By Stephanie Baldridge

One of the things we like to do in Cascadia Flute Circle is to explore different ways of expanding the Native American Flute Circle experience over and above the usual solos and duets you find at a Flute Circle by playing Flute Circle games.  People have been using music in games for centuries.  Many composers have even used games to inspire them in their compositions.  For example, we know that Mozart used dice at times to augment his creative energy in his composition of musical scores.  Also, the American Composer John Cage is known to have used the I Ching, an ancient Chinese oracle, to map out his compositions.  Mozart, who had a love of mathematics, is also said to have used the Fibonacci Sequence, a series of numbers used by mathematicians, architects, linguists, musicians, and many others, in the composition of his music.  For more information on the Fibonacci Sequence, see:  http://techcenter.davidson.k12.nc.us/group2/music.htm.  In more recent times, people have been known to use Fibonacci squares, numbers, and/or letters, to determine what note comes next in a composition.  Here is an example of this method, introduced by Doug Holly, via John Gatliff, at Flute Tree:   http://www.flutetree.com/playing/fibonacci.html.  In the grand spirit of play, here are some games that could be included in any Flute Circle.  Music is the most social of all the Arts, next to dance.  Flute Circle games are a fun and communal way to learn new techniques and skills, and help to promote group bonding through shared positive and harmonious group experiences.  Another benefit of Flute Circle games is that each person is afforded the opportunity to explore their own musical potential in a spontaneous, non-threatening, and nonjudgmental way.  Flute Circle games are also a great way to get to know your flute(s) and explore its quirks and its full range of possibilities.  Remember:  There are NO mistakes—only new embellishments!  There is also no right or wrong way to play anything—let your imagination and intuition guide you.

You may wish to play at least one Flute Circle game each time your Flute Circle meets, or as many as your group feels like playing at a time.  Few activities simultaneously engage the intellect, the emotions, and the kinesthetic.  In other words, when we play music, we think, feel and act all at the same time.  It is a well-known fact that imagination and intuition are two very important aspects of creativity.  Flute Circle games are a fun and ingenious way to get in touch with our imagination and intuition, thereby stimulating creativity.  While playing music we develop listening skills and improve memory skills, together with experiencing increased confidence, creativity, and adaptability. All of these games can help you and your group further explore the Native American Flute in all of its myriad aspects, and in doing so, engage everyone’s active imagination.  Flute Circle games also help you to change your perspective and look at everything around you with new eyes.  In addition, these games make each Flute Circle fresh, new and exciting, and help to ease the anxiety of self-conscious players, encouraging them to take risks in a safe and playful environment.  Flute Circle games also have the added benefit of teaching useful information and hands-on skills that can be immediately incorporated into anyone’s Flute playing, thereby expanding their Flute playing repertoire and knowledge base.  Finally, playing Flute Circle games fosters relaxed, non-competitive and open-minded attitudes toward music, which ultimately inspires greater confidence in creative self-expression.  Remember that every Flute has something to tell you, something to teach you, a story to tell, and a song to sing.  Playing Flute Circle games is a great way to learn to play from your heart, with no editing or censuring, and build improvisation skills.  These are by no means the only games there are, and they can be varied in many different ways—be creative!  You’re only as limited as your imagination!

1.         Poetry and Native Flute

One of the things we like to do is to combine poetry with the Native American Flute.  Frequently, our members bring poems they have written to Flute Circles to share.  We have even had entire Flute Circles centered around mixing poetry and music.  You can have a “Themed Flute Circle” where you ask everyone to bring a poem that they either have written, or that has heart and meaning for them.  With poetry, there is something for everyone:  There is humorous poetry, mystical poetry, romantic poetry, etc.  A good poetry anthology is a great source for many varieties of poetry in one handy volume.  There are many different ways to present a poem along with the Native American Flute.  For example:

            a.         Try recording the poem and then playing the flute with the recorded words in the background;

            b.         You can also just “think” the poem silently to yourself as you play, or you might wish to provide the rest of the Flute Circle members with copies of your poem to read as you play;

c.         You can also read one line of your poem, then play your interpretation of each successively-spoken line on the flute; and

d.         You can have another person recite the poem while you play the Native Flute.

For more detailed information and ideas, see the Article entitled, “Working with Prose, Poetry, and Storytelling, on the Articles page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.

2.         Embellishment Mini-Duets and Solos

Another teaching game that we have often played in the past utilizes “embellishment cards.”  A 3x5 card with a different embellishment printed on each card is passed out to everyone in the Flute CircleWe then go around the Flute Circle and go over all of the embellishments, so that everyone is familiar with each one.  The first person will go up to the mic and play a short 2 minute solo, using their embellishment in their piece.  The second person will then join the first person in a mini-duet for about 2 minutes, adding their embellishment to the mix.  The first person will then sit down, while the second person does their 2 minute solo, using their embellishment.  The third person will then join the second person in a mini-duet for about 2 minutes, adding their embellishment.  The second person then sits down while the third person plays their short solo.  And so it goes around the Circle until everyone has had a chance to play both a short duet and solo using their embellishment.

This game has the benefit of giving everyone a chance to learn new embellishments, play a short solo, and a short duet—all using new embellishments.  In this way, no one feels put on the spot, and everyone gets to learn and practice a variety of new embellishments.

3.         Rhythm Match Game

This is a good game for becoming more adept at working with rhythm, both with the Native Flute and with percussion.  It also helps people to learn to coordinate their Flute playing with percussion.  We always have a “world percussion box” present at each Flute Circle, as percussion plays a big part in our Flute Circles.  When playing this game, everyone grabs a rattle, bells, or other percussion instrument, and all begin to play together in a certain rhythm.  The Flute player at the mic then has to play something that coordinates with that rhythm.  You can rotate the Flute players and change the rhythm with each new Flute player, or keep the rhythm constant for each successive Flute player.

Another variation on this theme is to have one or more people in the Circle clap a rhythm, which the Flute player must then match in their improvisation on the Flute.  An easy way to come up with new rhythms is to think of a song in your head while you clap the rhythm of the first line of that song.

4.         Playing the Room/Trees

This exercise is very much like how many of us learned to “Play the Trees.”  However, instead of using the landscape of nature, try using the objects in the room where you are meeting as your “sheet music.”  (Alternatively, if you are meeting outside, then by all means use the trees).  A high object (or tree) would be a high note; an object (or tree) of medium height would be a middle note; and an object (or tree) that was low to the ground would represent a low note.  Additionally, items of furniture and objects in the room (or rivers and clouds, etc., if outdoors), with round shapes can be expressed with bends or slides, or any other embellishment you can think of to describe a shape. Any environment can suddenly become your musical score.  Use your imagination and let your intuition guide you.  There are an endless variety of ways the same room can be played by different people.

5.         Musical Charades

In this musical variation of charades, the group divides into teams of two people each, and each team privately decides on the subject of their charade.  You can play moods, insects, animals, shapes, textures; quotes, fortune cookie messages, etc.  Play with images:  What would sweet honey dreaming sound like?  The tickle of trickling water?  Wild Mountain Thyme?  Your first kiss?  The Cloud People's faces?  A persistent trickster itch?  You can use proverbs, the names of popular songs, etc.  If it could talk or sing, what would it say and how would it sound?  When playing, think of the personality you are trying to convey.  One person in the team plays the Flute, while the other person gives the clues (as in regular charades) as to the message.  The rest of the Flute Circle tries to guess the subject of the charade being played.  The team that correctly guesses the message then takes their turn at charades.

6.         To be Continued . . .

In this game, the first person in the Circle starts with their musical rendition of the phrase:  “It was a dark and stormy night. . .” on the Flute.  The next person continues the story.  Be creative with sound effects like creaking doors, howling winds, etc. Consider the mood and tone of the story in your choice of embellishments, pacing, rhythm, and dynamics.  Each successive person adds to the story, until all have had a chance to play.  It’s always interesting to see how the story is finished at the end.

7.         Storytelling & Sound Effects

Stories bring teachings, healing, humour, wonder, delight, and community into our lives.  Any story will do.  Some good sources are:  Fairy tales; nursery rhymes; myths; fables; riddles; affirmations; mantras, poetry anthologies; inspirational daily meditations; Sufi stories, as well as other spiritual teaching stories; prayers; etc.  A particularly good book for inspiration is The Book of Qualities, by J. Ruth Gendler.  (See, www.amazon.com).  In our Flute Circle, we frequently choose Native American stories and legends to read aloud and play the sound effects on the Native Flute.  This is not so much about making “music” as it is playing sound effects to give the story depth and texture, and to help the story come alive.  There are many ways to add drama with sound effects to a story:  Let your notes creep, squeak, bounce, gallop; be silly, sweet; or play with gusto, majesty and grace.  Also, remember to play with dynamics (i.e., loudness and softness).  Experiment with the nuances of:  Loud, crashing, very quiet, or fading away.  Often, you will want to convey a concept or particular sentence in the story that stands out.  Just follow your intuition and ask the question:  If that phrase or concept had a voice, what would it sound like, what would it say?  Visit our References page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org, for links to sites with stories from many different Native Tribes and Nations.

There are many different presentation styles with which to experiment when working with the flute and storytelling.  Here are a few suggestions:

            a.         You can narrate, play a little, resume the story, switching back and forth between narration and playing, until you have finished the story;

            b.         Chose several people to work with, and each person can choose a part or a character to read while you play; or

            c.         Again, if you are working with more than one person who plays the flute, each person can choose a different part or character to play, while you each take turns narrating.

Experiment with combining different keys of flute for different parts of, or characters in the story.  Utilizing different flute keys enables one to convey different emotions, moods, and themes, while making the story infinitely more interesting.

Play with the above examples and mix and match, adding and deleting what works for your group.  You can also add percussion and even vocal sound effects, so that those present who don’t play the flute can also participate.  As always, the possibilities are only limited by your creative imagination!  For more detailed information, see the Article entitled, “Working with Prose, Poetry, and Storytelling”on our Articles page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.

8.         Duets

Duets are about blending--two hearts sharing a conversation—a co-creation between two people.  Duets are one of the fastest ways to learn new techniques and improvisational skills, and help you get out of a rut.  Some examples of some fun games to play with duets are to:

            a.         Have a Flute “conversation” where one person is a dog, and one person is a butterfly;

            b.         Another Flute conversation might be with two pine trees standing alongside a river;

            c.         Yet another Flute conversation might be a hawk chasing a rabbit, or, alternatively, a mischief of ravens heckling a hawk;

            d.         Dueling Flutes;

            e          Echoing;

            f.          Rounds; and

            g.         “Telephone.”

For a more detailed explanation of additional Duets, and a more in-depth description of each of the above examples, see the “Duets” Article on the Articles page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.

9.         Pass the Notes, Please

Here is a game where someone plays a short piece, and the next person must use the last three notes of the person before them to continue their turn.  Each successive person may play something completely different musically, rhythmically, etc., but must use the last three notes of the person before them.  Continue around the Circle with each person using the last three notes of the person before them, until all have had a chance to play.

10.       ABABA

Songs usually have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End.  Sometimes the Beginning and the End sound similar, with the Middle part sounding different yet connected to the Beginning and the End.  Often, among musicians, music is referred to in a kind of shorthand, with the melody being designated as Part “A”, and the chorus as Part “B.”  In this way, when musicians want to quickly give the sequence of the song, they will say it is “ABA” or “AABBAA.”  This lets everyone know the order to play and how many times to repeat each part.  Choose two or three people to take turns playing each part:  The Beginning (A), Middle (B), or End (A), and try to have everything blend and flow together.

11.       “Play That Theme”

In this game, someone in the group suggests a theme, like “snow” or “desert” or “mountains” or “sunrise.”  The Flute player has to give his or her interpretation of that theme.  Everyone can have a chance to either play the same theme, or have the group choose a different one.  Alternatively, each Flute player can choose a theme and play it, while the rest of the Flute Circle has to guess what they are playing.

12.       Dream Play

Often people will share their dreams with the group.  In this game, someone shares a dream, and then plays their interpretation of it on the Flute.  Or you can go around the Circle and each person can play their interpretation of the dream.  Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this:  Each person projects their own meaning and musically creates their own interpretation of the dream.  Each person begins their turn by saying:  “In my version of the dream. . .” and then plays their interpretation of the dream.

13.       Variations on a Theme

Knowing how to come up with variations on a musical theme is an important skill to develop.  This game gives everyone a chance to experiment with different techniques.  One person starts by playing a short musical phrase or idea on the Flute.  The next person in the Circle then plays a variation of the first person’s theme by changing it in some way.  Some variations might include:  Changing some of the notes; playing faster or slower; adding something unexpected; adding or changing embellishments; changing the mood by playing it louder or softer; and/or using a higher or lower flute in the same key.  Continue around the circle until each person has a chance to play their variation on the theme.

14.       Name That Tune with a Twist

Here is a creative way to work with playing intervals.  An interval is the relative tonal distance between two notes.  Take your favourite song (make sure that it is a minor pentatonic song, rather than a major diatonic song) and play the intervals on the Native American Flute.  Don’t worry that the notes don’t exactly match.  You can look at piano music written with a major diatonic scale and follow the notes, even if you don’t read music.  Just look at the relative distance between the notes on the score and approximate them on the Native Flute.  Or you can simply play the song in your head and finger the notes on the minor pentatonic Flute as if you were playing the song on a major diatonic Flute.  The song will sound completely different in minor pentatonic; however, the intervals will remain roughly the same.  Make it your own!  The Flute Circle then has to guess what song you are playing.  We have a member who loves to play “Kumbaya” on the Native Flute by playing the intervals of this major diatonic song on the minor pentatonic Flute.  Unless you know what she is doing, it’s very difficult to guess the song at first.  Sometimes it is only the rhythm or phrasing of the song that will give it away.

15.       Animal Speak

A perennial favourite with Flute players is working with animal themes.  In this game people in the Flute Circle call out an animal to the player at the mic.  The player must then play a short piece that represents that animal’s “personality.”  When playing that animal, think in terms of rhythm for each different animal’s gait and characteristic movements.  A horse has a different rhythm than a dog; a big cat has a completely different rhythm than a bird, etc.  Some other ideas include:  A mischievous mouse, hopping frog, darting squirrel, lumbering bear, or galloping horse.  Often animals do not make recognizable sounds in nature.  Play their personality, by suggesting their characteristics with rhythm and sound.  You need not mimic an animal’s voice in nature, merely suggesting is enough.  These vignettes often become the seeds of beautiful songs.  Alternatively, a person can choose an animal to play, and everyone in the Flute Circle must guess which animal they are playing.

16.       Rhythm Race

Here is a great game for developing greater skills in percussion, rhythmic flute playing, and coordination and speed.  A Flute player will challenge the percussionists in the group to start with a moderately-slow rhythm using drums and rattles, and both the Flute player and the percussionists will gradually increase the tempo, faster and faster.  The Flute Player will try to keep in step with the rhythm, and the percussionists will try to keep in step with the Flute player.  Who can keep up the best--the Flute player or the percussionists?  Whoever can go the fastest, while still staying in sync and without falling out, wins that round.

17.       Name That Colour

Combining elements of synesthesia, ingenuity, and imagination, this game challenges our typical modes of perception.  What would a colour sound like?  The colour “red” feels and sounds very different than, say, “blue.”  Think in terms of the “personality” of the colour.  If it could talk or sing, what would it say?  If it had a voice, what would it sound like?  The people in the Flute Circle have to guess what colour you are playing.

18.       Play that Soundtrack

Sometimes, we use DVD’s and CDRoms, such as the National Parks Series; or the Planets, and mute the sound while taking turns playing Flutes to the visuals.  Scott August also has a wonderful DVD, entitled “Ancient Light:  Music and Mystery of the Southwest,” featuring his beautiful photography and music.  See, http://www.cedarmesa.com/ancientlight/index2.html.  Any video or DVD can be used in this game.  Alternatively, if there is a TV in the room, you can mute the sound and play your interpretation of the soundtrack to movies or commercials.  Mute the sound and take turns playing what you think the soundtrack to the visuals should be.  Commercials are especially fun!

19.       What’s in the Fridge?

Here is an imaginative game that encourages spontaneity and fun.  A person chooses a common item, like catsup; pickles; milk; orange juice; a type of fruit, like strawberries; a vegetable, such as a green pepper; or leftover spaghetti, etc., that would most likely be found in a refrigerator and then plays it.  Like “Name that Colour,” above, think in terms of the “personality” of the item.  If it had a voice, what would it say; and if it had a sound, what would it sound like?  The rest of the people in the Flute Circle then have to guess what item is being played.

20.       Foreground and Background

In this game, two players each decide who will play in the background and who will play in the foreground.  A good technique for playing in the background is ostinato, where a few notes are repeated over and over again.  The other person must improvise the foreground over the repeating ostinato.  Both players can then switch.

21.       Flute Scramble

Playing Flute Scramble gives everyone a fun and challenging way to practice their composition and improvisation skills.  The first person in the Circle plays six notes in a brief phrase.  The next person in the Circle must play a different phrase using the same six notes.  The phrases can also be varied by playing some notes longer or shorter, accenting different notes, using different embellishments, or using a different rhythm.  Continue around the Circle until everyone has had a chance to play the six notes.  It is always astonishing to hear the variety that can be achieved with six notes!  This helps us to open up to the endless possibilities of composing songs on the Native American Flute.

22.       Rolling the Dice

Another fun game in which people are challenged to stretch their creativity and improvisational skills is “Rolling the Dice.”  The first person in the Circle rolls a set of dice and totals the numbers, and then must play something using the total number of notes indicated by the dice.  The second person in the Circle then rolls the dice and must play the total number of notes rolled on the dice, while trying to connect to the melody started by the first person.  Continue around the Circle until everyone has had a chance to roll the dice and add to the melody.

23.       Pick a Person

In this game, one person silently chooses a person in the Flute Circle to describe by “playing them” on the Flute.  When “playing” a person, think in terms of their personality, age, mannerisms, voice, movements, etc., and incorporate this into your description, together with associated embellishments, rhythm, dynamics, key of flute, melody, etc.  The rest of the group has to guess which person is being described musically.  Whoever guesses correctly then chooses a person to play, and the game continues for as long as desired.

24.       Incidental Rhythms

Here is another way to challenge everyone to actively listen, exercise restraint, and thoughtfully plan the percussive elements of music.  One person starts with a “heartbeat” on the drum.  As you go around the circle, each person must add an incidental sound with percussion, as either one person solos on the Flute, or two people duet, and the heartbeat remains steady.  The object of this game is to keep the incidental percussion going around the circle multiple times.  This game helps everyone, both percussionists and Flute players, all work together with rhythm and improvisation.

25.       Elemental Flutes

For this game, have each person choose one of the elements (Earth, Air, Fire, or Water) to play.  Go around the Circle and each person takes their turn at conveying one of the aspects of an element in all of its myriad forms.  Some examples are:

            Earth:                         Ground; Dust; Mud; Minerals; Rocks; Mountain; Sand;  

            Air:                              Wind; Hurricane; Inspiration; Breath; Breeze; Storm;

            Fire:                            Heat; Sun; Warmth; Candle Flame; Hearth fire;

Lightning; Forest Fire; Star; and

            Water:                        Stream; Ocean; Steam; Vapour; River; Crashing Surf;

Lake; Pond; Tears; Trickle; Ice; Snow; Waterfall;


Try to convey the personality of each of the elements.  You can also play attributes you feel go with each of these elements.  For example:  Earth = Strength; Air = Ideas; Fire = Passion; and Water = Emotions.  Use your creative imagination!  This game teaches us to expand our repertoire in a new and innovative way.

26.       Panning Flutes & Rhythm

Here is a fun way in which everyone can participate as a group and experiment with dynamics.  Divide the Flute Circle in half, with two Flute players at the mic, each leading half of the percussionists.  The first Flute player plays with their half of the percussion group for a few minutes, then both the Flute player and percussionists slowly begin to fade out.  As the first group fades out, the second Flute player and percussion group slowly fade in, picking up where the first group left off.  This continues for several rounds of one group fading out, while the next group fades in, all the while keeping the tempo, tone, and mood established at the beginning.

27.       Human Flute

This game requires at least 6 people with a Native American Flute, and a “Conductor.”  The six people form a line, and each person chooses one different and specific note to play on the Native Flute.  The Conductor stands in front of the line, and each time the Conductor points to a person, that person plays their note.  The Conductor continues to point to different people as he “composes” a song and the Flute players play their individual note, following the Conductor’s cues.  The Conductor can indicate that he wants a certain note played multiple times, or held longer, or played very quickly.  The Conductor, through creative movements and gestures, must also indicate loudness/softness, embellishments, and accents to be played by the Human Flute.

28.       Name Game

For this game, each person must play something on the Native Flute using the syllables of their name (first, middle, and last), which become the rhythm and accents used in the song.  For example:  “Charlie Brown” has 3 syllables, with the emphasis on “Brown.”  “Pippi Longstocking” has five syllables, with the emphasis on the third syllable.   This would become the rhythm and accent(s) used for the improv being played by each person.

29.       Question and Answer

Here is a great game that helps people experiment with the nuances of emotional expression on the Flute.  Everyone in the Circle chooses a partner.  One person begins playing the Flute, as if they are asking a question to their partner.  Then their partner responds as if answering the question.  Here is where, using our creative imagination, we can really “feel” this conversation going on.  Alternatively, one person can be playing the Flute, while the other part of the conversation can be done verbally, for an entirely different effect.  This also has the benefit of including people who do not play the Native American Flute in the game.

30.       Tag, You’re It!

In this game, one person goes up to the mic and begins playing the Flute.  At some point, he or she randomly points to another person, who has to come up to the mic and continue the song.  The person at the mic continues playing until the next person arrives at the mic, and then sits down.  This continues until all have been chosen and have had a chance to add to the song.

31.       Guess Again 

Often we are able to recognize a certain person’s playing style immediately upon hearing the first few notes they play.  This game challenges the Flute player to do something different—not easily associated with their style of playing.  You will need some type of blindfold for this game.  To begin, one person in the Circle is blindfolded and sits quietly in the Circle.  After the person has been blindfolded, another person goes to the mic and tries to make sounds, play notes, etc., on the Flute and disguise who they are.  The blindfolded person must guess who is playing at the mic.  If the blindfolded person guesses correctly, the person at the mic must then be blindfolded, and the game continues.  If the blindfolded person guesses incorrectly, the game continues until there is a correct guess.

32.       Flute Freeze

This is a fun way to get everyone up and moving.  To begin, one person with a Flute goes up to the mic and begins to play.  Everyone else remains standing and, while the Flute is being played, must stay in constant motion.  When the Flute Player abruptly stops, everyone must “freeze” in the position that they are in.  The length of time of the “freeze” is at the discretion of the Flute player.  When the Flute player then begins to play again, everyone is once again free to move.  If you do not “freeze” in time, or you move during a “freeze,” you must sit down, remain seated, and sit out the rest of the game.

33.       What’s in a Name?

For this game, one person goes up to the mic with a Flute, and the group invents a “song title” and calls it out to the Flute player.  The person at the mic must then play a song that goes with that title.  An example might be:  “Weeping Willows,” or “Ancient Path.”  Whatever the group comes up with.  Be sure to have some sort of recording device handy, as you never know what beautiful melody may come out that you may want to capture!

34.       Making Rain

This is a game in which everyone can participate at the same time.  One person plays a Flute at the mic, while another directs the other participants.  The object is to make sounds simulating rain, while the Flute player plays an accompanying “Rain Song.”  The director listens to the Flute player for cues, and guides the rest of the group by cycling between:  Rubbing hands, snapping fingers, tapping the back of the hand, slapping thighs, and stomping feet.  Here is a link to a YouTube video demonstrating this process:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKDGCgXtETc (please be aware that there is an added component not demonstrated in this video of tapping the back of the hand).

35.       Hidden Flute Echo

This game gives people practice in listening and then translating what they hear onto the Native Flute.  Two people go up to the mic; one person turns his back to his partner (the “Hidden Flute”), and plays a short melodic line, including embellishments.  The second person must echo on their Flute what they heard being played by the Hidden Flute.  If they are correct, they then get a turn at being the Hidden Flute, and a new Flute player tries to echo their Hidden Flute.  If not, then both a new Hidden Flute and Flute player come up and begin again.

36.       Rhythm Pattern Memory

This is a great game to help people learn to hear and duplicate rhythms, whether using percussion instruments or Flutes.  One person plays a pattern on a drum, or other percussive instrument.  The second person repeats the pattern on their percussion instrument, and then adds a pattern of their own of the same length.  This continues around the Circle, until it becomes impossible to remember all of the rhythm patterns.  As an alternative with a higher level of complexity, this same game can be played by using Native American Flutes, rather than percussion instruments.  When using Native Flutes, not only are people having to remember the rhythms, but also the melodic lines being generated.

37.       Rhythm Bee

This is a game patterned after an old-fashioned Spelling Bee.  The Flute players stand in a line, with one person acting as the “Pronouncer.”  The Pronouncer plays a short rhythmic melody.  Each standing person in turn tries to repeat the melodic rhythmic pattern demonstrated for them by the Pronouncer.  If a player misses something, he must be seated.  If a player duplicates the melodic rhythmic pattern correctly, he remains standing.  When everyone standing has had a chance to play the rhythmic melody demonstrated by the Pronouncer, that round is ended, and the Pronouncer then gives the remaining standing Flute players another new rhythmic melody.  The person who remains standing the longest is the winner.

38.       Hand Jive

Most of us can remember a teacher in grade school standing at the front of the class using his or her hand to show the class whether the next note they will be singing was high, low, or somewhere in between, thus directing the melody with a hand held horizontally (arm vertical, wrist bent, hand horizontal).  In this game, one person stands at the mic with a familiar melody in mind.  Making no sound, he or she uses their hand held horizontally in the air to slowly show the intervals of the melody they have in mind as the Flute player plays each note as indicated.  The Flute player who correctly plays the melody then gets to direct the next melody.  If the Flute player guesses incorrectly, he or she sits down, and a new Flute player takes their turn.

39.       Concentration!

This is another great tonal memory game.  Everyone stands in a Circle and is assigned a note on their Flute.  Each person goes around the Circle and plays their assigned note.  Everyone then mills around and changes places in the Circle.  One person plays a note (the “guessing person”) and then must choose the other person in the Circle with that note.  If the guessing person is incorrect in their choice, then all mill around and change places in the Circle again, and the game continues with a new “guessing person.”  If the guessing person is correct, the person in the Circle with the note chosen must sit down, and the guessing person is allowed to choose again.  The “guessing person” is allowed to continue to choose as long as they make the correct choice of who in the Circle has the matching note they played.  When the guessing person chooses incorrectly, they must wait until all others have had a chance to be the “guessing person” before they are able to take another turn.  The object of the game is to correctly match all of the notes, until all of the participants have had their notes matched and are seated, with the guessing person being the only person left standing.

40.       Air Flute

This is a fun game that requires close observation, as we must do with our partner in any duet.  Two players go up to the mic.  The first player plays “Air Flute,” meaning they are moving their fingers, but with no actual sound coming out of the Flute, while the second player plays aloud what the first player is playing on their Air Flute.  This can continue until all have had a chance to play both “Air Flute” and play aloud.

41.       Musical Relay Race

For this game, you will need a stopwatch and to divide the Flute Circle evenly into two groups:  Team A and Team B.  One person, acting as the “Officiant,” passes out an embellishment card to each person on Team A, and then plays a short melodic phrase.  This game is timed, and the clock begins when the first person in Team A begins to play, and ends when the last person on the team correctly plays the melodic phrase, including their embellishment, given by the Officiant.  Team A begins with the first person playing the piece demonstrated by the Officiant, and inserts their embellishment into the piece.  If incorrect, that person must repeat the phrase, with their embellishment, until correct.  Once they have successfully played the correct melodic phrase and inserted their embellishment appropriately, the next person in the team is then able to play the same melodic phrase, this time inserting the embellishment on their card.  This continues, until the last person in Team A has played the melodic phrase given by the Officiant correctly, including the embellishment on their card, and the clock is stopped.  Team B is then given the opportunity to beat Team A’s time, following the same procedure with a different short melodic phrase given toTeam B by the Officiant.  The same embellishment cards can be used for both Team A and Team B.

42.       Lost Note

Here is a unique way to work with melodic variations, listening, and composition skills.  One person plays a short musical phrase.  The second person plays the same phrase, but drops one note, substituting another note in its place.  The first person must then play the same piece played by the second person and drop one note, substituting another note in its place.  This continues back and forth, each time dropping one note and substituting another note in its place.  It is interesting to see how the melody changes after several rounds.  As an alternative, rather than having only two people going back and forth, this game can be continued around the Circle, with each successive person dropping a note and substituting another note in its place.

43.       What’s My Melodic Line?

This is another game that helps everyone to work with creative ways to convey abstract concepts and personalities by playing them on the Native American Flute.  If it had a voice, what would it say?  What would it sound like?  For this game, you will need one Flute player and a “Moderator” at the mic.  The Moderator whispers a job description, an animal, the name of a famous person, a famous place, etc., into the Flute player’s ear.  The Flute player then plays their characterization of whatever was whispered to them by the Moderator on the Flute.  The people in the Flute Circle are allowed to ask any question, as long as it can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No” answer.  For example, they may ask questions beginning with:  “Are you . . . ?,”  such as:  “Are you an animal?” or “Are you a famous person?” or “Are you a mineral?,” (e.g., animal, vegetable, or mineral) etc.  If the person asks the question in an incorrect manner (i.e., without beginning the question with “Are you. . . ?“), they must sit out the rest of the round.  Each time a question is correctly phrased by a person in the group and answered with either a “Yes” or “No” answer by the Flute player, the Flute player plays another short “descriptive” piece as an additional clue.  Questioning continues in an attempt to narrow down the possibilities until someone makes a correct guess.  The person who guesses correctly then takes a turn at What’s My Melodic Line?

44.       Birdsong Rising

In this game, one person starts out in the Circle by playing a “bird song.”  This works particularly well with the higher Flutes.  The next person continues on with their version of bird song, and so it goes around the Circle until all have gotten a chance to play.  There is no need to actually mimic nature.  Think of the bird’s movements:  Is it hopping, flying, foraging, etc.?  Play the bird’s personality and make up your own creative bird sounds!

45.       Triple Play

Here is a fun game for three or more Flute players, which is somewhat similar to a round:  Player #1 begins with a short phrase.  Player #2 comes in after Player #1 has introduced his/her phrase, and repeats the phrase with a few additions/changes.  Player #3 comes in after Player #2 has introduced his/her phrase changes.  The “round” keeps rotating, which each successive round introducing more refinement and variations on the original theme.


We hope you enjoy this selection of Flute Circle Games.  At the very least, it will help you to experiment and develop some Flute Circle Games of your own.  The possibilities are endless!  If you wish to share additional games and ideas, please feel free to contact me at alaria@syrynx.net.  Many thanks to all of the members of Cascadia Flute Circle who contributed to this Article by lending their support, energy and enthusiasm to new ideas presented at our Flute Circles, and their willingness to be playful, laugh and share.  You guys rock!  Happy Fluting!


                                                                    Copyright 2010, Stephanie Baldridge