The luska is a very simple instrument made by cutting a thin plate from the horn of a cow or by using a root from a birch tree. It is not possible to play a scale on this "instrument," however rhythmic figures around the melody are quite easy to produce. In recent times this instrument has been replaced by pieces of clean photographic film cut to the size of a safety razor. Placing the instrument between the bottom lip and teeth, the player can produce a sound by blowing across it. The upper teeth just touch the edge of the instrument. All one does to obtain a high-pitched sound is to tighten the upper lip and blow. Slackening the lip produces a lower sound. Another way to play the luska is to place it on the lower lip and to suck air in against it.
The Whistle (Svystun)
This instrument is usually thought of as a child's toy and is used found throughout Ukraine. It is usually made of clay in the form of an animal such as a rooster, bird, horses or sheep. It has a hole to blow into and sometimes side holes, which when opened and closed can change the pitch of the note produced. On some instruments it is possible to play simple melodies.
Selection of whistles (Author collection.)
The Zozulka (Okaryna, Ocarina)
Originally invented about 1860 in Italy, the ocarina is a vessel flute in the shape of an egg with ten finger-holes. The name in Italian means "little goose." The Ukrainian ocarina belongs to the group of whistle instruments and in fact is a sophisticated svystun. Usually these instruments are made of clay with seven or eight and sometimes ten finger-holes. The instrument is in widespread use in the Carpathian Mountain area of Ukraine especially among the Hutsuls where it is known as a zozulka: a name derived from the Ukrainian word for a small cuckoo bird.
Zozulka - Author's instrument
The Sopilka family
The group of flute-like woodwind instruments is known generically as "sopilkas" in Ukrainian. The use of this term however, has caused much confusion in differentiating the various types of folk wind instruments. This is because technically the term sopilka, by its meaning, should only apply to a non-fipple folk-flute while the term dentsivka should apply to instruments of the fipple variety. Unfortunately this is not so, and great confusion surrounds the naming of these instruments.
Photo: Sopilka player (from Tovarystvo Ukraina)
The Sopilka (Frilka, Sopivka)
These are instruments that have no fipple or dentse. They consist of a hollow pipe with six to ten holes. The pipe itself can be made of any material, metal and plastic included. The usual number of holes is six and additional holes allow chromatic notes to be easily produced on the instrument. The important difference is the blowing end, where the player must break his breath against the wall of the tube. This produces a sound similar to that of the flute. The frilka is usually smaller than the sopilka and has a higher sound, but is made in the same manner.
The Dentsivka (Dudka, Sopilka, Mala Fleita, Denchivka)
The dentsivka is often called a sopilka, however, it differs from the true sopilka in that it has a fipple, like the western recorder. It is thus classified as a duct flute. Usually it is made from a tube of wood approximately 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 in.) length. Holes are cut or burnt into the tube and a fipple made at one end. The internal diameter is usually 12 to 14 mm (4 to 5 in.) with the walls of the tube being 2 to 3 mm (0.08 to 0.12 in.) thick. In the traditional instruments the tuning varied with the length of the tube, but was usually diatonic, with a range of two and a half octaves.
Some dentsivkas (from Western Ukraine) having only five sound holes. In recent times chromatic ten-hole fingering was developed for this instrument that has carried on to most of the other instruments in the sopilka family. The dentsivka is made in a number of sizes from piccolo tuned in F, prima in C, alto in G, tenor in F to the bass in C. Concert versions of the prima are available, the best being sold in Ukrainian music stores under the title of "mala fleita."
Kosa Dudka (dentsivka)
The kosa dudka differs from the dentsivka in that the fipple is in the top of the instrument on the same plane as the playing holes, instead of the underside. The fipple is cut away like that of a recorder. Often this instrument is called a dentsivka.
The Telenka (Telynka, Tilinca, Tylynka)
The telenka is a primitive form of dentsivka only it does not have fingerholes. The sound is changed by placing the finger into the open end and covering it by a half or third etc. and by the strength of the players breathe. Its length is approximately 35 to 40 cms (14 to 16 in), although instruments can range up to 60cm (24in) in length. This instrument is also found in Romania especially in the areas bordering with Bukovyna area where it is known as the tilinca.