The Elderberry, A Branch that Makes Music

This is a Native American-Style flute made from an Elderberry
branch that 
I found while on a hike in my area.

The Native Americans used to make flutes out of Elderberry stalks. (branches) They would hollow out the stems and remove the pith from the inside of the stalk. Setting aside the pith for later and used it as tinder to start fires. In the old days, everything that the Creator gave the native people was used

Once the branch was hollowed-out they could blow on one end to get a sound, kind of like blowing into an empty bottle. Next, they carefully bore evenly-spaced holes in the branch. By placing their fingers on the holes along the branch they could play a melody. Removing their fingers one at a time they learned to play different notes. It was said that whistles were made the same way, as well as ceremonial pipes. They also used the sticks to make a beat that was used to dance or sing by clapping them together.

Elderberry Stalks

The Elderberry was considered a sacred tree by the Cherokee and many of the native tribes. Every part of the elderberry was used: the stem, the pith, the bark, the leaves, the flowers, and the berries! A tea could be made by drying the flowers. Elderberry Syrup was made from the berries and is still used today by many to treat and shorten the duration of colds and the flu. Some people even make wine and jelly from the berries.

Elderberries

I’m always in awe of nature and find it amazing that I can go on a hike near my house and find a bush or tree with so many incredible uses. Making flutes and music from Elderberry branches is my new favorite way to create. The branches make a beautiful looking flute that also happens to have a gorgeous voice.


Elderberry Bush 

I also just this week read that Prince Harry and his fiance, Meghan Markle are planning on having a Lemon and Elderflower Wedding Cake!!!  YUM! 

If you are interested in purchasing an Elderberry Flute from me, click this direct link to my Shop page!

Remembering My Dad and His Role in Developing the Liberty Lake Regional Park

“By the Stream” by Howard Ball (flute solo) and video footage, by Keith Harris is dedicated to my dad, Howard T. Ball for his role in preserving this beautiful treasure in Liberty Lake, Washington. 

In 1966 my father, Howard T. Ball was a  county commissioner in Spokane, Washington.The Miller family owned the land now known as The Liberty Lake Regional Park (a.k.a. Liberty Lake County Park) The family had owned the gorgeous, lush, forested land on the shores of Liberty Lake in Eastern Washington since 1930. When it came time for the Millers, in their aging years to consider selling the land, my dad, along with friend and fellow county commissioner, Jack Geraghty, went to work convincing the county to purchase the land and preserve it forever for future generations to enjoy. The Millers sold their 2,983 acres to Spokane County in 1966.

My good friend, Keith Harris has hiked over 500 miles in the park in the last 2 years. He shot and developed this video sharing the sounds of nature and the beauty of the stream and waterfall. He then, in his recording studio added my flute to the video. In this video I am playing a song that I have titled, “By the Stream.” I love how the sounds of nature (the birds, insects, and flowing water) perfectly accompany my flute music.


A view from the lake of the marsh shoreline
and forest,
part of
The Liberty Lake Regional Park

Liberty Lake Regional Park, located on the shores of Liberty Lake, Washington in Spokane County is one of the largest county parks in the state of Washington, with over 3,000 acres of wetlands, lake shore, beautiful forest, including the most delicious smelling cedar forest, gorgeous stream and waterfall.


A view of the marshland and shoreline from the beach
in Liberty Lake Regional Park

The park has a designated swimming beach, shelters, and playground equipment, and is a favorite destination for families in the Spokane area. There is also a nice, well-maintained campground and many miles of trails. The long, board walk, reaching out into the middle of the marsh lands, with a view of the mountains and Liberty Lake is a favorite for photo taking and viewing the many varieties of water fowl.


My Grandson, Joey and his wife, Jessica with their two boys,
Zeke and Eli and my granddaughter, Sammy

The Liberty Lake Loop Trail has a beautiful cedar forest and waterfall as seen in my video. The hike through the cedars and to the waterfall is 8.5 miles.


On the trail with some of my family in the
Liberty Lake Regional Park

I personally have walked the park trails for almost 20 years, either by myself or with my friends or my kids and grand kids. I love this place and have always appreciated it for its beauty and serenity. As I walk or sit by this stream, I am always grateful to my dad, Howard T. Ball for his part in saving the land to be enjoyed by all. Since his passing, I feel he is watching me and my kids and grandkids as we come here often to enjoy it and create memories. Thank you, Dad.

Photos by my daughter, Debbie Naniawww.colormybliss.blogspot.com

Another Walking Staff Flute!

This special flute is made of Ebonized Oak.
It plays in the Key of F and is tuned to 432 Hertz. 

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!

To purchase this special flute please visit my Shop! 

This Week’s Feature: Bass-Toned, Bamboo Flutes!

Bamboo is considered an exotic wood, although it can be found in the United States. My bamboo flutes are a great and affordable way to start on your flute-playing adventure. While they sound beautiful, (some of my favorite personal flutes are bamboo) they are less expensive than my other exotic woods, as well as the hard wood flutes.

This week I am featuring two bamboo flutes. They are both bass-toned flutes. This red bamboo flute plays in the key of G, and the brown flute plays in the key of F.

To purchase, or for other bamboo options, please visit Bamboo River Cane in my Shop. To see all of my flutes, please simply click on Shop. Thank you!

Men with Broken Hearts: Recitation by Howard Ball, Accompanied by the Native American Flute

Listen as I recite Men with Broken Hearts, written and recorded by Hank Williams in 1950. I love this song, which has been recorded by some of my favorite artists of all time, Jim Reeves, Buddy Ebson, Porter Wagner, and my very favorite, Johnny Cash. It is a sad, yet beautiful song, perfect to be accompanied by the Native American Flute, which you will also hear me playing in the background.

      Men With Broken Hearts

Men with Broken Hearts
A recitation by Howard Ball
Accompanied by the Native American Flute, also by Howard Ball

For more recitations and flute music, please visit my Flute Sounds page.

Featured Special: Oak Flute with Turquoise Inlay

I’ve inlaid this beautiful sounding, medium-toned, oak flute with authentic turquoise and I am offering it for a limited time only at the special, reduced price of $145. Regularly priced at $185, this is a great deal.

To purchase this work of fine art and craftsmanship, please follow this link to my Specials page.

To view all of my flutes follow this link to my Shop. 

Please follow Suncrow Flutes on Facebook!

To listen to my flute music and recitations of poems and prayers accompanied by flute music please visit my Flute Sounds page.

How to Choose Which Flute is Right for You

The sound quality of a flute is influenced by the pitch of the flute, and the size of the flute, as well as the type of wood. Focusing on the pitch, you can choose a flute from the following ranges.

HIGH TONE (SOPRANO) FLUTES

Soprano (small size) flutes play with a high pitch. They come in the keys of A, G, and D minor. These are the highest pitch flutes.

MEDIUM TONE (TENOR FLUTES)

Tenor flutes (medium size) and are the most versatile. These are often called ‘Love Flutes.’ They come in the keys of A, G, F#, and E minor pentatonic.

LOW TONE (BASS) FLUTES

Bass flutes (large size) are deep-toned and produce a soft, haunting voice. These are often called ‘Grandfather Flutes’ and they come in the keys of D, C, B, and A minor pentatonic
(D minor flutes are highest pitched flute in this range)

DRONE FLUTES

Drone flutes are two-flutes-in-one. In the alto/tenor range, you can play a continuous drone through the left chamber, while playing the melody on the right. Or, you can play the melody on the right chamber independently as a solo flute. Drone Flutes come in the keys A, G, and F# minor pentatonic .

FLUTE SIZES

Suncrow Flutes are made in various sizes and keys. Each flute has a specific finger-hole spacing. The key of the flute relates not only to its pitch, but also to its physical size.

The small size flute is easy for a child or an adult with smaller hands to play. This flute is very popular with people who want to carry their flute in their pocket.

The medium size flute (Love Flute) is ideal for the average person to play. The finger- hole spacing is within reach of any adult.

The large flutes (Bass Flutes)  are better with someone with larger hands because of the distance between the  holes. The deeper the tone of the flute the farther apart are the finger holes, thus a little harder for a person with small hands to play.

Walking Staff  Flutes are Bass Flutes and are keyed in deeper tones.

Drone flutes, being two-flutes-in-one, will take a little time to comfortably play. They are wider and take a little more breath to play both chambers at the same time.

For more information and or help choosing a flute, please contact Howard via Email at suncrowflutes@gmail.com

Visit my Shop to see all of my flutes!

Sale! Medium-Toned Poplar Native American Flute

Update: This flute is SOLD! 


This beautiful, six hole, poplar flute, tuned in the key of C is on sale! The regular price is $125. I have marked it down to $95. Purchase Here 

For more marked down flutes visit my Specials page!

My Thoughts: My Flute Song is a Prayer of Thanks

Wood is an awesome resource for which I am incredibly grateful. When I stop and look around, I realize so many of the things that we all enjoy and use every day of our lives come from wood. Trees supply so many of our basic needs. Our homes, furniture, and many of our household tools are created from wood. I love playing an instrument that is created from this gift from God.

When I play my flute the song that comes out of the flute is my prayer, giving thanks to God for the trees and all of the truly beautiful and amazing things in nature that he gives us.

Some of My New Exotic Wood Flutes

pile_of_flutes_med

These flutes are some of my new favorites! They are made from the exotic woods, Purple Heart and Padauk Orange. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they all have beautiful voices. It is such a pleasure to work with these gorgeous, natural woods!

My Thoughts: The Spirit of the Flute, A Song of the Heart

Today, while walking in the woods and playing my flute, I realized how much the voice of the flute was like my own voice.  The song comes from my heart and moves through the wood as a form of a prayer. The outside beauty of the flute has little to do with its voice. Just like people, what is on the outside, or how they look, should have nothing to do with what is on the inside.

We need to learn to look for beauty from within. What a person says and does shows through their actions, and often their actions are show their true spirit.

As an artist, I endeavor to make each flute beautiful. However, it is the sound of the flute that is truly important. Each flute that I create has a special voice – no two are exactly alike. Each kind of wood produces a different vibration, and the voice is never the same. In addition, the person playing the flute makes it sound different! Each flute is truly unique. The wood comes from mother earth, and all of her children are unique.

Why do the animals and birds like the voice of the flutes?  Why do we feel calm and at peace when we hear that voice? Different sounds give us different feelings. What a pleasure to play an instrument that has been played on this earth for thousands of years.

 

Flute Coatings

feed-and-wax-2

I finish each of my flutes using several coats of shellac, which is a natural finish that comes from the female lac bug. These little insects are found on trees in the forests of Thailand and India. They secrete a resin that is deposited on the bark of a tree. The flakes of this resin are then gathered and dissolved in ethanol to make liquid shellac.

I put several coats of this finish on the inside and outside of my flutes. Shellac is a natural product that does not fade in sunlight or oxidize over time. The finish is non-toxic and safe. This gives the flute a rich, natural look that will last for many years.

I also condition my flutes with another natural product that is a blend of beeswax, carnauba wax, and orange oil. If you own one of my flutes, I highly recommend that you regularly use a product called Feed-N-Wax to keep your flute continually protected. You can purchase it at any hardware store. It is quick and easy to use – simply rub on, let stand 20 minutes and wipe clean. Then polish with a clean cloth.

I use Feed-N-Wax on all of my flutes, whether they have been shellaced or not.

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! 

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.