Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to care for your Native American Flute

So you bought your first flute and have started play it. Congratulations! I’m sure the question “What do I need to do to take care of it?” has crossed your mind. A Native American flute is a musical instrument and like all instruments needs special care. As a woodwind instrument your NAF has some extra needs that don't come with guitars, pianos and other non-woodwinds.

The biggest problem that you will encounter is moisture. As a wind instrument every time you play your NAF you force moisture from your breath inside the flute. As this moisture builds up in the space between the block and the flute, called the “flue”, it will eventually prevent the flute from playing and choke off the airflow that produces the sound. This is called “watering out” and is the main problem most NAF players encounter. Watering out is a product of a couple factors: the temperature of your breath and the temperature of your flute.

The temperature of your breath is close to your body temperature or 98.6˚. The flute, however, is close to the ambient temperature of air around it, usually lower than 98˚. This also applies to humidity. The humidity of your breath is usually higher than the humidity of the air around the flute, unless you like to play in the shower.

As you play, you blow hot, moist, humid air into your flute. This moisture is partially absorbed into the wood causing the wood to swell. The remainder is deposited as small beads of moisture in the slow-air-chamber, also called the wind chamber, and the flue.

Under normal circumstances these beads of moisture will clump together becoming larger and larger in the flue until they choke off the flow of air. At first your flute will begin to lose it’s tone and sound breathy and wispy, then it will stop producing a sound altogether.

As for the swelling of the wood, if taken to extreme, will cause the seam to break, usually near the mouthpiece. Although less common, the swelling can cause a split in the wood if there is a defect in the wood itself.

How to Manage Watering Out
READ THE REST IN SCOTT AUGUST'S NEW BOOK The Complete Guide to the Native American Style Flute

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

How to buy a Native American flute: Part 2

In Part 1 of How to Buy a Native American flute we looked at several different factors including:
  • Quality of Workmanship
  • Quality of Sound
  • Tuning
  • Fingering
  • Ease of Playing
If you haven't read Part 1 yet, I strongly suggest that you take a moment to read it before you dive into this article. In Part 2 we will take a much more detailed look some things you can look for when purchasing a NAF, including:
  • Finger spacing
  • Flute length and bore size
  • Types of Wood
  • Finishes
Finger Spacing
For beginning flute players the most important thing to consider, other than the sound, is the width of the finger spacing of the holes on the flute. People with smaller hands, or those who have never played a musical instrument before, are not used to the stretch that comes with the bigger, lower pitched flutes. Starting with a smaller, higher pitched flute is like doing warm ups before exercising. It will help a beginner get used to playing a NAF without having to worry about a big stretch right away.

A flute in the key of A is a good way to start for people with smaller hands.

If your hands are bigger or if you've played a musical instrument before, the finger spacing will not be as big a consideration. I've found that people with experience playing other wind instruments like clarinet, recorder or a silver flute have no problem with the finger spacing. Pianists also do well. If you've played other instruments before, or you have large hands, you could easily start with a flute in the key of G or F#.

Of course even if you never played an instrument or your hands are smaller you could still start with a G or F# flute. Just try not to over do it and strain a muscle in your hands. Once you've gotten used to the stretch of these the larger flutes you'll do just fine. Most flutes below F# are harder for all beginners to play and I generally don't recommend them for that reason. But there are exceptions and that lead us to our next subject.

The Complete Guide to the Native American Style Flute

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© 2011 Cedar Mesa Music. All rights reserved.