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.

Sep 22, 2017

Students (try to) reinvent the Nose Flute

Each year, I begin the design courses I give in an engineer school by asking the students to "invent the nose flute", without pronouncing its name. They come from many countries (this year: Brazil, Argentina, Algeria, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Germany and a few from France) but they don't know nose flutes.

I expose how a whiste blows, explain that we could get a variable tonality if we'd replace the chamber by one that could inflate or deflate. I suggest the mouth to play this role, and thus, the nose breath to blow instead of the mouth. I ask them to invent an object that could whistle this way, and to point some attention on ergonomics.

Most of the students are not confortable with hand drawing, and the results are sometimes funny, or difficult to understand. However, some propositions are interesting because they help to understand ... nose flute shape history!
As virgin in matter of nose flute, they know neither the vintage nor the modern shapes. But some of their drawings look very similar to shapes *we* know well!

Many of them feel the need of preventing air leaks and choose either nostril plugs (like the Kunimaru) or a nose hood (like the Nasalette). Some – sometimes the same – design an insert for the mouth (like the Nasalette and the Couchois' whistle). Also, some students feel the need of a handsfree instrument, and generally resort to a band that joins the ears, exactly as William Carter did with the Nasalette.

It's also interesting that most of the students drew a nose flute looking like a torture – or at least medical – device, and seem not to imagine it could be a funny musical instrument that give pleasure to to player and (sometimes) to the audience.

Some nose flute that wouldn't work...

Some nose flute that would possibly work with minor changes...

My prefered one, which doesn't look like a medical device. It looks very alike a plastic Humanatone, to which a heel handle would have been added:

Next week, I'll show them several nose flutes, and play a bit, to prove it can be a elegant, simple, funny and powerful instrument.


[EDIT] : After having read this post, Mr. Ken Tanaka (see this post) quickly made a paper nose flute according to the model drawn by one of our students (the last picture). Here is the pieces he assembled, and the short video:


  1. Good job by Mr. Tanaka. I think this style could be made cheaply in good quality.

    I really like the idea of good inexpensive nose flutes as educational toys for kids. To buy by the dozen and give away.


    1. Dear Don Luis, yes, Mr. Tanaka is skillful! And I agree with you about cheap nose flutes.

      My best wishes to you, your relatives, and people of Mexico city

  2. I was well impressed by that last student's design! They obviously intended it to be held at the bottom, by that long handle, as shown in their drawing. It is a really interesting and nicely-shaped design! I can imagine it being made in metal, or else in strong, rigid plastic! Perhaps Chris Schuermans could look into it as a possible alternative design to develop? Well done, Mr. Tanaka, too, for making a trial model so swiftly!

    1. I'm impressed too, particularly knowing it's a very difficult exercise. Besides the regular "re-designs" of historic shapes or features (that they don't know), each year one of them invents a new gizmo... Great!