History of My Wooden Fifes


Bb fife with the Low D-Fife

  A 40,000 year old design, original Neolithic flutes were made of bone. The hole spacing was similar to today's, but equidistant. The major third was a minor third, probably because life in caves was in a minor key.

Crane Flute, Wuyang City, China

  Once I was playing a recorder at a picnic table and opened my eyes to see a rat looking up at me. That was just too cool. In 1985 I started making one piece pine fifes in D for session playing. I called the 6 hole transverse flute a fife, even though not in Bb. I wanted to keep it so simple a cave man could play it -- and in the course of tuning and testing fifes, I learned how. I already played guitar and violin, but in some things fife worked best.

  Next I made a C fife, for playing with piano. Then I made an E fife for guitar. With refinements in drilling, I went for the Bb, good also for the key of F. That was about as long and short as the 1/2 inch bore would go. Renaissance flutes were longer and thinner, but low notes sounded weak. Fifes above E would be too cramped to finger, and require more cross-fingerings.

  I went on to use different hardwoods for fifes, with favorable variations in sound and playing. There were some strikingly colorful fifes as well, but perhaps too much variety. I had not sorted out all the subtle qualities enough to advise people. Two major standout winners were black walnut and sissoo. Presently, in 2009, I have many hardwood fifes about to be completed. They will be posted on this site.

  Entranced by the Low D whistle in Irish music, I designed a large one-inch bore Low D Fife. I made it short as possible for fingers to reach note holes, using 1st, 2nd, and 4th fingers. The transverse design and diagonal sound holes made my Low D Fife much easier to hold and play than a low D whistle. It sounded just as oustanding as I thought. Still, that long finger reach scared off alot of players.


New Shores: Low G and A Fifes

  In 2006 I began toolup for Low G and A intermediate fifes with .70 inch bore. These would sound lower than the half-inch bore fifes, and more robust. After 3 months of toolup and over 3 years interrupted by other projects, I now have the prototype fife which makes the rich and strong tone I sought in a low G fife. I can finally bore flute blanks without cluttering the floor with kindling wood. So the G Fife will soon join those currently offered.