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.