What is the difference between a Native American flute and a Native American style flute?
The term Native American Flute is reserved by tradition and by law to refer to those flutes made by individuals of Native American decent. I am not a Native American. Therefore, the flutes that I make are called a Native American style flutes. I consider myself to be a contemporary not a traditional flute maker. I am not attempting to re create or romanticize the past. I use state of the art fabrication techniques and tune my flutes to a modern pentatonic scale such as can be played on a piano. It is my intention that the Native American style flute be open up to everyone so that you will have the opportunity to make your own music. The renaissance and further development of the Native American flute began in the late nineteen sixties. The dedicated effort of many flute makers has helped it evolve into the Native American flute that we see today. For more information on the history of the Native American flute go to the History of the Native American flute page.
When I began playing the Native American style flute I was not aware of its cultural origins. For me, its attraction was that this type of flute was easy to play and sounded nice. It was only latter that I became aware of its Native American roots. Ancient Territories flutes do not attempt to look like a Native American artifact. But, my flutes do pay homage to the Native American culture. It is my belief that this instrument has taken its place on a larger stage than that of any particular culture. The Native American style flute is played by people around the world. The Native American flute has gained this popularity because it allows each individual, no matter what his sex, race or cultural background, to speak from his own heart in the universal language of music.
Why do you make your flutes with a flattened top instead of round like the other flutemakers?
There are three reasons that I make my Native American style flutes with flattened tops. First, I find (as do others) that the flattened area on the top of the flute makes the flute easier to play because it is easier to get the holes completely covered. This is especially true for beginners. Second, with the flattened top on a Love flute it is easier for more advanced players to half hole notes and to slide notes up and down. Third, I like the shape it gives the flute and the extra wood thickness on the outside edges gives the flute added physical strength without affecting tonal quality.
Why is the device on the top of the Native American style love flute called a totem, bird or fetish?
The block on traditional Native American flutes was often carved into the shape of the totem animal or fetish animal of the owner of the flute. Often it was the shape of some bird because the sound of the flute was associated with bird song. The place on the Love flute where the block sets is usually called the nest. For more information on Native American flute fetishes visit the Fetishes page.
Are Ancient Territories Native American syle flutes always tuned to a minor scale?
Yes I don't make flutes tuned to other scales. It has become standard practice to use the mode one/mode four six hole tuning. It is generally accepted that this is the de facto tuning for the Native American flute. There are some flute makers who tune flutes to all kinds of scales, both major and minor. My flutes are always in the mode one and four pentatonic minor scale.
Does the type of wood that the Native American flute is made from affect the sound?
Some people say yes, some say no. There is a difference but it's hard to describe. The way the Native American flute is made will, in my opinion have a much greater effect on the sound it makes than the wood it is made of. Even flutes made of the same wood out of the same board can have markedly different voices. With a metal concert flute the difference in sound quality depends more on the player than the flute. And, all these flutes sound basically alike. With a Native American style flute each flute has its own unique voice. I think that's part of the reason that people start collecting. For more detailed information on wood type and tonal quality go to the page Wood Type, Flute Design and Tonal Quality
How many octaves can I play on a Native American style Love flute?
You can play one octave plus a couple of notes above the octave. To the trained musician this may not seem like much but this very simplicity is part of the charm of Native American flute music. This is one of the features that makes this type of flute easy to learn to play. For more information on available notes on the Love flute go to Playing the love flute page.
What is a pentatonic scale?
A pentatonic scale is a scale consisting of five (penta being the Latin word for five) notes. For example, between the fundamental note G and the G note one octave higher there are five notes in the G minor pentatonic scale. What makes playing a Native American style flute in a pentatonic scale so nice is that unlike a diatonic scale (seven note scale) all the notes and combinations of notes sound good together. There are no 'sour' notes to worry about when you play. If you play any five black keys on the piano in succession you're playing a pentatonic scale. If you have a keyboard around try it. There are five different pentatonic scales just like there are five black keys arranged in order. Depending on which of the five keys you start with you will have a different scale of five notes. For more information on pentatonic scales go to the Pentatonic Scales page
Do you take charge card payments?
You can make a payment for your Ancient Territories Native American style flute on your credit card during the checkout process (Paypal handles the transaction). You do not need a paypal account to make the purchase. I do not take credit card numbers or orders over the phone. In my experience with hundreds of orders Paypal transactions are 100% safe.
Can I use a personal check to pay for my Native American style flute?
If you want to you can send a check or money order. It must be made payable to John Stillwell. I can't take checks made out to Ancient Territories.
Do you guarantee your Native American style flutes??
Ancient Territories Native American style flutes are sold with your satisfaction guaranteed - 100%. If you buy a Love flute from me and you are not completely satisfied with the flute in every way you may return it at any time for a full refund (minus the cost of wetout if you ordered it). You pay for the return shipping. All Ancient Territories flutes are also guaranteed for any defects in craftsmanship for the life of the flute.
How long have you been making Native American style flutes?
I have been making Love flutes for about fifteen years now. In that time I have made many hundreds of Native American style flutes. I should mention that I should mention that when I started making flutes I had already had twenty years of experience as a craftsman of fine furniture and custom cabinetry.
What is the difference between a five hole and a six hole flute? Is a five hole flute easier to play?
A five hole Native American style flute plays only one pentatonic Mode or Scale. Some people may imagine that this will make it easier to learn on a five hole flute than a six hole flute. After all there are less holes, right. Wrong - it's just as easy to learn on the six hole Love flute because when you're playing a scale one of the holes is always closed (just like it didn't exist). You've got to put that finger somewhere, either over a blank spot on the barrel of the flute or over a hole. What's the difference' But having that extra hole on the flute really expands the possibilities of the flute. With a six hole flute you have a whole different scale available when you're ready to use it (and you soon will be). Also playing on a flute with the extra tone hole allows easy access to some extra cross fingered notes so you can play your flute in major as well as minor scales.
Is it hard to learn how to play the Native American flute?
It depends on how you define the word hard. It wasn't hard for me and I was a musical zero. Of course it does take some effort - like learning anything new. When it comes to playing music the Native American style flute is probably the easiest instrument - asside from beating a drum - that there is. To learn to make a decent sound and be able to make some melodic runs up and down the scale will take a about two hours. Don't worry about it, the flute will teach you - really. You just start playing around on the flute and it comes naturally. If your experience is anything like mine you will enjoy every minute.For more information and detailed lessons on playing the Native American style flute go to the Tutorial page.
This is my first Native American style flute - what key should I buy?
The Key of 'G' or F# is a good place to start for people with normal size hands. If you're worried that you're hands are small or that the stretch will be too much go with an 'A'. Fingers and joints are quite flexible and a flute that feels like a 'reach' at first will soon be comfortable to play as your fingers adjust to the new positions. If you are already playing an instrument like the piano of guitar you can play any of the Love flutes that I make. For more information on choosing the right Native American style flute for you go to the Help Choosing a Flute page
What are the small holes that I see near the end of some flutes' Why don't Ancient Territories Native American flutes have these holes?
These holes are commonly called direction holes. They mark the effective sound generating end of the flute because this point is where the vibrating column of air that creates the sound stops vibrating. Some think that the added barrel length beyond this point adds a mellowness to the tone of a Native American style flute. It does make a Love flute look longer. I don't notice much difference in tone with or without these holes. I don't particularly think that my flutes needs the added length to look impressive so I don't use them.
If I don't know how to read music can I still learn to play the Native American flute?
I can't read music. I've tried to learn how but it doesn't stick in my mind. I've enjoyed playing the Native American flute for more than fifteen years now without being able to read a note. I'm having a great time playing the flute. Beside the standard musical notation there is a simple system of musical notation for the Native American flute devised by Carlos Nakai called TABlature. For more information on tablature and many songs that have been transposed into TABlature you can do a web search.
Q - Is the Native American style flute difficult to play?
A - There are several things about the Native American style flute which make it an ideal instrument for someone who has limited (or no) musical experience:
1 Unlike conventional symphony and band instruments the Native American style flute does not demand any difficult mouthing techniques (called embouchure) to play. You simply blow with a gentle breath into the mouth hole of the flute. From the very beginning a clear, pleasing sound comes out of the flute.
2 The Native American flute is tuned to play what is called a minor pentatonic scale. With this flute you have five not eight (diatonic) notes in a scale. With a pentatonic scale all the notes and combinations of notes played on your flute sound good together. You don't have to worry about hitting a 'sour' note. From the moment you start playing the Native American style flute you are making music. In this respect the Native American flute is easier to play than a recorder (which is a diatonic instrument).
3 The volume of the Native American style flute is quite soft or mellow. When you play the sound is not loud like that of a conventional instrument such as a trumpet or clarinet To me this meant that I could play my flute in my living room without fear of waking the dead or disturbing others. It got me over a kind of psychological barrier of being afraid of what others might think of my playing.
4 People who play the Native American style flute have evolved into a very sympathetic and supportive groups of individuals. These are called Native American flute circles. Members are happy (if you wish) to encourage and support you in your evolution with your flute.
5 With the Native American flute it does not take hours of practice to develop and maintain your playing technique. This flute is an instrument that you can feel relaxed about playing (or not playing).
6 In spite of the comparative simplicity of the Native American style flute it offers great potential for artistic and expressive growth. Two different pentatonic scales are available on each of my flutes. These are called the Mode One or Aeolian scale and the Mode Four or Dorian scale. If you use cross fingerings when you play you can add several extra notes. This increases the musical range of the flute. If you work at your technique you can even play a full twelve note chromatic scale. The Native American flute is sometimes called a simple or folk instrument. But, I have been playing this type of flute for more than ten years and I am still discovering new things every day.
How do I care for my Native American style flute?
Your Ancient Territories Native American style flute is a fine musical instrument made of natural materials. My flutes are well constructed and have a good layer of protective finish. However, in order to keep your flute in good condition it should be cared for properly. Your flute should be given the same care and respect you would give any precious, delicate object.
The wood a Native American style flute is made from is subject to expansion and contraction with changes in temperature and humidity. Therefore, the first rule in caring for your flute is to avoid subjecting the flute to sudden changes in either one. The more sudden or extreme the change the more dangerous it could be for your Love flute. An example would be to take a flute that had been sitting in a cold automobile and start blowing your warm breath into it without allowing the flute to heat up slowly to room temperature first. Another example is to take a flute from an air conditioned room into the direct hot sun. Worst of all, don't leave your flute in a car that will be sitting in the sun where the temperature can very quickly go up to 100 or more degrees.
Generally I wouldn't leave a Native American style flute sitting in the direct sun. This doesn't mean that you can't play your flute out of doors in the sun. Just don't leave it in a place where it could absorb direct sun rays for any length of time and thus overheat. The heating can cause uneven expansion in the wood fibers. This stresses the wood which may eventually lead to cracking. If you care for your flute avoid leaving your precious instrument within the reach of children or pets.
When I am through playing my Love flute I always blow what moisture I can out of the flute. I also leave the bird pulled back away from the nest of the flute so that air can circulate freely through the slow air chamber. Some people also leave the flute with the head end pointing down so that any residual condensation in the slow air chamber of the flute can drain out.
The polyurethane finish on your Native American style flute should not need to be oiled or treated with any conditioner. If it gets a little smudgy with oil from your hands you can wipe the flute down with a dry clean cotton cloth. Use a brisk polishing motion. I wouldn't use a synthetic fiber cloth. Synthetic fibers can be very hard and could put fine scratches on the finish. If you do get a minor scratch on your flute you can polish it out with car polish (the kind that is used to restore a dulled automobile finish). This may change the luster of the affected area in comparison to the rest of the flute. If this happens just polish the whole flute to bring the finish into uniformity. Deep scratches cannot be removed this way. If they annoy you call me and I'll refinish the flute for you.
If you are going to be taking your flute outside the home I would suggest that you obtain a padded protective bag to transport it in. A hard case is even better.
What are the origins of the Native American flute?
The Native American flute as we know it today derives from simple instruments made by the pre historic inhabitants of North America. The renaissance and further development of the Native American flute began in the late nineteen sixties. The dedicated effort of many flute makers has helped it evolve into the musical instrument that we see today.
When I began playing the Native American style flute I was not aware of its cultural origins. For me, its attraction was that this type of flute was easy to play and sounded nice. It was only latter that I became aware of its Native American roots. Ancient Territories flutes do not attempt to look like a Native American artifact. But, my flutes do pay homage to the Native American culture. It is my belief that this instrument has taken its place on a larger stage than that of any particular culture. The Native American style flute is played by people around the world. The Native American flute has gained this popularity because it allows each individual, no matter what his sex, race or cultural background, to speak from his own heart in the universal language of music. For more information on the History of the Native American flute go to the History of the Native American flute page.
How is the Native American flute different than other flutes?
This instrument employees a specific type of sound generating mechanism derived from musical instruments made and used by pre historic Native Americans. The Native American flute can also be designated as a two chambered duct flute. The two chambers are the Slow Air Chamber at the head or mouth end of the flute and the Sound Chamber or barrel of the flute. The Sound Chamber is where the finger holes are. Separating the two chambers inside the flute is a solid area of wood called the plug. Connecting these two chambers is a duct or channel. This channel directs the air from the slow air chamber against the splitting edge of the sound chamber and starts a sound vibration.
The Native American flute is a type of whistle flute. Like the Irish penny whistle or the recorder you do not have to develope the musculature around the mouth (called embouchure) to make a sound. All you have to do with the Native American flute is put your mouth to the end of the flute and blow into the hole.
The other types of flutes - side blown flutes like the silver concert flute, bamboo bonsurai or end blown flutes like the Anasazi flute or Japanese meditation flute require the player to hold the mouth muscles and lips in very specific ways to make a sound.