The following definitions relate to terms used with respect to
playing the Native America Flute:
Accent: To emphasize or stress a note; usually
accomplished by using the "T's"; however, can also be accomplished by
Aerophone: Native American Flutes are sometimes
referred to as Aerophones.
Amplitude: The strength of a frequency or sound wave,
usually measured from the bottom to the top of the curve, at the mean.
Audience: Any one or any thing within earshot. This
includes animals, insects, humans, birds, trees, plants, etc.
Back Pressure: The strength of air pressure necessary
to create sound on the Native American Flute. The greater the Back
Pressure, the more air pressure is consistently necessary to play the
Flute appropriately. The amount of Back Pressure varies from Flutemaker
to Flutemaker, on a very long continuum.
Beat: The rhythmic unit of time.
Bird: See, Fetish. All blocks are commonly referred to
as the "Bird" no matter what their shape.
Block: See, Fetish.
Bore Size: The diameter of the barrel of a Native
Bridge: The flat piece of wood that extends from the
First Chamber hole to the Window, which is covered by the Fetish.
Chromatic: Comprising all of the notes possible in the
scale, including Major and Minor notes.
Cross-Fingering: A method of achieving different notes
on the Native American Flute, using non-traditional fingering positions.
Dynamics: The degrees of loudness and softness.
Embellishment: Ornaments added to Native American Flute
music. Your breath is the greatest embellishment of the Native American
Embouchure: The shape of the mouth and lips.
Eurythmics: Harmonious body movements.
Fetish: (Also known as the block, bird, or saddle,
which covers the First Chamber hole and the Bridge, and extends to the
beginning of the Window). In the case of an animal carving, the carving
is thought to represent the Spirit of the animal, or represent one's
Fipple: The splitting edge of the Window, which is the
edge of the Window closest to the finger holes.
First Chamber: (also known as the "Air Chamber"). The
chamber connected to the Mouthpiece.
Forbidden Finger: The third finger from the top, which
is usually kept down, and facetiously referred to as the "Forbidden
Fundamental: The position on the Native American Flute
with all six (or five, on a five-holed flute) of the finger holes
closed. The Fundamental note denotes the key of the Native American
Grace Note: An ornamental note or group of notes,
usually played very quickly before the beat or in place of a single note
of the beat.
Harmonics: A series of high notes produced above the
Fundamental (and including the Fundamental); in the case of the Native
American Flute, a technique to produce high notes without overblowing.
Hatching: A method of warming the first chamber of the
flute by placing under your (clothed) armpit which lengthens the time
before the flute waters out due to the disparity between the body's
temperature (98.6) and the ambient (environmental) temperature.
Hook: The hook is the most memorable and most
immediately catchy part of a song or melody. It can be the title itself,
a musical phrase, a riff, or even a sound effect.
Improvisation: An impromptu piece of music which
emerges spontaneously in the moment. Intuitive or Inspired music. A
Interval: The relative tonal distance between notes.
E.g., a melody is a series of intervals grouped together in a particular
Legato: (Also known as "slurring"). Connected notes.
The player simply breathes and moves the fingers to create connected
Major Diatonic: The eight notes in a major scale,
do-re-me-fa-so-la-ti-do, equivalent to the white keys on the piano.
Minor Pentatonic: Any scale made up of five notes. In
the case of the Native American Flute, the notes are commonly in a minor
scale, equivalent to the black keys on the piano.
Mode: A type of scale with a specific arrangement of
intervals. For our purposes, we'll skip the complicated musical theory
and change the position of the Forbidden Finger to create a new scale on
the Native American Flute.
Nest: A spacer used beneath the fetish, usually made
out of metal; sometimes wood. Nests can be either movable or glued in
place, depending on the style of the Flutemaker.
Octave: The open position on the Native American Flute
(all fingers up, except the third finger from the top), which is exactly
an octave above the Fundamental.
Overblow: Achieved by blowing too hard on the
Fundamental; creates a tone exactly one octave above the Fundamental. I
was taught that it is disrespectful to overblow on the Native American
Flute for no good reason.
Phrase/ing: A musical idea; a natural unit of a melodic
line. Delivering a melodic line of specific duration.
Pulse: Root Rhythm. The basic beat underlying any
rhythm; the fundamental of the rhythm.
"complete" or come to a place of rest. Try to make each "sentence" or
phrase you play resolve, i.e., be melodically complete in and of itself.
Riff: A short,
repeated melodic pattern; the seed of a melody.
Rhythm: The pattern of long and short note values in
Rhythmic Variations: While staying in the context of
the pulse, changing the rhythmic pattern by varying the length of time
you hold the notes. One can play faster or slower than the pulse; one
can also play on the pulse.
Rut: The frustrating phenomenon of habitually playing
the same thing, in the same way, over and over again, which one cannot
seem to escape easily.
Saddle: See, Fetish.
Second Chamber: (also known as the "Sound Chamber").
Shading: The art of using the full range of values for
any given note on the Native American Flute. Accomplished by utilizing
Slurring: See, Legato.
Sonority: Having a quality, state, or instance of being
sonorous; resonance. Producing or capable of producing sound, especially
sound of full, deep or rich quality; resonant. Having a powerful,
impressive sound; having a degree of resonant tonality.
Space: (Also known as Silence). The art of utilizing
Space, or Silence, as if it were every bit as important as any note you
might play on the Native American Flute. Often used to create interest
or for dramatic effect.
Staccato: (Also known as "Tonguing" or "T's").
Separate, distinct notes, created by placing the tongue on the alveolar
ridge behind the upper front teeth and making a "T" sound.
T's: See, Staccato.
Texture: The perceived multi-faceted and
multi-dimensional depth and interest in a piece of music, created by
weaving together many different techniques on the Native American Flute.
The opposite of "Flat."
Theme: An extramusical concept behind a piece of music.
Usually recognizable in the melody.
Tonguing: See, Staccato.
Touchy Fundamental: A Native American Flute which, when
playing the fundamental, has a tendency to jump the octave too easily
Vibrato: A wave-like sound created from the diaphragm.
Vibrato can be slow, medium, or fast.
Watering Out: When condensation occurs in the First
Chamber of a Native American Flute, as well as underneath the Fetish.
Window: The Second Chamber hole, which comprises the
Splitting Edge, or Fipple.
copyright Stephanie Baldridge 2004