Contemporary Fifes

Fifes available on this page below:

  • MCM Fife [Morneault Contemporary Model]
  • Seaman Model
  • “Bass” fife
  • Ralph G Sweet Signature Model
  • Enfield “New Model” fife
  • Piccolo fife

 

Historical Note:

10 hole fifes (and 11 hole) with all open tone holes are a latter 20th century innovation and not historically accurate for earlier impressions, if that is what is important to you – these were made to meet 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.  While flutes in the 18th century began to manifest extra tone holes and keys in custom form, the norm being six holes with a 7th covered by a key that facilitates a D#, the fife was not regarded as a serious instrument beyond its military and folk purposes.  It is in the start 19th century that we begin to find examples of 2-piece fifes and with conical bores (France and Galicia (in Spain); extra tone holes beyond 7 not coming into being until much later; and more noticeably varying tonehole sizes and irregular placement to work towards better intonation.  The musicologist David Munrow made a rather convincing argument with data to back it up that the fife (rather than the flute itself) is the direct precursor to the piccolo… The piccolo began to have keys from the early 18th century but the fife – however closely designed – was not to see the same until the late 19th century with still only six open tone holes, the others covered by lever keys.  All that said – fife and drum today is a style of folk music and unless you are insistent upon a historically accurate approach, play what suits you!

Corps Discount for sets purchased – Please inquire!

MusiqueMorneaux@gmail.com      or    860.749.8514

 

I have followed you as a fife maker since the late 80s when you worked for Pat (Cooperman).  I have played the fife since the 60s and I honestly have yet to find any maker as good as you. Quality, playability, caring for the customer.  I am always surprised when I meet fifers who don’t know you or play your handiwork.  Thank you for the Ralph Sweet model fife and please keep doing your craft!”   Frank Riccio, New York, NY.

 

NEW!

By several requests we’d begun working on a new model.  This model has yet to have an official name but currently we refer to it as the MCM (Morneault Contemporary Model) fife.  It features a Boehm head design (like on modern flutes), cylindrical bore, properly undercut tone holes, leeward cutaway for the embouchure, and a wood on cork joint that is far better for sealing than metal on metal.  Like our whistles, the cork is in the head socket so to keep the strength of the tenon, and for added protection against chipping we have added a ring on the tenon.  Ferrules/rings are brass in the current model but we may a stainless option in the near future.  Cap on the head in the photo is of Blackwood, but often I make it of the very wood each fife is created from… Or perhaps something different for contrast. You can request at the time of ordering.  The model in the photo is of Rosewood but this is available in Mopane, Rosewood, Granadillo… Or just ask.  We are currently taking orders for this model but only have a very limited number currently available.

MCM 6-hole in rosewood with brass ferrrules

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MCM 10-hole in Mexican Blackwood with stainless ferrules.


Benjamin Ruesch playing a pair of original tunes: “The Two Claw Jig” and “The Fiddler Crab”, both by Ben. Played on the extraordinary new MCM 10 hole fife from MusiqueMorneaux, handcrafted by Joseph Morneault.

 

“Just wanted to let you know that I LOVE the new fife so far. Sooooo easy to play right away. Very well in tune so far playing alone. It’s also frickin’ gorgeous too. Thanks so much!”  David A Cabral, Lynn, MA.

 


MCM Fife



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ALSO NEW

The Seaman Model Fife

This fife became the new wave of the fife in the US in the 1960s.  Original concept by John McDonagh who approached Roy Seaman, piccolo maker, to develop this new fife.  It was a marked changed from the historical and traditional models everyone was playing on, and it enabled corps that played upon it to up their game in musical composition and performance.  After many years, Roy decided to hang up fife making and focus on his piccolo business, leaving a former employee Larry Trout to continue making the model.  Roy later retired, selling his piccolo business and his brand name to Gemeinhardt flutes; itching for something to do, he opened a little shop under his wife’s maiden name – Wilson – and made fifes again for a time.  Cooperman Fife & Drum Co were making this model for a while, but after several years of people placing custom orders and assuring us that Coopermans no longer makes the model, we have decided upon offering it as part of our regular lineup.  With instrument grade African Blackwood still being expensive to obtain, we have decided to make these in Katalox (say CAT-a-loash) wood, unless you specifically request the Blackwood (higher price) or other wood.  I have replicated these from original Roy Seaman made models I obtained in the early 1980s and hold in my collection.  The joint will normally be exactly as Roy had done his, but for a couple of people I have made it with the internal cork design.  It is offered as a standard 6-hole (Roy’s “J-Model”), 7-hole (for those who wish a D# option), “Basler” 10-hole (Roy’s “L-model” with no thumb hole on the right hand, double hole for F#/F-nat, and left thumb hole placed higher), and “Yankee” 10-hole (like the M-model, but only single hole on the F# top rather than a double).  Contact me with questions, price for Blackwood will be quoted when you ask, and the prices below are introductory; likely going up sometime in 2021.

 


Seaman Model Fife



 

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The “Bass Fife”

In Eb, it is actually a flute; larger than a traditional fife (over 22 inches when assembled), it has a tapered bore and is designed for a strong lowest register.  It is meant to be played in concert with the contemporary Bb fife designs and has 10 tone holes to facilitate chromatics.  This is specialty item made to order and will rarely if ever be in stock.

“Bass Fife” in Katalox Wood
“Bass Fife” in Mexican Blackwood.

Bass Fife



 

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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, 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.  The cost of obtaining Blackwood has become too expensive so it will be made by custom order only… Mopane is the other option which is an excellent wood but simply not black.  See the Enfield Model below for an example of Mopane wood.


Ralph G Sweet Signature Fife



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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.

<< Great resonation! First octave really shakes and tickles fingertips. I can only imagine what it will be after being fully oiled and settled down. Thank you for a good instrument! >>  Lauri Gadd – Espoo, Finland.

 


Enfield Model Fife



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“Piccolo” Fifes

 

Piccolo fife in Granadillo

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 Eb, D, C#, 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.

These are available in 10-hole/chromatic versions.  Please inquire before ordering.



Piccolo Fifes in D or C



 


Piccolo Fifes in Eb or C#