Toucan flutes - Drones

This series comprises the double-barrelled drone, double-drone and double-key flutes, usually made of specially imported cedars inlaid with hardwood mouth and end caps, and decorated with hand-burned designs, painting or inlay, and almost always with custom totem blocks. Hardwood flutes in this series tend to be made in the lighter weight woods such as walnut, lime, spalted beech and alder, although higher keyed drones and doubles are also available in oak and maple. Other woods are available to custom order. The bores on all the flutes are totally independent of each other, and can be played singly or together. It is a main feature of all SVF drones that they play audibly and accurately all the harmonics that are generated between the drone note and the playing notes. For example a C bass drone playing the note of E will also generate the harmonic note of G, giving the listener the full chord of C major. The resonance of this coupled with the fact that the drone side of all SVF drones is softened down so it does not drown-out the melody being played, means these instruments produce the most haunting, mystical and head-turning sounds!...particularly the unique design SVF Bass drones (see below).




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Personal Eastern Red Cedar drone in G - click to enlargeAll the flutes in this series fall into one of three main categories: Performance, Healing and Personal.

Performance drones are the equivalent of Gathering flutes, in that they are relatively loud and suitable for public performance, both miked and acoustic, and for recording. They tend to be voiced with a 'bite' or 'edge' to their sound.

Healing drones are specially tuned and soft-voiced, and have appropriate healing energy crystals in the upper chamber. They are used mainly by Reiki and Sound Therapy practitioners; these instruments have their own separate Healing Flutes page accessed from the Galleries main page.

Personal drones are for normal and meditative use, but may also have healing crystals in them as requested. They are usually soft-voiced.


I have to say that I do not normally recommend drones for novice players. This is simply because a lot of learning to play is about 'brain training' to get you to be able to land your fingers on the holes with certainty, and to get your breathing control developed. Both of these basic areas are harder to master if you're starting on a drone. The fingering is not as easy, simply because the top hand has to reach over the drone side, so you are playing almost exclusively on the ends of the finger pads, and it is possible that you might get a bit of wrist ache until your muscles have strengthened up. The breath control necessary to play a drone is quite advanced, because you have to learn to be able to vary your strength of breath and how to divide it between the two holes in the double mouthpiece. Also, you have to learn how to control the pressure of your breath, so you don't end up with squeaks coming out of the drone side when you want to 'push' (make louder) the sound out of the playing side. Having said all that, I have had several novice players master drones successfully, and I will not dissuade anyone wanting to learn on one.
Drone blank showing separate bores

These flutes have independent bores and usually have tuning holes located on the underside of the barrels.
They often have grooved flue floors which gives extra scope for refining the sounds the flutes produce. For the drones, emphasis is placed on exactly matching the fundamental and octave tuning so that there is no 'beating' when both bores are played together. The flutes are also well-balanced, easy and comfortable to play.

Right: Eastern Red Cedar drone in Gm with cherry mouth endcap and single block chimneyed bird; a very popular flute, with outstanding figuring in the wood and a very rich, yet warm and soft, traditional cedar sound

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Below is a Lime wood drone in D with hole positioning offset to fit the player's hands. All drones offer a lovely 'canvas' for artwork and carved blocks, but it is by no means obligatory. Click to enlarge the image.


 

 
Sometimes, the wood is spectacular in its own right and needs no artwork... below is a spalted Ash drone in G with a simple ripple block, but the look is stunning. The spalting is caused by fungal growth through the wood when it is alive or after it has been felled (being trained originally as a microbiologist I am lucky enough to be able to spalt my own woods in a specially constructed part of one of my wood stores). The dark lines are caused by chemicals released by the fungi which both deter other invaders but more importantly act as enzymes, softening the wood and increasing the air spaces (pitting) within the wood cellulose and ignin strands.. This lightens the weight of the wood and also greatly increases its resonance. Once dry, the fungi pose no health risk, and I also treat the woods with extra natural oils to ensure safety. Click image to enlarge.

Spalted Ash Native American style drone flute in G
 

SVF bass drone in concert - click to enlarge
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SVF Bass drone in concert
 
Bass drones are probably the most haunting of all instruments. But until now there has been a problem in that all flutemakers (even those in the US) have have to deal with...namely that a bass drone needs two wide bores, which make the whole flute very wide and near impossible to get the hand across. For this reason, if you look at any other flutemakers website you will find any bass drones are V-shaped; they are essentially two single bore flutes joined at the mouthpiece, they are cumbersome, unbalanced to hold and play. Also, not having the bores lying next to each other means they do not generate all the harmonics they should. So... in response to requests from two pro players, a year of research here has come up with a new SVF design, based on organ pipe forms, which is wonderfully easy to play and balanced to hold...


Bass C drone in alder with Salmon block

The drone shown above is a Performance drone with a truly beautiful voice. The design uses a short 'stopped' pipe for the drone side. This gives the low bass note normally obtained from an open pipe twice the length and half as wide again. The secret to making this work technically is in the air flow dynamics through the flute, and the fact that the front chimneys on the block are precisely cut and shaped to allow the drone note to be tuned simply by the position of the block relative to the back of the sound hole. The flue floor is also 'nicked' to enhance the bass tones. These bass drones are very easy to hold as the end of the drone pipe rests on the bottom hand. This, combined with the offset playing holes makes the flute very easy to play as there is no reaching over the flute body. To quote the flute's owner "Thanks for a fabulous flute...it is fantastic...I look forward to putting it's music to the films I intend to make in Madeira."


The Alder bass drone shown opposite in concert - click to enlarge

Tony Morris on Bass drone in performance
 
For a really special bass drone, see the Custom Flutes page...

The drone flutes are available in keys from low B to high B. There are also
double drones, which have a normally tuned pentatonic right bore plus one playing hole on the drone bore for the complementary higher note(eg E fundamental would have an A drone hole). The extra drone hole can be placed to fit under the little finger of the upper playing hand, or under the thumb of the lower playing hand (the former usually gives the easier playing style). Double flutes comprise a long and a short bore in the same body, and are available in complementary keys (eg D and A, E amd B, F and C) as requested.

Please feel free to call or email if you would like any more details on the above flute range. And remember, this range can be customised to your own requirements.

 The Owlhouse • Milford • Surrey • UK • dc@secondvoiceflutes.co.uk

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