A Look at the Different Woods Used in My Flute Making

For many years I have been making flutes out of cedar. Cedar is a soft wood that has a beautiful voice. These days I have been able to find many different woods that also sound great! Many of them are considered to be hardwoods. Some are exotic woods. (From countries other than the U.S.) I have learned that every wood has its own, special voice and they all sound beautiful.  I like to call the Native American flute “The wood that sings!”

 Soft Woods

  • Aromatic Cedar (Western)
  • Red Cedar (Eastern)
  • White Cedar
  • Cherry
  • Redwood

Hard Woods

  • Oak
  • Walnut
  • Birch
  • Poplar
  • Maple

Exotic Woods

  • Padauk (orange)
  • Purple heart (purple)
  • Yellow heart (yellow)
  • Zebra

For photos and prices see my Shop! 

Legend of the First Native American Flute (Lakota Story)

A young man  found the tracks of an elk and followed them for a long time. The elk, wise and swift, is the one who owns the love charm. If a man possesses Elk Medicine, the girl he likes can’t help liking him, too. He will also be a lucky hunter.

This young hunter had no Elk Medicine. After many hours, he finally sighted his game. Although a skilled hunter, the elk always managed to stay just out of range, leading him deep inside a thick forest. The tracks had disappeared and so had the elk. There was no moon. He realized he was lost and, it was too dark to find his way out.

He came upon a stream with cool, clear water, where he stopped to drink and eat food that he had brought with him. He rolled himself into his fur robe, propped his back against a tree and tried to rest. But he couldn’t sleep because of the strange noises that filled the forest, the “groaning” of trees in the wind, and the cries of night animals such as the owl. It was as if he was hearing these sounds for the first time.

Suddenly, he was aware of an entirely new sound, one that neither he nor anyone else had ever heard before. The sound was mournful and ghost-like; it made him afraid, so he drew his robe tightly about himself and reached for his bow, making sure it was properly strung and ready for immediate use.

As frightening as the sound was, it was also like a song, sad but beautiful, full of love, hope and yearning. Before he knew it, he was asleep, dreaming of the bird called Wagnuka, the redheaded woodpecker. In his dream, Wagnuka appeared singing the strangely beautiful song and telling him, “Follow me and I will teach you.”

The sun was already high when the hunter awoke the next morning. On a branch of the tree against which he was leaning, he saw a redheaded woodpecker who flew from tree to tree, but never very far, looking back all the time as if to say, “Come on!” Suddenly, he heard that wonderful song again, and his heart yearned to find the singer. Flying toward the sound, leading the hunter, the bird flitted through the leaves, while its bright red top made it easy to follow.

At last, the woodpecker lighted on a cedar tree and began hammering on a branch with his strong beak, making a noise like the fast beating of a small drum. A gust of wind arose, and again the hunter heard that beautiful sound right above him.

Looking up, he discovered the song came from the dead branch on which the woodpecker was tapping his beak. He realized it was the wind which made the sound as it whistled through the hole the bird had drilled.

The hunter took the branch, a hollow piece of wood full of woodpecker holes that was about the length of his forearm. He walked back to his village bringing no meat, but happy with his discovery.

In his tipi, the young man tried to make the branch sing for him. He blew on it, he waved it around, no sound came. It made him sad. He wanted so much to hear that wonderful new sound. He purified himself in the sweat lodge and climbed to the top of a lonely hill. There, resting with his back against a large rock, he fasted, going without food or water for four days and nights, crying for a vision which would tell him how to make the branch sing.

In the middle of the fourth night, Wagnuka, the bird with the bright red top, appeared, saying, “Watch me” and turning himself into a man, showing the hunter how to make the branch sing. In his dream, the young man observed very carefully, as instructed.

When he awoke, he broke off a branch from a cedar tree and, working many hours, hollowed it out with a bowstring drill, just as he had seen the woodpecker do in his dream. He whittled the branch into the shape of the birds with a long neck and a open beak. He painted the top of the birds head with washasha, the sacred red color. He prayed. He smoked the branch up with incense of burning sage, cedar and sweet grass. He fingered the holes as he had seen the man-bird do in his vision, meanwhile blowing softly into the mouthpiece. All at once, there was the song, ghost-like and beautiful, that drifted all the way to the village, where the people were joyful to hear it. With the help of the wind and the woodpecker, the young man had brought them the first flute.

NOTE: This legend has been edited from historical documents and is believed to be of public domain.

Crazy Crow Trading Post

Thinking of Those Who Have Gone Before Us

Feeling sad
Dancing at one of our local pow wows and remembering the years past

As I get older, I realize that many of the friends I’ve socialized with are no longer with me. I know we all lose friends and family as the years go by. I want to thank each of mine for sharing their lives with me. When I hear the drums and the native singing, it causes me to reflect on how much I miss them and how grateful I am for each and every one. The sound of this beautiful, haunting music has been on our earth for many thousands of years and has been passed down from generation to generation; honoring and celebrating every passing soul, as well as those still living.

Sometimes fellow dancers will ask me, “Why do you look so sad?” I tell them that I am remembering the past, and that I am reminded of how each new day is a gift from our Creator, and that as we walk the path we chose, we are directed daily to be grateful and to make good decisions.

I am trying not to put too much emphasis on the past, concentrating instead on being grateful and making each new day a positive one; knowing that if I am fortunate enough to experience another day, I will make the most of it!

I believe that each new day is like a dance, from the time we get up until we go to sleep. I pray for a good dance each day.

Prayer for the Day

PRAYING BY MY TEE PEE_med

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Spirit, Almighty Healer, and Creator of all things, large and small,

It is with a humbled heart that we gather together to offer up to you, many thanks. We thank you for each new day of life granted to us, that we may continue to perform the works you have asked us to do.

We thank you for those who may come to us for a short time, to give us the answers and insight we seek.

We thank you for family and friends throughout the four corners, who provide us with the support and comfort we need.

We thank you for each child born, for they are the future generation.

We thank you for the wisdom ingrained within us. We thank you for the blessed wisdom and instruction in your word.

For the numerous stars, nebulas and galaxies of the mysterious Universe that surrounds us, we thank you.

We thank you for the rising of Grandfather Sun each new dawn.

We thank you for the budding of the cherry blossom trees in the spring.

We thank you for the beauty of the lotus and orchid flowers.

We thank you for the richness of the soil where the crops flourish. For the summer lightning storms that bring the needed nitrates to the earth, we thank you.

We thank you for the mighty Oak trees and the knowledge that each plant provides its own seeds for future planting. We thank you for the understanding of the life of the trees, as we gaze upon the veins of the Maple leaf.

We thank you for the life-blood of all living things as it flows from snow-capped mountains. We thank you for all two-leggeds, four-leggeds, swimmers, fliers and crawlers that inhabit Mother Earth.

We thank you for our Elders and the lessons of life in their stories, and the wisdom they impart to the younger generation. May respect once again enter into the minds of all that listen.

We thank you for our pets that remain with us to give us the comfort and friendship we desire.

We thank you for music that transcends all understanding throughout the four corners.

We thank you for your love, forgiveness, strength, courage, and comfort.

Emenv (Amen)

 For more information about the author of this beautiful prayer: See More

About Walking Staff Flutes

I make a flute that doubles as a Walking Staff. I use this kind of flute while hiking in the woods and hills near my home. This style of flute can be used to help with balance or for relaxing and playing a song. The flute is made of solid Oak, designed as a long staff. It can also be used for protection. I was a Karate and Jiu Jitsu instructor for many years and I used to give lessons on how to protect yourself with a staff approximately this same size. We called it a Bo Staff.  The only difference is that the Bo Staff wouldn’t make music!

My Walking Staff Flutes for sale.

All About Drone Flutes

slide3The drone flute is of Aztec origin and has two or more flutes built together. The drone chamber plays a fixed note which the other flute can play against in harmony. It is thought that the first drone flutes were made from the Calima native culture of Central America. They had four holes in each of the chambers.

These Native American-Style Drone Flutes have a very special sound, almost like that of a bag pipe. They are available in different woods and each one has a special voice. A beginner can easily make beautiful music with one of these unique flutes. The fingering is very similar to the standard flute with the exception that you have two flutes in one. One will play the normal notes and other will play the single note in whatever key that the flute is tuned. Drone Flutes are a mystical, magical hybrid of the traditional Native American style flute. It has the same features of that flute, but with an added chamber that allows you to play an accompanying drone, creating magical harmonies. It sounds like two flutes playing at once!!!

How to Choose a Flute by Tone

slide4The sound quality of a flute is influenced by the pitch of the flute, as well as the type of wood. You can choose a Suncrow Native America Flute from the following ranges.

                                                                                           High-Toned Flute

The small size, soprano flutes play with a high pitch sound. They come in the keys of A, G, and D pentatonic minor. These flutes are ideal for carrying in a pack or pocket and can easily be played by children.

                                                                                         Medium-Toned Flute

The alto-tenor flutes and are very popular for their versatility and warm tones. They were called love flutes in the old days and come in the keys of A, G, F#, and E minor pentatonic. Native history shows that young men would court the young women that they were attracted to by playing a song outside the women’s parent’s lodge. If the parents approved of his music.  they were allowed to date!

                                                                                            Low-Toned Flute

The large, bass flutes are very deep-toned and produce a soothing and almost haunting sound. Often called Grandfather Flutes, these come in the keys of D, C, B, and A minor pentatonic. (D minor flutes are highest pitched flute in this range).

                                                                                                Drone-Flutes

The Drones are two-flutes-in-one and play in the alto/tenor range. They play a continuous drone through the left chamber, with melodic playing on the right. You can play the melodic right chamber independently as a solo flute. Drone Flutes come tuned in many different keys. They can also be made to play with each chamber having a different key, playing in perfect harmony.

 

                                                                                   Choosing a Flute By Wood Type

Each piece of wood has a different voice even when two different flutes are made of the same wood. This can make it difficult to decide on a special wood. Hardwoods and softwoods make different sounds. Many times the Exotic Woods are chosen for their tone and their unique beauty.

Creating Native American Flutes – Spacing and Hole Placement

5 hole

Back in the old days, Native American flutes were created and tuned differently than most are today. The number and spacing of the holes is what makes the old different from the new. In the old traditional way, some flutes had only four holes, some had five, and some had six holes, they were all the same size and were evenly spaced. The flute maker would use his thumb to measure the distance between holes. Even his arm and hand were used as measuring instruments. Today, we have rulers and measuring tapes, but I often enjoy still using the old way.

Today the modern flutes are mostly tuned in the minor pentatonic scale. Many of the flutes have only five holes instead of four and six. Most concert-tuned flutes are tuned diatonic, pentatonic or chromatic to blend with other modern instruments. The spacing of the holes on these flutes is different. I have decided to make my flutes both ways, some with six holes and some with five. My personal preference to play is generally a five hole flute.

Pow Wow Dancing (A Gallery of Photos)

Spokane Tribe Wellpinit pow wow!