Heehee.. This is sort of a silly question, but I'm asking anyways.
Last May or so, on a trip to Williamsburg, Virgina with some classmates, we went through "Colonial Williamsburg" (the era of the fife and drum corps) and had a chance to purchase some of the little goodies they had there. I had about $30 to spend and not much I wanted to buy (and my mom was wayyy pushing me to get a souvenir) so my fellow flute-playing friend and I decided to buy these wooden fifes that they had for sale. $22.14 was the total, so I thought, you know what? I'm just going to get it. Might be fun.
We bought our fifes, which came in a simple box with a little instruction packet and some simple tunes to play (Yankee Doodle, Happy Birthday, etc.)
The thing is, it's a B-Flat instrument. While I've gotten relatively good with transposing, it's still a little difficult for me.
The instrument itself is very simple; it has 6 holes (3 per hand, of course) and mos tof the fingerings are the same as the flute (a few are different, but it's not that hard to figure out.)
Come the end of the year, time for our spring concert, there was a flute solo that had to be played. Kristen (my fife buddy) and I whipped out our fifes and begged our director to let us try out for the "solo" as a fife duet. We did, he loved it, we got the part.
Only issues are with tuning: the low "E" on the fife, not concert pitch, is very, very flat most of the time. There's nothing to pull out or pull in and the embouchure as to be so precise or else you won't get a sound that there's not much you can change. So we would either roll in and out a few degrees to fix it (heehe) or stuff cotton in the end (I figured that out one day.)
Long story short - It's a really fun instrument to play but it has its quirks (definitely)
I play a fife made of bamboo by an artisan who makes his living selling these instruments. The scale is kind of experimental, with a sense of ingenuity. Of course it's used in folk music, and acomplish very well its role in our cuture.
My surprise was the embouchure. It makes a tone so bright that I almost forget it's bamboo. All the holes, including the embouchure were cut by heat, probably with some kind of iron bar, put in the fire. Indeed it smells something burned, if you try to snif inside one of those holes.
There are also six holes in it.
Does your fife have a cork at the end where the embouchure hole is? That doesn't help the tuning of individual notes, but adjusting it can help get the mid-range notes in the right ballpark.
If you're having fun with the fife and doing well enough on it to play with your high school group, then you might consider a better fife. Cooperman has some nice models in the $100 or less range--these are "tunable" in that they have an adjustable cork. There are fifes that are much more expensive (Skip Healy), and, most likely, are better in tune throughout the range. It is a folk/solo instrument, rather than a concert instrument (although concert fifes are available--again, you might want to look at those, since you have a definite interest ), so it's more in tune with the ear and the repertoire it was designed for, rather than precisely in tune with the modern orchestra/band.
Thanks, guys! Judy - I didn't even know anyone made "more professional fifes" other than those ones that are one-of-a-kind / artisan made like what Zevang was referring to. Thank you very much. I'm definitely going to look into those!
Oh, and no. My fife, well, no.. I wouldn't say it has a cork on the end, at least, not in the sense that the flute does. It has a solid wood wall, but i'm sure if you took a mendal rod and poked it enough you could get it to move.. a bit, perhaps?
Re: Has anyone here played a fife before? 18:43 on Saturday, October 07, 2006
Account Closed (3248 points)
Oh, how fun! When I was younger about 9 I went to Williamsburg, Virgina on a trip with my family. I also saw the drum and fife players. I also bought a fife there, but mine was plastic. I still have it. I learned how to play that first, so when I started the flute I didn't have any problem blowing into it and making a sound. I loved that vacation. What a beautiful place!
I own an Aulos plastic fife - basically a transverse (sideways) descant recorder - and an old wooden one made by Henry Potter.
The wooden fife is reasonably nice to play but as well as being in Bb it's also at Baroque pitch (A=415Hz) so the result is that it plays somewhere around A! This and the awkward fingerings and dodgy intonation have meant I've never really used it for anything except playing for fun.
>>The wooden fife is reasonably nice to play but as well as being in Bb it's also at Baroque pitch (A=415Hz) so the result is that it plays somewhere around A! This and the awkward fingerings and dodgy intonation have meant I've never really used it for anything except playing for fun.
Duh. Thank you. I was looking at fifes when we were talking about them last week, and trying to figure out why the fifes in "Folk Bb" (as the one company put it) were in "Modern Concert Ab." I didn't think about the pitch difference, so that explains it. That's what I get for trying to use the internet as a substitute for applying my brain.