A question came up on the internet today that I thought was interesting.
The flutist had been hired to play Miss Saigon which required a whole host of bamboo flutes in various keys. They asked if they could transpose them to the Alto flute, or if there were any other bamboo flute sound-effect options, as there was no time to procure actual bamboo flutes in strange keys. (and I might add, learn how to play them reliably and practice all the switches. Eeek, I say, Eeek. :>)
So I created the diagram below to show silver flutists how to transform their flutes into bamboo sound effect instruments for an easy switch and easy prep.
Feel free to try it, and comment as well you enjoy this easy idea.
Also scroll down to find links to various purchasable bamboo flutes for this use, see Dave Weiss's instrument page for ethnic flute dealers who build reliable instruments, and scroll down here too, to read the very helpful post of a flutist who has previously played the show and note the bamboo flutes that are sent by the company for this production(in grey box below.)
Creating a Bamboo flute out of your silver flute
Using masking tape "mutes"
I had success in transforming my silver flute into a bamboo flute by applying a simple piece of masking tape to the embouchure hole of the flute. The original idea was a "flute mute" from Sheridon Stokes, but when placed at a predetermined angle the masking tape also produces a bamboo flute sound effect.
Short experiments at home, done with 2-3 inch pieces of masking tape, are quick to accomplish.
Just place the tape on the right side of the blow hole, slanted at various angles, unitl you find the sound you want.
You can try covering more or less of the far splitting edge if the sound becomes too muffled, and correct the angle to get the sound and pitch.
See picture below.
(click on above picture to make it larger)
When I found, by experimentation, the exact angle for good bamboo flute sound (I was matching it to a bamboo flute original soundtrack of the piece) I took a permanent fine tipped marker, and drew the placement in dotted lines on the masking tape.
I made three of these bamboo sound-effect masking-mute-tapes, and kept them stuck to a label-backing-wax-paper and kept it on my stand. They fit in the zipped side of my case cover after use.
It does take several bars of music to apply to the lip-plate, matching the drawing in ink to the underlying blow hole right edge and of course the part has to be re-written in C, but compared to buying actual bamboo flutes and learning to place the correct finger spacing would have taken 20 times longer.
The only quick-practice is learning to put on the masking tape piece during short bars rest and pushing in the headjoint as a two-step process.
It helps to use a tuner to mark the "push in" line on the headjoint tenon itself.
(marker comes off with alcohol.)
One pre-prepared extra headjoint, provided it could be sufficiently pushed in to match pitch would be another good way to do the switches easily.
Sound samples are here of this effect live when I used it:
Scroll down to SAMPLE 2 - [woodflute]
which is found half way down the page at the above link.
If I find a source for viable bamboo flutes in all keys for quick switching for shows like this, I'll add it to this blog post later.
Meanwhile, breathe easily (not wheezily). This solution really works.
Do comment. :>)
NOTE: Terrific information from a flutist who has played the Miss Saigon show and used bamboo flutes. Reprinted with author's permission. Thank you!
I just played this wonderful show in August. The company provided three Bansuri, but I purchased two of my own Dizi (one in G and one in C). I ended up using 2 Bansuri (keys of Ab and F) and my two Dizi. There is one cue that is not transposed and you have to decide which flute to play, with adjustments. Keep in mind that if you purchase, the designated key is with the left hand fingers closed, not the lowest note. So, if you want the lowest note to be D, then you'll want to order a G flute. The designated keys in the book are the lowest notes on the flutes.
You really cannot use just one bamboo flute. This would result in having to use awkward crossed fingerings and poor intonation. The range is also something to consider.
I'll be happy to email you a cue sheet if you would like. I can let you know which flutes I played for which numbers. The part was a blast to play, but required lots of endurance. There is a big switch at the end with lots of high piccolo, followed closely by the most exposed flute solo of the piece. There are a few real exposed bamboo solos; most in the first act. Act 2 just has one bamboo cue.
Yes, you could play alto flute, but you are not going to get all those cool slides in. You'll also lose out in the colors the bamboos provide. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the Bamboo flutes and was glad to have had the experience.
Please feel free to email me privately and I'll be glad to provide you with more information.
Here are suggested websites for flute purchases:
Best- Yvonne C. Hansbrough