Design and Construction of Native American Flutes

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  2. January 13, 2018 1:48 am

Design and Construction of Native American Flutes

Throughout the Americas, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, a strong tradition of flute design and construction evolved over thousands of years.

Native American flutes were the first flutes in the world to have two air chambers. The first air chamber is called the slow air chamber. The slow air chamber is near the mouthpiece and is the first chamber to receive airflow. This chamber creates the distinctive sound of the flute when air resonates within it.

The airflow then gets squeezed through a thin channel called the flue. The flue is between the partition known as the plug and a block. The block is usually carved into a bird or other shapes. The flue leads into the second chamber. This chamber, which is much larger than the first, resides beneath the finger holes.

When the flutes were traditionally constructed, certain dimensions were based off of specific measurements of the human body. The length of the flute would be the distance between an elbow and the tip of the fingers. The slow air chamber would be about the size of a fist, as was the distance between the last finger hole and the end of the flute. The finger holes would be separated by a distance equal to the width of a thumb.

Native American flutes are made of several types of wood. The most popular are Cedar, Redwood and Juniper. These woods are known to produce a pleasant aroma. The softness of these woods will increase the softness of the tone that the flute produces. Cherry and Walnut are harder woods and produce a more clear and sharp sound.

There are a few variations of traditional Native American flute. One variation, known as the Woodlands Flute, has no block near the mouth piece. There is also the Plains Flute which has an airflow channel carved into the block itself.

The Native American flute has a unique design and construction. Played by an expert flutist, it suddenly has an even more distinct sound.


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