This Preceptor can be dated to between 1808 (when William Bainbridge came into partnership with John Wood) and 1812 (a date shown watermarked on a copy in the British Library). It refers to the Flute Flageolet, an instrument patented by Bainbridge in 1807 and designed to offer an alternative to the flute for those:
“fine performers on the Piano Forte & Violin who after much study and practice were unable to effect a pleasing tone on the German Flute” page 6
In reality, the instrument simply consisted of a standard English flageolet but with the mouthpiece displaced to the side of the instrument so that it would be play transversely, in the manner of a flute, rather than longitudinally, as is the case with most other flageolets. Despite the best efforts of Bainbridge and Wood to suggest that the Flute flageolet was a serious alternative, the use of figuring rather than notation in the early lessons, suggests that this instrument, like so many of Bainbridge’s instruments, was aimed squarely at amateurs.
Although Bainbridge and Wood do not give a complete Gamut or fingering chart for their instrument, from the figuring of “God Save the King” [page 11] and his comments on the similarity to the Flute [page 6], it is possible to see that the Flute flageolet was fingered in the same way as Bainbridge’s Patent flageolet, with the notes, D, E, F#, G, A, B, C (which contrasts with the C# of most English flageolets made by other makers) being produced by opening one hole in turn.
The first thing to be attended to, is covering the holes carefully, as on that the lower Notes, and blowing in Tune entirely depends, the Learner cannot be too particular in his attention to this, for if the holes are not properly stopt they are certain to produce an unpleasant sound. It is a very good method to practise before a Glass, for a day or two, for by that means the defect will be easily discerned, Cover the holes with the firm part of your Finger ends, and blow very soft for the low notes. A great deal depends upon the quantity of breath thrown into the Flageolet; Most people blow too strong, by which means they produce false tones; From D below the lines, up to D on the 4th line, you must blow very soft, As you rise to higher Notes on the Instrument you must blow a little stronger, by not too strong otherwise you will improperly force the upper Notes, A great deal depends upon the breath being taken at proper intervals, therefore this mark 𝄿 is placed where it is proper to take breath which if attentively observed you will soon attain a good method of playing.
For Keeping the Flageolet in good order, beginners are very apt to wet the Flageolet too much in consequence of their blowing too strong; to remedy this take off the top or Cap and blow strongly through the Joint that produces the sound, and that will clear it, and make the tone more brilliant but in general it is only necessary to blow strongly thro’ the Ivory mouth peice [sic], when the top is off wipe the wet away; if you find that by thus blowing an unpleasant sound is produced, Cover the hole where the sound comes from and that will prevent it, these rules must be observed particularly when you have done playing. N B If you find the joints rather slack wind a little more Waxed thread about them but in general wetting the thread will make your Flageolet joints tight, The Ivory studs are a guide to keep the fingers on the holes take care you do not touch the Keys when you take the Flageolet to peices.
When Gentlemen who are in the habit of playing the German Flute, first take up the New Patent Flute they generally blow too strong, which renders the tones less pleasing than when blown soft: to such the Patentees humbly request, that before they pronounce their Judgement, either of this or the new Octave Flute Flageolet, they will give them that fairness of trial, which will enable them so to Judge. The German Flute when well played, has ever deservedly been held in the highest estimation; but the Patentees presume that most professors as well as amateurs will agree with them that it is impossible for many to produce a good tone on that Instrument; not for want of genius, but a defect in the nerve or formation of the lip: they have known instances of fine performers on the Piano Forte & Violin who after much study and practice were unable to effect a pleasing tone on the German Flute, The new joint has been approved of by the first players in the Kingdom; it being their opinion, not only much amusement will be afforded to those who are performers on that Instrument but that great facility will be given to young practitioners in their fingering & execution of the German Flute before they attempt to blow it; by which means they will probably make Better tones than by endeavouring to acquire this art, and that of fingering at the same time, which frequently confuses them, and retards their progress.
Professors as well as Amateurs have decidedly given the preference to this size made on the new Principle to any Octave ever before produced it having more compass and the execution of it considerably soon attained it does note confuse Flute players by requiring a different fingering and all Music for the German Flute of whatever compass or Key can with much ease be play’d on this New Flute Flageolet which it is impossible to do on any other, by the improvement in the top joint the tone Is sweeter and more equal by which it is easier played in tune a matter of considerable importance to young performers as well as to those who are in the habit of Accompanying other Instruments, It must be expected those who play upon any former improved Flageolet will naturally be partial to what they have been used to, but I am certain from the above advantages one days practice on the new Flute Flageolet will convince them of it superiority, W. Bainbridge takes this opportunity to return his sincere thanks to the Public for the liberal encouragement he has experienced from his former improvements and assures them it is to themselves that they are endebted [sic] for this improvement their liberality has stimulated him to exert himself at every leisure Moment to try & produce an Instrument of this description which he offers to a candid Public.
0 This naught means all fingers are off the front of the Flageolet, ballancing [sic] the Instrument with the thumb of the left hand behind, the third finger of the right hand may rest upon the hole No. 6 close to the keys by which means the Instrument will be firm in the hand.
1 For this figure cover the first hole with the first finger of the left hand, ballancing the Flageolet with the thumb behind.
2 For this figure cover the first and second holes, with the first and second fingers of the left hand.
3 For this figure cover the first second and third holes, with the first second and third fingers of the left hand, the little finger of the left hand is never used for the holes.
4 For this figure cover the first second third and fourth holes, with the first second and third fingers of the left hand, & first finger of the right hand.
5 For this figure cover the first second third and fourth holes & fifth holes, with the first second& third fingers of the left hand, & first & second of the right.
6 For this figure cover the first second third fourth fifth and sixth holes with the first second& third fingers of the left hand, & first second third of the right, for a figure with a Dot over it thus 4͘͘ 3͘ 2͘ .
023 For this figure 023 and naught you must Cover the 2 & 3 holes with your 2 & 3 finger of you left hand Ballancing with your thumb.Example
In playing this or any other tune by figures, cover as many holes counting from the top of the Instrument, as the number of the figure in tune see Scale Page 7 which Scale those unacquainted with Music Should Read attentively before they attempt a tune.
Observe those 6̇5̇ have a Dot above them to distinguish them as the Octave or high notes[. T]he meaning of which is that you must cover the same as the 6 without a Dot as in the Scale Page 7 as for Example[:] This 6 covers six holes this 6̇ with a dot the same only Blow a little Stronger[;] This 5 covers five holes this 5̇ the same only blow a little stronger. This 4 covers four holes this 4͘͘ the same only blow a little stronger the same is to be observed of the 3͘ 2͘ 1̇ blowing a little stronger.
My motive for introducing Figures, is by no means intended, as the recommendation of a better system than playing by Notes, it is only to give those who have not leisure or inclination to study Music and opportunity of playing tunes at first sight, trusting by much encouragement, they will be induc’d to study the science of Music, which is most earnestly recommended. In the course of my practise, I have known many began learning an instrument, but from business interfering, have found great difficulty in remembering the Notes, this induced me to adopt the mode of figuring under each Note, and I have already found its good effect. It will also assist those who understand music, in learning the fingering of this Flageolet as they will only have to refer to the figures. Which will assist in learning the scale.