THOUGHTS ON PLAYING THE NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE

 

From the Book, "The Storyteller's Flute"

by JOHN De BOER

 

Play what is in your heart!  There are many books on how to play and many songs on music sheet paper to copy.  I encourage you to search for your song within you.  The many books and sheet music tablature can be helpful and a good road map or guide to new music experiences.  It is good to study and learn about different music and techniques you can use playing your flute, but these are just road maps and guides.  Your song is written on your heart, and this is the music that you want to play.  Even when playing from sheet music, play from the heart and listen to the sound you are making.  The dots on the paper will only tell you part of the story, the rest is inside you.  How it makes you feel and what you actually hear should always be the final test of the music.

 
Having said that, always keep an open mind and try many different methods and music.  Be well-read and do as much research as you can.  You must never stop learning and trying new ideas on your Native American Flute.  This will help you find and refine your personal music.  Your music doesn't have to be any particular style or played at any specific level.  All it has to be is what you are about, and you don't have to live up to anyone else's idea of what it should be or sound like.
 
I personally like to go out to the woods, far from anybody, and play and create songs with only the birds and the animals as my audience.  You will find they are a great audience that never complains or judges you.  This also gives you time to find your songs and develop your skill and understanding of the Native American Flute.  The Native American flute sounds quite natural in the forests and wilderness.  Unlike a trombone, the Native American Flute (singing wood) blends into nature's wonderful sounds.  The birds seem to respond and sing along as other animals scamper around doing their usual things after awhile, thinking you are just a very large ugly bird.
 
Where do the songs come from?  The Native American Flute is a very user-friendly instrument.  Basically, you simply blow in it and it makes a sound like a bird whistle, and, as you put more and more fingers over the holes in different combinations and with different amounts of breath, it makes different tones.  I often say that the flutes write the songs.  You just have to listen and try to remember what and how you played something when the flute plays something you like.  Be as free and creative with your music as you can.
 
As far as rhythms go, I recommend playing the flute with the same rhythm you speak.  When you speak it has a certain rhythm, pauses and accents.  Traditional western music is written in time signatures like 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 2/4, etc.  One of the wonderful things about the Native American Flute and the tradition of Native American music is that they do not use these conventions and the songs have more of the rhythm of how one would speak.  In other words, there is no specific time signature or metronomic tempo.  Not that you can't use songs that are written in a certain time signature, but you don't have to, and are not restricted to using one style of thinking.
 
There are no mistakes, or right or wrong notes or music.  This is some of my favorite music, an when I feel the best part of the music is taking place, many people consider this part a mistake or do not consider this music at all, just noise.  So find what you like in melodies, rhythms and sounds.  Remember beauty is in the ear of the beholder.
 
You can visit John's websites at:
http://www.skydancerdesigns.com   CD's and Books
http://www.myspace.com/johndeboer Stories and Music

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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