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folded-bore shakuhachi

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Joined: 05 Apr 2011
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Localisation: San Francisco

PostPosted: 2020-10-06, 06:28    Post subject: folded-bore shakuhachi Reply with quote

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Hello all! I'm making some reasonable progress on my project to make 3d-printed shakuhachi and thought that some folks here might be interested.

My original idea was to make more or less traditionally-shaped instruments, and I didn't know anything about 3D printing when I started. It turns out that printers on the less expensive side can't print an entire flute in one piece, even a 1.3, and it also turns out that the traditional joint style doesn't print very well because of the need for what they call "support," which is to say that if you try to put a thin line of plastic in the middle of nothing, it will fall down. So I started designing joints.

Before I got a joint that I was happy with, I got the somewhat ridiculous idea to try making a shakuhachi with a folded bore. Folded bores are not a new idea by any means: my favorite example is the medieval rackett, where the folded bore is intrinsic to the instrument. (There are others.)

To make a long story short, I now have folded bore prototypes of 1.3, 1.6, 1.8, and 2.4 flutes. I'm in the refinement phase now, where I'm trying to get everything tuned and playing as best as I can. I had a running start though, because David Brown was kind enough to give me bore and hole measurements for his flutes of those sizes. The folding affects the sound, but it's not simple: some frequencies are muted and some are enhanced. I don't know enough math to figure this stuff out from first principles, so I'm just trying to do experiments and learn little by little. Also, the current flutes have a constant bore wall thickness so hole positions need to be somewhat changed because of that.

I'm having no luck getting images uploaded on this post, so I put some samples here:

One of the major design considerations was that the fingering should be the same as traditional shakuhachi. Without that, learning how to play them would be too much effort. This means that, for example, a tube where the air is moving from bottom to top cannot have two holes for the same hand. Trying to make the ergonomics work out can result in some pretty bizarre shapes -- check out the 1.8 linked above. But sometimes (notably the 1.6 and 2.4) they end up being both ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing.

An unexpected side effect is that it is eminently possible to make long flutes playable by people with smaller hands, and even people with larger hands can play larger flutes with less or no discomfort. This can extend to larger and larger instruments, even ones which would be completely impossible for a human with extra-large hands to play. This aspect gets even better when I get to the point of designing flutes where the bore can twist in three dimensions, and in angles smaller than 180°: imagine that the bore could make a fold into a third dimension between two holes, so the bore distance between them could essentially be arbitrary.

Anyway, I hope that this is interesting. Definitely a work in progress, but even at this stage they sound pretty good and it's great to be able to have instruments I can casually toss in a bag or a pocket (the 2.4 fits in my jacket pocket!)... even if I'm not going anywhere at the moment.
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