Showing posts with label Anasazi Flute. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anasazi Flute. Show all posts

Monday, September 10, 2018


Pueblo Bonito Anasazi flutes.jpeg

Duet playing between Native American flute players is a fairly simple task. The players usually select the key in which they choose to perform, and take turns in listening and playing. As long as the flutes are tuned to the same pitch, the compatibility of the instruments will be pleasing. Pairing an Anasazi-style flute with a Native American flute (NAF) presents a different problem due to the way keys are designated for each kind of flute. The root note designation for Anasazi-style flutes denotes the beginning of a major pentatonic scale. Common keys for Anasazi flutes are A, G# (or Ab), and some higher pitched versions in C and D.

Unlike almost any other Western key-tuned flute, the NAF is named by a minor key rather than the major, because of the pentatonic minor scale structure of the NAF. Flute players fill in their collections by acquiring instruments in various root notes (F#, G, A, etc.), and that root note designation refers to the minor key of that note. For example, the NAF in A is really A minor, no sharps or flats. The major key with no sharps or flats is C, and with the right fingering the NAF in A minor can also play the major C scale (also called mode 2 for the NAF).

The Anasazi scale is based on a pentatonic major scale based on the lowest note of the flute. This distinction is important because a NAF flute in A (minor), no sharps or flats, is not compatible with an Anasazi flute in A (major), 3 sharps. And while it's worth noting that the Anasazi flute can play in a minor mode, a greater number of compatible notes between the two kinds of flutes are available if you use flutes with the same number of sharps or flats in their scale structure.

In music theory, each set of sharps and/or flats in a major key have its minor key complement (called a relative minor). The musical distance is a minor 3rd apart. If you pair a NAF with an Anasazi flute, use this as a guide:

Anasazi A with NAF F#m (3 sharps)
Anasazi G# (Ab) NAF Fm (4 flats)
Anasazi C with NAF Am (no sharps or flats)
Anasazi D with NAF Bm (2 sharps)

Take a listen to Welcome Dance and Two Hearts in the September 18 post at The overdubbed recording is played with an F#m NAF with an A Anasazi Dream flute. Because both instruments share the same key signature, the pieces hold together musically.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


English: Authentic Native American FLute by Ja...
Authentic Native American FLute by James Starkey, aka Wanbli WiWohpe

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The current popularity of the replicas of the ancient Anasazi flute among members of the Native American flute community present some interesting challenges for the Native American flute (NAF) enthusiast. The main difference comes from the nature of sound production of the different flutes. Traditional NAFs owe their mouthpiece structure to the European recorder or penny whistle due to the fipple which splits the air column creating the sound. 

As the NAF developed, a two-chamber system with a small air channel directing the airflow became the standard. The Anasazi flute replicas are examples of a much earlier, less technical system of using a mouth-guided airflow, or embouchure, as the means of sound production.

The early NAFs scale and tuning systems varied. There was a biometric method based upon boring holes corresponding to distances of various points of the player's hands, as well some tunings much like the major scale of recorders and penny whistles. Sometime in the 1950s-70s the standardization of the pentatonic scale became the familiar sound that has attracted people to the flute. The relative ease of sound production and pleasing sound of the pentatonic scale ensures quick success for the musician and non-musician alike. In contrast, the Anasazi-style flutes require that a tone be created by training the mouth muscles to direct the sound across the front edge of the top of the flute. This difference is at first difficult for many people since sound is not automatically produced by simple blowing, but is produced much like blowing across a soda bottle. A bit of muscle memory and trial and error (and a significant amount of practice) is necessary before a consistent sound can be obtained.

The other difference between the two flutes is that the basic scale pattern of the Anasazi flute is a pentatonic major scale. That is somewhat of a simplification because by utilizing other fingerings a more plaintive, minor sound can also be produced, but the main harmonic basis of the flute is a pentatonic major. Although the two flutes are different in construction and playing technique, the two can indeed be played together as will be discussed in a future article.

    Mark Purtill is an educator, artist, composer, performer and author and maker of anasazi flute replicas as well as other rim blown flutes.

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