Three-hole whistle (maple wood, horn)

Three-hole whistle (maple wood, horn)
Three-hole whistle. Cáceres (España). Lydia Zarceño. 'Copyleft' Luis Á. Payno y Lydia Zarceño

Three-hole whistle (maple wood, horn)

This instrument is made with “engelge” wood (Montpelier maple) and horn ferrules, and comes from Montehermoso (Cáceres). It is a rather rustic example of one of the most widespread instruments in Iberian folk tradition: the three-hole flute.

Although there are some instruments made from vulture wing bones, they are usually made from hardwoods like holm oak or ‘engelge’, and more recently from imported wood like grenadillo.

An undamaged branch is hollowed out using a borer or red-hot irons. Later the sides are shaped into a cylinder. An airduct is made at one end and bevelled and three holes are made at the other end, two on top for the middle and index fingers and one below for the thumb.

These four positions mean you can play different scales, because the bevel is made in such a way that the air pressure for each finger position produces several notes. Traditionally, the measurements for the holes are carried out anthropometrically –using body parts as a reference- in this case, the distance between the holes must be the same as that of the thumb’s phalanx.

The ends, and sometimes the middle, are reinforced with rings and casings made of cow or goat’s horn. Some are decorated with carving or engraving.

It is played with one hand, usually the left, while the other hands keep the beat with a drum or other percussion instrument.

These instruments are widely used in the present day both in Spain and Portugal, from Huelva to Zamora, and are conserved in other areas such as Aragón, Asturias, León, Ibiza, Euskadi and some parts of Castilla and the  Canaries.



Sound of three-hole whistle: click on black triangle