastic and avoid air bubbles. The resulting excrescences are then cut.

    1. You're most welcome! I love the fact that your collection is ever growing and especially that you compared two recently acquired specimens in this post.

      It seems like the Simmy reveals quite a lot, but it proves ultra hard to find any additional information!

      I wonder why a different mould would have been used, as the Simmy apparently only 'lasted' from 1952 to 1958.

    2. Maikel, where did you get the info the Simmy was produced until 1958 and stop then ??? There is no evidence at all that the Swan is the continuation of the Simmy, and no more that it was made by the same producer...

    3. There were actually 3 people in their 60s-70s, who independently from each other dropped the name 'Simmy' to me some 10 to 15 years ago. At the time it didn't ring any bells.

      They actually referred specifically to the 1950s and not beyond, and absolutely connected it to a pack of washing powder at the time, independently from each other. They all told me about how their mother brought home the washing powder and they would grabble around in the pack in order to first find the nose flute, which seems to have been a prized possession at the time. They seemed to have fond memories of that and told me whole stories of how their mother would do the laundry...

      Strangely, you posted an edit about the first branding of the plastic nose flute and the dates do not seem to match. However, it might be the case that an earlier branding wasn't documented or simply hasn't been put on the internet yet.

      It appears to me that I will have to visit elderly homes in order to obtain any further information and who knows I might find a Simmy there...?!

    4. Yes, I agree that the Simmy dates of the 1950s. The look is enough... but you stated it ended in 1958 : I repeat there is aboslutely no evidence that it is the first shape of the Swan. It also could have been produced in the Netherlands and have inspired a German company for instance. The "stigmata" are no evidence at all : any plastic injection engineer would choose the same points which depends on the shape.
      And the end of airway could have been purely copied by the Swan conceptors.
      Simmy production could have ended in 1954, 1956 or 1960 ... nobody (of us) has no clue about that.

    5. There is indeed no evidence of the Simmy production having ended in 1958. One of my contacts who was a musician, obviously had more interest in it and remembered that it was on the market only very briefly, for a few years in the mid-1950s. He named 1954-1955 as dates he actually knew they were there.

      Good to hear that the 'stigmata' on the Simmy can be ruled out as evidence.

      To me it seems that the 'compression ridge' on the Simmy has a more acute angle compared to the Swan, something like 60 compared to 45 degrees. Can you confirm?

  3. Off topic but I find the angled ending in the duct cover very interesting.

    I do not know about the physics of it, but I have searched around the internet about fipple construction and found some tricks and tips for improving sound.

    One trick is to make the inside of the windway a little concave, I have tried it and it seems to work. Maybe the angled ending in the duct cover works in a similar manner.

    Quote from:
    "A certain amount of concavity, taper and arch to the windway are features which add to the overall resonance of the sound"


    1. Exactly! The angled ending of the duct cover really makes me think that the Swan logo was based on the Simmy. It is likely that the Swan is an improvement of the Simmy, for the Swan has a concave, arched air duct cover as well as an upper lip rest. The nose saddle and the 'compression' ridge however have remained exactly the same.

      When constructing my brass swan, the builder, an engineer, came up with this ridge as a must: actually, trying a flat and my current lid proved that the ridge does make the sound more precise and clear! Before the upper lip rest was bent inward just a little too far, this instrument sounded like a trumpet, another brass instrument. So, the material really did work its magic as well.

      My silver swan has a very tight and neat 45 degree compression ridge too, that really channels the air flow towards the labium. Whilst the brass ridge and the air duct cover are made out of one piece, which apparently was quite some delicate work, the silver ridge is simply a delicate, soldered inlay.

      Contrary to the brass air duct cover, the silver one is only arched and not concave. The builder, a flute specialist, stressed that narrowing this opening to a minimum would be the key to an optimally efficient air flow.

      He must have been right, because it is the best sounding nose flute I have ever played and heard, although the Froby comes close! Mind you, the Froby also has an arched air duct cover, that is really rather compact, without being concave. Hope that this proves to be helpful and useful.

      I notice though that the Bocarina has a parallel concave air duct that is slightly concave, yet no compression ridge and still is capable of producing a high quality sound that sits inbetween the Froby and the Swan.

  4. Oh..; the Bocarina has a compression system! not at the very end, but all along, like on the Degen nose flute.