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 5, 2012

Contempt for nose flute

Contempt and scorn towards the nose flute as an instrument is not new. In this article published in the Portsmouth Times on October 12, 1948, and announcing that the AFM (American federation of Musicians) had finally accepted the harmonica as an instrument, the nose flute clearly is used as an ironic example (remember that at this time, even the ukulele was considered as a toy and was rejected by the AFM).
It had been a long time since the 1925s though, when Lloyd Bufford Threlkeld and other had proved the nose whistle was a real instrument...

I retyped the text, because it is difficult to read, and also on purpose for automatic translators :

Harmonica Makes The Grade - The harmonica has been a mongrel in the family of musical instruments. Favored by the rustics, comedians, eccentrics and idlers, it originally was called Aeolina by Sir Charles Wheatstone who invented it in 1829.
Now the harmonica comes into its own. It is recognized as a full-fledged musical instrument by James Caesar Petrillo of the American Federation of Musicians. Harmonica players will be taken into the union, although Mr. Petrillo concedes he isn't out to organize fence-corner improvisers and players who give train imitations at neighborhood parties.
The reason for the ruling is that, with the ban on new orchestral recordings, harmonica players are cleaning up as recording artists.
If the Harmonicats and kindred contributors to the national culture are succeeded as recording stars by nose-flute artists and virtuosos of the comb and tissue paper, we may look for further additions to the ranks of union musicians.

Earlier or later, the nose flute was regarded as a "joke item" (check this post) or as a "very approximative" instrument (check this post).

1960 :

1971 :


  1. The nose flute should catch on. Keep on nosefluting!.

    Actually, I think the nose flute is not even known in most of the world. I played comb and paper when I was a little kid, I got my first harmonica at age 13, my first kazoo decades ago.

    But I had never heard of nose flutes until this year, got my first one last April. I liked it so much that I began making them a few days later.

    So thank you Antoine for this great blog.

    Hopefully with the work and enthusiasm of yourself, the nosy diva, Maikel and other friends and followers. Along with the associations in Japan, the good players posting in youtube. the makers of quality instruments, specially at accessible price like bocarina. The nose flute will reach greater heights and get the place that it deserves.


    Why am I feeling like jughead?

  2. You're right Luis! I will soon publish stats and you'll see that nose flute is speading all arounf the world, slowly, but certainly. However, Africa and South America are deserts for us...


  3. I'm also like to play harmonicas before I know nose flutes things(and I ever served my school harmonica club's leader).
    But I have always felt that harmonica has many structural problems. Especially reed , is the most important in harmonica, but it is also a lot of harmonica troubled and controversial reasons.
    (Of course I still like to play harmonica)

    In comparison, the nose flute is simple structure─although the original, but also in fact a very modern. Don't need the complexity of the structure but also can to play all diatonic, more sturdy and small(easily to carry)and cheap.
    Never need to worry that he would fault, nose flute is a more loyal friend to me. Now, nose flute is with me every day.

  4. Hello YW! You're totally right : ths simplest are the best. Wtch and listen to Mosurin, and you first ask how is he able to do that on a ... "whistle", and then understand that "less is more" : a labium, a nose and a mouth.

  5. I totally agree: in the case of the nose flute it absolutely is 'less is more'.

    I think Luis has got a great point: the nose flute doesn't get the attention and therefore isn't really known. This blog gathers all the facts and figures out there and presents it in a very interesting and entertaining way. The instrument really needs a blog like, to get recognised and ultimately accredited.

    I remember Toots Thielemans telling me how everybody in the jazz world gave him the strange look as he took out his harmonica in the late 1940s. Now he is regarded as an iconic legend. I heard similar stories from extraordinary jew's harp players too.

    The nose flute will get there too eventually, but only because of all the time and effort put into it by a small numbers of hard core nose flute heads...! It all starts with a proper platform which is this blog. Thank you Antoine!

  6. Mies van der Rohe is right~:D

  7. Thank you Maikel!

    YW : yep, I'm a Mies' fan :)