Chromatic Scale on the Native American Flute

Chromatic-keyboardThe Native American flute is a simple instrument. But when we think about it, most musical instruments are pretty simple in design. Take the guitar, for instance. Famous classical guitarist Andre Segovia once referred to the guitar as a humble wooden box with six strings strung across it. Yet, we know that the guitar is capable of immensely complex and beautiful music. The same can be said of the Native American flute. In this case it’s a simple wooden tube with six holes. Of course, we can say there are really nine holes, the two tube ends and the hole at the top of the flute that allows the air blown into the tube to escape across the hole’s farthest edge to make the sound. But it’s the six holes you open and close with your fingers that changes the pitch of this sound. So when we look at the simple 6-hole flute, it’s easy to think that the flute can only deliver simple music. But think again! You can play any kind of music on the Native American flute. We are used to tagging the flute with traditional sounds because this is the way it’s usually played. And unfortunately, most people think the flute can only produce traditional music of the ancient Native American culture. I have been working hard to dispel this myth. Although I love and often play traditional music on this instrument, I also play every conceivable music style on this simple instrument, and I do this by playing notes within what’s called the chromatic scale.

What is a “chromatic” scale? Picture yourself sitting in front of a piano keyboard, like the musician in the illustration. If he starts playing at “middle C”, a certain white key on any keyboard, and if he would play up the white keys, he would play the C major scale. But if he were to include the black keys, all the notes, he would play the “chromatic” scale. The black keys augment a simple scale, that scale played on just the white keys, into a chromatic scale. To hear what this scale sounds like, click here. The link will take you to the LISTEN tab and the submenu, Native American Flute.

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