Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Danza del Lagarto

A song for students demonstrating the techniques of articulation covered in the last post and use of the upper ring finger. Find out more on the Santa Fe Flute School website

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Art of Articulation

Most people, when they are taught how to play the Native American style flute are shown where to put their fingers. Yet even beginning NAF players know to cover the holes on a flute because they see other flute players do this. What can’t be seen is the thing that makes a flute sing, which is a stream of air. Who can see the air? Who can see the wind? Wind is the one thing needed to produce the sound of a flute. Flutes, after all, are wind instruments, not “finger” instruments. How a flute sounds: soft, gentle, harsh, warm, thin, full, or clear, is a product of how a stream of air flows through it. NAF players, unfortunately, are rarely taught about their air stream, their breathing or articulation.
Articulation: The creation of clear and distinct sounds. Both in speech and music. In speech, articulation is the creation of clear and distinct words. In music, articulation is the creation of clear and distinct notes. How a note starts, stops and moves to other notes are all parts of musical articulation.
In a wind instrument, a stream of air blown into a tube produces vibrations. The frequency of a vibration produces a tone. If the player starts the stream of air in a too soft or hesitant manner, the tone will rise in pitch, like a whine. If the stream of air is stopped in a hesitant manner, the pitch drops down, producing a moaning sound.

Listen to a NAF using no articulation

These notes are not well articulated causing them to sound sour and unpleasant. Who wants to listen to a moaning flute? Who wants to play a moaning flute?

When properly articulated, the rising and lowering of the pitch goes away, leaving a well defined phrase.

Listen to a NAF using articulation  

Click here to read the rest of the article on the Santa Fe Flute School website

Learn to Play the Native American Flute

Get One-on-One instruction for articulation and other playing techniques. Learn to play the Native American flute with private lessons from Scott August.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Quicker Way to Become a Better NAF Player: What a Teacher Can Do for You

If you wanted to play a pentatonic melody on a piano it would be fairly easy. Just play the black notes. You don't have to worry about breathing, squeaking, tuning, and you can clearly see the keys laid out in front of you.

Playing a pentatonic melody on a Native American style flute is actually a bit harder, especially for a beginner. With a NAF you have to think about breathing, squeaking, tuning, and the finger holes are impossible to see.

Have you ever seen a person being shown the black keys on a piano and then told to, "Play from the Heart"? Of course not. That would seem like nonsense. You would expect someone trained that way to play a bunch of disconnected, random sounds. Yet that is exactly the only training most people get on the NAF!

While it is true that anyone can make sounds on a Native American Style Flute, the NAF is still a musical instrument and making music with it is more than just blowing into a mouthpiece and your wiggling fingers. Just like playing the piano is more than playing the black keys on a piano. Making music on a NAF is also about breathing, phrasing, good hand positioning, listening and having a solid playing technique.

Just like someone wanting to start playing the piano will find a teacher, having a qualified teacher for the NAF will help you play your instrument with confidence and comfort. A teacher will help you to develop your skills in a safe, non-judgmental environment, enabling you to reach your full potential as a Native American style flute player. This is true even if you've chosen to play the NAF for simple relaxation. How relaxing is it to squeak, run out of breath, feel like your playing is always the same or be nervous playing for friends or family?

Taking lessons from a teacher, even short term, can also help prevent you from making frustrating mistakes, developing long term bad habits, (that are hard to break) and give you the guidance to move forward when you feel stuck.

One of the most common bad habits is poor hand and finger positioning. The majority of players I encounter have this problem, and they are not even aware of it. People who hold their hand wrong don't feel comfortable with their instrument. They feel hesitant, miss holes and squeak frequently. This leads to frustration, a lack of confidence, and a lower level of enjoyment with their playing. If caught early this can be corrected. If not, it can become a very bad, hard-to-break habit. A good teacher will spot this problem, and help you develop good hand and finger techniques to allow you to play with confidence and increase your speed.

Another problem many NAF players have is not breathing correctly. The NAF is a wind instrument and if the player does not know how to breath properly, they run out of breath in the middle of phases, squeak, play out of tune and their tone can sound "sour". Breathing correctly in order to play a wind instrument is a skill that needs to be developed. Running out of breath is no fun. A teacher can help you with the skill of good breathing.

Maybe you took up the NAF to create songs? Just like composing on a piano, you wouldn't expect someone with no training to sit down at a piano and suddenly create music. The songs you hear every day are produced and created by people who have learned the basics of song creation. The basic concepts are not hard or complex, but if you have no training you will be unsure how to start and, at best, waste time reinventing what others already know. A teacher can show you these simple concepts, helping you create songs from even the smallest musical fragment, and guide you when you feel like you are stuck.

In my teaching I have had many students say to me, "I never knew how that was done", or "I never knew that was possible, until you showed me." And it makes sense. How do you know what you don't know? A good teacher, with a solid background in music, can take you far beyond what holes to cover, enabling you to free the music inside you.

Take control of your playing, a teacher will help!

Scott August offers online lessons via Skype Learn to play the Native American Flute from the comfort of your home.