Tenor folk shawm

by pfh, published

Tenor folk shawm by pfh Nov 9, 2012
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The shawm is the loud medieval ancestor of the oboe.

This shawm has a simple six-hole fingering system. I am particularly pleased by how this model turned out. The finger spacing is not too wide (32mm between holes), and it can play a solid octave and a half.

The pitch is similar to soprano voice (tenor plus one octave).

Thanks again to John Boshua for an excellent print in ABS plastic.

Sample audio:


Depending on the capabilities of your printer, print the instrument as a single object, or in two segments, or in four segments. I've provided STL files so that you can print the segments in a single run or separately. The shawm in the photos was printed from ABS plastic in two segments, with an 0.1mm layer size.

Make a drinking-straw reed using the instructions here:

The straw should be 4-5mm diameter.

If the joints don't quite fit together, sand them a little until they do. Use some sort of grease to make tight seals between all the joints, and with the reed.

The fingering chart is straightforward:

More sizes of shawm, and designs with a more complex fingering system similar to recorder, are available in the "pre-built" design pack downloadable from:

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Can I use something else for the reed?

are the notes the same as an oboe's?

Is it possible to use an oboe reed with this?

HOW DO I PUT THIS TOGETHER? I printed the 4 piece but I cant put it together. The top of the pieces is flat. Will I have to glue it? I made sure it would fit the printer so its not a size problem.

The tops of the pieces should have joints and a bevel at the very top, eg if you look at them in the thingiview. Maybe a problem with your slicer?

Whystler - in reply to

Thanks Paul! I didn't equate you with pfh at first lol

Good on you with this! I played with a design like this about a year ago, and never refined it enough to release. I'm SOOO happy that you've done it. Hole sizing and placement is not an easy task. I'm also super happy that yours has a tapered bore, because it gives that extra octave to lip up. Mine was cylindrical, and would only lip up a fifth if you were really good. Yay!

Ah yes, I did see that on Shapeways. Nice twisty decorations!

A cylindrical bore actually has a register leap of an octave and a fifth. There's an instrument called the chalmeaux with a cylindrical bore, and the trick it uses is to add a couple of extra keys to bridge the gap between registers. One nice thing about the chalmeaux is that it produces a low pitch from quite a small instrument. This later evolved into the clarinet.

I've written software to place and size holes and adjust the bore shape, so if you have something in mind maybe I can calculate some hole positions for you. Might save some time :-)

I wish I could wrap my head around how exactly I can run your python script!

First question is do you have a computer that runs Linux, preferably a flavour of Ubuntu? I can walk you through the installation on Linux. I'm quite eager to do this, as it will let me refine my installation instructions.

Hmm. The design part (hole placement) is pure python, should run on just about anything, it's just the making 3D models part that gets into complicated library requirements. I should perhaps decouple these a bit so that the design parts will work anywhere.

I have a Toshiba laptop running Windows 7. I know how to get to the command prompt. I've done very little programming (some javascript modifications only within a gaming engine). I am a professional 3d modeller, and I have a degree in early music - if any of this is useful to you in refining your program.

Ok, hmm. I'm very happy to design an instrument or two to your specifications. (As part of this I would create scripts that use my software, that you or others can use as a starting point.)

If you're keen to install the software and run it yourself:

I just released a new version in which the "design" tools should work on most platforms.

You will need Python 2:

Then you need to install packages called "nesoni" and "demakein". Having installed python, you should have somewhere a command-line program called "easy_install". I think you will be able to do something like:

easy_install neosni

easy_install demakein

Then you should be able to do something like:

python -m demakein

(Prints help text)

python -m demakein design-folk-flute: myoutputdir

(Designs a flute)

I will look into this for sure! I redesigned your tenor so that I could print it out in four parts on my UP! printer. The UP! has a maximum height of about 13 cm.

I took the one piece model, and broke it up into segments that would fit, and created new join overlaps that are smaller.

After I printed it, I reamed out the neck so that the straw would fit without tapering. I don't know if this action changed the original instrument or not significantly, but I did find I needed to reposition the top holes slightly in order to get proper pitches with the kind of reed I cut from the straw. And then overall, the instrument is very much in tune, but plays a bottom note of C, instead of D ... oy.

At any rate, I'm very happy with the sound of the instrument. And the reed I've made is quite different from yours. I've been playing all kinds of things.

I just have to do a little work to bring it back in D. When I upload the modification, I'll include a tutorial for the reed I made too.

I'm very interested in your reed tutorial. I'll add a link to it from my demakein page when it's done.

The straw diameter is pretty important to the tuning, I scale the rest of the bore diameters to the straw diameter. The giant tarball of precomputed instruments on my main demakein page includes a version for a ~6mm drinking straw, which may work better with your straw. The other option is to find a smaller size of straw, which may also make it easier to reach higher into the second register. At least it does with my reed-making method.

Duhh, yes of course it is a lip up of a 12th, not a fifth. I always make the mistake of describing it that way!

Right, I actually thought later last night that I should have said 12th instead of fifth .. duhh. It's cool that the cylindrical bores sound an octave lower. At least it's a trade off for the octave lip up.