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The Native American Flute

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

An easy to play acoustic instrument that sounds beautiful.

About 4-5 years ago I was at a meditation ceremony and saw some beautiful hand painted flutes for sale in a lounge area. I bought it and have fallen in love with all sorts of wooden flutes ever since.

The flute pictured above is a Native American flute. They usually have 5, maybe 6 holes and are straight blown vs. the side blown (transverse) flutes like you'll see on a western classical flute or the Indian Bansuri, shown below.

I recommend the straight blown flutes for beginners as you basically just blow and you'll get a sound. With transverse flutes, you need to work on what is called an embouchure, which means you might not be getting a decent tone for a while, let alone playing beautiful melodies. It takes practice, and there's a wide variety of flutes out there that may be more difficult to play than others.

Anatomy of an NA Flute

How to Pick Your Flute

When it comes to picking a Native American Flute, there a few important things to consider.


First, does the size of the flute match the size of your hands? It should, because otherwise you'll end up straining your hand to play it. It's no fun.


Next, which key do you want to play in? Most NA flutes are tuned to a pentatonic scale. While you can play outside of the scale, with increased difficulty, I might add, this is the main group of notes your instrument will easily produce. Most flutes cover about an octave or two, depending on how easy it is to overblow, and whether or not you'll get an octave when doing so.


The last thing you should consider is price. A nice flute will cost you between 60 and 400 dollars. If you want something that sounds pleasing and is easy to play, expect to pay around 200 dollars. The biggest difference between a cheap flute and a nice one is going to be the care taken in tuning the instrument. A well tuned instrument will sound better and be more flexible with regard to playing in ensembles, with other musicians. When you buy a flute, I recommend using a tuner to check it. Play all the notes in succession and see how sharp or flat notes are. Is every note consistent. You should be able to blow with the same or similar pressure for each note while getting consistent pitch tracking. If you have to blow softer on some notes for you to get proper tuning, you'll have to do more mental work while playing. I also recommend playing your new flute with a tuner from time to time to see exactly how hard you should be blowing to produce specific pitches and frequencies.

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