Instructions for Native American Flute

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Native American style flutes by Laughing Crow (Richard Maynard)

Flutes in the Native American Style created by a musician for the musician.


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Fingering Chart

(Basic Native American minor pentatonic scale.)

FingeringChart.bmp (425094 bytes)


Care and Maintenance

Your Laughing Crow flute requires very little maintenance. You may use a fine furniture polish on the finish. Do not expose your flute to long periods of direct sunlight as this will ruin the wood. After playing for an extended period of time you may want to dry the air chamber. This can be done by removing the fetish and drying the air passages with a soft cotton cloth. Also blow the moisture back out by placing your mouth on the distal hole and blowing a burst of air through the chamber.  If you can’t get a good tone or if the flute wheezes or whistles, make sure all the holes that you cover with your fingers are sealed completely. Another thing to check is the fetish, or bird, on top. Make sure your bird is tied on tightly. The front edge of the bird should line up with the back edge of the sound window. Line up the square chimney with the square hole. You may have to move the fetish back or forth a little to get the best sound. Also, the lower notes are more easily overblown than the higher notes. If the lower notes jump to the next octave, try using less breath.

For more concise instructions on how to play this scale, the extended scale, the relative major scale, and the major pentatonic scale as well as techniques on how to get all the great sounds out of the flute and how to read the Nakai tablature, I recommend the book "Understanding the Gift" by John Vames which can be found here on this website.

Some notes on the Native American Flute "wetting up" or "wetting out".

"My Native American flute wets up when I play." I hear this often. Wetting up or wetting out of a Native American flute is the result of the natural condensation that can form in the airways of your flute. If your flute is cooler than your breath, water will condense in the "SAC" or Slow Air Chamber as well as the flue (air channel under the bird). Several ways to help alleviate this problem are to: 1. Keep your flute warm. 2. Play in a dry environment. (I know, this is not always possible.) 3. Hold your flute out, not down. Try to keep it as level as comfortably possible. Reason for this is that saliva will migrate down from your mouth into the SAC and collect there.

If and when your flute wets up, you can remove some of the moisture quickly by forcefully blowing into the mouthpiece or backwards into the flue. You can also sling the flute around so that centrifugal force will work for you and some of the water will exit out the mouthpiece. A word of caution is in order here. Do not hit anything with your flute or let it go from your hand. Also, the bird can fly off if you sling your flute. All of which can have disastrous results, so be very careful. If in doubt, do not sling the water out of the flute.

A slightly slower but much more effective way to get most of the water out of your flute is to take the bird off, wipe the surfaces dry underneath the bird and in the flue. Blow forcefully out the distal hole (hole that's covered by the bird) so the water will come out the mouthpiece. Carefully sling the remainder of the water out of the SAC. Wipe off the mouthpiece and tie the bird back on. This method gets the most water out of the flute.

As mentioned earlier, wetting up is a natural phenomena. This is why most wind instruments like trumpets, trombones, saxophones, etc. have a "spit valve". Yes, those instruments do get saliva in them, but water condenses inside them as well. Laughing Crow flutes are finished with a polyurethane that prevents the wood from absorbing water. Let me tell you that water and wood can become unhappy companions. If wood is allowed to stay wet, it can and will crack and/or move. This is very undesirable. If your flute never wets up, it may be because the wood is absorbing the water due to the finish not being waterproof. Now, this may be a convenient feature in some respects, but in my opinion, it is hazardous to the instrument. The wood in the flue can swell, thus reducing the clearance and choking off air flow. If this happens, the wood needs time to dry before the flute can become playable again. Also, as mentioned before, if the wood is allowed to absorb water, the wood can crack. I personally prefer to keep the water from soaking into the wood and this is why I coat the airways with finish.

I hope these suggestions help you in your playing of the Native American flute and add life to your wooden instrument. Remember, wood is a living thing. The tree it came from may not be in the ground and functioning as a living plant, but the wood that came from this tree is still functioning as it did when the tree was standing. Wood is made to absorb and transport water up the trunk of the tree and as such will absorb the water that condenses inside if allowed to. As mentioned earlier, this absorption can cause problems with your instrument. Try to hold it out when you play. Try to keep it warm while playing. And last but not least, if your flute "wets up" on you more than a couple of times, leave the fetish off overnight so the slow air chamber can dry out.

Laughing Crow flutes are warranted for one year against defects in materials or workmanship.

"No questions asked, 100% money-back

guarantee. If you aren't totally satisfied with any aspect of your Laughing Crow flute within the first thirty days I'll gladly give

you a complete and immediate refund of your full purchase price, upon receipt of your flute

no questions asked; that's my  guarantee to you."

 This does not include abuse, breakage or improper care and maintenance. If there is a problem, ship the flute to me shipping prepaid and I will repair it, replace it or refund your money, whichever you like. Shipping is not refundable. This guarantee does not apply to Jonah Thompson flutes, literature, music or accessories. If you are having trouble playing your flute, you may contact me by phone for advice on playing techniques. (520)237-5312

For more information on the Native Flute, is a great place to start.



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