Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The P Word

Over the last few years I’ve encountered something that I am never sure how to deal with. It started at the 2009 Zion flute school and has continued ever since. It happens whenever I’m around other flute players that teach. It is always there lurking in the background, but it is something we don’t talk about...

When I first encountered this I was at a loss for words. Or perhaps a better way to say it, is that I was a loss for a specific word. It was the unspoken word. When it came up in discussions with other teachers they all said the same thing, “I don’t say the P word.”

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Release Date Announced for "The Complete Guide to the Native American Style Flute"

The Complete Guide to the Native American Style Flute is Out Now.

To order your copy go to the The Complete Guide to the Native American Style Flute page on the Cedar Mesa Music website.


The Complete Guide to the Native American style Flute

© Cedar Mesa Music, BMI. All rights reserved.



Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First check to Leonard McGann

I sent the first check to Leonard McGann yesterday from sales of "Lone Crow Song". Other payments are being processed and will be mailed soon, as will future sales. To all who have purchased a copy of "Lone Crow Song" thank you for your wonderful support.

© Cedar Mesa Music, BMI. All rights reserved.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lone Crow Flute

A Profile of the flute from Lone Crow Song

Part 1 About Leonard
Part 2 About the Flute

Back in 2005, while I was performing in Phoenix at a flute circle on steroids called "Flute Odyssey", I met, and bought a very interesting flute, from Leonard McGann of Lone Crow flutes.

Leonard had traveled all the way from his home in rural Virginia, located on "Difficult Creek Road", to come to the Odyssey. Quite a journey to say the least. I found him to be a kind, warm person, but with a mischievous sense of humor too.

Since then we have stayed in touch and visited during many flute festivals, sharing insights and a few laughs. Okay, a lot of laughs... The most recent event where Leonard and I got to hang out was at the Musical Echoes festival in Florida last May. It was, as always, a lot of fun.

Scott August with Leonard McGann
With Leonard McGann at the Flute Odyssey

Then, earlier this summer I learned, with great sadness, that Leonard is very ill. With few exceptions, NAF makers do not make a lot of money, and the sluggish economy has hit them just as hard has it has hit the rest of us. (Us being NAF fans, not Wall Street bankers.) So in addition to dealing with his declining health, he has a mounting pile of medical bills.

Several flute auctions were started to help Leonard with his medical bills, most notability one put together by Randy and Shelly Stenzel of Feather Ridge flutes.

As a recording artist and performer I obviously didn't make flutes that I could donate to the auctions, but I did have the ability to record a song on one of Leonard's flutes. I decided to use the first one I got from him back at the Odyssey gathering. I chose this flute for a number of reasons. For one thing I can’t pick it up and not be reminded of Leonard, but I also chose it because it has a non standard tuning, and I thought that would suit a song written for Leonard. The tuning gives it a unique, one-of-a-kind, quality and Leonard has a unique, one-of-a-kind, quality too!

The resulting song was “Lone Crow Song”. It is available for sale as an MP3 digital download and 100% of the proceeds from all sales of the song go to Leonard to help him and his family deal with his medical bills.

Lone Crow Song by Scott August
Lone Crow Song

Since it is a very unusual flute I thought it would be interesting to take a look at it in more detail, and that's what this post is all about.

THE LONE CROW FLUTE
The flute that I used to record Lone Crow Song is a six hole Native American style flute, but with a non standard tuning and fingering. Three different scales can be pulled from this instrument making it a fun flute to play, since it has so many notes available to the player. It also sounds great! Clear and sweet.

Lone-Crow-Flute-1227-fix
The Lone Crow Flute

The main scale on the flute is a pentatonic scale, but is not the standard NAF minor pentatonic scale. It has the same notes of that scale, but starts, and ends, one whole step lower. The bottom note is G above middle C and the notes produced are as follows: G-A-C-D-E-G

A standard NAF minor pentatonic with these notes would start, and end on A, and would be look like this: A-C-D-E-G-A

The fingering for this scale is unlike 99% of most NAFs so there is not, to the best of my knowledge, any finger TAB for it. Therefore, to illustrate the fingerings, I will use Xs and Os. An “X” equals a closed finger hole, while an “O” equals an open hole.

THE MAIN “LONE CROW FLUTE” SCALE
Here is the fingering for the main scale with the notes below:


X X X X X O
X X X X O O
X X X O O O
X X O O O O
X X X X X X
X O O O O O
G A C D E G


Although it might look complex all you do is keep the second hole from the bottom covered at all times while opening all the others in succession, starting from the bottom, to play the scale.

Here is a sound sample of this scale:
Lone Crow Flute: Main Scale by Cedar Mesa Music

This scale is called a 1-2-4-5-6 pentatonic scale. Contrary to what you might have heard about such scales, it is not a pentatonic mode. In the larger musical world there are no pentatonic modes. However, it does share all the same notes as the so~called minor pentatonic scale. As we saw earlier, it just starts on a different note, and thus a different root.

The intervals in the scale are: Root, Maj-2nd, 4th, 5th, Maj-6th, Octave.

Notice how the name of the scale 1-2-4-5-6 describes the intervals that are found in the scale.

It is in this scale that I played and wrote “Lone Crow Song”.

THE MINOR PENTATONIC ON A LONE CROW FLUTE
This flute can also play a standard NAF minor pentatonic scale. However, the root note will not longer be the bottom note of G, but will now be the the note a whole step above, which is the pitch A. When playing this scale the flute is now in the key of A.

Here is a fingering chart for the minor pentatonic scale for this flute. Note that in the simplest version of this scale you do not play (close) the bottom hole. The scale starts on the second note (hole) of the flute. The octave (A2) is produced with the fingering shown but the player also has to over blow.

Here is the fingering for the minor pentatonic on this flute, with the notes below:

X X X X O O
X X X O O X
X X O O O X
X O O O O X
X X X X X X
O O O O O O
A C D E G A2


Here is how this scale sounds:
Lone Crow Flute: Min Pentatonic Scale by Cedar Mesa Music

Just like with the main Lone Crow scale, the 2nd hole remains covered at all times. The bottom note really can be played of course, but the root of the scale is still located on the second hole. The A. Like all NAFs in minor pentatonic the intervals are: Root, Min-3rd, 4th, 5th, Min-7th, Octave.

Technically this scale is called a: 1-3-4-5-7 pentatonic scale.

Normally on a typical NAF you could only play one scale and have it be in tune, much less two. But on this ingenious flute we can play another scale! A diatonic major scale.

THE DIATONIC MAJOR SCALE ON A LONE CROW FLUTE
Not only was Leonard able to build this flute with two different pentatonic scales, but he also got a major diatonic scale out of it as well. The so~called “Do-Re-Mi” scale.

Remember, a diatonic scale has seven notes, not just the five found in a pentatonic scale. And to play the diatonic scale on this flute the root note is moved back down to G, the bottom note.

Here is the fingering for the diatonic scale found on this flute. Once again the octave (G2) is overblown:
X X X X X X O X
X X X X X O X X
X X X X O O O X
X X X O O O O X
X X O X X X X X
X O O O O O O X
G A B C D E F G2


Notice how there are two cross fingerings in this scale. The first one happens between notes A and B, the second between notes E and F.

Lone Crow Flute: Major Scale by Cedar Mesa Music

Obviously this is a very complex flute hidden in the simplicity of the NAF design. It is a lot of fun to play and challenges the performer to go farther than the standard minor pentatonic NAF. It’s a lot like Leonard. If you can get your hands on one you'll really enjoy it.

If you would like to help Leonard McGann you can purchase a digital download MP3 copy of Lone Crow Song from the Cedar Mesa Music website. Remember, all proceeds from this song are being donated by Cedar Mesa Music to Leonard.

To purchase your copy click HERE

You can also send donations and cards to Leonard & Kitty McGann at 2534 Difficult Creek Road, Bedford, VA 24523-4542.

© Cedar Mesa Music, BMI. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Playing NAF Duets

As always, in deciding what to post to this blog I try to be aware of topics and techniques that people are asking about. One of the topics that I've been asked about a lot lately is “What keys go together well to play duets with my Native American style flute?”

Rather than go through every possible pairing of keys there are a couple very simple ways to figure this out no matter what key your flutes are in.

What keys work best

If you want to play duets, trios, or even quartets, with other flute players the keys of all the flutes need to be related somehow. Keys that are related keys share more notes than unrelated keys and therefore will sound better.

When choosing flutes to play duets with the first step is to pick one NAF as the master, thereby establishing the master key from which to choose other flutes. Once you’ve done this the rest becomes fairly easy. For this post I will also call the master flute: Flute-#1.

In general, to avoid playing too much cross fingering, there are three keys that work the best when picking one to harmonize with Flute #1: The same key, the key a fifth above the master flute, and/or the key a fourth above the master flute.

While this may sound hard, it’s not. Let's start with two flutes a 5th apart.

Finding NAFs a 5th apart
Once you have picked a flute to be Flute-#1, your master flute, you need to figure out what pitch a 5th on that flute is. If you don't know the note names in that key, here's an easy way to locate that pitch you're looking for.



The root of your master flute (Flute-#1) no matter what key you choose, will be fingered like this:
To find the 5th on the master flute play this fingering:
This is the pitch your second flute should play on its bottom note. In other words the bottom note of Flute-#2 plays a pitch a 5th higher than the bottom note on Flute-#1.




To look at it another way, the pitch produced by playing this fingering on the master key flute...
...will be the same pitch as produced by this fingering on a NAF a 5th higher.

This only refers to this one pitch. We will look at how the the scales mesh later in this post.

Here are some common NAF keys that are a 5th apart:
F# - C#, G - D, A - E.
All of these pairs can be in any register. So if you don’t have a high E but do have a mid range E, or even a Bass E it will still work with a flute in the key of A. However, as a general principle, having the flute that is in your master key (Flute-#1) play in a lower register will sound better if you’ve never done this before.

Why This Sounds Good: 5ths
The reason why flutes sound good in these pairing is due to the amount of notes they share. For example flutes that are a 5th apart share all but one note

Key=GGBbCDFG---
Key=D---DFGACD

Out of the six notes available in each NAF's basic scale, four of them can be played by both flutes without any cross fingering.
If we include the note, as shown fingered below, on the second NAF (the one a 5th higher) we can now play the minor 3rd from the master flute on the higher flute. In the example above this would be the Bb flat from the master flute in G, but played on the flute in D. So now we can play that pitch on both flutes! (This is the minor 6th on the flute a 5th higher, but you don't need to know this for it to work.)

Added note on the Flute-#2

Now both flutes can play five of the six total notes available between the two flute's basic scales.

Here's a sample of two NAFs a 5th apart
NAF Duet in 5ths by Cedar Mesa Music
To find out more about all the audio samples in this post be sure to read About the audio samples located at the bottom.

Finding NAFs a 4th apart
Now let's locate the note a 4th above the root of Flute-#1.




Playing this fingering on your master flute...
...will produce the same pitch as the root note on a flute a 4th higher

Here are some common NAF keys that are a 4th apart: F# - B, G - C, A - D.

Why This Sounds Good: 4ths
Just like NAFs that are a 5th apart, NAFs whose keys are a 4th apart share a lot of notes. Out of 7 total pitches the two flutes share 5 of them. If you use all the notes between both flutes you can play a full diatonic natural minor scale starting on the root of Flute-#2, starting on a C.

Key=GGBbCD-FG--
Key=C--C-EbFGBbC

When I play duets a 4th apart and am playing Flute-#2 I tend to not play the minor 3rd (the second note on a NAF) but just skip over it. I also like to add the major 6th, for a little spice, which you can get with this fingering

Added note on the flute #2


NAF Duet 4ths by Cedar Mesa Music


"Say What..."
Now let's get a bit clever. If you take a close look at the diagram that compares notes in the key of G and the key of C you might have already figured out that if two players decide that they would rather make the bottom note of Flute-#2 the tonic of the key they are playing in that will make the relationship between the two flutes a 5th.

How does this work, you may be asking? Scales in western music are not divided evenly in half. The bottom half of the scale is the interval of a 5th, while the top half is a 4th.

Therefore, if you and another NAF player decide to play flutes a 5th apart, but the flute used for Flute-#2 is lower than Flute-#1 you could say you are playing a 4th apart! What will determine whether the relationship between the two flutes is a 4th or a 5th is which note is functioning as the root for both flutes. In both of the audio samples in this post the lower flute, Flute-#1, has always played the master root note for both flutes. Therefore the higher flute, Flute-#2, has had to conform to the lower flute's key in each example.

Let's look at this another way. If the notes F# - B are a 4th apart, when you reverse them, B - F# they are now a 5th apart. Conversely if the notes F# - C# are a 5th apart, when you reverse them to C# - F# they are now a 4th apart.

About the Audio Samples
The audio samples were recorded with a Heartsongs flute in the key of D for Flute-#1. One track was used for both samples, e.g. they are the same recording. Above this are a Yazzie flute in A for the sample of two flutes a 5th apart and another Heartsongs flute in G for the sample of the flutes a 4th apart.

I chose to make the master flute, Flute-#1, in D to keep both the second flutes from being too high.

naf-duets-1-web

naf-duets-2-web
The Three Flutes


© Cedar Mesa Music, BMI. All rights reserved.