So, we decided to open our pages to other reviewers, in order to provide a full spectrum of opinions. The long time reader, participant and friend of Noseflute.org, Mr. Maikel Mei, spontaneously sent us his complete review of the new instrument. The Incomparable Nosy Diva did too, our Japanese friends have begun testing some Bocarina® Pro tuning (!) and on our side, we will provide some technical results.
Bocarina® Pro - Part II : Reviews
A - Maikel Mei
The following text is the review Mr. Mei provided. Noseflute.org just added some pictures and self-authorized some very minor typographic corrections.
A couple of years ago I received a package with a Bocarina® prototype through my dear friend Antoine Carolus. I instantly recognised the quality craftmanship as well as the possibilities of the instrument, but couldn't play it as it doesn't fit the make up of my face, i.e. my nose and cartilage. From a young age I had played the Schwan, which not only suited me but also grew onto me. I always felt it had its limitations though, which is why I started experimenting and approaching people who could help me build the perfect nose flute.
Having received the Bocarina®, it seemed to me that combining the Schwan with this new type of flute could possibly make the perfect nose flute. The Schwan had the perfect build fitting my facial structure and also allowed me to attack the labium from various angles. Exactly that allowed me to actually make music on it instead of merely notes or simply tunes. The Bocarina® had the super quality material, the meaty body, the acceleration through the narrowing air duct and the slightly reedy ringing tone I had been looking for for such a long time.
Obviously I wanted to see Mr Schuermans's take on the Schwan, incorporating the qualities of the Schwan into the Bocarina, or the other way around. When I contacted him asking him just that, I was pleasantly surprised to get his response stating that he actually considered creating a Bocarina® that would fit Caucasian cartilage configurations (how about that for a tongue twister). He also said that it would take some considerable time, effort and patience. When I collected my snail mail this week, I was jumping with joy to find a package from France containing a new type of nose flute! The hybrid concept had finally materialised.
Many thanks to my dear friend Antoine Carolus for sharing with me one of the prototypes he had received from its maker, Chris Schuermans. I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Schuermans, whom I consider the James Dyson of nose flute design, for making this new product and even incorporating a few elements championed by me. I think this new nose flute, the Bocarina® Pro, represents a significant new stage in the development of the instrument. Here is my review:
1 - The Look
I was presented a prototype in red and yellow that matches my old first Schwan, which I find a really nice thought. This classic colour combination will not be taken in production though. The Bocarina® Pro will appear in “fruity colours”, which I consider a stroke of genius. That will certainly appeal to kids of today, as it is very now. The overall Bocarina® Pro look reminds me of a swimming manta, with its meaty yet sleek design, its soft and fluid lines, its mat uncanny appearance and obviously its bendable flaps. It certainly looks intriguing enough to give it a serious look in the shops and possibly a try. I find the combination of the look, feel and fruity colour combinations a real winner.
The Bocarina® Pro looks like a proper cross between the Bocarina® and the Schwan. The Bocarina® Pro combines the Bocarina®'s flat yet bulky body and its highly stylized, rounded fluent lines, with the Schwan's 3D-shaped thin-walled body and its square lines based on a circular concept. The truly great thing about the Bocarina® Pro is the synthesis of the Schwan's two-part design of body and air duct cover made into one, using two types of plastics. To underline this, the two components apparently chemically even bond when they are moudled. As such, the two not only appear to be but actually have become one inseparable entity. I find that really amazing. Still, both parts remain recognisable by having their own colour, texture and finish.
A highly tactile quality of the Bocarina® Pro is the bendabillity of the side flaps provided by the soft and thick outer skin. This feature incorporates and exceeds the quality of a third nose flute design, namely that of the Humanatone! The heavy duty rubbery plastic outer skin of the Bocarina® Pro allows for bending the side flaps very easily, not only around the labium but even around the nose shield. Other than the rigid and cheap plastic flaps of the Humanatone, the Bocarina® Pro flaps simply will not break.
Whereas the Humanatone needs considerable warming up and careful tweaking of the side flaps, and eventually still breaks where the side flaps connect with the air duct cover, the Bocarina® Pro has flaps that can bend all day long without any preparation or problem. It really is a major innovation, which should allow for a whole range of wind tones to be performed on the instrument. Having the possibility to incorporate those effects in the performance takes the instrument to another professional level, making the nose flute step up to becoming a proper musical instrument.
The Bocarina® Pro even has some proper additional innovations within the design of the labium, the sharp edge over which the air flow is projected in order to produce a sound. With such detail paid to the labium lip, which is the most important part of the flute, one would have to conclude that this is a pretty good flute.
2 - The Feel
The soft feel of the object is an open invitation to take, hold, touch and play with the Bocarina® Pro. The bendability must be the number one selling point of this instrument. It is unbreakable, feels and looks like a solid, heavy duty item and even looks as if it might be cleaned inside your dishwasher. It has a legit look and the feel of a proper and interesting toy. Is it a proper instrument though?
The Bocarina® Pro consists of two parts of different types of plastics, being an outer soft shell and an inner hard shell. The outer soft shell makes it a joy to hold and touch as it is very tactile. However, its brilliance lies in the fact that it lends the instrument a perfect grip. It will not slip out of your hand whilst playing and if it does, it will not break or be damaged when falling on the floor. I have always been highly conscious of a flute breaking from dropping, particularly with my first Schwan and with my silver flute. Ironically, they actually did fall on more than one occasion because of my being overly careful. The Bocarina® Pro eradicates that concern.
The inner shell of the Bocarina® Pro contains the air duct and the labium. This piece needs to be fairly rigid in order to give the instrument a quality sound. If this bit were squidgy or floppy, the flute would have a sloppy sound or possibly no sound at all. The marriage of the hard inner piece and the soft outer coating really is the key ingredient in why this design is so remarkable.
The part of the instrument that covers the filtrum, the bit of skin between the nose and the mouth, feels too hard to my taste as I put it to the test. It hurts my teeth as I play it and it presses up against my nose cartilage as I try to make it sound properly. This bit could be a lot softer, preferably as soft as the bendable edges. The reason for it being a little hard to the touch here is that the soft outer skin covering the hard piece of plastic right underneath is probably at its thinnest here. A little thicker could do.
3 - Technical qualities
There are four main innovations that I regard as technical improvements to be seen in the labium alone.
The Bocarina® Pro has a sturdy labium that significantly tapers all the way up, resulting in a razor sharp edge over which the air flow is directed. That should allow the instrument to be played easily, to hit the right notes quickly and easily. To my mind this is the first time the design of the labium has been executed perfectly, in the sense that it is a proper reed.
This proper reed is what makes the so-called 'whisper tones' on the Bocarina® Pro ever so easy to play. One would say that this is a great success, yet they sound so loud and clear so easily on this nose flute that they lose most of their flustery appeal.
The labium on the Bocarina® Pro is rounded, moving around a curve, which to me is a great thing. That feat should make the embouchure easier and more flexible, so that the labium lip can be attacked from various angles, in order to be able to create various sound effects. To my taste the labium could be even rounder, curling inward toward the edges more than the air flue overhead. That discrepancy would possibly provide more options and allow for interesting instant effects.
The labium is much wider on the Bocarina® Pro than on the Bocarina®, resembling the width of the Schwan labium. A wider labium to me represents a louder, more full-bodied (basic) sound, which is a good thing in my book. It allows the player to perform louder when he wants or needs to, it makes the soft tones easier to produce and provides more dynamics when combined. I also feel it allows for much more control. I would say that is a great thing.
However, to me, the trapezoid shape of the labium on this nose flute as seen from the front should be straight or even reversed: I see four disadvantages in having a wider labium at the bottom, the base of the reed.
Firstly the side flaps cannot bend as far as I would like. That prohibits me from taking the wind tones and harmonics to the next level. With a straight or reversed outlet
the flaps' bendability can really be taken to their extremes, which will probably open up a whole new range of sound effects.
Secondly, having bent those side flaps to their extremes, I feel as if the hard edge of the fipple will eventually probably puncture the soft flaps, destroying its function and therefore its purpose. Apparently, the inner body -- the fipple -- has a perforated edge that prevent that from happening.
Thirdly, my aim has always been to project and channel a reedy flute sound instead of that of a toy whistle from the labium, both acoustically and electrically. In my opinion, a straight or reverse outlet could create a better sound in that respect. This “better sound” I always speak of what I feel makes a flute sound like a proper flute, such as reedy resonances, windy sounds, bamboo tones, over-blown effects and multiphonics
Fourthly, I feel a straight or possibly reversed trapezoid outlet would allow for more control over the tone and effects when cupping the labium with my hands, which I do quite for what I feel to be a proper and much improved sound. I feel a straight or inverted trapezoid would address all these problems and solve them.
I have come to see where the creator of the Bocarina® and Bocarina® Pro, Mr Chris Schuermans, comes from with his design, as he has informed me about a greater efficiency when having the trapezoid outlet. Apparently, a reversed outlet results in something called the “venturi effect”, which stands for back pressure whilst blowing the instrument. In my opinion this could only contribute to a type of sound I am after, as I am not really interested in the cleanest of sounds. I feel a flute should sound like most ethnic flutes do, having loads of character.
Also, I would prefer a somewhat flexible, bendable labium, preferably even the complete inserted fipple comprising the air duct cover and the labium. This, together with a possibly slightly thinner reed at the base, would improve the possibilities of embouchure. Larger side flaps might enhance these possibilities even further.
The first feature that stands out from the flute would have to be the labium lip, shaped as the contour of the upper lip to a mouth. I love the idea of having a narrower as well as a broader opening simultaneously, and I do not think this has ever been done before. I love the idea of it, just as I love the idea of having two types of totally different plastics combined interacting. This nose flute appears to be all about making two different approaches work together. To me, that is the true genius of this design. However, as the proof is in the pudding, the question remains: does the labium work? To me, the moustache shape of the labium does not make much difference if any at all, sadly.
As Chris Schuermans explained to me in his very kind email, he had designed the wavy edge in such a way as to allow the air to part over the edge most efficiently. This is very similar to modern, especially supersonic airplane wings. It is also very similar to the wavy fan blades design of modern jet engines, which are specifially designed to reduce turbulence and noise. I am really impressed by Chris Schuermans's scientific approach in aiming for the most efficient or cleanest result in nose flute sound and design. However, my goal in playing the nose flute is to play it with the most credible sound and effects.
4 - The Playability
It took me just a little finding out and a bit of adjustment to find the sweet spot of the instrument's sound. It has a sweet, slightly reedy and ringing tone when played correctly. It does not go very loud, it does not have a great range in the bass. It is quite easy to hit the note, but only in a fixed position. For novices, entertainment, children, fun etcetera that would be perfectly alright. It is great fun to so easily be able to play any tune you like. In that respect it plays better than the Schwan. It certainly is way more pleasant.
The Bocarina® Pro has a direct approach and attack with instant result. However, it lets me down in wanting to do something additional with the tone, the application of dynamics and all. Its medium range also does not help, as it does not cover over three octaves I wish to perform melodies in. I need at least a bass range, which it lacks. The Schwan has over halve an octave to it there. Its soprano is either very loud and thin or very windy. It also lacks control in that department and it is quite easy to lose the tone.
The fact that the Bocarina® Pro performs whisper tones so easily and well, if not too well, indicates that this instrument is basically a well-worked out nose flute, particularly showing a fabulous labium lip.
I must say the Bocarina® Pro does not work well (enough) for me. I have to keep the flute firmly in one position as I play, otherwise I will lose the tone. It is essential to me to be able to throw the flute around whilst playing in order to change the embouchure. Otherwise, if I cannot change the tone and apply effects, I see no need in playing the instrument. It could be much better in that department. To my taste, for my way of playing and what I want to accomplish with it, the Bocarina® Pro is far from perfect. I would treat this nose flute by playing it quietly in a mid range with clear, reedy tones, though.
I would like to see the instrument have an elongated body below the labium, in order to be able to attach a pick up microphone. I could see the pick up microphone even attached to the inside of the elongated mouth shield. I would also like to see the bottom part of the instrument run through in one line, and fuse together with the upper part. This would result in a rounded convex air duct cover, lending the instrument a pebble look, a monolitic shape. It would look and feel far more substantial and even more of a musical instrument.
5 - The Upper Lip Rest
I love the fact that Chris Schuermans incorporated the upper lip rest in his Bocarina® Pro design. Some people may disapprove of it, find it unnecessary or even obsolete. I have always loved the lip rest as it is a feature on the Schwan, the one type of nose flute I learnt to play with. It assisted me to know where I was in relation to the labium lip. It also allowed me to use my teeth whilst playing and consequently change my cavity without losing position. That way I could put more expression into my play.
I agree with Antoine Carolus that the lip rest on the Bocarina® Pro is too small. It is too small to really do the trick. In fact, the lip rest meets my front teeth half way as I put my face to the instrument. Either the lip rest should be positioned 5–10 millimetres lower, or the top half of the Bocarina® and with it the air inlet should be raised about 5-10 millimetres. Additionally, I feel that by raising the air inlet by a centimetre,the overall look of the Bocarina Pro would be a little less awkward and just a little bit more balanced. To me, stylistically this lip rest is the perfect internediate shape, as a compromise between the striking lip rest of the Schwan and the liprestless Bocarina®.
In that respect I wonder if the v-shaped air inlet should be rounded. Firstly, that would require higher positioning of the nose and with it the upper lip and upper row of teeth. Secondly, the air flow originates from the nostrils and therefore a v-shape does not contribute to the air inlet. I wonder what a larger instrument would do. Could there be various sizes as in the clothing industry?
6 - Overall
|Look||90%||Interesting and appealing, slightly awkward proportions|
|Feel||100%||Highly tactile, ideally suited for small hands|
|Novelty||100%||Great for kids and novices, fabulous introduction|
|Used materials||98%||A slightly more flexible inner shell for 100%|
|Craftmanship||100%||Properly made, superb blend of styles and materials|
|Innovation||100%||Great job, and this is only the second proper generation|
|Clarity of tone||92%||When hitting the sweet spot|
|Entry level||80%||Pretty easy to play tunes on, good response|
|Playability||65%||I cannot perform on it the way I want it|
|Total||825/900 so far|
Overall, the Bocarina® Pro is a wonderful new design and a fabulous addition to the nose flute family. The Bocarina® Pro might very well take off and create a real resurgence of interest in the instrument. I hope that by reviewing it the design will be taken even further. Technically, it is still far away from being the perfect instrument that would allow me to perform freely on it.
My aim is to have the perfect nose flute, of which there could be more than one. I realise that one person alone simply cannot do it, as any succesful product always requires multiple chains interacting. Hereby I would like to call out to anyone reading this to try and contribute to the best possible nose flute production, the best possible nose flute play and the best possible nose flute promotion. I am positive the nose flute has a grand future when treated well.
>>> To the Incomparable Nosy Diva's review
Related links :
- The Bocarina® Pro - Part I : A new star is born !
- The Bocarina® Pro - Part IIa : Reviews
- The Bocarina® Pro - Part IIb : Reviews
- The Bocarina® Pro - Part III : Prototypes
- The Bocarina® Pro - Part IV : Interview
- The Bocarina® Pro - Part V : Ceramics