Erik the Flutemaker

Questions for the Flutemaker

How do I choose my instrument?

How do I blow my side-blown flute?

How should I properly take care of my bamboo flutes?

Burnt bamboo smells to strong. What should I do?

When I blow the Kiowa Inspired Love Flute, it seems to go too high at times. Is it me or the flute?

How to Blow the V shaped End Blown flutes?

Cleaning and Oiling your Pennywhistle.

Is your Pennywhistle tunable?

How do I blow a Bamboo Sax?

Will my flute sound good years from now?

How can I repair my cracked flute?

What is the difference between concert tuning and non-concert tuning?

What is concert tuning? What does A440 mean? Why should one get it or not get it?

Will the curve in a flute effect it?

Questions about our Sax.

Can you teach me to improvise?


How do I choose my instrument?

If you want to relax and be creative, I recommend the deep Oriental flute, and the Kiowa Inspired Love Flute is soulful and prayerful and easy to blow. I am offering my favorite minor flute which I call the Vivaldi Minor which has a classical renaissance feel.

Our Exotic flutes and exotic scales include the Ice Age Flute inspired from an archeological find in a cave in Europe, the Egyptian Flute inspired by the Ney found carved on the Pyramid walls, the Arabian Flute, my Chinese Flute, inspired by a professor, and the Oriental Flute with the Japanese Shakuhachi tuning.

Also great for the beginner and the well trained performer, is the Irish Pennywhistle. The Pennywhistle came over to America on the early ships from Europe. Pennywhistles were passed out among tribes during the Lewis and Clark expedition. The Pennywhistle created a tremendous response during the River Dance craze which continued on with the musical themes of Braveheart, Titanic and Lord of the Rings.

LETTERS with questions and answers:

Hi Erik, I am really interested in buying one of your flutes but am not sure which one to get. I already play the modern flute and piccolo and was wondering if you had any advice on where to start.
Thanks, Valerie. M. Feb. 4th 2016

Hi Valerie:
Thanks for getting in touch.
A flute can be a very personal thing which resonates with different people.
Some will buy a penny whistle because they want a celtic Irish sound. And need it in a specific ket to play with others. 
Other folks desire a deep meditative flute to relax like the deep forest flute, the Meditation flute, the Anasazi or Oriental Flute and others pick a creative scale like the Vivaldi flute to improvise.
Some want a good music tool like the concert tuned G Brazilian Major which plays in G, Am, Em and C too. Good for a mediums size hand.
The Low D is rich but good for a large hand.
While other flutes like the Chinese and Ice Age, Medium Arabian  and the Calypso flute are good for a small to medium hand.
Many who are starting out get the Kiowa Love Flute because it is easy to blow and to improvise.
So I invite you to check things out. I like when a customer writes in the comment box at check out, that their fingers are very thin or small so I can keep them in mind.
I recommend going through the website and the tutorials to find what excites your heart and imagination.  Hope this helps, Erik

Hello Erik,
I want to make a purchase from you but am unsure what would be a great beginner flute. Any ideas for me?
Sincerely,
Tom July 31,2016

 Hi Tom:

 The Kiowa Love flute is a great flute to start on. 

Very easy to blow. 

Easy to make up your own music. 

Mellow and creative.

This is a pentatonic scale like the black keys on the piano where anything you do on them sounds good.

 Some folks don't want to create but play songs. 

Like the Titanic theme, Amazing Grace, Happy Birthday...

 Then the easy flute for them is the Penny Whistle because it has a head joint or fipple and it has the major scale. Which is good to copy tunes. The Penny Whistle will play in major, minor and pentatonic. They are also concert tuned so you can play with others. Where the Kiowa is mostly tuned to itself.

 The other instruments I build are side blown, end-blown with a notch and the saxes with a reed. All have a longer learning curve. But very cool. Plenty of tutorials on my website. if you can blow across a bottle easily to get sound, you should do well with a side blown and end-blown flute.

 Erik the flutemaker July 31, 2016

 


How do I blow my side-blown flute.

Question: I still have difficulty playing my side blown flute. I can't seem to make it blow.

Answer: Its all in relaxing and finding the sweet spot.

Press and roll. Then with a soft grin spit the watermelon seeds out. Pretend you are saying the wood pure. Or tooty too. It is easier to hold the flute near the mouthpiece until you get good. Then work on the top fingers. Then all fingers. Later, the ear is the conductor as your heart and soul sing through the flute.

Response: That works. I made a good strong sound on the first try, all holes open, holding firmly near the mouthpiece. I think I need to work on this side-blown flute one note at a time until I'm consistent, and work down the holes as you suggested. Thanks.

Answer: What is happening when you practice near the mouthpiece is that you are getting good balance. In other words the flute is snuggled in at the correct sweet spot with pressure against the lower soft lip. Once you are holding the flute with both hands that balance is jeopardized by lack of experience. I use my left hand knuckle to wrap around the flute and press the flute against my soft lips. By pushing out a bit with my right hand it leverages the flute to connect with the body at the lip. Also the pads of the fingers pressed firmly down help. Be aware of any exposed hole it will cause leaking.

------------------------

Thank you Erik, the Egyptian flute is very beautiful.  I am starting to figure it out and apply a more delicate touch to it. Hopefully one day I will play it with ease as you do. Your video on the Egyptian flute, the one with the bird is a regular sound coming out of my wood shop. Be blessed! Frank

Dear Frank:
One of the secrets to good flute playing is a good connection. 
I see it like horseback riding.
Before you can ride, you have to get up on the horse, get balanced with your weight. Grab the reigns, adjust them, get your feet well into the stirrups, lean in, give the horse a vocal sign and move with the horse. If you don't do those things it is not going to work well.

 In fluteting, the blow hole needs to be pressed against the soft grin and rolled. So I use my top knuckle to press the flute creating a circle of pressure to connect.
There needs to be a firmness of the pads of the fingers into the holes for a good seal, so I add a bit of firmness but relax into it. Then I roll the flute and look for the sweet spot of best sound. Once I have that good volume and clear voice, I can "ride". 
I usually start walking the "horse" slowly then move into a canter and if I want, in a moment of passion, I can gallop. 
I can stop and start again. So I see flute playing like riding a horse.
But to ride well, one has to get up on the "horse" well.
These are fundamental basics that have to happen before the real flute playing can happen with its wondrous intimacy that carries you and your audience into an enchanted place of fullness, mystery and beauty.
On my exotic scales I mostly start all closed. That is the root note. Or the grounded note where I begin the ride and will end the ride, leaving those that ride with me musically back at the stable where we began. Then they go on with their lives have been on a ride and can say, "Wow, what a ride."
The more one picks up the flute the more the flute teaches you how to hold it and play it. 
Then one day something amazing happens; you are not playing the flute, but the flute is playing you. 
And pouring music from some invisible place through you. 
That is when your soul and spirit delights exceedingly and your brain tells you, that you just connected with a download from the Creator, who made you to create and had just hooked you up.
Erik the flutemaker November 11th, 2016

How should I properly take care of my bamboo flutes?

When receiving your instrument during Extreme Weather, please let the package sit in your warmer temperature with all the wrappings for about ½ an hour so it can slowly acclimate from its cold journey. our bamboo is tropical and needs a moment to say hello!

Question: How should I properly take care of my bamboo flutes? Is there any specific advice you could offer to a novice?

Here are some thoughts to care for your new flute:

Most important thing to think about is, "What is the most dangerous thing that can happen to my flute?"

Don't step on it (A flute on the floor is a flute no more.)

Watch out for closing car doors.

Dogs like to chew on them so don't leave it on your coffee table.

Don't loose it. Don't leave it mindlessly somewhere. It is your new friend.

Don't get it stolen. By leaving it on your car seat with an open window.

Cars get real hot so take your flute into the restaurant for lunch but don't leave it behind. And don't leave it in the restaurant. Play it there!

No hot dashboards, intense heat or cold can crack it.

Oil it once in a while: I use Mineral Oil (bought in pharmacies) to oil it outside whenever I want it to shine. Inside perhaps 4 times a year will not hurt. Perhaps more if you live in a desert. A dowel with a cloth tied to a hole works. Make sure you don't get a big cloth stuck in a small bore. I also like coconut oil for the outside.

Love your flute, it will love you back for decades.

Burnt bamboo smells to strong. What should I do?

Question: My flute tastes very strong like burnt bamboo, what should I do?

Question: I was given one of your Oriental flutes and it looks and plays beautifully. It also smells great due to the burnt holes. I do wonder though, I also taste (quite strongly) this burn bamboo in my mouth after playing, Is this something that will go away with time or can I treat it someway to make it go away?

IN TIME THE SMELL WANES BUT SOME CUSTOMERS REACT AND WANT IT GONE QUICKER.

TAKE Q-TIPS WITH ALCOHOL OR SOAPY WATER AND RUB INSIDE THE THE EDGES OF ALL THE HOLES. A paper towel or rag will also work.

IF USING SOAP THEN DO A LAST RINCE TO RID ANY SOAP SCENT. THE ALCOHOL WILL DISSAPATE FAST AND SMELL GOOD TOO.


When I blow the Kiowa Inspired Love Flute, it seems to go too high at times. Is it me or the flute?

This is called false octivation. If the blowing is done from a small mouth hole pucker it tends to do this. Keeping the mouth more open seems to bring the air slower from a deeper place in the body. Think of it like blowing cool air from the body and blowing hot air. As a kid I would blow cool air on my wrist and then with an open throat and mouth blow ever so slowly and hot air would flow out. Try that. Once you master the breathing, you can actually push it with more force and stop right before it overkills. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.

How to Blow the V shaped End Blown flutes?

To blow the V shaped end blown flute. The blowing is like the side blown way where you must blow from a relaxed grin (forming a line in the lips) not a pucker (which would be a hole).

Once the line is formed by grinning softly, place the flute under the lower lip so the V is in front of the line. Do this without any fingers on the flute.

Lift with upward pressure on the flute to create a good seal against the chin and begin tilting the flute up and down, swinging the flute like a door connected to the chin area just below the lower lip.

The air must split across the V sharply, some going in, some out.

Look in the mirror to make sure you don't pucker.

Puckering will only make you dizzy, sound airy and frustrate you. Some people repeat the words "Tooty too" others say the word "Pure". The idea of spitting out a small item from the tip of the tounge like an eyelash is helpful. If you see yourself forming a pucker move into a grin by relaxing the cheek and then smile. So grin, press upwards, tilt and spit watermelon seeds. Once you get it find the sweet spot. Where it sounds the best in purity and volume with out a windy voice and where it feels most comfortable. Practice without the fingers.

When you achieve sound this way you are ready to work with the left hand on top.

Closing the holes with the pads of the fingers.

Lifting upwards to get a good connection

Wrap the knuckle of the left hand around the flute it helps to hold it.

Lifting upwards helps to hold it too.

Don't chase the flute have the flute come to you.

As you progress with the top fingers with sound then finger the bottom too.

Place the flute in sight where it can speak to you.

It will say, "Hey lets try it again for 2 minutes" Don't hide it out of sight.

Go to the flute when it calls you.

I don't believe in flutes and hot dashboards in the summer. But long red lights are a good practice place

As well as commercials without the volume.

Or sitting in a nice acoustical place. Which invites you to want to fill it with music.


Cleaning and Oiling your Pennywhistle.

In general when I play and my whistle head gets too moist to sound good, I blow hard into the air splitter channel to clear it.

The head joint can be cleaned with alcohol and a napkin or soap and water. I hardly ever do this. But you might want to if you or someone else was sick and played it.

When I want to see my flute shine outside or have its rich color return, I oil it with mineral oil which I buy in a pharmacy. I have even put a drop of oil on the ABS resin mouthpiece to shine it up. Then dry it.

If you want to oil it inside, make sure you don"t have a stick with a cloth that is too big because it will get stuck inside since the bore is only 1/2 inch wide.


Is your Pennywhistle tunable?

I use the ABS Susato head joint. Very happy with its quality sound.Don"t know how to describe the vibrato. Its just blowing with some push to me.

As to gluing: I once took a great whistle from the humid Florida Everglades to the cold Colombian mountains and the wood shrunk and the mouthpiece slipped off. So now we glue them.

We tune them in between around 71- 73 degrees. This way it is in tune both in AC and out doors. We warm the whistle up a bit with the 98 degrees of the breath.

What really flattens a flute or whistle is playing in very cold weather. And what really sharpens a whistle is having it sitting in hot summer sun and playing with someone tuned in A440.

The heat of the sun will have those molecules flying and the sound will be way up.


How do I blow a Bamboo Sax?

Question:

It seems that it takes a mighty wind to get a sound. I mean I blow till I fear my ears are going to pop. I played sax as a kid and don't remember having to blow so hard. I can get a sweet sound out of it, but it is a real effort to play. Any advice?

Answer:

Playing a bamboo sax is a physical adventure. But your brain shouldn't be seeping out of your ears. Most of the time when we see a sax player playing on TV or in a movie he is standing and moving. He"s not sitting under a tree in a breeze.

There was a saying called "Developing your chops" I now think it refers to the right pressure one needs to apply on a reed.

Sounds to me that you are really stressing the blowing.

There is a sweet spot that is still eluding you.

There is a bite on the reed with firm pressure.

Lower lip curled over the teeth. Teeth on top.

Reed goes into the mouth perhaps about 1/2 of an inch.

And an initial gust of wind is needed to get you stated.

Once the reed gets going back off on the great gust of wind that is driving you nuts and weakens one.

If the reed is too high, or too low, or too far over to the left or right, on the mouth piece it will cause one to have to blow harder I think. As you look in the back you should see a fine line of the black mouth-piece.

Don't go over a #2 reed. That will make it hard to blow. I recommend a tenor 1 1/2 reed.

Getting the reed moist will make it easier to play too.

Once you get the sound and let off the wind pressure to idle the reed, let your ear be the conductor, for instance if you are playing Amazing Grace and you hit that High Do but is sounds flat, bite harder on the reed to move the note up. The ear will guide you.

Try to get the best sound with the smallest effort. Seems to me you are galloping when you should be at a canter.

 

More Questions on the Bamboo Sax.

Hello Erik,

I'm very interested in the bamboo sax. The sound and also the look is just amazing! I never played a reed instrument before though. So I'd like to know some details on playing:

 

Is it possible to play chromatic scales?

YOU CAN GET SHAPRS AND FLATS BY COVERING A PORTION OF THE HOLE. CALLED HALF HOLEING.

 

If so, to play notes of the major scale, do I have to bend or do different fingering?

THE MAJOR SCALE IS THE ONE THAT IS SET. A STRAIGHT 8 NOTE MAJOR SCALE. ALL CLOSED IS DO AND THEN IT CONTINUES LIFTING THE FIRST FINGER FROM THE BOTTOM WHICH IS RE THEN MI, FA SO LA SI AND AND THE BACK HOLE IS HIGH DO.

 

How many octaves has it? 

ONE. THIS IS THE LIMITATION OF THIS INSTRUMENT

 

BUT YOU CAN ALSO GET THE SAX GROWL BY HUMMING,

ROLL OR BEND A NOTE BY ROLLING YOUR FINGER BACK TOWARDS THE TOP OF THE SAX,

 PLAY IN MAJOR,

PLAY IN MINOR BY STARTING ON THE FIRST FINGER TOWARDS THE BOTTOM WHICH IS RE AND COVERING HALF THE HOLE OF THE  TOP NOTE (SI).

YOU CAN PLAY IN PENTATONIC BY PLAYING WITH PEACE SIGN FINGERS TOGETHER ON BOTTOM HAND. WHICH I ALSO CALL THE SECRET TO JAZZ.

 ONE CUSTOMER WHO WORKS IN THE LOS ANGELES AUDIO STUDIOS WHO DOES MOVIE SCORES USED THE BAMBOO SAX IN A MOVIE. AND MY SAX TRAVELED IN THE YANNI WORLD TOUR TRIBUTE CONCERT IN CHINA GREESE AND INDIA AND WAS ON A SONG IN THEIR TRIBUTE CD. SO EVEN WITH THE ONE OCTAVE IT IS A COOL MUSICAL TOY AND SERVED ME AS A GREAT TOOL ON 5 CDS OF MY MUSIC. HOPE THIS HELPS, ERIK


Will my flute sound good years from now?

Question:

I've seen and heard Shakuhachi flutes for $3,000 US, and while I still

prefer the sound of yours my concern is the durability of the

instrument (particularly the sound quality). In other words ... will it still sound the same years from now?

Answer:

What makes sound is the splitting of the air quivering inside a tube. The tube will give tone with its length and width. the holes give it its tuning. I never cut 1st year growth because the bamboo is not suited for flutes. Once we harvest and cure the properly aged bamboo it can last a life time.

Concerning Durability:

I made a Brazilian Major flute in 2000. Then I noticed a hairline crack and pulled it off the market. It was really nice so I stuck it in my flute bag and it has been there for 10 years and I never fixed it and use it all the time. And love it!

I have had a few people get their flute and it arrived totally popped open. So I sent them another.

One customer said he found his box days later under a snow pile by his front door where the snow on his roof fell and buried it. The flute was fine.

I still have some flutes from the early 1970's. Some cracked some did not.

Bottom line is, my flutes are guaranteed for life.

If they crack we can repair them, if not we replace them.

I do recommend care.

Like no car hot dash boards in the summer and no playing by a heater having been walking in from the cold.

A flute on the floor is a flute no more.

I use Mineral oil inside once every few years. But someone in the desert needs to oil perhaps every 5 months.

Oil is fine to also shine it up. Walnut oil is used too. I stay away from Linseed due to the smell.


How can I repair my cracked flute?

Here is what I do to fix it.

All you need is some wood glue and rubber bands, sand paper, kitchen oil.

Squeeze glue into cracks.

Sometimes we try opening the crack a bit to get the glue in.

Can be done with a metal object from inside like a screw-driver perhaps.

Or we open the crack a bit with a utility knife blade from the top.

Try and not make the crack any longer.

Apply glue.

Cover the cracked area with rubber bands tightly. Wrapping string firmly will work too.

Clean off excessive glue with paper towel, rag or fingers.

Next day, take off rubber bands, sand and oil.

If you live in the USA and want us to repair it, we can also bind it.

If retuning to us for repairs, please include:

1) A note asking for repairs,

2) Your return address clearly in the note.

3) Send wrapped in news paper protected in a box ( US post Office will give you a Priority tube to ship for free)

4) If the crack just happened no money is required we fix and ship for free. If the instruments was crushed in your care we fix for free but we will need $14 to ship back in the US .

5) Send instrument to:

Erik the Flutemaker
14701 SW 18th Ct.
Davie, Florida 33325


What is the difference between concert tuning and non-concert tuning?

In 1939 the world got together to discuss the importance of having a standard of tuning everybody could agree on, so they wouldn't have to spend so much time tuning up at concerts. World War 2 broke out and folks went home to fight each other. When the dust settled they came back together and decided that the musical note "A" when it vibrated at 440 hertz, would be the world wide standard that every one could tune to a standard that every one could tune to.

This became known as the A440 standard of tuning.

Many feel A440 is a bit dull or sad and A442 seems a bit more chirpy

The concert tuned instruments are recommended for people who want to play with others.

Our instruments that are concert tuned, are done so on a digital tuner between 68 and 73 degrees fahrenheit.

I try to tune softly after warming up the instrument with 98 degrees of my breath.

We work with hot irons and a Dremel to do this.

The instrument needs to be back to a neutral temperature to start tuning again after a hot iron is used.

I usually have to visit a major scale approximately 48 times on the 8 note scale. Bamboo flutes usually flatten a bit on the second octave.

The "non-concert" instruments or the ones "tuned to itself" are the instruments that are either deeper or brighter than perfect pitch.

They still sound great and are just fine for playing by oneself. And cost considerably less.


What is concert tuning? What does A440 mean? Why should one get it or not get it?

I recommend concert tuned instruments if you are wanting to play with others or record with other tuned instrumentation.

This is much harder to make as each note has to be perfect pitch on an electronic meter and built at the right temperature. There are times I might need to make 5 flutes or saxes before one comes out perfect pitch in concert tuning, so it is more expensive.

Flutes tuned to themselves are just fine for playing alone. The work of a good Flutemaker is to make good sounding in tune flutes to themselves and also provide professionally tuned instruments to play with others.

History of Tuning:

Europe needed to have a universal standard of tuning because the pitches in Europe kept changing for different reasons.

One reason was old church organs going bad would be cut off at the top causing the pitch to rise. Another reason was it became popular to make a new wind instrument brighter than a former competitor giving the people a feeling of a new chirpier sound from an the dull past sound. Then pitch was raised to better hear brighter higher notes and louder music in large public hall concerts . This became a problem for opera singers singing along which caused their voices to strain. Higher tuning was bad for pianos causing strings, plate and the back to be strained. Also due to the raise in pitch stringed instruments began popping strings. So in 1859 France passed a law making the note A legal at 435 HZ. at 59 degrees F.

In 1896 The London Philharmonic Society tuned at A439 degrees at 68 degrees F considered room temperature and said when the French tuned at 59 degrees F. it was the same just as if they were tuning to A439 at 68 degrees F. The standard today is to tune to A440 at 72 degrees F. which was the temperature set to warm the concert halls of Europe.

In 1939, 3 months before world war 2 broke out, a music convention of Europeans held in Britain decided to make the universal standard at A440. Folks went back home and prepared for war and when the dust settled in 1955 they retuned to confirm that when the note A vibrated at 440 vibrations per second, that would be considered the universal standard of the A note so the world could play together in tune.

-------------------

Does it take a little time to break in a new flute?

Hi Erik

I have just recently purchased a Vivaldi Flute and I'm very excited that its sounds beautiful. Being a musician for most of my life of stringed instruments.
It is very exciting to learn a wind instrument. I have studied about two weeks before I picked up the flute and I got the sound in 30 seconds I was so excited! Now I'm playing songs, a week later. You are my first influence in the flute world. I have been picking up the stuff that you have showed in the videos for the Vivaldi flute, thank you so much for the videos.

I do have a question:

Does it take a little time to break in a new flute? Because it seems a little easier now for me to hit the higher octaves than it was at first when I first started playing, unless maybe it's just me and not the flute.

Thank you, Philip Jan 15, 2015

 

 Hi  Philip: 

Thanks for the nice letter. 

As we are learning the flute it is teaching us.

The flute is also playing us.

It is through experience that we get to the intimacy with it: 

in relaxing the lower lip with the grin to better split the air, 

in the pressing with the pads of the fingers,  

in the knuckle pressing the flute toward the lip for a good connection, 

in the imagination, as it begins to soar as one plays this flute. 

 It's like the flute is teaching us as we walk into a musical land of discovery. 

 

I also view 'learning the flute' as crossing a bamboo bridge over a beautiful tropical gorge. Once on the other side there are many paths of adventure. 

But we need to get across first.

And that starts with getting sound and then perfecting it.

Holding a flute in balance is important to be comfortable with it.

I also see it as riding a horse. One rides better when you sit well on a saddle with feet in the stirrups then you can go. If you are not seated well, its hard to ride.

 

Keep it in a place where it will speak to you. Like "Hey, let's play again!"

 Before you know it, you are playing and others tell you they heard it and it was beautiful.

Then comes the day when you are invited to play for people.

In a few days I will be playing, doing children's ministry in Nicaragua.

Flutes will take you places. The most interesting was playing for the President of Fiji in the Government House in Suva.

Have fun, Erik 

 -------------

Will the curve in a flute effect it?

 Hello Erik, I was wondering if the Egyptian flute has a slight curve to it?

Hi Wesley: 

I mostly use Bambusa Multiplex in my flute making. It has some natural curving as the plant likes to spread out looking for sunshine. It is the sun on the leaves that produce the sugars it needs to grow and be healthy and thrive. 

Some people looking for perfection and healing get "bent out of shape" emotionally thinking their flute has a curve in it. But that curve is nature’s miracle to me. So a bit of a curve will not hurt the flute or the music.

When I mark a flute from it's master flute, I have to roll it on my marking board until I see the rainbow, or the flute bowing upwards in the middle. That’s where I place the holes. About 95% have some curve in it. For 46 years it has been my craft with nature. So let the sun shine in and find many rainbows.

Enjoy. Erik the flutemaker

----------------

Question About our Saxes:

Hello
I'm Kim, I live in Korea can you send it here safely?
What about after service for if some part is broken or something?
Which key is better for beginner?
Has 2 octaves?

I want to choose the key that is nearer to real sax
Is it hard to learn all by my self?
Thanks

 

Hi Kim:

 As long as I am sending it to South Korea.

The Bb sax is very nice.

Some people buy the key they want to play in.

Some buy the sound they like.

On Sunday at church I played my C and D Saxes.

We use a real alto mouthpiece, cap, ligature and reed which are available in a music store.

People can lose a cap and reeds need to be secured.

We recommend using the Tenor  1 1/2 reed. We use Rico Reeds.

A short hand should stay away from the Bass and Tenor.

The sax can play in 4 keys, can play sharps and flats by half covering a hole, can get a sax growl by humming while you blow but it is a one octave instrument. 

I once saw a small child in a stroller blow one of my Saxes. I was amazed he got sound. So I figure if he could do it, you can.

Hope we can help, Erik the flutemaker

-------------------------------

 

Can you teach me to improvise?

How to improvise on your flute.

Definition of “Improvise” by Erik the flutemaker:

Simply playing music that is coming through you from within and going with the flow, with a beginning, a middle and an end while being conducted by your ear.

Dictionary definition of Improvise:

To create and perform (music, drama, or verse) spontaneously or without preparation.

 To compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation.

 To compose or play music on the spur of the moment. 

Someone once said to me, “How do you know God’s will?” I said, “It is easier to know and follow God’s will for the next 10 minutes.”

There is something about being in the now. And going with the flow as you are creating music.

When I ponder how I improvise, I am reminded that I must use some basic building blocks to be able to build. To build a toy Lincoln Log Cabin a child will need different pieces.

The other day, I gave an art class to children in a church. I had them draw 3 things. A straight line, a curved line and a dot. I told them those were the building blocks of art and we were going to use them to create a picture. I drew a straight line to be the trunk of a far away pine tree then some slanted straight lines to be the branches. Then 2 slanted lines formed a mountain and then some lines created a snow cap. Then I drew a curved line to become part of a cloud. More curved lines finished it and 2 curved lines made the circle of sun and straight line made the sun-rays. From the cloud, dots made rain. 2 curves became birds. Then I told them to create a border, fill the picture with mountains, trees, a stream and then add color. They had to start with 3 building blocks a straight line, a curve and a dot. 

Now concerning improvising music:

Keep in mind I do not read or write music. Having said that, I have had a career in music and produced around 6 CDs of music. I respect those who read and write music and respect more those who do that and can also improvise. And most of my customers in 46 years of flute-making will play their flute but not know how to read or write music. I am in that club and that is fine, nothing wrong with it.

In music, like in my humble art class, I have some advice I would like to give to help you to improvise. Building blocks that perhaps we could call the ABC’s of the language of music.

Start with all fingers down,

End with all fingers down,

Blow soft

Blow hard,

Blow long,

Blow short,

Roll a flute to bend a note,

Bend a finger back then forward to bend a note (good on a major scale and seen in my Jazz tutorials on my Sax pages)

Slide the finger over the hole to bend a note (good for the major scale and seen on my Irish music penny whistle video).

Use the peace sign fingers together on the holes below to make a major scale sound incredibly jazzy.

Start with all fingers down, that is, all holes are closed and end the song with all closed, ending with the root note which is the grounded note, a great place to start and finish your musical piece. The root note, with all fingers down, takes the listener, you or your audience from “home” and after your mini musical journey you drop them off at “home” again. And you just did music. You improvised. You created spontaneously without preparation.

You must start somewhere and all closed (when you are starting out in music), especially on an exotic scale is the best place to start. It is the beginning and end of the journey.

I recommend starting slow, moving into excitement and ending slow with all fingers down.

To be able to improvise, I first think the scale of your flute needs to be introduced and become familiar to your brain. By just playing the scale, you are programing a computer that will sing it back beautifully. It happens in a subconscious way into your brain.

The melodic scales I make will work perfect to learn to improvise on. Like the harmonic minor flutes like the Incredible Vivaldi Minor or the deeper Counselor or the pentatonic scale like the Oriental Flute, Kung Fu Flute and Chinese Flute. Or other exotic scales like the Ice Age, Kokin, Arabian and Egyptian Flute.

In other words, I recommend sitting and just playing the scale for about 3 minutes at a time, the first few days to get the notes and the scale into the brain, who by the way is the composer. This input investment up front, will let your soul sing out music later.

 When getting into a new flute you are also learning how to best hold it to balance it, to get good sound. You cannot ride a horse unless you first get up on it properly and then can go riding. There are things you need to do correctly to be able to play.

These basics include a soft lip, pressing the flute against it for good contact, rolling the flute to find the sweet spot. You can look in the mirror to make sure you are not puckering and to make sure the lip is not tight to be able to get good sound. But this article is about improvising so I am getting back to that.

After you have allowed your brain to subconsciously know the alphabet of your scale. Play the notes again but this time let your creativity join you. Start all down. (On the meditation flute the root note is 5 fingers down, see tutorial for that). Then put emotion into your playing. The blow hole should be closely rolled inwards for intimate notes. Some players get a lot of emotion rolling their flutes in and out. You see this with Shakuhachi players with their end-blown flutes. Seems to work with Asian sounding flutes but that can become overkill for some other musical styles.

Here is what I hear myself telling people about improvisation.

The ear is the conductor.

It is the ear that will guide you.

You begin to play long and soft.

The ear is listening, your whole being is listening. Your listening is connected to your sense of expectation, well being, creativity, your sense of leading and sense of beauty.

 Where to go from there, to make it sound good, perhaps you go into the upper octave a bit faster. It is the ear that tells you, blow harder, go to the higher octave, hold that note and now go back down to the first octave, blow softer more quietly, go back to that soft place, now repeat that phrase.… In time, you don’t hear those directions any more, you just create and enjoy the song.

Music is best done not with the head but with the heart.

You need to use the head with the major scale to follow the numbers on our simple flute lesson sheet. Like the song Amazing Grace starts out 6, 3, 1 1. Which means all 6 fingers are down, next note is 3 fingers down then blow with 1 finger and blow again with one finger down. You need the head for that.

But you need the heart to create your owns stuff with the easier melodic scales.

A melodic scale means anything you do going up and down the scale will sound good.

 I mentioned that the ear is the conductor. The ear is the guy out there in the tuxedo with the stick playing the orchestra, leading the music. Starting the song, adding mood to the music, timing and then ending the song.

Now the ear is connected to your body, soul and spirit.

You are made up of 3 parts.

  1. Body: That needs to be able to hold the flute correctly, use the lips correctly (soft lip) to get decent sound.
  2. Soul: It is your will and emotions. You are a unique being that was created and can create. You have been through the school of life and have something to say, it comes out in music too, as you tap into it and let it come out.
  3. Spirit: You also are a spirit being or you also have a spirit that lives in a spirit dimension connected to a spiritual force.

For me I have surrendered to the greatest living being who is the creator and his son Jesus so I sit now in heavenly places in Christ. I am a man with a spirit, soul and body. I am forgiven, have been given new life, been quickened and am connected by faith to His promises and at times led by His Spirit. I have a relationship with God in the spirit. I am a created being in touch with the Creator, who is creative. Today in church I played an amazing piece of music that just came through me during our worship service. It was really awesome.

One of my dreams is to play the music I hear through my spirit inspired from above to help bring healing to this world. My spirit is inspired and the music comes through my soul while being played using my body.

That heavenly sound is best heard in nice acoustics or with reverb making it feel more heavenly.

That music goes into the ear of the listener touches their soul and hopefully does something positive to serve them in their spirit. It is easy to believe that music can calm one, bring comfort, encouragement, can bring release, help to heal a broken heart, help to deal with a trauma. I also want to see my music help heal a sick body and draw a person to the right path.

An example of 2 pieces of music that were an improvisation in a studio and was quite inspired was In His Presence and the Courts of the King.

In His Presence: I was in a recording studio and had asked the Lord to bless our session. I felt led to tell my pianist Peter Avello to play the keyboard as if it were a harp and I grabbed my Oriental Flute. In seconds I put it down because it sounded awful. I picked up my concert tuned G Brazilian Major and we went somewhere absolutely beautiful. About 30 or 45 seconds later the recording engineer knocked on the window and said, “That is so beautiful, start again I am ready to record.” I didn’t even know what we were doing but we did start again and the creativity was still there and it is one of the best pieces of music I have ever done in a studio. When the song, The Courts of the King was coming as a download I was having a vision of someone walking into a grand heavenly cathedral with thousands of people on each side of a long purple carpet. They were people of all cultures, tall short, different colors, different garbs from different times, men women children. Then as if a flying drone was coming down to the person walking, I was now inside the body of the one walking as the crowd quietly nodded their heads welcoming me in. And I saw at the end of the carpet one sitting on a throne. That’s what I saw when that music was being played. I feel both pieces were inspired in the spirit. Sometimes when I improvise I feel my soul is singing.

But it is always the ear who is the conductor leading where to go next and I am almost outside of myself, just listening and enjoying the concert.

One of my joys was to find out my peaceful music was being played on Colombian radio stations during hard times there. 

As to the Major Scale: The do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do scale. This is a great scale to copy tunes. It can play in 4 keys. It will play in major, minor and pentatonic. But it is not considered a melodic scale. As you run up and down the scale it doesn’t sound very musical. You have to know what to do. So I teach techniques on my tutorials on this, which you can see in the Brazilian Major flute and the penny whistle and sax web-pages. So to improvise easiest, I recommend the exotic scales of my flutes.

To play along with others, a flute tuned to itself will always play well with some percussion. But to play with a keyboard or guitar player the player will need to retune to you. If your flute is concert tuned like a G major or D major, you are already in tune with the world in what is known as A440. Today’s universal standard of tuning. Many are toying with other tunings like A434 but that would be a different article that I don’t think I will write.

It is important to know the key someone is playing in, to play along. If someone is playing in C. I know I can play my C whistle, C sax or my G sax or G flute, using the peace sign fingers together. I just let my ear lead to conduct me. I got to the point where I hear what to play an instant before and my fingers effortlessly just plays it.

In review:

To improvise is to plug into a download of music conducted by the ear. And going with the flow.

Dictionary: To create spontaneously without preparation.

 To compose without previous preparation.

To compose or play on the spur of the moment. 

It is like your soul is singing through the flute.

Sometimes when I play, I feel I am playing the flute and at other times I feel the flute is playing me.

To improvise is to create. And to make it sound good, the ear will guide you. It is good to have a start, a journey and an ending gently dropping your audience where you found them, but richer. And remember an audience is a creature who wants to go somewhere. You take them on a musical mini journey and then bring them gently back.

Let you brain know your scale so you can let your soul sing with it. But you have to get the data into the computer so you can go into the program to let it come out.

At the end of the day, have fun. And hope we can again help you in the Fluture.

Erik the flutemaker

 

Erik the Flutemaker
14701 SW 18th Court
Davie, FL 33325
Phone: +1/954.424.6502
Email: info@eriktheflutemaker.com

MasterCard Visa American Express Discover Paypal