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 18, 2012

Nose flute and bamboo drum!

A sweet and nice video from Japan, on Motzi Youtube channel, in which a young boy plays hanabue while tapping a home made bamboo drum.

Aug 17, 2012

Alan Scott and the Bushwhackers

Alan Scott (1930–1995) was born in Caboolture, Queensland, and soon became interested in Scottish and American, then Australian folk songs. Scott was an accomplished musician, playing the concertina, tin whistle, recorder and mouth organ and was a fine singer. But he also used to play the nose flute.

« In 1954, Scott travelled to Sydney where he met the eminent Australian folklore collector John Meredith and other members of the bush music revival of the 1950s. During the same year he joined Australia's first bush band the Bushwhackers. »
(National Libray of Australia, A. Scott Biography)

Initially named The Heathcote Bushwhackers, the band was formed in Sydney in early 1952. The Bushwhackers were used to perform with traditional bush instruments. In 1955 The Bushwhackers recorded The Drover's Dream with Peter Hamilton on the newly established Wattle label, ultimately selling 20,000 records after the first pressing of 200. The Bushwhackers disbanded in 1957.

Indeed, although the sound is terrible and the nose flute is almost inaudible, it really features in the record. You can "detect" it the clearliest from 0:33, 1:11 and from 1:48 :

Bob Bolton, photographer, editorial and graphics officer, Vice-President and Editor at the Bush Music Club of Sydney, wrote in a Harry kay interview:

« The band was then booked all over Sydney. They were going for quite a while then Alan Scott came down to Sydney and he joined them. He was playing the snoz-whiz' - the nose whistle ».

And elsewhere, in a forum:

« Dare I mention it ... I just acquired, for restoration and occasional playing a real old-fashioned, tin-plated nose flute! My interest had been rekindled by coming across an early photograph of the first "Bush Band" ... that started our Australian "Folk Revival" in the Early 1950s ... The Bushwhackers Band (the 1954 - 1957 Sydney original, not the unrelated 1970s to present Melbourne one). At last i had located a picture of Alan Scott - who later played tin whistle and English concertina - playing, in performance, "the Tin handkerchief" ... the nose flute!

One of the early Australian folk revival players, the late Alan Scott of the original (1953/57) Bushwhackers Band, went on to play tin whistle and (English) concertina but started out on the Nose Flute (!) ... well-known to schoolchildren of the day as The Steel Handkerchief.

I had one of the tin-plated steel ones (also called "Magic Flute" ...?) when I was a kid ... about 45 years ago, if you disregard the chattering masses!

Funny aussie nicknames, aren't they? Snoz-whiz, Tin or Steel Handkerchief...

Anyway, I managed to find the picture evoked by Bob Bolton. Here it is, beautiful shot, with Alan Scott blowing in his Magic Flute :

We propose Alan Scott for Nose Flute Hall of Fame membership!

Aug 15, 2012

Apps for iPhone

Needless to say it, there is NO nose flute application for the iPhone. I mean "no musical instrument application which pitch is driven by buccal cavity". But last weeks, 2 apps were issued with some interest for us.

The Ocarina 2

The Ocarina 2 is an e-ocarina, playable like a real ocarina, by fingering 4 e-holes, and blowing in the phone microphone. The sound is poorly settable (reverb, scale...), but you can either play along with a song or play "freely". But the interesting feature is that you can set the microphone sensivity, and thus, at max level, the Ocarina is fairly playable by blowing it with your nose.

Sound :

The sound is poorly settable, very "soft minded" and the playing is very slow.
You can have an idea of the possibilities with those 2 videos :
- here : normally played
- there : played as a nose flute

Ocarina 2 is Free.
Link to the Ocarina 2 page


The Nosemonica

What's funny in this app, is that it is design from scratch to be played with the nose. It also shows great graphics. Unfortunately, you do not need to blow to play the Nosemonica, but just to slide your nose on the touch sensitive screen.

Sound :

The sound is not settable at all, but is like an correct harmonica. No choice of a scale neither (you cannot play the Blues!:/).

Here is the sound you get :

Nosemonica costs $0.99
Link to the Nosemonica page


Would it be possible to create an app using nose air in the microphone (as does the Ocarina 2) and use the camera to detect the size of the open mouth to change the pitch ?

Aug 14, 2012

Bocarina as survival tool...

Well, it's certainly not the canonical use of a Bocarina, but it seems that FloydBlue had some success using his nosehorn as a shoehorn.

Aug 13, 2012

Jones' Paramount Charleston Four - Humanophone

In May 1925, the Jones' Paramount Charleston Four recorded 2 titles : Homeward Bound Blues (Paramount 12279A)and Old Steady Roll(Paramount 12279B). The musicians are Harvey Jones, Ernest Tapley (banjo/mandolin), James Turner(banjo madolin) and Eddie Vincent (trombone).

In those recordings, Harvey Jones was supposed to play the nose flute (as stated on several websites). Indeed, Jones was a noseflutist. I looked for these pieces of history for months, until I found the trace of an Ebay auction for the 78rpm, got in touch with the buyer, who gently accepted to send me mp3. Great and beautiful early jazz music, but huge disappontment : no nose flute, but a kazoo !

Homeward Bound Blues :

Old Steady Roll :

However, Harvey Jones (01/27/1902, Versailles, Ky - 1960s, Chicago)) was an entertainer and a noseflutist. In The Jug Bands of Louisville, by Fred Cox, John Randolph and John Harris and compiled by Laurie Wright in his out of stock magazine Storyville, one could read :

« An early member of Earl McDonald's Louisville Jug Band was Harvey Jones. Although Jones had been a drummer in his earlier career, the Jug Band needed pure novelty and Jones danced, sang and played novelty instruments. After the Jug Band played in Chicago in 1920 (therefore, long before they had recorded) Jones set up his own novelty group and played Kelly's Stables, Sherman House, theaters and mainly white clubs. Harvey reported that the Jones So-Different Four recorded TIGER RAG and HOMEWARD BOUND for Paramount. Obviously this is the item issued as Jones Paramount Charleston Four and the title for TIGER RAG was changed to OLD STEADY ROLL. The personnel for the date was: Harvey Jones - leader, Humanophone (a nose-whistle looking like a football nose-guard in which air blown through the nose is recirculated against the vocal chords and is given resonance and timbre in in the mouth), and Jazz Sax, a kazoo in the form of a sax. Ernest Tapley - banjo; James Turner - banjo; Sol Turner (not related) - guitar. »

This is very bizarre : the nose flute is mentioned (but not audible) and the Eddie Vincent's trombone is missing, although very recognizable in the records. Were they 2 versions of those tunes ???

Regarding the nose flute, the article mentions a « Humanophone ». In the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors Journal, Vol. 19-20, the glossary states :

HUMANOPHONE - This and kazoo used by Harvey Jones on a Paramount record in 1925. he same record also had others playing trombone, banjo and mandolin.

And back in Storyville :

« The Humanophone was purchased at Lyons & Healy music store at Wabash and Jackson, Chicago, soon after Jones arrived in 1920, and when he was looking for novelty instruments. Jones knows of no one else who ever captured the technique of the Humanophone. »

This testimony states that the Humanophone existed already in 1920.

And elsewhere in Storyville :

« Under the leadership of Harvey Jones, they organized a novelty band without a jug blower, using the name Jones' So Diffrent Four. Harvey had probably heard Whistler blowing the nose-whistle in Louisville, because he purchased one (trade name: Humanophone) at the Lyons & Healy music store, mastered it, and began featuring it with his So Diffrent Four. »

So, Harvey Jones would have bought a Humanophone after having heard Buford Threlkeld!, eminent honorary degree member of the Nose Flute Hall of Fame !

We propose Harvey Jones for Nose Flute Hall of Fame membership!

Aug 12, 2012

A correct wooden flute

I bought this "vietnamese type" nose flute at Copperman (£6-). It is a very standard African blackwood nose whistle. But contrarywise to the ones findable on Ebay, it is rather well finished, and thus, is comfortable and play rather nicely.

the problem with those flute are the nose hole position (not very ergonomical) and their lack of of speed. However, I tried a rather quick piece as sound sample, and the flute is ... better than me :) :