Sunday, March 06, 2005

Native American flutes Part 3

Let's look at another "plains" style flute. As I mentioned before, "plains" style flutes are generally brighter in tone and louder in volume that "woodland" style flutes. When the term "plain" style is mentioned we are referring to flutes that came out of the plains of North American. There are a few theories as to why "plains" flutes are brighter and louder. One of these is that they had to be heard over greater distances and deal with things like wind, that would interfere with the sound. It could be as simple as one culture made them a certain way and then when they moved to another culture there was a change in design. Perhaps the second culture was making them from the memory of seeing a flute and didn't have one from which to model theirs. Personally I think the answer is lost to time and that a little mystery is a good thing. But I'm getting away from the flute I've picked for this posting.

The flute we're going to look at today was made by Scott Loomis of Wind's Song flutes.

It shouldn't surprise you to learn that this flute is made of cedar.

The block, a beautiful bird is also made of cedar.

This flutes sings. It's very responsive to both tonguing and fingering techniques. It seems built for soaring melodies. The tone is clear, smooth and very clean. Very little wind noise. I really enjoy playing fast passages and light syncopated rhythms on this instrument. We're going to link to two examples of this flute, both from my latest CD, New Fire. The first is from track 1 "Heart of the Sky". This tune is lively and floats in the higher register of the flute as well as holding it's own with the driving rhythms of kalimba and a tuned Aztec drum.
The other example is also from New Fire, a song called Ravens & Red-tails. In this song the tune is more lyrical yet has the distinctive chirps of the Native flute, with subtle note bends and ornamentations.

You might want to compare the audio sample of this flute with the other "plains" style flutes from Part 1. All of these flutes are made of cedar and in the key of G, yet each has it's own distinct characteristics.

This flute is 24" long and has a 1" bore. It was made in 1999. Loomis' flutes are have very a clean design and are made with great precision. The finger holes are of uniform size and evenly spaced. The tunings is excellent, but at the time I purchased this flute Scott was using a non-standard fingering for the octave. The standard fingering is all holes uncovered except for the fourth from the bottom. Wind's Song flutes finger the octave by covering the fifth hole from the bottom, not the fourth. Having said this I use the standard fingering and Loomis told me he does too. The same note is produced with both fingerings with a slight difference in pitch. One is in tune with the octave, the other a little sharp.
There are two very distinctive features to this flute. Normally the thin slit, or flue, between the bottom of the block (the bird sitting on top of the flute) is carved out from the flute itself. On this flute the flue is carved from the bottom of the block. To understand what this flue does read my article about The history, construction, traditional,
and modern uses of the Native American flute at ABOUT THE NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE
The other interesting feature about this flute are the holes at the far end. These holse are both symbolic and practical. The vibrating column of air inside the flute stops at the four holes, so the placement of the holes plays a part in determining the over all tuning of the flute. Symbolically the four holes send the notes of the flutes to the four cardinal directions.

To find out more information about Scott Loomis' flutes, check out the Native American flute makers page on my web site. Look for the link to Wind's Song flutes LINK: FLUTE MAKERS

Be sure to check out the photos of my flute collection on my web site. LINK: FLUTE PHOTOS.

If you have any questions, send it to me using the link below.


  1. Your information is great. I play the flute (and a little percussion)and love the sound of them, especially the wooden ones. Personally, I favor the wooden flutes. Thanks for the info!

  2. Thanks for a great site. I have been playing since I was in college and its always great to see promotion. Have a great day
    Joseph hutton

  3. I love your flute collection mate!

  4. Your flute information has been useful, as I love this kind of music. Of the flutes you have posted, I like the sound of this one the best. Thanks for the information!

  5. Cool site. I saw many cedar flutes in Mpls,MN, but my buddy Brent Micheal Davids made some out of crystal. Here's his url

    We've worked together on some native theatre in MPLS, but his experience and music go far beyond that.

  6. Anonymous4:41 PM

    where can i buy native american flute anyone.