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Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 20:19:00 -0500 (EST)
From: (Timothy J. Tikker)
Subject: Re: bamboo clarinets

Is anyone familiar with the Maui Zafoon (also spelled Xaphoon for trademark
purposes), made by Brian Wittman of Paia, Hawaii?  They've been advertised
in Saxophone Journal for some time.  When I got mine it was $45 ppd, though
I understand the price has raised slightly since.

The maker advertises it as a bamboo soprano sax, but organologically
speaking it's a clarinet, since the bore is cylnidrical and the instrument
overblows the twelfth, not the octave.

It's keyless, and has eight fingerholes plus a thumb hole.  The bamboo is
smoked, a traditional Hawaiian curing method I, understand;  hence the
overall color is a rich, deep brown.  It uses a tenor sax reed, but uses a
brass Eb clarinet ligature (actually, I prefer a shoestring ligature a la
David Pino, which I find noticeably enhances the tone and response).  It
also comes with a bamboo mouthpiece cap.  The embouchure is perplexing at
first:  though the instrument is so small, it demands taking in as much
mouthpiece as a bass clarinet or big sax!  Once one does that, it works
just fine;  otherwise, the tone is small and pinched.

It's pitched in C, and with practice has a range of 2 octaves, chromatic
via cross-fingerings, etc.

I found the instrument to be well-crafted and having a very pleasing tone
and wide dynamic range.  For more info, contact:

PO BOX 1163
PAIA HAWAII 96779-1163

Usual disclaimers:  I have no connection with this outfit -- just a happy

- Timothy Tikker

From: "Drake Mabry" <>
Subject: Re: oboe single reed mouthpieces
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 21:34:14 +0100


   Thanks for your message. I'll try to answer your questions.
     My smallest bamboo clarinet is 12 centimeters in length and the longest
(for now) is just over 2 meters. The instruments are straight which results
in fairly original fingerings for the long instruments. Some holes are under
the pads of fingers and others wherever necessary, under the palms, under
both thumbs etc.
    My bamboo comes from China  and Thailand. I've tried bamboo from here
(the west coast of France near Guerande) but the fibers are just to big to
vibrate correctly.
    As for instructions I don't really know what to say. The principle is
fairly simple. First I knock out the inside walls which separate the
portions of bamboo except for the last one which will eventually become the
tip of the mouthpiece. Note that this necessary only for larger instruments.
    I then start filing away the mouthpiece area which follows the
principles of saxophone or clarinet facings. This takes a while as the
curvature of the mouthpiece is very subtle. I use a reed to check my
progress. All my reeds are fastened on with dental floss.
    I then cut the length of the bamboo until I have the correct lowest
note. I sometimes add small "acoustic" holes at the bottom to help add some
volume. I've seen this same technique on several South American flutes.
    Drilling the holes for the fingerings come next. The placement of
fingering holes varies from instrument to instrument as I prefer to have a
different scale for each one(yet they can all play together as well). Since
I don't add keys, I rely a lot on harmonics to fill in gaps in the scales.
    After this I turn the bamboo slowly over a small fire. This seems to get
rid of moisture. However, this is also the time when the bamboo risks to
crack thus destroying all the work done before. The only time this happened
was when I was in too much of a hurry. I didn't repeat that mistake!
    I take a long time to make an instrument. As I make each finger hole I
play the instrument for a while before drilling the next one. I never drill
more than two holes on the same day. With some instruments I stop drilling
holes because the instrument sounds so good as it is. I have one that I
never bothered to drill a finger hole. The wood was so special.
    I've also made a few endblown flutes. The smallest is 10 centimeters and
I have a nice bass flute which is 2 meters in length.
    I learned how to make my instruments simply by making instruments. I
like to work with bamboo and since I make my instruments outside the
experience is very agreeable.
    Good luck and let me know how your instruments work out.


De : <>
À : <>
Date : mercredi 24 février 1999 22:02
Objet : Re: oboe single reed mouthpieces

>This is the stuff I like to talk about! Could you give us a list of
>instructions for this? I have a bamboo field in my neighbor's yard, and would
>love to experiement. Like, how long is your contrabass and what does it look
>like and how have you shaped them? Please tell all!
>-Sax (Soprano/Alto)
>-Clarinet (Eb/Bb/Bass/Contralto)


From: "Drake Mabry" <>
Subject: Re: bamboo clarinets
Date: Fri, 26 Feb 1999 21:59:38 +0100


    I also had a Xaphoon. What a great sound and excellent intonation.  I
tried to contact him about 15 years ago and couldn't find his address. I was
curious to see if he made bass instruments and to compare notes on the
bamboo instruments I make.
    I highly recommend his instruments.
    A friend of mine was recently in Thailand and met a maker of bamboo
saxes. These have to be seen to be believed. They follow the habitual
saxophone curved shape. He makes soprano to baritone models and his website
is Prices are in dollars.
    I haven't tried one yet but they look beautiful.


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