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.
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
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.
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 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.