“Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm.”
― Thomas Merton
For those of you who are new to the Native American style flute, here is a quick overview of the instrument that creates a beautifully interwoven community of flute makers, players and listeners.
The Native American style flute is for the most part an end-blown flute tuned to the Pentatonic scale. Our more common instruments played in bands and orchestras are tuned to the Diatonic scale. I also have specialty flutes tuned to the Mayan and Mojave scales.
Native American flutes are made by people of Native American descent, while the Native American style flutes are made in the historical style of Indigenous flutes, and are not represented to be Native American made.
The flutes can be made of wood, metal, bamboo, epoxy, and even PVC pipe. Each material, whether the wood is red cedar, walnut or aspen, to name a few, creates a different tone. The sound quality can be from breathy to clear and everywhere in between.
In addition to the Native American style flutes, there are many other flute types known as World Flutes: the Irish, Shakuhachi, Quena, Xiao, and the Pan flute, for example. Within the Native American style are end-blown flutes, the transverse, double and triple drones, ocarinas, Poet’s flute, overtone, fujara, walking stick flutes and more varieties.
Each flute is made in its own key, usually with 5 or 6 holes. But some have 4 holes, some have thumbholes, and the tuning drones can have 9 holes. You can get a flute in high, medium and low ranges. This is an endlessly creative instrument, with thousands of flute makers expressing their individual artistry.
With such a simple instrument, the creativity of music really becomes a factor. There are hundreds of scales to choose from in addition to those mentioned above. I used the Gypsy and Mode 4 scales plus the Extended Pentatonic in my album Quiet Beauty.
The flutes are used today, not only for entertainment, but also Sound Healing, hospice work, and yoga sessions. Historically, the Indigenous flutes had a purpose such as courting.
With all this creativity, both in the making and playing of the flutes, it’s no wonder that the Native American style flute is growing so quickly in popularity on a global basis.
You can learn more about the Native American style flutes at the following resources:
There are also numerous Facebook groups. Here’s a few:
Growing as a Flute Player
Native American Flute Musicians
Indigenous Flutes and Music of North America
See jonnylipfordmusic.com for instructional videos and flute reviews.