BEGINNERS GUIDE

WOODLAND VOICES

NATIVE AMERICAN STYLE FLUTES

 

The Native American flute is one of the easiest wind instruments to play. The Minor tuning of the Native flute makes it easy because more notes go together than with most contemporary instruments. This simplicity allows non-trained individuals to be able to pick up the flute and make pleasing sounds within a matter of minutes. Everybody has a song--find yours.

 

    In the past, the Native American Flute was used by many tribes in many different ways. For some it was used in ceremony, for others it was used in courting or signaling. The Woodlands Flute was often used in a meditative like way to speak through music what could not be said with words. Flutes were often made out of a split branch or river cane, using the sizes of particular body parts such as thumb widths and arm lengths as guides for barrel length and hole location. This system allowed the tuning of early Native American Flutes to come somewhere close to between what is now considered modern Pentatonic and Diatonic scales.

    Woodland Voices Flutes are tuned to a modern Minor Pentatonic 1 & 4 scale using a digital tuner. All flutes are suited for the professional as well as for the beginner.

 

 Playing Tips

    To begin simply cover all of the finger holes using the first three fingers of each hand. If you have a five hole flute, use the first two fingers of one hand for the top two holes and the first three of the other hand to cover the bottom three holes. Use the flat pads of your fingers rather than the finger tips. The holes are easier to cover this way. Relax, and blow a medium volume of air into the mouthpiece of the flute (this is the end with the decorative block closest to it). 

 

Don't worry right away about playing a song, just concentrate on getting comfortable with where the finger holes are. Begin by slowly lifting the third finger of your lower hand (the furthest hole away from the mouthpiece) then the second, and continue one at a time up the flute and then back down. For beginners, be sure to not uncover holes closer to the mouthpiece when holes that are further away are still covered. This will help the flute to sound better when starting out. When you become more advanced and comfortable with the flute, you can begin to add cross fingering.           

 

    For 6 hole flutes (5 hole skip this paragraph) until you get into more advanced playing, leave the third hole closest to the mouthpiece (third finger of the upper hand) closed at all times. Pretend this hole is not there and use that finger to help hold on to the flute. Some will even close this hole off with a piece of leather temporarily. The available notes will sound better together this way because the flute has two separate scales which can be challenging for beginners. For now we will just pretend that the flute has 5 holes.

 

  Lessons may be available in your area, but the Native Flute is a simple instrument where no formal training is needed. Simply play what is in your heart or look to the horizon or to a plant for highs and lows peaks and valleys. The world around us contains countless songs in the form of nature—look here for inspiration.

 

 


More Playing Tips

    The Bird, totem, or block on the top of your flute is part of the sound mechanism, and is essential to proper function. The bird can be adjusted slightly find the best tone but usually makes its truest sound when the bottom front is lined up with the back of the true sound hole. If your flute sounds odd, look here first to make sure that it is aligned properly.

 

    During playing, your flute may have condensation build up in the air chamber. Depending on how long you have been playing and temperature of the room etc., this moisture may bead up and get into the focusing channel--affecting the sound of the flute. Do not be alarmed, this is natural for the Native American Flute. To cure this problem, if you wish to continue playing, simply plug all the holes and blow hard into the flute to purge some of the moisture. This may make a loud sharp sound, so if you are somewhere where this would be offensive you can put your finger in front of the block to silence this effect. When you are done playing be sure to always store the flute in a position where the moisture will not pool in the flute. To do this store the flute with the mouthpiece pointing down in a vertical position. For longer sessions I suggest removing the block or sliding it back to help let it air dry. Do not store your flute where it will be susceptible to extreme temperature conditions—such as in the sun, or in the car in summer or winter.

 

    The tone of your flute will be susceptible to temperature changes, and may vary up to a half of a note. Colder will be flatter and warmer sharper. This is the nature of the Native American Flute. If you are playing with other instruments, they may need to adjust to compensate for the difference.

 

    The Native flute is a simple instrument that, if treated with care, should bring you a lifetime of musical pleasure. Woodland Voices Flutes are GUARANTEED in workmanship and materials as well as for tuning and playability. If you are not completely satisfied with the quality of construction, the sound or the tuning of your flute, you may return it in its original condition within a reasonable period of time (10-14 days) for a complete refund of the purchase price, minus shipping. There are no restocking fees.

For Questions or further Guidance Please Call
402-932-6894 or

1-877-461-9903

Mitakuye Oyasin

Colyn, Kitty & Sam

 


 

Ornamentations

* Double Tonguing: Accomplished by making or forming a “Tu” sound while blowing into the flute. To do this in even more rapid succession than is possible with a ”Tu-Tu-Tu” sound, try “Tu-Ku-Tu-Ku-Tu-Ku.”

 

* Vibrato: recognized as the wave in the note or a varying up and down sound while playing. This is generally done by using the diaphragm. You may try using pulses of air like trying to make the flame of a candle waver but not blow out. Try pursing your lips a little to help control the air flow. The larger blow hole of the woodlands flute will make this easier.

 

• Grace Notes: this is when a hole below the note you are playing is closed and opened quickly.

 

• Pop: done as if saying “what” quickly at the same time as releasing one or more finger holes.

 

• Bending: done by slowly sliding a finger on or off of a finger hole--has a slide whistle kind of effect.

 

• Flutter Tongue: done as if rolling your “Rs” in Spanish or German. This effect is best used sparingly.

 

• Humming: also best used sparingly, this is done by simply humming into the flute while playing.

 

• Over blowing: this happens when the sound pressure node in the flute receives enough energy to change its pattern and kick up an octave. The flute has many ways in which to do this. As you become familiar with your flute you may wish to add this to your selection or ornamentations.


The Woodlands Flute

The Woodlands Flute differs from the Plains flute, in that the Woodlands style places the focusing channel (wind way) in the barrel of the flute rather than in the block, this, accompanied with a blunted fipple edge, gives a more round and warm, less buzzy or reedy sound. Woodlands Flutes generally have larger bore diameters which allow for more friendly hole spacings. A person with smaller hands would be more likely to play a lower key in a Woodlands flute than would be possible with other styles.

Woodland Voices Flutes are handcrafted in Omaha, Nebraska by Colyn Petersen using a mixture of modern and traditional methods. All sound and finger holes are burned rather than drilled which not only seals the hole and the surrounding area but hardens it as well. Woodland Voices Flutes are digitally tuned to tight specifications and are crafted to play a traditional 1.4 octaves.


THE FIRST FLUTE:

Legend states that a woodpecker gifted a young brave the first flute, but it would not play. He had to first humble himself before it would sing. Since the heart of the cedar had been removed from the flute, it was his duty as a flute player to replace it with his own when he played. Later, young men would craft their flutes out of a split branch or river cane. The sizes of their particular body parts such as thumb widths and arm lengths were often used as measurements for barrel size and hole location. This system allowed them to come very close to what is now a relatively standardized configuration. The Native American flute was used by many tribes for many different reasons. Some tribes used the flute for ceremonial reasons, in others young braves would use it to try and win the hands their hopeful brides to be. And still in others it would be used for a meditation like way to empty one's self of all the things which could not be expressed in words, as was often the case with the Woodlands Flute.

 

THE BLOCK:

The Bird, totem, or block on the top of your flute is part of the sound mechanism, and is essential to proper function. The bird can be adjusted to sharpen or flatten the tone (to a small degree) but usually makes its truest sound when the bottom front is lined up with the back of the true sound hole. Each handcrafted flute is tuned with the bird or totem in this position. If your flute sounds funny, look here first to make sure that it is aligned properly. The tone of your flute will be susceptible to climactic changes, and may vary up to a half of a note with variations in temperature.

 

CARE OF YOUR FLUTE:

During playing, your flute may have condensation build up in the air chamber. Depending on how long you have been playing, this moisture may get up into the focusing channel and affect the sound of the flute. To temporarily cure this problem, if one wishes to continue playing, simply plug all the holes and blow hard into the flute to purge some of the moisture. This may make a loud sharp sound, so if you are somewhere where this would be offensive you can put your finger under the roof of the bird by the true sound hole to silence this effect. You may even wish to slide the bird back or even remove it to wipe the focusing channel clear (never use your fingers). When you are done playing be sure to always store the flute in a position where the moisture will not pool in the flute. To do this store it with the mouthpiece pointing down in a vertical position on a soft cloth. For longer sessions I suggest removing the bird to help let it air dry. Avoid leather flute bags until the flute is dry, as they do not breathe well. Do not store your flute where it will be susceptible to extreme temperature conditions--such as in the sun, or in the car in the winter. Your flute is a simple instrument that, if treated with care, should bring you a lifetime of musical pleasure. From time to time you may wish to polish your flute. When this is the case, we recomend Clapham's Beeswax

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Colyn Petersen was born of Northern European Heritage in 1967 in Eastern Iowa. In 1997, feeling as though he had missed out as a child, he set out to learn to play a musical instrument. After a brief survey of available instruments he decided on the Native Flute. First he tried to make one with the help of some books by Lew Paxton Price, but it did not work. Discouraged and disappointed he saved money to buy a flute. Within a week its arrival, he had created his very own--understanding better with a visual representation what the book had been trying to explain. It was at that time that he realized his first purchase was overpriced and did not play well, for his very first successful flute sounded better than the one he had bought. With this as inspiration and having discovered the pure joy of creating a musical instrument, he set out on the path to become a better flute maker.

Since his first flute, Colyn has worked very hard to improve his skills, making great strides in sound along the way. In June of 2000 Colyn quit his job as a Graphic Artist to become a full time parent for his new son Samuel and to also devote more time to the flute. Colyn works out of his basement in Omaha, Nebraska and enjoys speaking with other flute makers and enthusiasts as well as seeing and hearing their work. He believes in promoting cooperative and collaborative flute relationships rather than competitive ones and in making a good flute for a good price.


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Woodland Voices Flutes
2002 Deer Park Blvd
Omaha, NE 68108
402-932-6894

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