The simple system flutes such as those made by Martin Doyle are commonly known as 'Irish flutes'. The term simple system flute refers to the conical-bore flutes that were in use before Theobald Boehm introduced his cylindrical bore flute designs in the mid-nineteenth century. With the change to the Boehm system, the outmoded simple system flutes were adopted into Irish, Scottish and Cuban traditional folk music.
Simple system flutes are usually made of timbers such as African blackwood (Mpingo), cocus wood, rosewood, and boxwood. They have six tone-holes and anywhere from zero to thirteen keys. Many experienced Irish flute players prefer six or eight key flutes, although much of the traditional Irish repertoire may be played on keyless flutes.
Above: Martin Doyle simple system Irish flutes made from African Blackwood with sterling silver rings and keys.
The tin or penny whistle has exactly the same fingering as the Irish flute and they are often the instrument upon which flute players begin their musical adventures. That fact no doubt gave rise to the well-worn Irish traditional music quote penned by an unknown but insightful author...
Never get one of those cheap tin whistles. It leads to much harder drugs like pipes and flutes.
Fingering Charts for Irish Flutes
For those wishing to know the various fingering positions used with the simple system keyless D flute, Martin Doyle offers fingering charts with printable PDF versions available to download.
Irish Flute Links
- A Guide to the Irish Flute – an informative site about the Irish flute and those who play and make Irish flutes.
- What is an Irish flute? (Part 1) and (Part 2) – informative pages on The Standing Stones website.
- The Flow – an appreciation of traditional Irish flute playing styles.
- Rick Wilson's Historical Flutes Page – photos, descriptions and information about historical flutes.
- FluteHistory.com – resource regarding the development of the transverse flute over the past 800 years.
- WoodenFlute.com – the primary focus of this website is the simple system wooden 'Irish' flute.
- Irish Flute and Flute – Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.