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.

Nov 18, 2012

Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Review

Some historic nose flutes have totally disappear or haven't even been produced or commercialized. Our goal, here, is to reconstruct them, as close as possible to the original, with the help of the patent drawings and descriptions.

[Sequel of the posts Couchois' Whistle: Drawing a template and Building the flute]

As planned, I "flashed" the Couchois' tin whistle, that is, I electroplated it with Nickel during a few minutes only. I just wanted to protect it from rust. Maybe, later I will plate it with chrome...

Well, here is the Couchois' whistle. It's a very elegant nose flute, made of 3 major parts: the nose shield, the airway and the mouth tube.

The nose shield is maybe the first of the kind. The Carter's Nasalette featured a nose hood, totally covering the nose, rather unefficient, though (air leak). Here, on the Couchois, the nose has just to rest on a saddle, which was magnifically designed. Efficient and beautiful. Looking light as a butterfly, and shaped like a flower petal, in contrast with the solid looking and simple mouth tube cylinder.
The air collector is a very small rectangle, and I was a bit doubtful regarding its functionality. I was wrong, this little square window works fine.

The air duct is great too. Because of its rounded shape, it gets thinner as it reaches the the mouth tube, and thus, accelerates the air flow, as it should be to get a clean and precise sound.

The mouth tube has been designed as a cylinder, which is much more ergonomic than the Carter's rectangular one was. However, 23mm diameter is is bit too big, according to me. As shown in the following video, this size and shape create gaps at the corner of the lips. I don't think this was made on purpose (else, Couchois would have specified it in the patent), but one can take advantage of this "feature": by quickly clogging/unclogging one of these lips gaps, it is possible to produce a tremolo.

I had to correct the dimension of the mouth hole, in order to get consistency of the patent front and side view. The front view shows a bigger hole. However, the labium is slanted (it is visible on the patent) and this was not the case on Carter's.

The overall shape, as already said, is very elegant, equilibrated and quite modern. It really could have been designed in the 1950's. The profile even looks a bit like a Star Trek starship!


The Sound

Partly due to the modification that I had to practice on the mouth hole, but mostly to the good-sized mouth tube which creates a big "first chamber": the Couchois' whistle has a quite sharp range.
The short airduct, thinner at its end, plus the slanted labium... all of these features produce a clear, clean and loud whistling. The Couchois' is easy to drive! On the other hand, whether you try to reach basses, the sound gets weak and doubled by unwanted whistlings.

All in all, this nose whistle is a good instrument, elegant, rather ergonomic, easy to play, with a clean sharp sound. It certainly represents a progress upon the Nasalette.

Here is a short sound sample (When I am Prime Minister, by Markos Vamvakaris):

And here a short video review:


On the same topic :

- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Review
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Review
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Review



  1. This one looks great!. It does seem like a good and functional nose flute. I like it.

    I guess the next step after using a shield instead of a nose cover is using a shield instead of a mouth tube. So this one would be the link between the nasalette and modern designs.

    I wonder if a well designed mouth tube could be used for a fully hands free flute.

    Kudos to you for your effort and fine work!.


  2. Thank you dear Luis! Yes, you are right, the next step is a mouth shield, and it will be done with the Humanatone. Indeed, the Couchois' whistle is the missing link between the Nasalette and the Stivers' best seller.

    This Couchois is "almost" hands-free.(the cardboard model is, but the metal is a bit too heavy). Yes, a specifivally designed mouth tube would lead to a hands-free model.

  3. Clean, elegant, precise, delicate: wonderful! Indeed, it also reminds me of the Strak Trek Enterprise. I totally see how it resembles a butterfly fluttering about from the four smaller pictures put together.

    I wonder about the plating: doesn't it have an "Achilles' heel"? I think I spotted an uncovered bit in the third picture, where the instrument was held by the pair of pliers from the first picture.

    Great to frind out that the smaller the "air collector" is, the better it appears to work. I guess it prevents any air from leaking. Combined with the 'acceleration' of the airway, that would provide optimum efficiency. By the way, my silver Swan has two small, round openings, one for each nostril. That also seems to work very fine, or as you say "makes it easy to drive".

    In response to Luis's comment about the mouth tube: could it somehow be tapered towards the mouth, or could a reed even be inserted into it? I am not sure what that would do to the effect of playability though, as this type of nose flute needs the buccal cavity to be able to change and shape the pitch...

    I just love the photo-combination of the cardboard, patent design and plated tin Couchois nose flutes!

  4. Hello Maikel! Well, about the "Achille's heel": my plating was just a "flashing", by electrolysis. The heel is a pewter soldering. I will plate it completely with another technique, using a "plating pen" (much more economical: don't need so much solution for the bath). So I will plate it with chrome, but for that, you first to plate with... gold! Anyway, in the case the plating does not go on the heel, I have a Plan B: conductive thin painting. We'll see. Anyway, it's very easy to go back to the tin: steel wool would erase all plating (but would lead back to a rust-sensible flute.

  5. If you are to cover the instrument with gold plating anyway, I would suggest to leave it at that, as it would be the first gold-plated nose flute!

    A couple of years before I finally decided to have a silver Schwan built, I asked for silver plating a plastic Schwan and a plastic Humanatone by electrolysis at a jeweller's. The shop couldn't guarantee playability as the instruments would be mass-bathed and covered with a thick layer, so I decided not to go forward with it. After all, I only had a couple of nose flutes at my disposal at the time...

    Looking at the results from your delicate plating, I guess you could plate any flute you wanted to. Plating a fair Schwan would undoubtedly enhance the sound greatly. I would be very interested in your take on the sound quality.

    It might be an interesting experiment to see just how thick this plating could be, since the nose flute seems to work even more efficiently the smaller the air entrance and the labium are! The thicker the plating, the more body, weight and purity the sound will gain, I'm sure.


  6. I would hate to leave it golden!!! it's an historic replica. No, but I will plate another nose flute with gold. Just to play bling bling style! :)

    Oh, you know, the plating will be very very thin!!! I'm not rich enough:) take a look at this video:

    Regarding plating plastics, it's a bit more tricky. I'm currently trying to plate a Bocarina (I would not plate a Schwan unless I have totally sanded after having filled the gaps, etc.: it's a so crappy chinese product!!). But first, you need to apply conductive paint and it's very diffult to have it totally smooth. Plus, it's a very long process: one coat, let dry 24 hour, then in the oven for 3 hours at 60°C, then rest for 3 days, then another coat, etc etc.

    But there is another solution: a powder that directly plates chrome. A japanese product. I'm waiting for my order...

    Regarding thickness : as far as you provide sulfate solution and electricity, the process goes on. If you are patient enough to wait for 1 or 2 years, you'll have a very thick coat! (one hour gives you something like 0.1 micron. you could get 1mm after a year. And having spent a huge money :))

    But you forget that if you plate 1 mm, you'll get a rounded labium too, and thus, a poor sound. If you want a good silver or gold nose flute: just have it made in solid silver or gold! :)

  7. Very interesting video of the English "clip, grip and dip" product, gold-plating any small object! The Japanese chrome-plating powder sounds totally awesome as well! Where would we be without the internet, right?

    I see the esthetical and conservational value of plating the nose flute, but I doubt whether such a thin plating would make that much a difference soundwise. Isn't it possible to file away any excess plating at the labium?

  8. Yep, the electroplating with a pen is much more comfortable and saves money!
    Regarding the japanese powder, I wait to test: I don't know which durability it has (does it scratch easily? and so...)

    My goal with the "flash electroplating" is only to protect the flute from the micro-rust that would grow waiting for the real plating. Not for a long conservation!

    It surely would be possible to remove excess of gold by filing :)) But having such a coat would cost you more that having a solid one made by a jeweler! While in solution, you pay the kilo of gold something like 300,000 euros ! So having a huge coat of gold by electroplating would be a total stupidity. (And I don't take in account the electricity during one year!). In the little pot of solution I bought, I have 0.125 gram of gold (yes, a eighth of a gram). You see?

  9. PS : a mono-atomic coat of metal is enough to protect from rust (according it is not scratched). As a mono-atomic coat of grease would empeach you to electroplate.

    Well it's better to aim a thicker coat! But 100 atoms thick is enough.

  10. I found an original Couchois' Whistle in Bay Saint Louis, MS. and bought it. I enjoy playing it and have even been asked to play two public performances. Standing ovation followed. Wow!

  11. Hello, it's very cool! Me too, i found one and will soon publish it. It would be very nice if you could send me pictures of yours, just to have 2 sources and compare. Greetings

    1. I'll see what I can do! I'm not very tech savvy so I may never get the picture to you? The whistle is an old beauty, however at my age I tend to run out of air before I run out of a tune!

    2. Hello Brad, please do it if you can (and as you can), I would love to get pictures of your baby. Else, if it's too difficult for you, don't worry, I'll understand.
      Anyway, if one day you want to separate from your Couchois for any reason, you know which greedy collector would offer you a good agrement :)
      Best wishes and greetings from France! (my e-mail address is written top-right of this page)

    3. Oh! I forgot : if someone took pictures or video of your public performances, I would be pleased to publish them too!

  12. Email is on it's way to you with two pics. I have no pictures of the public performance, wish I did!

    1. Thank you a lot Brad! I will add them to my (near future) post about this great historic nose flute