Making Your Own Native American Style Flute
I know that there are many of you who would like to make a Native American flute. That’s how I got started. My thought was ‘I’m a woodworker, why spend the money if I can make one myself’. This started me down a path that continues to this day.
If I had known then what I know now I might have been hesitant.
Knowing how to make things out of wood is one thing. Knowing how to make a musical instrument that has the proper sound is another. I had to make quite a number of Love flutes before I began to understand the dynamics of sound creation. I am still seaching to discover more about how to creat the perfect Love flute tonal quality.
Find a teacher who know how to make a good Love flute.
The absolute best way to get started in Native American style flute making is, of course, to study with an accomplished flute maker. When I decided to make my own flute I was prescient enough to seek out someone to help me. Having a teacher makes a huge difference in the steepness of the learning curve. When you have an experienced flute maker as a teacher you have access to a body of knowledge in dynamic form. When you make mistakes – and you will – the teacher is there to show how to correct them. Or to show you how to do it right the next time.
Those of us who make Native American style flutes professionally seem to agree that the second most efficient way to start making a flute is to reverse engineer a good Love flute. Reverse engineering is the process of carefully studing an existing flute. Then you try and make as exact a copy as possible of that flute. With reverse engineering you have a functioning finished product to study and compare with your flute in progress. Measurements of all the dimensions and angles are there in front of you. Of course this means that you have to buy or borrow a good Native American flute. But in my opinion it is well worth the cost. I have been told that aspiring flute makers have taken one of my flutes and cut it in half length wise to be able to study the interior of the Love flute in order to more perfectly reproduce the flute.
Flute making kits.
If you just want to get your feet wet in the flute making game then a flute kit or roughed out flute are efficient ways to go. My preference would be to get a Love flute that is glued together and tuned. All that is left for you to do is the shaping and finishing. This eliminates the difficulties of learning the intricacies of crafting a Native American style flute from scratch. Also you don’t need a lot of expensive tools. Unless you really blow it you are almost guaranteed to end up with a playable instrument.
Flute kits usually consist of two pieces of wood with the barrel and slow air chamber hollowed out and the mouth hole inserted. With the heavy machining done it is up to you to glue the two halves together and cut out the true sound hole and exit hole from the slow air chamber with hand tools. You must also drill the tone holes. Even with the best instructions this leaves a lot of room for error. It is amazing how much variations of a very small fraction of an inch can make in sound quality. With even the best flute kit you may or may not end up with a playable instrument.
Another way to get into flute making is to take a flute making class. I have never attended one myself. But I have seen a few flutes that have come out of such a class. I can’t say that I was very impressed with what I have seen and heard. But, I’m sure everyone had fun and went home with a flute that they could make sounds on. One class, with even the best of teachers, will not make you into an accomplished flute maker. It will get you started though.
Books & DVDs on how to make a Native American Flute
There are several books on how to make a Native American style flute. And there is at least one comprehensive DVD. These materials show in relative detail a step-by-step process that may provide enough guidance so that you can make a playable flute. I have not read the books nor have I seen the DVD. So I will not comment. Flute making videos are also posted on You Tube and other sites. If my own experience is any guide even the best book or DVD will not give you more than a rudimentary idea of what Love flute making entails.
If you feel the strong urge to make an Indian flute don’t be discouraged by your mistakes. No one makes a great Love flute the first time. Becoming a competent flute maker is a matter of persistance, repetition and attention to detail. By carefully exploring what may have gone wrong and making the necessary adjustment on the next flute you (if you are like me) will feel your way forward into crafting more expressive instruments.