Monday, April 04, 2005

NAF Part 3: Cocobolo flute

The last flute posting was about a Mayan Moon Goddess flute, from Meso America. Let’s return again to North America for the flute design, but stay in Meso America for the wood. The flute above, made by Marvin and Jonette Yazzie of Yazzie flutes, is a plains style Native American flute (NAF). The wood it is made of, however, is called Cocobolo and is native to Central America and Mexico: Meso America.

Cocobolo is a very hard wood and is a member of the Rosewood family. It is used in the construction of other musical instruments like Clarinets and Marimbas as well as Native American flutes. It is also used as a decorative wood for items such as knife handles. Marvin has told me that he’s seen furniture made out of it too. The color is very striking, a deep orange-red with yellow streaks. When the streaks are big, the effect is quite impressive. The flute is very heavy due to the hardness of the wood. Harder woods have a tighter grain and are more dense, making them heavier. Cocobolo trees are part of the genus Dahlbergia and are a member of the pea family, notably Dahlbergia retusa.

This flute is featured on the piece SEDONA SUNRISE, the only solo flute piece on my latest recording NEW FIRE

In the top photo you’ll notice that there is quite a lot of white Buck Skin wrapping the flute. This is not for decoration, but is helping hold the top and bottom of the flute together. Cocobolo wood has a lot of resin and even after allowing the wood to dry for a longer period of time than needed for most other woods, this resin prevents the glue that holds the flute together from bonding. This flute was only the second one that the Yazzies had made from Cocobolo wood and they were still trying to figure out how to deal the extra resin. Since then they have overcome this problem. I’ve talked with other flute makers and master Renaissance and Baroque Recorder maker Jeff Holt, and it would seem the most common way to deal with Cocobolo resin is to wipe some acetate on the area to be glued just before applying the glue. The acetate “dries” the wood long enough for the glue to bond.

To find out more information about Yazzies flutes, and other flute makers check out the FLUTE MAKERS page on my web site.

For more information about the Native American flute visit my NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE HISTORY page.

Be sure to check out the photos of my FLUTE COLLECTION to see more instruments.

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


  1. I think that it is great that you are writting about this and spreading your knowledge on our heritage. Keep doing a great job. I look forward to reading future posts by you.



  2. Thought I would stop in to say, "Hi"!!!
    'Thought & Humor'


  4. Thanks so much for this informative blog and for your website about Native American flutes. I have a beautiful cedar flute and hope to eventually learn to play it in an authentic way.

  5. Very nice and very professional... I will definitely buy one of these days.
    Keep going! I'll read your posts and pass the address on...

  6. It's very interesting how almost every native culture on any contenient has some form of the flute. I wonder why that is.