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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been curious about this weird instrument for some time now - the "Hot Fountain Pen" - is something like a tiny unkeyed clarinet, about 10" long. Adrian Rollini made it famous, along with the Goofus, when he played it in the late '20s and 30s on many of his recordings. Anyway I think I've managed to track down an example of this rarest of rare instruments...it's in the post currently, and when it arrives I'll report back...but in the meantime here is a recording featuring Adrian Rollini playing his Hot Fountain Pen (solo at 1:12 - 1:56)...

 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I've found another "Hot Fountain Pen" recording...This one features it for the first 45 seconds or so...then Adrian Rollini switches to Bass Sax for the rest of the track.

 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks Milandro...yes the Hot Fountain Pen is a kind of Chalumeau...there are some good links at the end of the Wikipaedia article, including to videos of a modern chalumeau being played. Link to Jo Kunath and click on the picture of their modern chalumeau for a good video of it in action.

The Hot Fountain Pen has a more tiny mouthpiece (and I guess smaller bore?) than modern Chalumeau, such as the Hanson, which use a normal size Bb clarinet mouthpiece (and the new ones often have recorder fingerings too). The Hanson looks good, comes in Bb or C.

What surprises me is how low they sound when they are so tiny!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
That's what I thought. I've ordered one, and the guy at Hanson said they will make some next week! made to order! They are designed with a pretty limited playing range though...I wonder if it might be possible to extend it.

On that second Rollini Hot Fountain Pen recording I posted what is most noticable is the massive range he gets out of the instrument...altissimo notes and harmonics at the start!
 

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Just more proof that Adrian Rollini could make a garden hose swing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Just out of interest, are there any other SOTW members who play the Hot Fountain Pen? or something similar.
 

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Just out of interest, are there any other SOTW members who play the Hot Fountain Pen? or something similar.
I have been working on making something similar since Oct 2010. The Maui Xaphoon (and its plastic brother) are direct descendants of the HFP, same holing, same fingering. Mine, the Hot Water Pipe, is slightly different (see img).



The reason it sounds so low with such a short tube is that it partakes of Clarinet acoustics, not sax acoustics. Saxes are conical bore instruments (along with oboes, english horns, and bassoons) and the wave length of the lowest note is equal to (about) 2X the length of the tube. The clarinet is a closed-end cylindrical bore, and the wavelength of its lowest note is about 4X the length of the tube. You get a lot of bass per inch with the cylindrical bore. You also get only half the overtones (you get the odd ones).

The other big difference between them is that the Conical bores overblow at the octave, which keeps everything nice and consistent for the second register, fingering-wise; whereas the Cylindrical bores overblow at the 12th, which means that your second register begins at the fifth note of the octave, giving the little horn quite a range. I can produce reasonably musical notes over a 2-octave range, and a few more notes (completing the second register) that are neither reliable nor particularly musical.

The physical limitations of these type of instruments are three:
- the lowest note you can achieve, limited by how far apart you can spread your fingers and still play. With my medium-sized hands for example, the longest practical tube would get down to about an A 220.
- The highest-pitched instrument you can make is limited by how close you can get your fingers together. A horn starting low on C 256 is about the practical limit with anything I've tried.
- The other limit is in how large a tonehole you can cover with your fingertips. The larger the hole, the richer the sound, but big toneholes bring all sorts of interesting problems, too.

The musical limitations are largely dependent on skill, as Rollini proved.

I use a Bb clarinet Mpc with a fairly large tip opening. And Eb clarinet Mpc might work better, but I haven't tried. The beauty of the Bb clarinet Mpc is that it fits perfectly into a 3/4"-to-1/2" copper pipe coupling.

It's been an interesting if frustrating pursuit. A bitch getting intonation right, and finding the proper holes sizes so that it will cross-finger. The original HWP achieved all its sharps and flats through half-holing, and you have to be awful good to land a half-hole accurately coming down onto the hole. (Pulling off the hole is fairly easy.) Cross-fingering solves that problem, but it seems to require fairly small tone-holes, so there's a tradeoff between rich tone and physical playablility. I still haven't solved this problem completely, and I'm on tube #22.
 

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(Adrian Rollini on Vibes)
Just one clip, after half a lifetime of re-inventing himself as a vibes player. Heh.

You see, Rollini saw the bass sax busted from an exciting new jazz voice, thanks mostly to him - to an embarrassing extravagance, thanks to the depression. It all went down within just a couple of years. That had to hurt.

For awhile jazz was taboo, tactless, like the grin on a corpse. Then it began to come back, but it had to be light, crisp, no deep tones or heaviness. So Rollini played more and more vibes. They were delicate, electric, never intense. He made his last record on bass sax in 1938 and never touched it again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
That's really great Metaphorce...trial and error, and you've got there in 22 tubes!...it looks good in the photo, professional...reminds me of a penny whistle...I think the double hole thing is a good idea...I wonder if the measurements of the Hot Fountain Pen might be of use?...I guess it's obvious why most new chalumeau use a Bb clarinet mouthpiece for convenience...but I think the Hot Fountain Pen has a 'tiny' mouthpiece...not sure if it is smaller than and Eb clarinet, I'll compare it to mine when it arrives... I really don't like the Xaphoon mouthpiece at all, I can't understand how anyone can play it really...but there is clearly a market for a 'pocket sax' or pocket clarinet type intrument...it's a pretty cool idea really...I love the idea that Rollini might have had the Hot Fountain Pen in his inside jacket pocket and then just before the solo whipped it out and started playing! (particuarly if he was sitting next to the Bass Sax!).

It might just be worth adding some kind of octave thumb key to extend the range more easily?

Have you thought of making it with a square tube? (for easier fingering of the double holes) I've seen modern recorders which were square...they must work?
 

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Well, I haven't quite solved it in 22 tubes, unfortunately. Cross-fingering still sucks on it. The first 12 tubes were 1/2" PVC pipe, which is wonderfully easy to work with. You can tune the holes with a pocket knife. But I didn't like the tone that much, and making half-holes on it was a bitch, so I switched to copper. Turns out I had to trial-and-error my way through all the hole-placements again, because the thickness of the PVC had the equivalent effect of placing the holes lower on the tube (but I didn't know that was the cause, at the time.) The PVC tube wall thickness is about 3/32", and the effective air column extends to the outside of the hole. 3/32 is a lot of difference it tuning.

Square tube would make a tough fit for the mouthpiece. The idea of the HWP is that anyone with enough patience could make one out of standard pieces of pipe with virtually no modification except drilling the holes. (In truth, I actually cut about 1/16" off the top of the 3/4"-1/2" adapter, too.)

I had HFP measurements provided to me by a generous soul, and they were helpful as a starting point. But the HFP is considerably shorter
than my Bb tubes, yet it's also tuned to Bb. I am puzzled by this, and would .like to know more details about the HFP dimensions.

The HWP has a register hole on the back next to the thumb high E hole. Works quite well. That's how I get a complete 2 octaves (minus the high F# - there is no way to play that note that I can discover). I believe the HFP just uses the high E hole half-holed as a register key.

A must confess that after 22 tubes, I am rather frustrated and beginning to wonder if the whole thing is worth it. It's a lot fo fun to play when it's working, but the ones I've had so far only work within severe limitations (like it was very difficult to play in all but a few keys).

When I actually solve it, I'll post a sound-sample.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
As far as I know (it is still in the postal system!) but the Hot Fountain Pen is usually tuned to Eb (or at least the original Keith Prowse ones from the '20s and '30s were). That might help solve why the tube is so much shorter?...The articles that have appeared about them suggest they were also available in other keys, but I wonder if those were copies other compainies/individuals had made?...after all as you have proved almost anyone could in theory make one of these if they had some basic tools and materials.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Metaphorce, I wonder if it might be better for you to copy exactly already existing designs (the bore size, and hole size and placement), and then make alterations and improvements if necessary after that? Working from a set/standard bore size might cause all sorts of technical problems mathematics and acustics would be better suited to solve, rather than trial and error with a pen-knife?

After all the HFP already has solved many of these problems presumably? There is no point in re-inventing the wheel starting from the beginning?
 

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As I said, the point is to make it out of standard parts. Besides, what you're suggesting amounts to starting over again. Every change - inner diameter, wall thickness, mouthpiece, hardness of reed for heaven's sake - seems to affect tuning. Since I don't have tools to bore an exact duplicate of the HFP, and I don't have access to the tiny mouthpiece, it seems like that would be more work, not less. Nice thought, but I don't think it's practical.
 
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