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 29, 2012

NF.Org Holidays - Part V : Baglamas and Nose Flute

As a conclusion for this tour of the holidays, I also recorded a "World premiere" performance : a baglamas/nose flute tune. The baglamas is a greek stringed instrument. It's a kinf of "half bouzouki" (the neck is half long and the tuning at the octave), but with a much smaller body.
Mine was built by the master luthier Ioannis Alexandris, in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2002.


  1. Interesting combination: I really like the metallic sound of the string instrument. Somehow the nose flute works really well with 'ethnic' music, as it is an ethnic instrument, I guess...:0

  2. I agree with you (but the baglamas is not "really ethnic" since it's an urban instrument inventent at the beginning of the 20th century : the bouzouki was associated with haschish consumption, and when it became forbidden in Greece, they invented this "micro-bouzouki" to hide it in their jacket sleeves!

    It just "borrows" the name of a turkish much bigger instrument, the Bağlama, which is an "ethnic" instrument.

  3. Thank you for this additional info! I was actually referring to the nose flute: since the nose flute is an 'ethnic' instrument, it makes sense that it goes well with 'ethnic' instruments and 'ethnic' music in general.

    I feel an important reason why the nose flute is not taken very seriously mostly, is that it wasn't 'designed' to produce fixed intonation in the first place! 'We' always try and play 'a tune' on the nose flute, as we would try on a harmonica, a piano or a guitar, whilst music 'closer' to nature and/or natural sounds are much more suited to be played on the nose flute.

    A problem with 'popular tunes', including classical music, is that the melodies are somewhat over-familiar and the instruments used have a certain recognisable sound. The nose flute doesn't fit into this spectrum. Moreover, when it is 'badly played', as in lacking any sound, not ‘making the lines’ breath-wise and not being on the notes in the very first place, it simply cannot work.

    The simplest of Western children's songs are actually the hardest to perform on the nose flute. So, why does everybody start with things like that? Probably because this is the type of music that one starts with learning to play an instrument, tuned to a 'Western' scale.

    Since the nose flute is an 'ethnic' instrument, why not start with 'ethnic' music? Better still: since the nose flute is a 'free-form' instrument, why not perform 'free-form' music on it? Why not try and take advantage of the ‘free intonation’ that makes the nose flute stand out from many other instruments?

    The nose flute happens to be one of the very hardest instruments to master. To play it in such a way that it sounds decent enough takes serious attention in several areas. The choice of repertoire is one that is critically important, and that's where I feel players should consider 'different' melodies.

  4. Hello Maikel!

    Thank you for your gret input!

    I'm wondering why you call the nose flute an ethnic instrument... Are you talking of the traditional one or "ours".
    Because "ours" is not traditional and thus not ethnic... it's urban and is 120 years old. Almost the same for the baglamas (with the difference that the baglamas doesn't come ex nihilo, but as a baby of the bouzouki family).

    If you talk of the Guarani nose flute, yes it's "ethnic" but it's not an instrument, remember! it's a tool! The Guarani didn't invent the nose flute as a music instrument, but as a bird call, which is very different in the usage,in the meaning, etc.

    So, ti me, the nose flute ("our" model type) is absolutely not an ethnic instrument! It's a modern and urban one!

    regarding the non-fixed intonation, there are many instruments which are the same : the violin, the Ud, the trombone etc. But those where invented and designed to get rid easily of this difficulty : the Ud, for instance, is built according to the hand and the fingers dimensions, so the "right" note is findable without too much effort.

    Indeed, the musical saw, the slide whistle, etc., weren't looked seriously at. Yes, it's because of there "approximative" intonation that produce often a "funny" sound, and thus, are not really usable in a classical orchestra.

    But there is another point that affects the nose flute, and it has been pointed by our friend Felice Pantone : the nose itself! People consider it as a funny and disgusting organ. The clowns have a red nose, people ar mocked at because of their short, long, fat, ... nose. Asian people hide their nose when they laugh, and consider it as a "visible representation" of the sex. Yes, the nose is an "holey" organ that delivers nasty substances, dejections. "don't put you finger in your nose! don't touch your nose!" And it's rather bizarre that ancient cultures (probably more intelligent than ours) have considered only the "blowing" (as a divine inspiration) and not the disgusting aspect of the nose.

    So, the "disgusting" nose plus the difficulty to master a fine intonation, plus the pig-snout look when you wear it, make the nose flute a disregarded instrument.


    On a "marketing" side, I would suggest to play well-knowned tunes and songs rather than "ethnic music"... If you want the nose flute to be known, it's better to play things that people already know. So they can feel the difference. Else, you would lock the nose flute in the "bizarre ethnic section" instrument, that you listen once and forget quickly.

  5. I find it very hard to believe that 'our' nose flute was 'invented' 120 years ago. I know that the instrument was patented in 1892, yet that doesn't prove anything to me. The original nose flute, which we call 'ours', is too intricate AND basic an instrument AND a tool to have been invented in the industrialising USA of the late 19th century.

    In the same year that 'our' nose flute was patented, the game of basketball was 'invented' by a North American PE-teacher and physician. It was modelled on and inspired by 'the Mesoamerican ballgame', that for centuries had been played in the ballcourts of the Pre-Columbian cities, newly rediscovered at that time. This rediscovery triggered and influenced all sorts of movements, as it caused a real sense of awe.

    This was at a time when many old games were 'transformed' into regulated, 'modern' games. They were all based on traditional games, which had been around in some form or another for centuries. Also in the same era, the 'Modern Olympics' were revived.

    The late 19th century saw a huge interest in 'etnic' fashion, art, just name it. Anything 'ethnic' was a hype at the time. I strongly believe that the patented 'modern' nose flute was modelled directly on the South American 'Guarani' nose flute. If anything, the Guarani people have no need for or knowledge whatsoever of patenting 'their' instrument, for which reason they can't 'claim' it, although for sure they 'own' it! Therefore, I call 'our' nose flute an 'ethnic' instrument.

    The word 'instrument' is a funny one, as it not only means a 'tool', but also 'an object to produce music with'. The Guarani nose flute truly represents an instrument in both senses of the word! Therefore, I indeed consider 'our' nose flute as an ethnic 'instrument'.

    It may originally have been used as a bird call only, but we all know what sounds and melodies birds are capable of! I call that music anyway. In much the same way, 'modern music' or 'improvised music' may not be regarded as music at all by many, yet they are listed and acknowledged as such!

    As regards to the play list, I would only suggest songs that sound good on this instrument, and then to learn to perform them really well. What is the use of playing a lousy version of a song that was covered a million times already?

    I don't really favour any music 'style', for there is 'soul' to be found in all good music. There is also 'blues' to be found in all music 'styles'. I love to hear 'heavy metal' in certain renaissance music. I love to hear 'dissonants' in certain 'officially classic' music. I love to hear 'ethnic' and 'classical' elements in certain 'pop' music. I love to hear 'rap' in Paul Simon's songwriting, etc.

    Anything can be played on the nose flute (even circular breathing thanks to some recent innovations!), but what is played needs to be performed really, really well. The instrument simply is that hard to master, to the extent that one may wonder if it is worth it at all! That is one thing. Another is the design of the instrument: I feel it could be made more special still, larger for a start, for instance as if it were a 'sheng', a Chinese mouth organ.

    Lastly, what we consider to be or look 'gross', may be entirely different in another place. For example, the Jew's harp is an instrument that is revered in large parts of the world. People in the 'West' tend to find it disgusting to actually hold most of the instrument within the mouth. I absolutely agree (at least we do agree on one thing!:-)) on "ancient cultures, probably more intelligent than ours".

    'Our' nose flute is as sophisticated as it is simple, an exponent of great, ancient culture. No way it was 'invented' in the USA!!!!!;-)


  6. Maikel, I have info that you don't have and which soon will be published here. What I can say now is that the inventor of the urban nose flute had *probably if not undoubtedly* NO info about the existence of the Guarani nose flute. He invented it EX NIHILO, thanks to his former knowledge. Sorry not to unveil my "scoop" now... In any case, its invention was not from an ethnic origin. And the Guarani nose flutes had NO filiation link with our metal nose flutes. (they apparently just spread in Brazil for Carnivals, and in Vietnam in the 1990 for commercial purpose (with NO link with vietnamese traditional nose flutes, according to Ethnomusicologist Randy Raine Reusch)

  7. >>>> No way it was 'invented' in the USA!!!!!;-)

    Hardly... you'll see :)

  8. It is very very hard for me to be believe your statement, but I absolutely trust you on your research! So, surprise me! Looking forward to that post!


  9. You know, waiting for the post, you can take a look at the Nasalette... it has nothing common with a guarani flute...

  10. Very interesting comments.

    It seems to me that you are both right.

    I can see the Guarani nose flute as an ethnic musical instrument, even if used to call birds, I agree that is making music too.

    I can imagine people dancing to the sound of birds from a nose whistle, as I recall native or folk music imitating animal sounds.

    I can also imagine the invention of the nose flute as a musical instrument in the modern world, with or without previous knowledge or exposure to the guarani bird call.

    The funny look can be a problem for serious performers, or an advantage when you want to look funny. But I believe a good player can be appreciated for his talent and look fine. Just see the Japanese master playing a funny face hanabue while wearing a baseball cap, I think he looks great.

    As to what kind of music to play, I say whatever you like, the more variety the better. If you can incorporate sounds that take advantage of the nose flute capabilities, by all means do it.

    A violin can be played with a bow in precise notes, but you can also slide along a string or put the bow aside and play pizzicato, the point is to use all of the instruments possibilities.

    So take your nose flute and play Classical or Rock and Roll, imitate birds, wobble it around, trill with a finger over a hole. Have fun and keep on nosefluting.


    P.S. Baglamas is great too

  11. You are the wise man here, Luis!

    All the best


  12. Good to hear different opinions! My aim is to really find out the 'truth' about the nose flute, as I have been wondering about that for many many years...!

    I really hope to find the answer to these questions as well: why was the 'modern, urban nose flute' invented or designed by Carter in the first place? More so, why would somebody come up with the concept of blowing through the nose and mouth at the same time?

    To me, that concept represents such a vastly different and truly authentic approach, that it cannot be anything but 'ancient'. I sure would like to think that 'our nose flute' has a bit of history to it... Any idea how old the Guarani nose flute actually is?

    My point is: music is just music and it's all just sound. Anything can be played on the nose flute, but try and make it work!

  13. Carter already had knowledge in whistles... Why did he invented the nose whistle, what is the exact reason, I have no clue of it. Maybe because he also played another instrument (guitar, fiddle... or so).

    Regarding the Guarani bird call : it dates from before european discovering America, according to Randy Raine Reusch.

    But I insist : did the guy who first made a round stone invent the wheel? No. The guy who invented the wheel invented the purpose of the wheel, not the round shape.
    So the Guaranis invented at best a "nose whistle" (sounds), but not a "nose flute" (music).
    Anyway, you'll see later than it most unlikely that Carter knew that bird call.

  14. I just found a reference to the Guarani people using the nose flute for music:

    Fairy Tales from the Grilling Fields
    Interview by Anla Courtis and Roberto Conlazo"


    "The Guaranies have a very special music that can be located in the field of ritual music; in fact, the relationship between the sacred, magic and music has been historically present at all times and in all civilizations. The Guaranies mainly use a nose flute, and they sing in groups gathered around the fire"



  15. Oh oh! Thank you very much Luis, I should forward that to some ethnomusicologists! very interesting, thanks!