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.

Oct 6, 2012

François Rabaud: a 1973 french patent

Filed March 27, 1973 at 3:41 PM (!), and registered by the french National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI) on 14th of October 1974, the patent FR2224062 claims priority on a « Instrument de musique à vent à résonateur variable », id est, a wind musical instrument with a variable resonator. The inventor is Mr. François Rabaud, french resident, and for sure, the instrument is a nose flute.

Whilst the shape of this nose flute is rather new, although showing obvious references to the first metal pioneers, it doesn't propose real innovation on the nose flute side. It is globally composed of 2 parts: a cubic air chamber and a large mouth shield.

The real novelty of Rabaud's flute lays in the fact that the instrument, despite a shape that clearly evoke early metal nose flutes, is primarily and in order of priority conceived for plastics.

Id est : « Regarding the materials used, they can be whatsoever: plastics notably. »

The two-parts air chamber, with its front lid, has been clearly thought and designed for the production by moulding :

Finally, Rabaud is the first (as far as I know) to think of an external air feeding [edit : since, I found a text which proves that the experiment was already made in 1916, with a bellows], and even and integrated amplifier:

Id est: « One will particularly notice that the air insufflation by the nose can be replaced by an artificial insufflation produced by pumps for instance, manually or electrically activated, the air flow being regulated according to the kind of playing that is wished. Likewise, the instrument can be provided with any system of mechanical or electronical amplification ».

So, François Rabaud with his nose flute mixing old features and modern concerns, with no real innovation, certainly is not elligible for a nomination to the Nose Flute Hall of Fame. However the instrument, or more exactly the patent itself, deserves our interest, in the fact it reflects the articulation between vintage and modern nose fluting.

One last word: Mr Rabaud is/was probably a nose flute player himself, as it can be deduced by his remark:

Id est: « Experience shows that the instrument new implementation principle allows altogether: staccato, trills, rollings as far as glissando, numerous effects being accessible thanks to the simple and instinctive playing required, that none of current instruments allow. »


  1. How wonderful to see all those original patents!
    Is Mr Rabaud still alive? I would be very interested in reading an interview with him! In my opinion, bringing forward the idea of an external air supply in 1973, making it possible to play continually, is a radically new approach to the instrument.

    The problem that I have always encountered with the instrument is that it doesn't resonate on its own and because both the mouth and the nose are occupied with blowing air into the instrument, it is therefore impossible to apply the circular breathing technique that has been used with wind instruments worldwide for thousands of years.

    Another challenge with the nose flute is the fact that it has total free pitch: the combination of zero resonance, the difficulty of constant intonation and the continuous need to breathe (which is a double effort, since it requires simultaneous breathing out through both the nose and the mouth) make the nose flute what it is: an incredibly difficult instrument to master, requiring amazing musical ability.

    Particularly the double effort of breathing is what catches out players on their precision in intonation and timing, eventually. The result generally comes down to an amateur tune, played on a sound producing gadget. I believe this is the main reason why the nose flute is not taken seriously, apart from the fact that anything related to the nose is considered either funny or repulsive.

    I always tried to compensate the intrinsic limitations of the nose flute by exercising my lung capacity, vocal cords, technique and musical imagination. I had several flutes built that would allow for a better tone quality. Also, I searched for ways of creating some sort of resonance or background to the instrument such as using delay and other guitar effects. I had always had in mind to create a continuous sound, such as electric guitar players do. Any innovation that helps in making the instrument easier to play and coming across more professional is very welcome to me! I think the external air supply does just that.

    Moreover, the idea of the integrated amplifier really stands out to me, as this is what allows a player to enhance the options in tone quality and sound effects. It would be far, far better to have the integrated amplifier than the attached pick-up microphone that I came up with. To me, the combination of the two innovative ideas would be more than enough reason to induct Mr Rabaud into the Hall of Fame, provided he is deceased...

    In comparison, why would an earlier patent, such as the 'mouldable nose rest', that equally never made it into production, be any different from this patent? I am not sure that the 'moudable nose rest' would work: I tried bending the sides of the Humanatones in order to create wind tones and other effects. That did work, but these sides are located near the labium where the sound is produced. Creating a bendable nose rest doesn't do much if anything at all to the sound, I would think. Also, the Humanatones cracked very easily and quickly, making them unplayable.

    In my book, here is one very innovative patent. I must say that I love the square air duct cover design. Being removeable, I can also imagine that during play, various air duct covers with different set-ups could be interchanged, creating even more options!
    That to me makes Mr Rrabaud eligible for the Nose Flute Hall of Fame.

  2. Hello maikel!

    Well, I made some researches, and the people with this name apprently didn't fit with the François Rabaud evoked here. Anyway, the patent is 39 years old, and if Mr. Rabaud was .. let's say 50, there are many chances he is not of this world nowadays. I even don't know where he lives/lived so I don't know who I might contact.

    Regarding Mr. rabaud nomination to the NFHoF, I am not particularly opposed. Let's just wait for other opinions.. Luis? Nosy Diva?

    On that topic (I thought I didn't answer), but I think your proposal of 3 series : Producers/Performers/Promoters is a very good answer to the question. So, let's adopt it! Indeed, everybody can match one of those categories, according that the composers will go in the Promoters series.

  3. Hm...
    I also think that the idea of using external air support as well as thinking of amplification is - for the 70s - something quite revolutionary and almost prophetic, anticipating developments that could not be forecast easily at that time. It looks like he was coming from the musical praxis.
    Another question I ask myself is: did those nose flute inventors know the nose flutes that were on the market at that time at all? Because if they did not their achievement is even greater, n'est-ce pas?
    For the hall of fame - it is hard to decide. It is a pity we do not have more information. Maybe he also was a player. If so he could apply as producer, performer and promoter :0)!
    (I also like the suggested categories)
    So I would say yes, no?

  4. Dear Nosy thing,

    Your question is *very* interesting. I believe that, wirthout the help of Internet, the info was very difficult to find. Particularly in France, where it *still* is not possible to find/buy a nose flute (well... let's say TWO online shops). So, either the inventors traveled and met noseflute elsewhere, either they found a new inspiration. I guess they met noseflutes abroad and tried to reconstruct/improve them.

    Regarding your last comment : Rabaud was certainly a player (obvious when you read the patent), but for the NFHoF, "performer" means "having produced records", and "promoter" having publicised the nose flute.

  5. I think it is an interesting design but not innovative.

    If I was to choose a design for making in plastic I would choose some other one. At the time of this patent there were already nose flutes available in plastic.

    The ideas of external air supply and amplification are interesting, but to my way of thinking, too vague to be considered innovative. To say: "you can use something like a pump", or: "any system of amplification" does not seem good enough to me.

    So my opinion is to currently not nominate to the Hall of Fame. If more information comes up, like if he was also a player. Then maybe reconsider it.


  6. I agree with your comment about "too vague to be considered innovative".

    Let's wait and see.

  7. To me the idea is all important: without the idea there can be no actual product or progress. Anybody can use somebody else's idea and simply copy somebody else concept or product, but only creating a new concept paves the way for new developments. To illustrate just how vital the idea is, here are some one-liners I like:

    “A quack is a man with a new idea, until it catches on.” - by Mark Twain

    “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” - by Henry Ford

    “An idea is salvation by imagination.” - by Frank Lloyd Wright

    In my opinion both stated ideas, of the constant air supply and the integrated amplifier are way ahead of its time, and the combination of both ideas make it really revolutionary to me. That makes Francois Rabaud a true pioneer to me, absolutely eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

  8. Sorry I disagree.

    Richard Feynman once wrote about his days during the war when he worked at Los Alamos:

    "There are so many ideas about nuclear energy that are so perfectly obvious, that I'd be here all day telling you stuff."

    "LIKE WHAT?"

    "Nothin' to it!" I say. "Example: nuclear reactor . . . under water. . water goes in . . . steam goes out the other side . . . Pshshshsht - it's a submarine. Or: nuclear reactor . . . air comes rushing in the front. . . heated up by nuclear reaction . . . out the back it goes . . . Boom! Through the air-it's an airplane. Or: nuclear reactor . . you have hydrogen go through the thing . . . Zoom! - it's a rocket. Or: nuclear reactor . . . only instead of using ordinary uranium, you use enriched uranium with beryllium oxide at high temperat ure to make it more efficient . . . It's an electrical power plant. There's a million ideas!" I said, as I went out the door.

    Years later he found out his name was on a patent for nuclear-powered, rocket-propelled airplanes.

    Somebody wrote him in because he had the idea.

    But no he did not invent that, he just thought about something that was, as he said, "perfectly obvious".

    I believe the same goes for external air supply and amplification for nose flutes.

    It seems to me that it is not such an original idea, at least not for 1973. If you just think about it but do not carry on with developing, making a prototype, testing and working out any deficiencies. It is too vague and not really innovative.

    We have seen in this blog both the air supply and the amplification, and they are not Mr.Rabaud's inventions.

    We need to hear the CEO's Patafix opinion.


  9. Luis, I see your point. We appear to have a different approach to this one. To me the idea is what counts, because that is what makes something unique. Anyone can finish or act out an idea, but coming up with it is what matters to me most. Within the idea lies the result already. All that needs to be done then is to act it out. The same way I would always prefer Leonardo da Vinci's sketches over his finished paintings.

    I had actually never heard of an amplified and/or continuously playable nose flute before! It is funny to me, since I thought I was the first to try and do these things (back in 1998): amplifying, using effects such as loops, delays and other effects, in order to be able to play on end.

    I guess that as a player, Francois Rabaud was probably inspired by the vast number of star-guitarists emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is where I got the idea from, so I wouldn't be surprised if he got it at the time, experiencing it first hand.

  10. Well, first you are not alone, I also made experiment with microphone and pedals :) By the way, I have to make a video of my amplified Bocarina.

    I also made a series of 6 auto-blowing accessories for a Bocarina. (with balloons, with a funnel, with a air-compressor, etc.) Still videos to make (but pictures are available)

    Anyway, for sure, I don't claim for anteriority (I was only 9 when Rabaud filed his patent :)

    But I'm a bit more on the side of Luis' opinion : Rabaud gives the idea, but it is very unprecise.

    It is true that if I say "Oh, I think of a nose flute that can play 8 octaves" ... If I do not explain how it would work, I'm not an inventor. Even if I say "it would have an internal compressor to blow a pressre up to 10 bars and a micro-controler to deform real-time the labium and mouth hole, both made in a material which shape can be modified by electricity." This is not an invention. It's a dream. I would need to explain how I can do that.

    So, I would prefer to let a "stand-by" on Rabaud status. I will continue to search about him.

    CEO Patafix! has given the abstract of her meditation of that subject : "Miiiii-iih!"

    I propose we follow the CEO's opinion.

  11. The debate is great, because it clearly draws on people's passion for the subject. I believe it is wonderful to get to know what other people were and are up to through this blog!

    While I was playing the nose flute, I knew of nobody who did a similar thing. The only people I could refer to at the time were pioneering individuals who amplified and applied efffects on their guitar, harmonica, transverse flute, clarinet, saxophone or their homemade wind instrument. That was basically it.

    Through this blog that has only existed just over a year, I have come across so many other nose flute players, designs and ideas, which is simply fanatastic! I believe it was Floyd Blue and then Uke Heidi who posted their pictures of their independently created working 'auto-blowing' nose flute, just a few months ago. That was mindblowing to me, as the only way I could try and approach continuous play was by applying extended breath and digital effect.

    Already, the select number of nose flute enthusiasts on this blog are producing and sharing truly wonderful things, as each individual contributes his or her own take on things: that is what the nose flute needs! I can only imagine what great things will happen to the instrument when more and more people gather on this blog.


  12. hehehe! I just found a paper that proves that the (probably) first person using an external source for blowing a nose flute (he used a bellows), dates of... 1916.

    So, Rabaud was not the first.

  13. I love the fact that through your thorough research and journalistic work, we are able to read very specific information about the nose flute from a century or longer ago. Only now and for the very first time this input is deduced, reconstructed and published, and I thank you for that!

    It is amazing to find out that somebody actually applied 'auto-blowing' to the nose flute as early as in 1916. I can only imagine that the instrument was pretty fashionable in the first 20 years of the 20th century, attracting the attention of quite a few pioneering inventor-enthusiasts. We should expect more marvels from this era therefore...

  14. Thank you Maikel. I was able to find just one part of this *scientific* experiment in PDF, but I found the whole (paper) book. When I receive it, I wil (fore sure) publish something about it. The purpose was really scientific, not for entertainment. But it was done in 1916: adapting a Humanatone to be blown by a bellows.

  15. It is highly interesting to see that the Humanatone was chosen to serve a scientific purpose. This again proves that the nose flute was considered a serious instrument at the time.

    I really would like to know why the nose flute was chosen to be blown continuously by using bellows and not a saxophone, for example. Also, what was the actual purpose?

  16. Hello Maikel! You'll get the answer as soon as I receive the book! :)