Introducing Your Child to the Native American Style Flute
Most folk music and folk instruments from around the world are based on a five-note scale. A five-note scale is also called a pentatonic scale. The Native American style flute is a pentatonic instrument. Folk music is intuitive music. This intuitive type of music flows spontaneously with out intellectual effort. It can be spontaneous because all of the notes in a pentatonic scale sound good together. When you just experiment with combinations of notes on the Native American flute you begin making actual, creative music right away. You might even say that a human being is hard wired to make pentatonic music.
Flutes tuned to a pentatonic scale are used to introduce music to young children in many progressive schools. This is because when a child is first learning to play an instrument the traditional diatonic or seven-note scale is very challenging. The common recorder given to children is a diatonic instrument.
The music that you are most familiar with hearing is based on a seven-note scale. This musical scale is called a diatonic scale. The diatonic scale is the familiar do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do scale that you were taught in school. The problem with learning this scale is that some of the notes do not sound good with the other notes. Because some notes don’t sound good with other notes you have to memorize what goes with what. When you learn to play on a diatonic instrument music making becomes more of an intellectual rather than an intuitive experience. If you learned to play on a diatonic instrument as a child you will recall the repeated failure and accompanying stress that is an integral part of playing diatonic music. The young child is often frustrated as a consequence. When music is introduced via a five-note scale on the Native American style flute it becomes an intuitive experience not an intellectual one. The learning process then flows smoothly and spontaneously.
Most children are ready to learn to play the pentatonic Native American style flute by the age of seven. Before seven the child can learn to play but the experience tends to be forced or stressful. What I prefer is to have a natural, spontaneous response to the learning experience where the child can flow with learning to play the flute and not struggle with it. I recommend a flute in the key of B for a child’s first flute – it is just the right size.