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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  1. Anonymous7:43 AM

    Another well-written, informative, extremely helpful and FUNNY article! Thanks! And I'm understanding how you can never have too many flutes!

  2. Anonymous8:47 PM

    Exactly the information I needed about watering out, climate, what to do about it and so forth. I thought I was just being lavish with the thought of more flutes so I can play longer. You have justified my need. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous8:06 AM

    Great information! I just got a NAF for my 17th birthday. . . I've always loved the way they sound, and am really excited about learning to play.