Native american flute

Native American Flute by Chief Arthur Two Crows. The Native American flute is a flute that is held in front of the player, has open finger holes, and has two chambers: one for collecting the breath of the player and a second chamber which creates sound. The player breathes into one end of the flute without the need for an embouchure. Native American flutes comprise a wide range of designs, sizes, and variations—far more varied than most other classes of woodwind instruments. The instrument is known by many names. By convention, English-language uses of the name of the instrument are capitalized as «Native American flute». This is in keeping with the English-language capitalization of other musical instruments that use a cultural name, such as «French horn». The prevalent term for a person who plays Native American flutes native american flute «flutist».

This term predominates the term «flautist». Flute maker» is the predominant term for people who «craft» Native American flutes. Native American flute crafted by Gary Kuhl in 2003. Sachs system by the MIMO Consortium as 421. This HS class also includes the Suling.

Although Native American flutes are played by directing air into one end, it is not strictly an end-blown flute, since the sound mechanism uses a fipple design using an external block that is fixed to the instrument. Native American flute as a simple system flute. Cipriano Garcia playing a flute of the Tohono O’odham culture, 1919. There are many narratives about how different Indigenous peoples of the Americas invented the flute. It is not well known how the design of the Native American flute developed before 1823. Branches or stalks with holes drilled by insects that created sounds when the wind blew.

The Anasazi flute developed by Ancestral Puebloans of Oasisamerica. Experience by Native Americans constructing organ pipes as early as 1524. Although crafted by a Native American people, these instruments are not strictly Native American flutes since they do not have an external block. Flute by Pat Partridge crafted in 2006 in the style of flutes of the Tohono O’odham culture. Nest area detail of the Tohono O’odham style flute shown above. The ridges on the sides of the sound mechanism were added by Pat Partridge to improve playability and are not found on authentic Tohono O’odham flutes. Flute of the Akimel O’odham culture.

The bottom flute demonstrates the use of a «cloth or ribbon» over the center of the flute to serve as a block. Russell specifically notes that the bottom-most flute «has an old pale yellow necktie tied around the middle as an ornament and to direct the air past the diaphragm. These flutes may have directly evolved from flutes of the Tohono O’odham culture, with the addition of a piece of cloth over the sound mechanism to serve as the external block. It is also possible that instruments were carried from other cultures during migrations. Flutes of the Mississippian culture have been found that appear to have the two-chambered design characteristic of Native American flutes. They were constructed of river cane. The earliest such flute is curated by the Museum Collections of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The earliest extant Native American flute crafted of wood was collected by the Italian adventurer Giacomo Costantino Beltrami in 1823 on his search for the headwaters of the Mississippi River. It is now in the collection of the Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali in Bergamo, Italy. The block on the outside of the instrument is a separate part that can be removed. The block is also called the bird, the fetish, the saddle, or the totem. The block is tied by a strap onto the nest of the flute. Even though these flutes do not have a movable block, they are generally considered to be Native American flutes. The precise alignment and longitudinal position of the block is critical to getting the desired sound from the instrument.

The slow air chamber has a mouthpiece and breath hole for the player’s breath. Air flows through the slow air chamber and up the ramp, through the exit hole, and into the flue. The slow air chamber can serve as a secondary resonator, which can give some flutes a distinctive sound. The sound chamber contains the sound hole, which creates the vibration of air that causes sound when the airflow reaches the splitting edge. The splitting edge can also be called the cutting edge, the fipple edge, the labium, or the sound edge. The sound chamber also has finger holes that allows the player to change the frequency of the vibrating air. Changing the frequency of the vibration changes the pitch of the sound produced.

This use of open finger holes classifies the Native American flute as a simple system flute. The foot end of the flute can have direction holes. These holes affect the pitch of the flute when all the finger holes are covered. Detail of the nest area of a flute crafted by Richard W. Payne, showing the use of a spacer plate to create the flue. An alternate design for the sound mechanism uses a spacer plate to create the flue. The spacer plate sits between the nest area on the body of the flute and the removable block.

The spacer plate is typically held in place by the same strap that holds the block on the instrument. The splitting edge can also be incorporated into the design of the spacer plate. The spacer plate is often constructed of metal, but spacer plates have been constructed of wood, bark, and ceramic. When positioning and securing the removable block with the strap, the use of a spacer plate provides and additional degree of control over the sound and tuning of the flute. However, it also adds a degree of complexity when performing the task of securing both the block and the spacer plate. Various sources describe attributes of Native American flute that are termed «Plains style» and «Woodlands style». However, there is no general consensus among the various sources about what these terms mean.

Two Native American flutes crafted from branches by Robert Willasch. While many contemporary Native American flutes are crafted from milled lumber, some flutes are crafted from a branch of a tree. The construction techniques vary widely, but some makers of branch flutes will attempt to split the branch down a centerline, hollow out the inside, and then mate the halves back together for the completed flute. A double Native American flute is a type of double flute. It has two sound chambers that can be played simultaneously. The two chambers could have the same length or be different lengths.

The secondary sound chamber can hold a fixed pitch, in which case the term «drone flute» is sometimes used. The fixed pitch could match the fingering of the main sound chamber with all the finger holes covered, or it could match some other pitch on the main sound chamber. Alternately, various configurations of finger holes on the two sound chambers can be used, in which case terms such as «harmony flute» or «harmonic flute» are sometimes used. Extending the concept, Native American flutes with three or more chambers have been crafted. The general term «multiple flute» is sometimes used for these designs. Some Native American flutes constructed by traditional techniques were crafted using measurements of the body. The length of the flute was the distance from inside of the elbow to tip of the index finger. The length of the slow air chamber was the width of the fist.

The distance between the sound hole and first finger hole was the width of the fist. The distance between finger holes would be the width of a thumb. Flute makers currently use many methods to design the dimensions of their flutes. This is very important for the location of the finger holes, since they control the pitches of the different notes of the instrument. Flute makers may use calculators to design their instruments, or use dimensions provided by other flute makers. Native American flute fashioned from cedar wood. The flute maker has to take that cedar, split it open, and remove that beautiful, straight-grained, aromatic, sweet, soft, deep-red heart of the cedar. And then they will re-attach both halves and put the holes in.

And so the covenant or reciprocal agreement is that the flute player will instill the heart back into the wood — put their heart back in there. Contemporary Native American flutes continue to use these materials, as well as plastics, ceramic, glass, and more exotic hardwoods such as ebony, padauk, and teak. Various materials are chosen for their aromatic qualities, workability, strength and weight, and compatibility with construction materials such as glue and various finishes. Although little objective research has been undertaken, there are many subjective opinions expressed by flute makers and players about the sound qualities associated with the various materials used in Native American flutes. One study that surveyed the physiological effects of playing Native American flutes found a significant positive effect on heart rate variability, a metric that is indicative of resilience to stress. The Native American flute is still used today in Music Therapy settings. Known as Ojibwe music, usage of the flute is extremely beneficial for hospice, cancer, and cardiac patients to assist in managing anxiety, restlessness, fear, and pain.

Flutes can provide a source of rehabilitation and encourage a sense of accomplishment. It guides patients in taking a deep breath and using controlled exhalations to blow through the flute, helping with exercising the lungs. Contemporary Native American flutes can take ergonomic considerations into account, even to the point of custom flute designs for individual flute players. Performed on a 1987 flute crafted by Chief Arthur Two-crows. Performed on a 2001 flute crafted by Rick Heller. Recently some flute makers have begun experimenting with different scales, giving players new melodic options.

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The pitch standard used by many Native American flutes before the mid-1980s was arbitrary. However, contemporary Native American flutes are often tuned to a concert pitch standard so that they can be easily played with other instruments. The root keys of contemporary Native American flutes span a range of about three and a half octaves, from C2 to A5. Early recordings of Native American flutes are available from several sources. Native American flutes typically have either five or six finger holes, but any particular instrument may have from zero to seven finger holes. The instrument may include a finger hole covered by the thumb.

The fingerings for various pitches are not standardized across all Native American flutes. However, many contemporary Native American flutes will play the primary scale using the fingering shown in the adjacent diagram. While the pentatonic minor scale is the primary scale on most contemporary Native American flutes, many flutes can play notes of the chromatic scale using cross-fingerings. Native American flutes are available in a wide variety of keys and musical temperaments—far more than typically available for other woodwind instruments. Instruments tuned to equal temperament are typically available in all keys within the range of the instrument. Native American flute, Lakota Culture, 1935 or before.

The warble sounds as if the flute is vacillating back and forth between distinct pitches. However, it is actually the sound of different harmonic components of same sound coming into dominance at different times. Coltman, in a detailed analysis of flute acoustics, describes two types of warbles in Native American flutes: One «of the order of 20 Hz» caused by a «nonlinearity in the jet current», and a second type «in which amplitude modulation occurs in all partials but with different phases». The first type is analyzed by Coltman in a controlled setting, but he concluded that analysis of the second type of warble «is yet to be explained». The warble can be approximated by use of vibrato techniques. The phase shift that occurs between different harmonics can be observed on a spectrograph of the sound of a warbling flute.





Written music for the Native American flutes is often in the key of F-sharp minor, although some music is scored in other keys. However, the convention for this music written in F-sharp minor is to use a non-conforming key signature of four sharps, creating what is known as «Nakai tablature». Note that the use of finger diagrams below the notes that is part a high percentage of written music for the Native American flutes is not necessarily part of Nakai tablature. The use of a standard key signature for written music that can be used across Native American flutes in a variety of keys classifies the instrument as a transposing instrument. Extensive ethnographic recordings were made by early anthropologists such as Alice Cunningham Fletcher, Franz Boas, Frank Speck, Frances Densmore, and Francis La Flesche. These recordings capture traditional styles of playing the instrument in a sampling of indigenous cultures and settings in which the instrument was used. However, the legal and ethical issues surrounding access to these early recordings are complex. Because of incidents of misappropriation of ethnographic materials recorded within their territories, Indigenous communities today claim a say over whether, how and on what terms elements of their intangible cultural heritage are studied, recorded, re-used and represented by researchers, museums, commercial interests and others.



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Latin and North America, these historical narratives vary widely from tribe to tribe and are an integral part of tribal identity. It does not apply to the use of Native American flutes in situations such as performance — an Archaeology of the Soul: North American Indian Belief and Ritual. And so the covenant or reciprocal agreement is that the flute player will instill the heart back into the wood — fAQ for the Native American Flute». Many people have contributed to this material, photo by A. Where the Dead Sit Talking tells the remarkable coming, the American Indian Courting Flute: Revitalization and Change».

1960, few people were playing the Native American flute. However, a few recordings of flute playing during this period are commercially available. One such recording is by Belo Cozad, a Kiowa flute player who made recordings for the U. A busker in New York City’s Broadway-Lafayette subway station playing a Native American flute. Carlos Nakai became popular in the 1980s, in particular with the release of the album «Canyon Trilogy» in 1989. His music was representative of a shift in style from a traditional approach to playing the instrument to incorporate the New-age genre. Today, Native American flutes are being played and recognized by many different peoples and cultures around the world. The Native American flute has inspired hundreds of informal community music groups which meet periodically to play music and further their interest in the instrument. These groups are known as flute circles.

The chart below depicts the activity in publicly accessible social media groups specific to the Native American flute. However, the count of message prior to October 15, 2001 are not available. Red: Number of yearly messages on the 12 most active Yahoo! Groups specific to Native American flute, as reported by Yahoo! Blue: Number of yearly posts and comments on the 8 most active public groups on Facebook, as reported by Sociograph. However, note that these statistics do not take into account the change over this period in accessibility to the Internet, use of social media vs. Despite these limitations, the chart does indicate a substantial rate of growth in activity and interest. For additional statistics, see the flute circle article. The Native American flute has gained popularity among flute players, in large part because of its simplicity.

The flute’s cathartic appeal probably lies in its simplicity. In their quest to build instruments that could play several chromatic octaves with perfect intonation, Europeans produced mechanically complex instruments that require a great deal of technical skill on the part of the musician. Notable and award-winning Native American flutists include: R. The 1990 Indian Arts and Crafts Act of the United States criminalized deceptive product-labeling of goods that are ostensibly made by Native Americans. In the United States, wrongfully claiming that an artifact is crafted by «an Indian» is a felony offense. Based on this statue, only a flute fashioned by a person who qualifies as an Indian under the terms of the statue can legally be sold as a «Native American flute» or «American Indian flute». However, although there is no official public ruling on alternative terms that are acceptable, it is general practice that any manufacturer or vendor may legally label their work-product by other terms such as «Native American style flute» or «North American flute».