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Native American Flute playing tips

Flute fingering chart

The following chart of fingerings is basically for an "A" flute. Despite the key of the flute, the fingerings remain the same for all of my flutes. The last two figures 13 & 14 may not be playable on some flutes. Also depending upon the flute you may need to increase your breath slightly, particularly when changing from 13 to 14. Many flutes will not play figure 14 to begin with. On most of my flutes you need to play 13 and during the same breath increase it slightly then transition to 14. Also, the last two fingerings are the most likely to be slightly out of tune. However usually when they are used it is for brief moments to add a little pop to the piece. Since the duration is relatively short, the out of tune quality is not likely to be noticed.

Because Native style flutes are designed to primarily play minor pentatonic scales you will notice that the notes A# an B are missing between figure 1 and 2 for a true chromatic scale. It may be possible to approximate these notes with half holing, however because I have difficulty with playing half holes these are not shown.

Note:These fingerings do not apply to all Native American style flutes. Depending upon the flute maker some fingerings may be different.

Fingering Table
Basic Upper  Cross Fingering and notes v

Should a good flute play the chromatic scale? Not at all. For the average flute player, particularly one who has little or no knowledge of music, they most likely will never use the cross fingered notes. So if this is the case why should anyone make flutes that play a chromatic scale? Before I go further let me qualify a bit. Almost all flutes will play some resemblance of a chromatic scale. They may not play all 14 and the cross fingered notes may not be spot on they may vary +/- 5-20 cents.

Clint Goss's Native Flute hand book has 66 different scales illustrated. Many of them from other parts of the world. Of the 66 typically only 3-4 of them are used in our country. However of the 66, 58 of them use one or more cross fingered notes. So my logic is if I am to make good flutes it would be best to make them with as many in tune notes as possible.

Native American style flute circles

The fastest and most fun way to learn to play the flute is to join a flute circle. The World Flute Society has the most comprehensive list of flute circles, and makers I have ever encountered.

Playing to backing tracks

Sometimes playing the flute to a backtrack is not only fun, it helps build the rhythm. Tom Bailey has some of the best tracks on the internet. Check out this youtube playlist for the Native American Flute

His youtube tracks have an audio watermark, it is barely noticeable.  You can purchase his backtracks (without the watermark) on Amazon or Itunes.

Note about backing tracks - There are hundreds of backing tracks on youtube. Many of them will state the key they are composed in and if it is a major key, you may think you will not be able to play it on your flute. Every major key has a relative minor key. This circle of fifths will show you which flute to use. For example: You find a good track written in the key of C, move to the center of the circle and you will see the minor key of  A. So you would play the Am flute to the Cmaj backtrack.

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