Native American Flute DECODED
[Book excerpt] PLAY THAT FLUTE! Suppose you are at a craft show and you happen to see a booth where Native American flutes are sold. Hot dog, you think, you're gonna buy one! The flute builder has the flutes nicely displayed, and you choose the biggest flute with the most beautiful finish festooned with the most extraordinarily tasteful leather binding, beads, and feathers. You lay down your money, the flute builder smiles, wraps it up for you, gives you a few instructions, and you take it home. When you get home your heart hammers with anticipation as you take the flute out of the package. With trembling fingers you pick up the flute, put it to your lips...and blow...and no sound comes out! What! Oh, yeah, now you remember. The builder gave you printed instructions that showed you how to adjust the totem, that sliding button already tied onto the flute. You find the folded up instructions in the package, unfold and study them, and then move the totem to the approximate position shown on the diagram. The builder had adjusted the totem for you, but he warned that the totem might slide out of adjustment when he wrapped it up. It had, but you're sure you have it back in place now. You remember one more thing you must do -- you remember that the builder told you to tightly tie the totem down with its leather thongs so it wouldn't shift out of adjustment the next time you take out your flute to play it. You do that now. The tension is killing you, so without further fussing you put the flute to your lips and blow again. SQUAWK! Oh, no! What have you done! The flute sounds like a barking seal! Don't worry. You most likely got that awful squawk because you blew too hard. Unlike a trumpet where you have to blow fairly hard to get a good tone, the Native American flute requires almost no wind at all. Quickly realizing this, you blow more gently (all the holes are open as you blow), and you are instantly rewarded with a beautiful high tone. Encouraged, this time you close all the holes and blow again. Another squawk! Too hard, too hard, you think frantically! You blow again, only this time much, much more gently. An ethereal low tone groans deliciously from the barrel. You're so thrilled you swear you can feel the bottom of your feet vibrating! What do you do next? Surely, you think, you must have had some experience back in your past with playing some kind of instrument like this. How hard can this be? [End book excerpt]
And so begins many a beginner's exploration of the Native American flute. The Native American flute is easy to play, but it plays differently than probably any flute or whistle you might have played before. Many would-be flute musicians become discouraged quickly, and this book is meant to save you from that frustration. What kind of flute should you buy? How can you find a good flute builder who will meet your special needs? Do you need a music background before taking up the flute? Will you have to learn to read notes? Will it take you years to learn? Where can you find music for the Native American flute? Where did this flute come from? You are probably familiar with the sound of traditional Native American flute music, but is it true you can play any kind of music on this flute? Can you really play the Blues? Folk? Classical? Patriotic? Sacred? Children's ditties? Romantic tunes? Meditative? All these questions are answered plus many more. If you are thinking of owning a Native American flute, or even if you've already started to play it, this book will be of great value to you. It covers a broad range of topics that don't seem to be covered in any other book of this type. Whether you are serious about learning to play, or are just curious, this engaging book written by authors who play, teach, and build Native American flutes will be an informative and fun read.
- Dick Claassen, June 2011
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