Monday, March 19, 2007

The Minor Scale of the Anasazi Flute

In our last look at the Anasazi flute we saw that the Anasazi flute, like the Native American flute, has a basic pentatonic scale. The NAF basic scale is a minor pentatonic while the Anasazi flute's basic scale is a major pentatonic. However the Anasazi flute has several other scales that can be easily played by just changing a few fingerings. One of these is a minor pentatonic. However the Anasazi flute's minor pentatonic is slighty modified from the Native American flute's minor pentatonic.

Before we can understand why the minor scale of the Anasazi flute is modified we need to understand a little more about common pentatonic scales. The most common pentatonic scale is called a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale by ethnomusicologists because it has no half-steps. The so called NAF pentatonic minor scale is a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale. You can easily play a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale using only the black keys of a piano.

Musical systems are broken down by the smallest distance between tones. In the case of the Western European scales that we use most often in our culture (so called Western Culture) the smallest distance is the Half Step.

Half steps are very easy to play on a piano. Any two notes that are next to each other are a half step apart. The easiest to play is to go from a white key to a black key that lies next to it. Another is to play two white keys that are directly next to one another. (There are two of these on a piano.)

In the example below all the notes in red are some of the half steps you can find on a piano.

There are no half steps between any of the black keys on a piano. That's why its so easy to play a Anhemitonic pentatonic scale on the the black keys. It's built in.

Let's listen again to the basic scales of the Native American flute and the Anasazi flute, both starting on F#.


© Cedar Mesa Music

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Basic Anasazi Flute Scale

The Anasazi flute, currently recreated by Michael Graham Allen, is starting to gain popularity among players of the modern "plains" style Native American flute. It's haunting tone and ability to maneuver through the overtones of the harmonic series creates a very seductive sound. Since more people are becoming interested in them let's take a closer look at how the basic scale is set up on this flute and how it differs from the modern NAF.

First here is a quick look at how a Anasazi flute is held. As you can see the lower half of the mouthpiece end of the flute is set in the middle of the jaw. The player blows across the top part of the rim with the flute held at a 45˚ angle. We'll take a closer look at this later. For now let's take a look at the basic scale.

The Anasazi flute, like the modern Native American flute, has a pentatonic scale as it's basic scale. However, it's not the NAF's minor version of the pentatonic but the major version. A pentatonic scale has five notes (from the Greek pente: five) plus the octave.

Let's listen to examples of both these scales starting on F#.


© Cedar Mesa Music