By the middle of the 19th century instrument makers had begun to “improve” the fife by essentially making them flutes of a higher pitch – In Galatia fifes were made with conical bores in order to render the instrument more in tune with itself, and fifes with keywork and ones lacking keys but adding additional tone holes begin to show up in pockets about Europe. In the middle of the following century there was a growing demand for still better tuned instruments largely for fife & drum competitions, and the development of the fife provided for greater versatility and more artistic expression.
The Ralph G Sweet Signature Model
Ralph Sweet had developed his “M-1” fife in the 1980s and it remains in use to this day with modifications made over time. Key of trad-Bb and in African Blackwood, this model features a tuning slide with minimal-disruption tenon, conical bore, and the leeward cutaway that aids in third register playing as well as Ralph’s signature on the head.
Enfield “New Model” Model Fifes
This is pitched in “traditional Bb” (a bit sharp of A=440) and is the culmination of input by several employees of Ralph Sweet’s and Joseph Morneault’s. Conical bore like the modern piccolo, carefully undercut tone holes, embouchure with a leeward cutaway and designed to be responsive for the performer, so it is a clean sounding instrument with terrific intonation. Embouchure designed for the actual performer, not those few who lack air control and spend more time blowing all their air instead of playing the instrument. The tuning barrel and ferrules of stainless steel; glued on for strength and no more dealing with compressed cork… This fife is now only in TWO pieces! – a clean look and classy. The stainless tuning slide goes into a brass socket and is designed for a lifetime without galling, or oxidizing together and so sticking. Don’t be sucked in by imitations… This is the best of this design to be had! Six and ten hole designs as you choose. Available in African blackwood and for international orders it is available in Mopane. Special tone hole offset can be arranged upon request.
These are smaller, thus higher pitched, fifes designed for more of a folk music use over the fife & drum association. We offer them in the keys of D and C and have conical bores, rendering them more in tune with themselves than a traditional cylindrical bore would. They are available in Honduras rosewood and in African blackwood, but for international orders we offer mopane as an alternative – similar in colour to the rosewood, it is free from the recent CITES rules imposed on rosewood and blackwood.