About the Native American flute
- The Native American flute is held in front of the player, has open finger holes, and has two chambers: one for collecting the breath of the player and a second chamber which creates sound. The player breathes into one end of the flute without the need for an embouchure. A block on the outside of the instrument directs the player's breath from the first chamber—called the slow air chamber—into the second chamber—called the sound chamber. The design of a sound hole at the proximal end of the sound chamber causes air from the player's breath to vibrate. This vibration causes a steady resonance of air pressure in the sound chamber that creates sound. Native American flutes comprise a wide range of designs, sizes, and variations—far more varied than most other classes of woodwind instruments. Wikipedia: "Native American flute"
High Spirits' flutes are Native American Style Flutes, which means they are crafted in the design style of the Native American Flute but are not made by Native Americans.
The flutes varied greatly on materials and tuning structure. In the American south they were made from river cane and bamboo; in the American west and east flutes were made from softwood trees. The flutes' fingering patterns varied from 4 to 6 holes. Cedar (a softwood) was the preferred wood of choice in the American southwest. With the addition of metal tools, flutes made out of hardwoods came into existence.
5-Hole Flutes versus 6-Hole Flutes
A six-hole flute gives you a bit more range in that you can play more scales, including the relative major diatonic scale. If this does not make sense to you now, it will in the future as you play these scales.
Most of our flutes now are six-hole flutes. We ship them with a leather tie over the third hole from the top so it looks like a five-hole flute but, when you are ready, the leather tie can be removed and you have a six-hole flute.
What Is a Tuning Hole
The hole shown on the back side of the flutes in the following photographs is part of the tuning process. We take great pride in making sure that all High Spirits flutes are tuned accurately to the key that is designated on each instrument.
Each individual flute is unique and requires individual attention in the process of tuning it accurately. As little as one thousandth of an inch variation in the construction of the flute, as well as the various densities of wood used to craft the instrument, can cause a flute to be slightly flat or sharp in the overall tonality. Occasionally it is necessary to include a very small tuning hole that brings the flute to the accurate tuning range.
Are High spirits Flutes Really Handmade?
We make the flutes in Patagonia, Arizona. I have been making flutes since 1990. The term hand made is always a bit confusing. Like most instrument makers we use power tools to cut & shape the flutes, but from our perspective they are definitely hand made in that we take each flute through its creation process from selecting the wood, milling, boring, crafting the sound mechanism, oiling and polish, and finally, accurately tuning each flute individually.
When I first started making flutes they were created by splitting the wood, hollowing out the halves & then laminating them back together. Unfortunately this method has the potential of the flutes splitting from the moisture built up in playing the instrument. In 1995 I solved that challenge when I found the ability to create the flutes out of a single piece of wood. I continue to experiment and improve the subtlety in creating the voice of the flute.
How Are High Spirits Flutes Finished?
Our flutes are buffed, hand burnished and then coated with several coats of non-toxic finish which is a hardening oil, which gives our flutes a highly polished finish. We do not use any polyurethanes on our flutes!
What Is Ebonized Wood?
Ebonizing is a wood dying process (not staining) that was used in the early 1920s. Ebony furniture was very popular but ebony wood was very expensive, even then. So wood workers developed a way to dye the wood black which allowed them to make the black wood products more reasonably.
Does High Spirits Accept Custom Flute/Fetish Requests?
We very much appreciate the desire to have a flute that has specific, personal meaning for you. However, as a small team of handcrafters and woodworkers, we're unable to accommodate any requests for custom flute/fetish designs, or for flutes made of wood other than what is already available.
Are Our Flutes Native American Made?
High Spirits flute are "Native American style." According to Federal laws, anything that is claimed to be Native American made has to be created by a person who is on the Bureau of Indian Affairs Roll as a registered Native American. They are assigned a roll (registration) number. Until recently it was considered to be a negative status because of discrimination that Native Americans experienced.
How Far Apart Are the Holes?
The distance between the fingering holes is fairly similar for the A, G & F#. It varies from about 1 1/16" to 1 3/16". What makes the difference between the 3 flutes is where the first hole starts from the mouthpiece end. The longer the distance, the more one has to bend the wrist to close the holes.
On the "A" flute the distance from the mouthpiece to the first hole is 10 1/4". The distance from the mouthpiece to the last hole is 16".
On the "G" flute the distance from the mouthpiece to the first hole is 11 1/2". The distance from the mouthpiece to the last hole is 17 1/2".
On the "F#" flute the distance from the mouthpiece to the first hole is 12 1/8". The distance from the mouthpiece to the last hole is 17 3/4".
On the Condor "D" flute the distance from the mouthpiece to the first hole is 12". The distance from the mouthpiece to the last hole is 18 1/2".