This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Sep 25, 2012

Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Review

Some historic nose flutes have totally disappear or haven't even been produced or commercialized. Our goal, here, is to reconstruct them, as close as possible to the original, with the help of the patent drawings and descriptions.

[Sequel of the posts The Nasalette: drawing a template and The Nasalette: Building the Nasalette]

Historic Nose Flute - The Nasalette: Reviewing the instrument

Compared to our "modern" nose flutes, the Nasalette was designed with 2 particularities. Let's better say that 3 features totally and quickly disappeared from the posterior designs.

The first of this particularities is the nose hood, conical and enveloping the whole nose. Indeed, you'll read below it's not the best solution to capt the air that is blown. Also, this has a marked tendancy to produce condensation inside the tin hood, humidity that finally goes down the airway. Garrett J. Couchois, in 1899, has already adopted (invented) the concave nose rest system that is still used nowadays.

The second specific feature is the mouth tube. The player needs to insert it between his lips to be able to play, which is not really hygienic nor handy (but rather efficient to avoid air leaks). In his elegant design patent from 1899 [USD31876], Couchois still used the same feature, however with a circular tube, which is even more efficient than the Carter's rectangular one.

The "mouth insert" will however reappear in 1921, with a totally different shape in Ernest W. Klein patent [US1437317]:

The last, but not least, particularity offered by the Nasalette is its handsfree system. It's unbelievable (but true) that Carter immediately thought his nose flute would be probably played together with another instrument. He clearly specified that in his patent description. And the way he solved the need is quite funny or kitsch: with a rubber cord, not surrounding the whole performer's head, but attached to two "wire loops", like the temple endings of spectacles!
This feature has never been seen again, and more, the nose flute including a handsfree system (2 holes for passing a cord) are still very rare (H. Handler and M. Sommers only, as far as I know).


So, the Nasalette is globally composed of 4 parts, the nose hood, the airway, the mouth tube and the handsfree system.

I must admit - with all due respect to this ancestor - that the Nasalette is not really comfortable nor ergonomic. It is made with tin sheet and, even carefully sanded, the edge of the nose hood is not pleasant when pressed on the face.

The mouth tube, rectangular, is a bit too big (I made it with a thickness between the one designed on the technical drawing (short and thick) and the one shown on the profile sketch (long and thin) in the patent).
Anyway, to be functional, it has to be a bit thick.

While playing, there is much air leaking from the nose hood: indeed, even "egg-shaped", the cap cannot fit precisely any type of nose. And since there is not direct way for the air from the nostrils to the air duct, there is a huge tendancy to leaking. The air blown from the nose goes straight to the bottom of the nose hood, then has to follow a severe angle to reach the air entrance, and then has again to draw a square angle to reach the narrow air way. So, the air has almost a shortcut by leaking over the nose :

So, for comfort and to avoid air leaks, I glued a felt pad around the top of the nose hood. This is not in the patent, but it's not a modification to the nose flute itself. I suppose Carter made a nasalette adapted to his own nose.

The handsfree system is a real pleasure. It is funny and handy, very efficient to hold the Nasalette in the right position. It would have been 100% perfect if only I had the ears implanted just one inch below their actual position, but it works very fine.

On the sound side, the Nasalette is really a sweet instrument. It has a nice clear sound, not powerful and loud, but soft and sweet. The range is "normal": it is rather difficulet to reach basses, because of the size and shape of the mouth tube, but the sharps are easily reachable, and according you press on the nose hood with a finger to stop any air leak, you can reach very high sharps.

Here is a short video, of a famous... irish tune:


On the same topic :

- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - The Nasalette: Review
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Couchois' Whistle: Review
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Template
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Building
- Historic Nose Flutes - Grierson's Whistle: Review



  1. Dear Antoine,

    There are so many things I would like to say about this new post!

    First: I wonder what the relationship between the manufacturer of Carter's Nasalette and Couchois was. Was Couchois a worker at the factory? To me, that would be the most logical explanation. Something tells me that Couchois tried the Nasalette himself and wasn't quite satisfied with the design. He probably would have thought he could do it better.

    Second: why would Couchois file a patent within such a short timespan after it was first produced? Could he have set up his own studio or factory after the original manufacturer had gone bust? Was he fired from the job or did he think he could make more money by working for himself? In any case, he did possess the skills and knowledge to produce his own version of the Nasalette. Doesn't a patent protect the original product for 5 years?

    Third: I love the old patents from 1899 and 1921. They are such a clean and vital part of the evolution of the nose flute. Particularly the 1921 Klein patent clearly relates to the Simmy and the Swan from the 1950s.

    Fourth: I love the photos of the various angles and I really think they are all great compositions.

    Fifth: I love the video with the sound of the wind, the rustling of the vine and most of all the tone of the Nasalette. To me, it has the most wonderful soft and round quality tone! I think that a similar Nasalette with a thicker tin plate body would sound just perfect!

    Sixth: Are you considering to make replicas of the Couchois as well as the Klein design? I really hope so!!!! When you are done with that, please consider a Froby!!!!;-)

  2. @Hanabue114 : thank you!

    @Maikel Mei : Popopopoh!! Which carter's manufacturer? We just suppose Carter sold his patent, since the number of its patent is stamped on the metal Humanatone... For the rest : I have no clue. Anyway, no link with Couchois, who was a publisher in New York City (I will probably write a "nose flute pioneer" post about him). But absolutely no link between him and Carter (but Couchois certainly saw one nose flute somewhere, maybe the one that was manufactured from Carter's patent if there was one, or another one I don't know.)

    Couchois filed a ***design*** patent. it means he just registered a shape (not a principle). (well, he did file another patent, in collab., for another nose instrument).

    Thank you for your kind comment about my pictures:)

    Yes, I would like (not necessarily immediately) continue the series of replicas... Only metal or wood or clay. I cannot make a Froby because I cannot work perspex (it has to be injected under pressure, and so, like any plastic item).