Hardwood Versus Softwood for Native American Style Flutes

You may have heard some talk about flutes made of softwood having a different sound than those made of hardwood.

First, we must clarify our definitions.

Softwood, by definition, is a type of wood that comes from a coniferous tree such as pine or cedar. 

Hardwood, by definition, comes from a deciduous tree such as maple or oak.

Some Hardwoods are actually less dense than some of the Softwoods and visa versa.

You may have heard that a Love flute made of Softwood (such as cedar or redwood) has a softer, sweeter or mellower tone than a Hardwood flute. Personally, I have played on and listened to a good number of Native American style flutes made of all types of wood. Based on careful observation it seems to me that the quality of tone depends more on the design parameters of the Love flute itself than on the type of wood from which the flute is made. By design parameters I mean 'true sound hole' configuration, bore diameter, tone hole placement and wall thickness. Even flutes made of the same wood to the same specifications can have significant variation in tonal quality There may be subtle differences between different woods in respect to their resonant qualities. But I don't feel that the type of wood is the most critical factor in the tonal quality of a Native American flute. This does not mean that the wood is not one of the variables affecting the final tone.  It is my opinion that all factors being considered the tonal quality lies more in how the flute is made rather than the wood the flute is made from.

The primary reason that I have chosen to make my Love flutes from hardwood is because it allows me a greater range of artistic expression and because the harder wood is more resistant to damage. It is also the case that I prefer the clearer, brighter sound of a hardwood Native American flute.

If you wish to learn more about the woods I use to make Love flutes go to the wood section of this website.

I have genuine respect for every piece of wood that I use. Almost nothing is wasted. Anything leftover is used to heat my shop in the winter.