Happy Holidays Everyone!!
We pleased to announce the change in ownership of the Flute Portal. Please watch the video below for the details.
Flute Portal Mission Statement
The Flute Portal is a gathering place for flute enthusiasts from around the World. Our mission is to build the Flute Community by fostering Centralized Resources, which include a thriving Market Place, active Forums and Blogs, and up to date information through our Calendar and News Feed.
Flute Portal Promotion – Save 30%
Become a member of Flute Portal and save 30% on your next Woodsounds Flute Purchase. Offer is valid through December 25th, 2013.
One coupon code will be issued per membership/individual. Each coupon code may be used for one transaction. Each transaction may consist of as many or as few flutes and other items as your would like.
If you are already a member you are eligible. If you are not a member, visit www.fluteportal.com and register today. Registration is FREE.
Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org with the name and email you used to register with the flute portal. I will return you an email which will contain your coupon code. Then compile your order. If you order invoices items that are not currently on the website, such as custom flutes, simply work with me and I will generate Shopping Cart links for you so that you can run your transaction, or will run your transaction for you manually. If you have any trouble, just give me a call. (801) 822-1415. The goal is to spread the word of the Flute Portal. So please share this with your friends.
Greetings friends! I have an announcement to make, so I’m taking advantage of my blog here for the last time in order to make it. After seven years of having the privilege of running this site, I’m finally passing the torch. The Flute Portal has a new owner and it is moving forward into a new phase of growth. I will be “retiring” as the owner/administrator of this site.
Jeff Ball and I conceived this site back in the spring of 2006, and with the help of webmaster extraordinaire Jared White we managed to bring a cool idea into solid reality. Many of you have been here since the beginning and have seen the site grow and change, eventually becoming what it is today. I’m really pleased at what this site has evolved into and I’m very excited to see where it is going to go under new management.
When I began seeking out a new owner for the site, my ideal was to find someone who was well known in the flute community and who had deep roots within it. I wanted someone who was going to stick around and really take the site in hand and see to it that it continues to grow as a resource. I also wanted to find someone who had a good business head and a vision for what the site might become. Luckily, I found just such a person.
I’m pleased to announce that flute maker Brent Haines is the new owner of the Flute Portal and I feel confident that under his ownership the site will experience a new surge of growth and interest. Brent has big plans for the site and we’ve talked a great deal about the future of the Flute Portal and I’m very excited for all of the members. I believe he will be a successful steward and will bring a fresh dose of creativity to this community.
The Flute Portal was literally designed to grow. The infrastructure for expansion was built into it, and for a long time I have felt that I’ve been neglecting it. My own flute business and personal life has been pulling me in new and different directions and I’ve known that I don’t have the time or energy to keep the site moving forward. The nature of the internet is such that a website that does not continue to grow and change will eventually become obsolete, and I don’t want that to happen.
Luckily, our “Root Admin” has also agreed to stay on. Jared White built the Flute Portal and he will continue to lurk behind the scenes to make sure that the technical side of this transition goes smoothly. Thank you Jared!
For myself, I will remain on board in some moderator-like capacity for a period of time in order to ease the transition. I’m also hoping that some of our moderators will agree to stay on within the forums. At times like this a bit of continuity is very nice J
I want to say thank you to all of the members of this site for seven years of enriching experiences! I’ve made a lot of friends and gotten to know an amazing number of amazing people. It has been a ride!
I’m sure I’ll still drop in from time to time to visit and chat, comfortable in the knowledge that the Flute Portal is in good hands and ready to grow.
Aside from being a wonderful thing to play, a flute can also be a work of art. When I was at the Yosemite Flute Festival last year I was amazed at the wide variety of NAF flutes and how beautifully they were crafted. Interesting wood grains, lovely finishes and in some cases painted or adorned with carving. Chinese flutes generally have a meaningful poem painted or carved on the head joint.
Metal flutes can be decorated in two ways. The most common is by engraving the keys and the lip plate. Engraving is achieved by carving or chiseling out a pattern from the material. The other method is chasing which involves hammering out the design from behind. One such master of this rare art is John Lunn who lives in Newport, New Hampshire.
I visited John last year and was surprised to learn that not only was he born in Toronto but he grew up a few streets away from where I currently reside. John began his flute training with Goosman flutes in Toronto and later moved to the Boston area where he worked for Powell. John Lunn is also a science fiction and adventure writer following in the footsteps of his mother who was a well known writer in Canada. If you would like a good laugh visit his website and watch his life in 90 sec. http://www.johnlunn.com/lunnflutes/process.html
The true essence for me of the sound and the enduring legacy of the traditional American Indian Courting Love Flute with its haunting, yet plaintive, sounds is the long vocal-like phrases and the unique delicate pulse that transcends the sound and takes you to another world. That place is the land and the sounds of the natural world’s movements that I feel first inspired American Indian Flute players in days gone by. Voices of deep traditions, which were not our own, came alive over the generations that go back beyond counting. If the songs were played from the heart, the flute would take care of itself.
I first heard this sound inside a now long-gone company called “The Nature Company” in a mall in Seattle, Washington. The sound was from “Flash of the Mirror” by a traditional Lakota (Hunkpapa Band) and Anishinaabe flute artist, Kevin Locke. Kevin was one of the first to go back to the elders and learn traditional songs, which he later played and recorded on his flutes.
The pure solo aspects of his sound drew me to North Dakota to meet him, and study with him the music and the culture of his people that produced his work. When he first met me at Makoche Recording studios in downtown Bismarck, North Dakota, he asked me, “What are your motives and intentions with this music and the flute?” I had to think on that for a minute, and I told him, “I want to learn the songs and play them in a good way.”
Today there seems to be very little interest in the traditional songs passed down by families over time still being sung, and few are played on Native American Flutes. I understand how we are moving faster today and have so much information on hand, but it is important that these songs be preserved.
What we must better understand is that it takes time to shape the music and study the songs in order to begin to play them with some sense of respect and dignity the music deserves. The time I spent early on building a foundation through these artists I have met, studying the songs, and recording the songs has been so valuable to me as an artist and someone who wants to carry the music forward.
The road has not always been easy, what with recording industry interference, false promises, hurt feeling among artists, issues of ownership of the music, and just the sad reality of this being a very small niche market of interest. However, through it all, when one puts in the time, they can begin to have a sound they can call their own. I entered this world in the best way possible: Through the people who produced the music first, and I learned the right way (and am still learning today, for the musical journey is never done).
I would never have a had an opportunity to become the recording artist that I am today, or a cultural outreach artist, or someone who could write my thoughts down, if not for the time on the Northern Plains of Dakota and Makoche Records putting out my first recordings and introducing me to the American Indian artists from that label.
How did I approach this music, other than traveling to North Dakota and meeting some American Indian artists, you may ask? Coming from an American Jazz music background, I understood the deep meaning of the Afro-American art form we call Jazz today. I understood how melodies written for jazz soloists were to be improvised upon. This is what Jazz artists do: They improvise. You practice scales and technique, but you cannot teach the art of being on the spot, soloing over the melodies written for you. With regard to the “vocal aspects of traditional American Indian love songs,” I took the same approach I did with Jazz songs and learned the melodies, then rewrote the melodies in my solos. One of the first examples of this style is on my recording, “Winds of Honor,” and is a Navajo chant I learned from Navajo flute maker Paul Thompson, entitled “Shi Ni Sha.” I started the chant, played a solo, and then repeated the chant in order to give it form. This had not been done to my knowledge prior to 1996.
I have carried this method, for lack of better term, through to the present day when I play these songs I know. I feel this gives the music a sense of foundation or a “base from which to be free.” I have learned over the years how important these songs are to the people. My travels and conversations with Elders have taught me that the songs came to the person through the spirit world, through dreams, and other forms. These songs were not composed like a Jazz composer would write a song. This has given me a new outlook on the music and how to present it with more respect, if I am gifted with a song to learn that did come form the spirit world.
The space and timing of these songs takes a long time understand. There are “hidden phrases” in this music. Playing a traditional song that may sound so easy to hum or read from TAB is quite different when you play it on the flute. How do you make it “sound like the land?” We need to “make knowledge out of sound,” as Hunkpapa Lakota blind Medicine Man, Joe Flying Bye, told me many years ago on the banks of the Grand River at Sitting Bull Sundance camp one hot day. “You have to play the songs right or you may get throat damage and die.” I was not ready to believe him then. I do today.
When I first started to learn the unique relationship the land had with the American Indian music, it brought to life many moods and inspirations that furthered my quest to play the music of the American Indian. I remember standing on the banks of the Missouri River hearing the meadowlarks and the geese flying overhead, or inside the canyon walls of Canyon de Chelly listening to the winds whistling through the canyon. I was thus beginning to better understand how I was using these spaces as a musical collaborator, or partner, to inspire me to learn songs, then to go into the studio and record them for all to enjoy.
I always try to bring the history of a sacred space into the music as a way of giving the music a certain depth and emotion, or, as I like to say, “music through history.” Practice outside if you can, and go visit places that inspire you. I will always return to these places and play the songs from my heart and soul forever.
We have to look at traditions not our own, and this flute, in a good way. We have to share in a good way. We have to play the songs in a good way. We have to contribute what we can, with no egos involved, in a good way. We have to share any knowledge we have in a good way. The people I know shared with me–some may wonder why they shared–but in the end, the music is what counts and we must carry it forward.
You will be rewarded in your own way if you are willing to do the work that it takes. This is all I did: Work over many hours and many years, and connect your heart with the music and the land.
“We come through ~ we play our songs ~ and we are gone.”
A few weeks ago I travelled down to Boston for some meetings and to visit some flute makers. An interesting fact is that most of the classical concert flute makers in the USA are located in the Boston area. The older established companies like Wm. S. Haynes and Verne Q. Powell along with the newer companies like Burkart, Brannen, Arista, Emmanuel, Williams and Nagahara are all within 50 miles of each other. The advantage for this is that they can share a lot of the same suppliers and the same highly skilled work force. Many technicians leave one company to work at another and never have to move. Others even start their own businesses making complete flutes, providing service freelance or specializing in making peripherals.
One such person is David Chu. Originally from Hong Kong, he first came to Boston to study classical flute at the New England Conservatory. He later moved to Phoenix where he wrote music for film and television as well as playing and contracting orchestras for film music sessions.
He then returned to New England where he began working for Burkart Flutes and Piccolos where he learned the trade of flute making. After that he worked for Arista Flutes and eventually became the General Manager of Wm. S. Haynes Company.
Now David works has created his own company called Sideblown Technologies repairing modern flutes as well as restoring historical flute by such makers as Louis Lot and Bonneville. These great French flute makers flourished during the 1860s to 1930s. Some of those flutes are pitched at A 438 and others have had the holes repositioned to play at A440.
David has also created his own line of hardwood and bamboo headjoints. I bought one of his bamboo headjoints that clip onto the Boehm system concert flute many years ago. I have used it quite a bit for studio work. It is very handy when a composer needs an exotic tone but the piece has a lot of chromaticism.
The headjoints David is fashioning out of the hardwoods like grenadilla and boxwood are particularly excellent. These headjoints have wonderful sound and crisp articulation. He offers them with and without the wooden lipplate.
For more information please look at David’s website http://www.sideblown.com which among other things is a great resource for used instruments and other flute related sites.
We’ve successfully upgraded the operating system on the Flute Portal server, and all functionality and data appears to be intact and working correctly. Please let us know if you encounter any problems. Thanks!
We’ll be upgrading the operating system that powers the Flute Portal tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10am. If we don’t run into any unforeseen snags, the site will be back up and running within an hour. Thanks for your understanding, and if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.
I got an email recently from a person asking about which notes were on their flute. This was in regards to a post I did about How to Play a Major Scale on a NAF. As I get this question from NAF players frequently, I thought that rather than just reply this person directly I would share the answer with everyone…
This is good information to know on a lot of levels. Including figuring out harmony, playing with other flute players or other instruments and figuring out different scales on the same flute.
To help you figure out what notes are on your Native American style flutes here is a quick cheat sheet showing the notes of the minor pentatonic scale of several common keys. This is not all the notes, just the ones you get with a standard minor pentatonic fingering.
Key of A: A, C, D, E, G, A octave
Key of G: G, Bb, C, D, F, G octave
Key of F#: F#, A, B, C#, E, F# octave
Key of F: F, Ab, Bb, C, Eb, F octave
Key of E: E, G, A, B, D, E octave
Key of D: D, F, G, A, C, D octave
Key of C: C, Eb, F, G, Bb, C octave
Key of Bb: B b, Db, Eb, F, Ab, Bb octave
When I get a chance I’ll try to lay this out better.
© 2011 Cedar Mesa Music
Two new articles: 1. How To Start A Flute Circle (And Once You Have, How To Keep It Going) and 2. Flute Circle Games by Stephanie Baldridge
1.How To Start A Flute Circle (And Once You Have, How To Keep It Going)
by Stephanie Baldridge
Every Flute Circle starts with an idea and a person who wants to be in community with other people who love the Native American Flute. Our Flute Circle has been in existence since 1999, and we have been asked many times: “How does one start a Flute Circle?” Here are some ideas toward that end, and, once formed, some tips for keeping it healthy, growing, and thriving. By way of example, I have set forth what works best for us as a group. This by no means dictates that you have to adopt anything that we have chosen to do. Rather, pick and choose from the wealth of ideas presented here what will work best for you and your group. You may use any, all, or none of these suggestions, depending on your wants, needs, goals, and circumstances—be creative! The purpose of this Article is to bring up issues you may or may not have thought about; give you a full range of possibilities, ranging from the simple to the complex; and, if you do opt for a more complex structure, how to protect the entity you create. For ease of reference, I will use the term “Facilitator” throughout; please feel free to substitute whatever term works best for you and your group. That being said, when it all comes down to it, we just want to think good thoughts, say good things, do good deeds, take care of the Earth and all that resides on it, and play beautiful flute music!
For ease in moving forward in manageable steps, I have used three sections: Section I is all about getting started: Choosing a name; meeting dates, times and places; meeting activities; addressing the issue of alcohol at Flute Circles; visitors/potential members; facilitation; ongoing contact with members; flute circle etiquette; and safety. Section II talks about things you may or may not want to consider down the road, after your Flute Circle has established itself. This section contains information about developing a focus/mission statement; choosing a structure that suits your group; dues; and websites and website alternatives. Lastly, Section III gives you some additional options, such as using live sound and effects at Flute Circles; workshops; group outings; developing a logo; fundraising ideas, and deciding whether or not to affiliate as a group with other organizations.
Here are some things you may want to consider before you get started.
1. Choose a Name
Depending on your preference, you can either choose a working name before you get started, or decide on a name later as a group. Choose a name that either represents your location or something that you like. Make sure that it is not already in use by another group. If you wish to legally protect your name, it is a good idea to file a DBA (“Doing Business As”) with your State (cost is usually around $50 for two years; check with your State). Most groups do not need to be a nonprofit corporation, unless you are planning on putting on major Flute Festivals. If you do plan on putting on major Flute Festivals, it is suggested that you consult with a group that is an established nonprofit corporation and has experience in this area.
2. Meeting Dates, Times, and Places
Decide how often you will meet. Usually, groups meet monthly; however, there is no set frequency. Meet when your members wish to meet in order to best serve your goals as a group. Next, decide what time and day you want to meet (e.g., do you always want to meet on the 2nd Saturday of each month at 2:00 p.m.?). Later, you can poll the members of your group to find what days and times best fit with your membership, and adjust accordingly. This will vary from group to group. When scheduling your meetings from month to month, it’s always a good idea to check for other events, festivals, etc., that you may be conflicting with. We have a National Calendar of Annual Flute Events/Festivals, which is the link at the top of our Calendar page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org. In order to avoid scheduling conflicts for your members and visitors, check for Annual Flute Festivals, major national holidays, and other important dates, and navigate around them when you plan your upcoming meetings.
Next, decide where you are going to meet. Will you always in the same place? Will you be meeting in someone’s home or other meeting place? If you decide to meet regularly in someone’s home, make sure that their space is large enough to accommodate not only the number of people you have, but also their flutes and equipment. Check out Fire Stations, Libraries, Churches, or other community organizations; they are usually free of charge if you are hosting a “community event.” Some stores, coffee shops, and restaurants are also happy to lend their space to Flute Circles once a month. Remember that the success or failure of your Flute Circle lies in part on the ease of accessibility of your location. Most of our members live in the Portland Metro area of Oregon, so we try to choose locations that are close and convenient to our members for meetings.
After you decide on the dates, time, and place(s) you will meet, all you have to do is to let people know. Some people mail letters, use the telephone, the internet, post fliers around their general locale, and/or use general website listings, such as FaceBook, myspace, a Yahoo or Google focus group, Craig’s List, or other websites of general interest to Native Flute players. Some people like to have a lot of people at meetings, while others are interested in just a few. Again, it all depends on what your vision is for your Flute Circle.
3. Flute Circle Meeting Activities
You will also want to consider what activities you want to include in your meetings (e.g., potlucks, flute playing, business meetings, general announcements, event planning, workshops, guest speakers, instruction, picnics, group outings, projects, campouts, stargazing, nature walks, themed parties, Flute Circle games, etc.). Again, this will depend on the nature, interests, and complexity of your Flute Circle.
Our group likes to meet around 3:00 p.m. on a Sunday, once a month. We begin by playing Flutes, and then break for a community potluck around 5:00 p.m. During the dinner hour, we have announcements, community news, and general socializing. After the potluck, we continue playing together until we are done. People leave whenever they have to, or stay as long as they want to, as their schedules permit. You may decide to designate a specific length of time for your meetings, or go as long as people want to. This will depend greatly on your venue and your host/ess. Your group may also want to meet on a different day, or even an evening during the week, and dispose of having a community meal altogether. I know of several Flute Circles that simply rely on what anyone wants to bring at any given time to any given meeting; and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, another that has monthly rotating Facilitators, with a packet that contains a checklist for the host/ess of any given monthly meeting of things to do to facilitate the meeting. Find out what works best for your group.
Decide with your group what amenities, if any, the Flute Circle would like for these meetings (e.g., coffee, tea, sugar, cream, soft drinks, silverware, napkins, paper plates, cups, etc.). Any or all of these items can be provided in any number of ways: By Flute Circle funds, using a basket or “kitty” for donations to cover the costs of these items, or the actual items being donated by members as needed.
People need to eat at different times during the day, and have different medical needs. Try to address their needs. Will you have general “open” potlucks where everyone brings what they want? Planned menu item potlucks? Dessert potlucks? Snack Foods? Food provided by Flute Circle funds? Will you decide on a specified time for having the potluck meal, or just have general snacking throughout the Flute Circle? (We do not recommend chips or dip at Flute Circles, as it tends to get in the flutes). Perhaps you want to dispense with food altogether at Flute Circle meetings, and just have beverages available. If you decide to have potlucks, in whatever form you plan to have them, be sure and advise people to have their dish already prepared prior to their arrival at the Flute Circle. This cuts down on a lot of chaos in the kitchen, where there is often limited space. Be sure to let members know whether or not an oven and/or a microwave will be available for use during Flute Circles. Also, make sure that there is adequate help in the kitchen. As the Facilitator, you should not be hanging out in the kitchen. You may want to ask for volunteers to keep an eye on the kitchen and make sure there is enough help for the host/ess.
If you choose to have potlucks, you have several options with respect to eating utensils. Some Flute Circles who have opted for potlucks use plastic silverware and either wash it every time after Flute Circles or throw it away. We chose to purchase an inexpensive set of silverware (under $10) that we use at Flute Circle meetings. That way, it is easy to wash and set aside in a special Flute Circle container. No ongoing costs for plastic silverware, and it is more sanitary and environmentally friendly. The same could be done for plates and cups. Our Flute Circle also purchased an inexpensive coffee pot under $10, together with a set of coffee mugs, so that these items would be available for Flute Circle meetings.
Another issue to decide upon is whether or not musicians who play other instruments besides the Native Flute (guitars, keyboards, etc.) will be invited and welcome. Will “World Flutes” be a part of your Flute Circle? Will percussion be a part of your Flute Circle? I know of some Flute Circles who have very specific ideas about what instruments are and are not included in their idea of a “Flute Circle.” We welcome any and all instruments, and are frequently blessed with a variety of World Flutes and other instruments. We also have a Percussion Box filled with world percussion instruments, a selection of different drums, and a Moyo Drum available at each Flute Circle. Members are also encouraged to bring whatever instruments and percussion they feel like bringing.
Another issue that requires careful thought and consideration is the general format of the Flute Circle and how the group wants to address and meet each individual’s personal wants and needs. Many people seek out Flute Circles to learn more about playing techniques. Others want to focus on performance issues. Still others want to focus on duets or honing their solo or compositional skills. Do you have people available who are able to answer these types of questions? Some people are particularly interested in trying out many different flutes made by a variety of different flutemakers. Suffice it to say that there is a wide variety of people with a wide variety of wants and needs present at any given Flute Circle. Above all, remember that everyone is ultimately there to play music. Some Flute Circles like to use a “popcorn” approach, and leave the mic open to whoever wants to play at any given time. This approach also works well, unless there are a few people who dominate the mic, or others who are too shy to approach the mic. One of the ways we have found to resolve this complex issue is to go around the Circle, with each person being able to name what they would like to hear or do when it is their turn. There is no “passing;” however, shy people or people who do not play flutes do not have to play when it comes to their turn. They can use their turn to request that they would like to hear another person play, or two other people do a duet, etc., and all are free to say whether or not they wish percussion or other instruments as accompaniment. Frequently, people use their turn to recite poetry and play flute, or sing a drum song. Still others request to learn a new embellishment technique, have a mini rhythm lesson, or ask another question. We have many Flute Circle “games” we have developed over time that are frequently requested during someone’s turn. (See our Article on “Flute Circle Games” in the Articles section at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org). The possibilities and variety are endless. By utilizing this format, we ensure that each person is responsible for getting their own wants and needs met, and all members benefit from the sharing of playing techniques and knowledge. This makes each Flute Circle fresh, varied, interesting, and exciting.
Because we believe in the inherent healing power of the Native American Flute, and music in general, we invite anyone who knows of someone who is in ill health, is suffering, or has experienced an unfortunate event, etc., to ask for Flute Prayers. Often people will have issues with the word “prayer.” Another way of explaining it is that it is a “wish” for health and healing. If there are multiple requests, we sometimes go around the circle and each person briefly speaks their healing wish, and then plays something short for the person in need. We also have a page on our website for Flute Prayer requests which are open to anyone by request (see, the link at the top of the Announcements page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org).
If there is sufficient interest and availability, you may choose to have a time during which visiting or resident flutemakers may sell their flutes. Another possibility is having a table where Flute Circle members may sell or trade those flutes that they no longer wish to have in their collection with other members or guests.
4. Alcohol and Native American Flute Circles
You will need to address as a group the controversial issue of whether or not you wish to allow alcoholic beverages at your Flute Circles. There are many factors to consider, not the least of which are cultural, with the presence of alcohol at Flute Circle meetings. Many Native people will not attend events where alcohol is served. Since we have a lot of Native members, in deference to our brothers’ and sisters’ cultural traditions, our Flute Circle has chosen to be drug and alcohol free. If you have a website or other way to notify people, it is suggested that you state your policy there clearly so that there are no misunderstandings.
5. Visitors/Potential Members
It is a good idea to pre-screen potential visitors/members either on the telephone or in person. E-mail is not sufficient. When you chat with them on the phone (or in person), give them some general information about what they can expect when they visit your Flute Circle meetings; let them know whether or not they need to bring a potluck item; and if they can bring other instruments in addition to their Native American Flutes, etc. Find out a little bit about their Native Flute background and interests, so that you will have a rough idea of their Native Flute journey and whether or not your Flute Circle is what they are looking for. Also, inquire whether or not they have any special dietary needs or medical issues, and, if so, encourage them to take care of any special requirements by bringing whatever they will need with them and/or to the potluck. Often, visitors will be unsure what to bring to a potluck. We have a special page of Flute Circle Recipes (see, the link at the top of the Member Services page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org), which contains a wealth of healthy, inexpensive, and tasty dishes, ranging from simple to complex in preparation. Be sure to answer any questions that the visitor may have about your group. After you are satisfied that this person will be in harmony with your group, be sure to give them the location, address, and time of the next Flute Circle meeting. We do not recommend publishing the addresses of Flute Circle meetings on your website or other public forum if they are held at people’s personal residences. This has the dual function of protecting their privacy, and encouraging people to contact the Facilitator for further information, thus allowing you to screen potential visitors. In addition, this also helps to ascertain a rough head count in terms of meeting food, seating, and general space requirements.
As the Facilitator, you will want to establish a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, providing an informal way for people to get to know each other. Your goal is to create a safe, nurturing and supportive environment for everyone, no matter what their playing ability. Nothing is more infectious than a positive attitude and your passion for the Native American Flute. Remember that people are there to collectively share their ideas and music, and this is not a place for you to impose your own agenda. Be diligent in responding to people’s requests and concerns as quickly and as completely as possible. You will also want to ensure that the meetings run smoothly and comfortably. If there are a lot of new visitors, it might be helpful to go around the Circle and have everyone introduce themselves and say a little about themselves, so that visitors and members alike have an opportunity to introduce themselves to each other. Be sensitive to shyness. Many people involved with the Native American Flute are extremely introverted, and it is a supreme effort and somewhat challenging to visit a Flute Circle for the first time or even regularly. Our Flute Circle members consider themselves ambassadors to the Flute Circle at all times, and make an effort to greet and talk to new people and visitors, rather than ignoring them. While we love to socialize with each other, we try to do our visiting, share new Flutes, and make our announcements during the potluck/dinner hour, so that we can maximize our playing time.
As with any group or community, over time, you are likely to run into interpersonal issues along the way. Be sure, as the Facilitator, to be available to, and keep in contact with, the Flute Circle members, and address issues sooner, rather than later. Should a situation arise, DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR THIRD-HAND. Encourage people to resolve their differences, rather than just having them leave in a huff. If people are not able to resolve their differences, as the Facilitator, you may wish to act as a mediator. At all times, try to avoid triangulation and speak to the person directly. If interpersonal problems arise, address them immediately; do not let them fester. It is suggested that you have an “open door” policy when it comes to any issues your members wish to discuss surrounding the Flute Circle. We also have a Flute Circle “Suggestion Box.” That way, people who are shy about either e-mailing or telephoning about an issue or suggestion, may anonymously place it in the Suggestion Box. Remember to keep as many channels of communication open with members are you can.
Often, as a Flute Circle grows, the needs of some of the members will change. Have an agreed-upon plan in place for an orderly split of the group. For example, another group might split off and form, choose a new name, and become either a Clan of the original Flute Circle, or become a separate Flute Circle entirely. Try to make these events as peaceful and orderly as possible.
For a wonderful and inspiring short article on Flute Circles, see the article entitled “Flute Circles” by John De Boer on our Articles page, at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.
7. Ongoing Contact With Members
In order to get in touch with members, notify them of upcoming meetings, concerts, events, and/or workshops, you may want to keep some kind of Roster, such as an .xls spreadsheet (or other type of spreadsheet or system) of Flute Circle members’ personal contact info, such as address, home and mobile telephone numbers, and e-mail address. Our Flute Circle has gone “green” and no longer uses the U.S. Mail to send out copies of quarterly calendars, etc. We have opted to send out this information via the internet. This eliminates a lot of printing, copying, collating, folding, stapling, and stamping time and expense, not to mention saving trees! If you do opt to utilize the internet, you will want to find an alternate way to notify those people who do not have internet access, such as the telephone. It is recommended that you do NOT hand this roster out to people. If someone is trying to get in touch with another member, it is a simple thing for you to check with that member and put them in touch with whoever is looking for them. Of course, people are always free to share their contact information freely themselves with whomever they wish.
If you are utilizing the internet, compose a “group” e-mail list of Flute Circle members. ALWAYS send out your Flute Circle group e-mails with YOUR NAME/ADDRESS in the “TO” field; and the Group in the “BCC” (Blind Carbon Copy) field. This prevents people from lifting your entire e-list, takes up less bandwidth, and prevents SPAMMERs from accessing your e-list. Be sure to let your members (and others) know that you value their privacy and that you do not share their e-mail addresses with anyone, without their prior consent. Keep a separate e-list for non-members (for notification of upcoming events, concerts, workshops, etc.). Again, be sure to let the people on this list know that you do not share their e-mail addresses with anyone, without their prior consent.
8. Network with other Flute Circles and their Leaders
For some people, meeting once a month is not enough. We encourage people to visit as many other Flute Circles as possible. As a Facilitator, try to build a support network of other Flute Circle Facilitators. This can help you to generate new ideas for activities for your group, avoid future pitfalls down the road, and learn from other Facilitators what works and does not work. Talking with other Facilitators can also give you a wealth of new ideas to keep your Flute Circle from getting stale and predictable. Get involved and support other Flute Circles and their events. You are not an island unto yourself, and there is a very broad network of Native American Flute Circles across the country. Consider having a “Flute Circle Exchange” with another Flute Circle. This is where another group visits yours, and your group visits theirs, alternately. It is a wonderful way to meet new people, learn new things, and connect with other Flute Circles. There is also a Forum at The Flute Portal for Flute Circle Facilitators (see, www.fluteportal.com, the “Circle of Circles” Forum).
9. Flute Circle Etiquette
As with all groups, do not assume that everyone shares the same ideas around appropriate behaviour. Educate your members, visitors, and potential members about appropriate Flute Circle Etiquette. We have developed a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQ) for our new members, which is e-mailed out to them after they join our Flute Circle. Some of the topics you may wish to consider addressing that are covered in our FAQ include:
a. We do not engage in back chat or flute playing when people are on deck playing;
b. We refrain from touching other people’s flutes or other personal instruments without permission;
c. We refrain from touching other people’s jewelry, clothing, etc., without permission;
d. We respect the hosting member’s household and pets, avoid dropping food on rugs, use coasters instead of placing glasses on furniture, avoid damaging furniture, show kindness to animals, and respect the pet feeding and handling policies of the host/ess, etc.;
e. Cleanup after Flute Circle: Our motto is that you should leave a place cleaner than you found it;
f. We do not engage in idle gossip;
g. We do not allow drugs or alcohol at our Flute Circles; nor do we permit intoxicated individuals to attend (smoking is permitted outside); and
h. There should be no religion bashing or proselytizing
Every Flute Circle is different, and we take great pains to keep ours a safe place, both physically and emotionally, and in terms of exploring our musical creativity. Many people have been wounded in their youth by the Western European Musical Tradition. Make sure that your Flute Circle is a SAFE PLACE for people in all meanings of the word. We have a few, simple guidelines for members and visitors to accomplish this:
a. While we laugh and fall out frequently, we honour each person’s musical expression, and there is no jeering or judging of other people’s playing. Remember, you can’t judge “heart music;”
b. We also try to avoid the topics of religion and politics, and focus on the Native Flute;
c. We encourage learning new things and asking questions, so we feel that there is no such thing as a “stupid question;”
d. We support creativity and experimentation in our Flute Circles, without censure;
e. Our Flute Circle format encourages each person to be responsible for getting their own wants and needs met during their turn, while still being very organic and open in nature;
f. We ask that, if someone is ill or has been exposed to a cold or the flu, they let people know, and do not share their flutes or play flutes belonging to others;
g. We at all times respect each other’s person and property;
h. We do not share other people’s private information and/or photos without prior consent;
i. If you are unhappy with something, let the Facilitator know your concerns immediately (i.e., don’t wait 6 months to bring up an issue); and
j. Although it goes without saying, we state it anyway: No hitting or other inappropriate physical contact.
THINGS TO CONSIDER DOWN THE ROAD
After you have had a few meetings, you may or may not want to start thinking about some long-term goals for your Flute Circle. Here are some optional areas of exploration for your group:
1. Develop a Focus/Mission Statement
Some groups have a particular focus (e.g., festival planning, benefit work, community outreach, learning new techniques, teaching, performing, etc.). Have everyone discuss and decide on what, if any, focus your group will have. This can always be revisited periodically. Once you have decided on your initial focus, develop a “Mission Statement” or “Motto” or other short statement that describes the goals/aim of your Flute Circle. This exercise will help you and your group be clear about the focus of the group. It is also helpful to refer to when visitors want to know more about your group. It is up to you whether or not you make it public. We have a “Flute Circle Prayer” that describes what we are all about:
Flute Circle Prayer
Let this Circle be a healthy community we create when we gather to share the universal language of music enjoyed by all people from all walks of life. Let this Circle share of its time, talent and treasure, and promote the healing properties of music and the Native American Flute. Let this Circle engender the spirit of kindness and cooperation in our thoughts, deeds and actions, always working for the greater good of all. Let this Circle honour all our relations and treat all beings with love and respect. Let this Circle be a safe haven to all who enter here, whoever you are, and wherever you may be on your Flute journey. You are welcome.
Ho! Mitakuye Oyasin (“We Are All Related”).
Decide on the structure of the Flute Circle (e.g., no structure whatsoever, facilitator, committee, elected officers, etc.). Some very effective groups have no formal structure at all, simply an e-list inviting people to attend monthly. This is really all you might need or want. At the opposite end of the spectrum, other groups have a very formal structure, with elected officers. Our group has experimented with a couple of different formats, and has found the best success with a person acting as a “Facilitator.” It has been our experience that people don’t usually like to take up valuable time with business meetings, elections, etc., when they could be playing the Native Flute! Base your decision about how much, or how little, structure you wish to have depending on the goals of your Flute Circle and the wishes of your members.
Decide if you would like a formal voting process for internal issues. Irrespective of whether you have a Facilitator or elected officers, decide on which kinds of issues you want handled via group consensus or, for expediency, which types of issues can be decided by the Facilitator without group consensus. Remember that many heads are better than one. If you are the Facilitator, hopefully, you are able to delegate well, and ask for help when you need it in order to avoid burnout. Including group members in accomplishing tasks also has the added benefit of helping people know and feel that they are a contributing part of their group. Remember to utilize the skills of the people in the group—undoubtedly there will be many people with many different talents and skills—get to know them.
Flute Circles need not have dues; in fact, many don’t find it necessary at all. Some Flute Circles simply put out a basket as an informal “kitty” for voluntary donations to cover the cost of coffee, tea, sugar, creamer, etc. Others rely on donations of these items from members. However, depending on the size and mission or focus of the group, having dues may help to cover certain costs, such as bi-annual DBA filing fees, website hosting fees, webmaster fees, supplies, etc. Depending on how you decide to host your meetings, even food and beverages can become quite costly over time. You will want to decide whether or not you are going to have dues, and, if so, how much, and their frequency. Be aware that having dues will complicate things by needing someone to take on the responsibility of collecting them. Most groups who have dues decide to collect dues annually. They should be reasonable. Decide together what Flute Circle expenses you want dues to cover. Also, decide together what Flute Circle benefits a member can expect in exchange for their dues. Decide what month annually you will collect dues. We have a form for dues that we send out annually, with a cutoff date for their receipt. If you are charging dues annually, try to avoid having to “prorate” dues, which can quickly become a very time-consuming and confusing endeavor. For example, our dues are due annually in the month of October. We have new members joining all of the time, and, in order not to dun new members more than necessary in the same year, our cutoff date is June 1st. If you joined and paid your dues prior to June 1st, then you would owe dues again in October. The following year, then everyone’s dues would be due again in October. If you joined in the month of June or later, you would not owe dues until the following year in October. I’m quite sure that there are many alternative ways to address this issue—be creative!
Decide if only dues-paying members are allowed to attend Flute Circles and participate in workshops, or if you will be open to everyone, membership notwithstanding. Decide if you want to limit how many times a person can visit before becoming a member (e.g., do you want to get to know this person before inviting them into your group? Do you want to limit how many times a person can remain a “visitor” without becoming a member?). We have chosen not to have any limitations or restrictions on participation in our Flute Circles. In fact, we have people (both members and non-members) who attend that do not even play the Native Flute. Our feeling is that, if you can shake a rattle and you love Native Flute music, you’re welcome to attend! There will also be many times when, due to unforeseen circumstances, or income level, people will be unable to afford to pay dues. Decide how you want to address financial hardship. Keep in touch with your members and be sensitive when addressing changes in life circumstances.
If you are going to have dues, open a bank account in the Facilitator’s name, “dba [Flute Circle name].” A “dba” (“doing business as”) account is how banks handle small community groups who are not formal associations or corporations. You will need to decide whether or not you want a co-signer on the account, should something happen to the Facilitator.
I also would suggest an “open door” policy with respect to members wanting to review the financial records of the Flute Circle
Decide whether or not your group is going to invest in a website. While a website is not a necessity for a Flute Circle, it can be a wonderful resource for your members and others who are interested in the Native American Flute. As an alternative to a website, you could use “myspace” as a relatively easy way to post information, a FaceBook or Twitter page for the group, start up a Yahoo or Google group, or utilize some other public forum. All of these alternatives to a formal website are free of charge. Please remember that not everyone wants or has access to FaceBook and/or Twitter. On our website, we have an “About Us” page, which helps people decide if our group would be compatible with their needs and if they would be in harmony with our stated goals. Our Calendar of Flute Circle meeting dates is also always posted and available for members and potential visitors to check. Whether or not you decide to have a website or other public forum may also depend on your mission/focus and resources. A website can be as simple as a one-page calendar, or contain many different pages and resources. Take a look at as many other Flute Circle websites as you can (either on www.fluteportal.com, or www.INAFA.org) to see how their websites are structured. You will find a lot of variance, which will give you a lot of inspiration in planning for your own group. The Flute Portal (see, www.fluteportal.com), offers a free, one-page website for Flute Circles to get you started. Research your options prior to deciding if a website is for you. Do you have enough funds for the web hosting, domain name, and other associated fees? Do you have someone (perhaps yourself) who is skilled in web design to act as your Webmaster? You may want to explore one of the website alternatives listed above. What types of information will you want to include on your site? For example, since we are located in the Pacific Northwest, we also include a lot of cultural information on our website. If you use other sources for information on your website, please always be sure to obtain their permission prior to posting articles and/or linking to their websites. You will want to tailor your website for your geographical area, goals, and interests. Because legal problems can arise, in order to protect your name and assets (unfortunately, we speak from experience here), we make the following recommendations: If you decide on a formal website, the website and its domain name (e.g., your Flute Circle name) should be held in the personal name of the Facilitator, NOT the Flute Circle (the website itself can be called by the Flute Circle name). No one besides the Facilitator and the Webmaster (if you have one) should have the password to the website. Put a copyright notice on EACH PAGE of your website. Do not link to people you don’t know and trust personally. If you include photos on your website, have a statement as to whom the photos legally belong. Put your Webmaster’s e-mail address only for contact purposes, not their personal telephone number. Have general inquiries directed to the Facilitator. If you have decided to invest in a website, secure the following domains: .org, .net, .com, and .info. Sometimes people get confused with whether you are a .net, .org, or .com, .info, etc. These can all be easily linked to your website, so that no matter what suffix is entered, the person will be directed automatically to your Flute Circle website. Often, your Internet Service Provider (ISP)/Website hosting company will have package deals where you can get everything you need with one ISP at a reduced price. It is, of course, easiest to have all of your services bundled with one provider; however, not absolutely necessary. Depending on your level of expertise, it is highly recommended that you find an ISP with 24/7 customer support. Check with several different providers for their fee structure. As with the website and domain names, these suffixes should be held in the name of the Facilitator, NOT the Flute Circle itself.
Lastly, the following section lists some additional topics for consideration by your Flute Circle down the road, once the group has established itself and is operating smoothly.
1. Using Live Sound & Effects at Flute Circles
Flute Circles are a wonderful place to learn new techniques, see and try new flutes, meet new flutemakers, share information, meet new friends and socialize with people; and also for people to improve and gain more confidence in their playing skills. It is recommended that you offer a mic and effects (such as delay and reverb) at your meetings, so that people will become more experienced with playing with a mic. This can be accomplished very inexpensively. There are many places (online, or at used music shops) where you can obtain a mic, boom stand, some cable, and a small, battery-powered amp with delay and reverb effects very inexpensively. Having a mic and boom stand at meetings helps people to become more confident and practiced with working with equipment, helps people to overcome stage fright, and become more confident in playing in front of other people.
Another request that frequently comes up is the availability of Workshops. How will you address the needs of members of the Flute Circle who wish to have Native Flute workshops? Is there someone skilled enough in your Flute Circle to lead these Workshops? Will you bring in an established teacher or performer to lead these kinds of Workshops? We have done many different variations on this theme. If there are enough members who wish to bring in someone from the outside who has expertise in a particular topic or with a particular instrument, we contact them and set up a Workshop. We also have had many different workshops that are loosely connected to playing the Native American Flute. Some examples are: Drumming techniques; recording a CD; beading flute wraps; learning to play the Didgeridoo; drum-making; making rattles; traditional drumming and singing; etc. Whatever the group decides it would like to do. If there are available funds in the Flute Circle bank account, dues-paying members receive the workshop free; non-members pay a fee. If there are not extra funds available, everyone, both members and non-members, pays a reasonable fee. As the Facilitator, your job is to address the wants and needs of the Flute Circle membership and use your available resources and best efforts to make it happen.
3. Group Outings
Often a group will decide that they want to schedule an activity in addition to or in place of their regular Flute Circle meeting. For example, we have gone on short trips to visit other Flute Circles, gone to visit flutemakers and take a tour of their shops and purchase flutes, gone on field trips to locate items for making rattles, gone to a special place to play flutes, gone on picnics, etc. We make every attempt to carpool and schedule events so that most people are able to attend. Of course, not everyone will be interested in every activity. Again, look to your members and their expressed interests and wishes.
If you desire to have a logo for your group, be sure to develop a logo you can live with. Be creative with your artwork. Your logo design can be either be very simple or very complex. With the advent of computer programs, a logo can be created easily and be used on websites, in e-mails, on labels, on patches, stickers, clothing, hats, T-shirts, flute cases, gear bags, coffee cups, etc. There are companies with catalogs who will put your logo on just about anything you desire.
Depending on the goals of your Flute Circle, you may want to develop fundraising activities to bring funds into your Flute Circle for a specific purpose, such as funding an outing, a workshop, or the purchase of a special piece of equipment for the benefit of the group. Some ideas for this are: Flute raffles, soliciting donations, fund matching programs, benefit performances, etc. One of our Flute Circle’s stated purposes is providing concert performances by members and/or other performers as fundraising events for charitable organizations, and we have raised funds for wheelchair accessibility, for many different Native organizations, orphans, etc. The Native American Flute really can make a difference! If you plan on giving performances by members, you will want to set aside adequate rehearsal and organizational time for participants outside of regular Flute Circle meetings.
6. Group Membership with Organizations
Although it is not mandatory for a Flute Circle to be affiliated with any other group or organization, there are a couple of organizations to which it might behoove your group to belong. For example, decide if your group will be a member of organizations such as The International Native American Flute Association (INAFA). If so, for ease in communication and dealing with other pertinent issues, the Facilitator would usually be the person designated as the “INAFA Representative.” Please be aware that INAFA charges annual membership dues. See www.inafa.org for more information. The Flute Portal is another wonderful organization of interest to Native American Flute players. The Flute Portal does not charge membership dues. See www.fluteportal.com for more information. Each organization has its unique benefits, and both are great resources for Native Flute enthusiasts.
Lastly, remember not to take yourself too seriously, and HAVE FUN! By taking the time to address your group’s wants and needs, your Flute Circle will develop into a wonderful community of people, rich with many different talents and gifts, who all come together peacefully and joyfully for the love of the Native American Flute.
These are only suggestions, and hopefully we have given you some ideas that you may not have originally thought of—you are only limited by your imagination! If you have any additional questions, or need further information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com. Many thanks to all those Native Flute Circle leaders who took the time to impart their wisdom and give their constructive suggestions for this Article. You know who you are!
Copyright 2010, Stephanie Baldridge
2.Flute Circle Games
by Stephanie Baldridge
One of the things we like to do in Cascadia Flute Circle is to explore different ways of expanding the Native American Flute Circle experience over and above the usual solos and duets you find at a Flute Circle by playing Flute Circle games. People have been using music in games for centuries.
Many composers have even used games to inspire them in their compositions. For example, we know that Mozart used dice at times to augment his creative energy in his composition of musical scores. Also, the American Composer John Cage is known to have used the I Ching, an ancient Chinese oracle, to map out his compositions. Mozart, who had a love of mathematics, is also said to have used the Fibonacci Sequence, a series of numbers used by mathematicians, architects, linguists, musicians, and many others, in the composition of his music. For more information on the Fibonacci Sequence, see: http://techcenter.davidson.k12.nc.us/group2/music.htm.
In more recent times, people have been known to use Fibonacci squares, numbers, and/or letters, to determine what note comes next in a composition. Here is an example of this method, introduced by Doug Holly, via John Gatliff, at Flute Tree: http://www.flutetree.com/playing/fibonacci.html. In the grand spirit of play, here are some games that could be included in any Flute Circle. Music is the most social of all the Arts, next to dance. Flute Circle games are a fun and communal way to learn new techniques and skills, and help to promote group bonding through shared positive and harmonious group experiences. Another benefit of Flute Circle games is that each person is afforded the opportunity to explore their own musical potential in a spontaneous, non-threatening, and nonjudgmental way. Flute Circle games are also a great way to get to know your flute(s) and explore its quirks and its full range of possibilities. Remember: There are NO mistakes—only new embellishments! There is also no right or wrong way to play anything—let your imagination and intuition guide you.
You may wish to play at least one Flute Circle game each time your Flute Circle meets, or as many as your group feels like playing at a time. Few activities simultaneously engage the intellect, the emotions, and the kinesthetic. In other words, when we play music, we think, feel and act all at the same time. It is a well-known fact that imagination and intuition are two very important aspects of creativity. Flute Circle games are a fun and ingenious way to get in touch with our imagination and intuition, thereby stimulating creativity. While playing music we develop listening skills and improve memory skills, together with experiencing increased confidence, creativity, and adaptability. All of these games can help you and your group further explore the Native American Flute in all of its myriad aspects, and in doing so, engage everyone’s active imagination.
Flute Circle games also help you to change your perspective and look at everything around you with new eyes. In addition, these games make each Flute Circle fresh, new and exciting, and help to ease the anxiety of self-conscious players, encouraging them to take risks in a safe and playful environment. Flute Circle games also have the added benefit of teaching useful information and hands-on skills that can be immediately incorporated into anyone’s Flute playing, thereby expanding their Flute playing repertoire and knowledge base. Finally, playing Flute Circle games fosters relaxed, non-competitive and open-minded attitudes toward music, which ultimately inspires greater confidence in creative self-expression. Remember that every Flute has something to tell you, something to teach you, a story to tell, and a song to sing. Playing Flute Circle games is a great way to learn to play from your heart, with no editing or censuring, and build improvisation skills. These are by no means the only games there are, and they can be varied in many different ways—be creative! You’re only as limited as your imagination!
1. Poetry and Native Flute
One of the things we like to do is to combine poetry with the Native American Flute. Frequently, our members bring poems they have written to Flute Circles to share. We have even had entire Flute Circles centered around mixing Poetry and music. You can have a “Themed Flute Circle” where you ask everyone to bring a poem that they either have written, or that has heart and meaning for them. With poetry, there is something for everyone: There is humorous poetry, mystical poetry, romantic poetry, etc. A good poetry anthology is a great source for many varieties of poetry in one handy volume. There are many different ways to present a poem along with the Native American Flute. For example:
a. Try recording the poem and then playing the flute with the recorded words in the background;
b. You can also just “think” the poem silently to yourself as you play, or you might wish to provide the rest of the Flute Circle members with copies of your poem to read as you play;
c. You can also read one line of your poem, then play your interpretation of each successively-spoken line on the flute; and
d. You can have another person recite the poem while you play the Native Flute.
For more detailed information and ideas, see the Article entitled, “Working with Prose, Poetry, and Storytelling, on the Articles page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.
2. Embellishment Mini-Duets and Solos
Another teaching game that we have often played in the past utilizes “embellishment cards.” A 3×5 card with a different embellishment printed on each card is passed out to everyone in the Flute Circle. We then go around the Flute Circle and go over all of the embellishments, so that everyone is familiar with each one. The first person will go up to the mic and play a short 2 minute solo, using their embellishment in their piece. The second person will then join the first person in a mini-duet for about 2 minutes, adding their embellishment to the mix. The first person will then sit down, while the second person does their 2 minute solo, using their embellishment. The third person will then join the second person in a mini-duet for about 2 minutes, adding their embellishment. The second person then sits down while the third person plays their short solo. And so it goes around the Circle until everyone has had a chance to play both a short duet and solo using their embellishment.
This game has the benefit of giving everyone a chance to learn new embellishments, play a short solo, and a short duet—all using new embellishments. In this way, no one feels put on the spot, and everyone gets to learn and practice a variety of new embellishments.
3. Rhythm Match Game
This is a good game for becoming more adept at working with rhythm, both with the Native Flute and with percussion. It also helps people to learn to coordinate their Flute playing with percussion. We always have a “world percussion box” present at each Flute Circle, as percussion plays a big part in our Flute Circles. When playing this game, everyone grabs a rattle, bells, or other percussion instrument, and all begin to play together in a certain rhythm. The Flute player at the mic then has to play something that coordinates with that rhythm. You can rotate the Flute players and change the rhythm with each new Flute player, or keep the rhythm constant for each successive Flute player.
Another variation on this theme is to have one or more people in the Circle clap a rhythm, which the Flute player must then match in their improvisation on the Flute. An easy way to come up with new rhythms is to think of a song in your head while you clap the rhythm of the first line of that song.
4. Playing the Room/Trees
This exercise is very much like how many of us learned to “Play the Trees.” However, instead of using the landscape of nature, try using the objects in the room where you are meeting as your “sheet music.” (Alternatively, if you are meeting outside, then by all means use the trees). A high object (or tree) would be a high note; an object (or tree) of medium height would be a middle note; and an object (or tree) that was low to the ground would represent a low note. Additionally, items of furniture and objects in the room (or rivers and clouds, etc., if outdoors), with round shapes can be expressed with bends or slides, or any other embellishment you can think of to describe a shape. Any environment can suddenly become your musical score. Use your imagination and let your intuition guide you. There are an endless variety of ways the same room can be played by different people.
5. Musical Charades
In this musical variation of charades, the group divides into teams of two people each, and each team privately decides on the subject of their charade. You can play moods, insects, animals, shapes, textures; quotes, fortune cookie messages, etc. Play with images: What would sweet honey dreaming sound like? The tickle of trickling water? Wild Mountain Thyme? Your first kiss? The Cloud People’s faces? A persistent trickster itch? You can use proverbs, the names of popular songs, etc. If it could talk or sing, what would it say and how would it sound? When playing, think of the personality you are trying to convey. One person in the team plays the Flute, while the other person gives the clues (as in regular charades) as to the message. The rest of the Flute Circle tries to guess the subject of the charade being played. The team that correctly guesses the message then takes their turn at charades.
6. To be Continued . . .
In this game, the first person in the Circle starts with their musical rendition of the phrase: “It was a dark and stormy night. . .” on the Flute. The next person continues the story. Be creative with sound effects like creaking doors, howling winds, etc. Consider the mood and tone of the story in your choice of embellishments, pacing, rhythm, and dynamics. Each successive person adds to the story, until all have had a chance to play. It’s always interesting to see how the story is finished at the end.
7. Storytelling & Sound Effects
Stories bring teachings, healing, humour, wonder, delight, and community into our lives. Any story will do. Some good sources are: Fairy tales; nursery rhymes; myths; fables; riddles; affirmations; mantras, poetry anthologies; inspirational daily meditations; Sufi stories, as well as other spiritual teaching stories; prayers; etc. A particularly good book for inspiration is The Book of Qualities, by J. Ruth Gendler. (See, www.amazon.com). In our Flute Circle, we frequently choose Native American stories and legends to read aloud and play the sound effects on the Native Flute. This is not so much about making “music” as it is playing sound effects to give the story depth and texture, and to help the story come alive. There are many ways to add drama with sound effects to a story: Let your notes creep, squeak, bounce, gallop; be silly, sweet; or play with gusto, majesty and grace. Also, remember to play with dynamics (i.e., loudness and softness). Experiment with the nuances of: Loud, crashing, very quiet, or fading away. Often, you will want to convey a concept or particular sentence in the story that stands out. Just follow your intuition and ask the question: If that phrase or concept had a voice, what would it sound like, what would it say? Visit our References page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org, for links to sites with stories from many different Native Tribes and Nations.
There are many different presentation styles with which to experiment when working with the flute and storytelling. Here are a few suggestions:
a. You can narrate, play a little, resume the story, switching back and forth between narration and playing, until you have finished the story;
b. Chose several people to work with, and each person can choose a part or a character to read while you play; or
c. Again, if you are working with more than one person who plays the flute, each person can choose a different part or character to play, while you each take turns narrating.
Experiment with combining different keys of flute for different parts of, or characters in the story. Utilizing different flute keys enables one to convey different emotions, moods, and themes, while making the story infinitely more interesting.
Play with the above examples and mix and match, adding and deleting what works for your group. You can also add percussion and even vocal sound effects, so that those present who don’t play the flute can also participate. As always, the possibilities are only limited by your creative imagination! For more detailed information, see the Article entitled, “Working with Prose, Poetry, and Storytelling”on our Articles page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.
Duets are about blending–two hearts sharing a conversation—a co-creation between two people. Duets are one of the fastest ways to learn new techniques and improvisational skills, and help you get out of a rut. Some examples of some fun games to play with duets are to:
a. Have a Flute “conversation” where one person is a dog, and one person is a butterfly;
b. Another Flute conversation might be with two pine trees standing alongside a river;
c. Yet another Flute conversation might be a hawk chasing a rabbit, or, alternatively, a mischief of ravens heckling a hawk;
d. Dueling Flutes;
f. Rounds; and
For a more detailed explanation of additional Duets, and a more in-depth description of each of the above examples, see the “Duets” Article on the Articles page at www.cascadiaflutecircle.org.
9. Pass the Notes, Please
Here is a game where someone plays a short piece, and the next person must use the last three notes of the person before them to continue their turn. Each successive person may play something completely different musically, rhythmically, etc., but must use the last three notes of the person before them. Continue around the Circle with each person using the last three notes of the person before them, until all have had a chance to play.
Songs usually have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End. Sometimes the Beginning and the End sound similar, with the Middle part sounding different yet connected to the Beginning and the End. Often, among musicians, music is referred to in a kind of shorthand, with the melody being designated as Part “A”, and the chorus as Part “B.” In this way, when musicians want to quickly give the sequence of the song, they will say it is “ABA” or “AABBAA.” This lets everyone know the order to play and how many times to repeat each part. Choose two or three people to take turns playing each part: The Beginning (A), Middle (B), or End (A), and try to have everything blend and flow together.
11. “Play That Theme”
In this game, someone in the group suggests a theme, like “snow” or “desert” or “mountains” or “sunrise.” The Flute player has to give his or her interpretation of that theme. Everyone can have a chance to either play the same theme, or have the group choose a different one. Alternatively, each Flute player can choose a theme and play it, while the rest of the Flute Circle has to guess what they are playing.
12. Dream Play
Often people will share their dreams with the group. In this game, someone shares a dream, and then plays their interpretation of it on the Flute. Or you can go around the Circle and each person can play their interpretation of the dream. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this: Each person projects their own meaning and musically creates their own interpretation of the dream. Each person begins their turn by saying: “In my version of the dream. . .” and then plays their interpretation of the dream.
13. Variations on a Theme
Knowing how to come up with variations on a musical theme is an important skill to develop. This game gives everyone a chance to experiment with different techniques. One person starts by playing a short musical phrase or idea on the Flute. The next person in the Circle then plays a variation of the first person’s theme by changing it in some way. Some variations might include: Changing some of the notes; playing faster or slower; adding something unexpected; adding or changing embellishments; changing the mood by playing it louder or softer; and/or using a higher or lower flute in the same key. Continue around the circle until each person has a chance to play their variation on the theme.
14. Name That Tune with a Twist
Here is a creative way to work with playing intervals. An interval is the relative tonal distance between two notes. Take your favourite song (make sure that it is a minor pentatonic song, rather than a major diatonic song) and play the intervals on the Native American Flute. Don’t worry that the notes don’t exactly match. You can look at piano music written with a major diatonic scale and follow the notes, even if you don’t read music. Just look at the relative distance between the notes on the score and approximate them on the Native Flute. Or you can simply play the song in your head and finger the notes on the minor pentatonic Flute as if you were playing the song on a major diatonic Flute. The song will sound completely different in minor pentatonic; however, the intervals will remain roughly the same. Make it your own! The Flute Circle then has to guess what song you are playing. We have a member who loves to play “Kumbaya” on the Native Flute by playing the intervals of this major diatonic song on the minor pentatonic Flute. Unless you know what she is doing, it’s very difficult to guess the song at first. Sometimes it is only the rhythm or phrasing of the song that will give it away.
15. Animal Speak
A perennial favourite with Flute players is working with animal themes. In this game people in the Flute Circle call out an animal to the player at the mic. The player must then play a short piece that represents that animal’s “personality.” When playing that animal, think in terms of rhythm for each different animal’s gait and characteristic movements. A horse has a different rhythm than a dog; a big cat has a completely different rhythm than a bird, etc. Some other ideas include: A mischievous mouse, hopping frog, darting squirrel, lumbering bear, or galloping horse. Often animals do not make recognizable sounds in nature. Play their personality, by suggesting their characteristics with rhythm and sound. You need not mimic an animal’s voice in nature, merely suggesting is enough. These vignettes often become the seeds of beautiful songs. Alternatively, a person can choose an animal to play, and everyone in the Flute Circle must guess which animal they are playing.
16. Rhythm Race
Here is a great game for developing greater skills in percussion, rhythmic flute playing, and coordination and speed. A Flute player will challenge the percussionists in the group to start with a moderately-slow rhythm using drums and rattles, and both the Flute player and the percussionists will gradually increase the tempo, faster and faster. The Flute Player will try to keep in step with the rhythm, and the percussionists will try to keep in step with the Flute player. Who can keep up the best–the Flute player or the percussionists? Whoever can go the fastest, while still staying in sync and without falling out, wins that round.
17. Name That Colour
Combining elements of synesthesia, ingenuity, and imagination, this game challenges our typical modes of perception. What would a colour sound like? The colour “red” feels and sounds very different than, say, “blue.” Think in terms of the “personality” of the colour. If it could talk or sing, what would it say? If it had a voice, what would it sound like? The people in the Flute Circle have to guess what colour you are playing.
18. Play that Soundtrack
Sometimes, we use DVD’s and CDRoms, such as the National Parks Series; or the Planets, and mute the sound while taking turns playing Flutes to the visuals. Scott August also has a wonderful DVD, entitled “Ancient Light: Music and Mystery of the Southwest,” featuring his beautiful photography and music. See, http://www.cedarmesa.com/ancientlight/index2.html. Any video or DVD can be used in this game. Alternatively, if there is a TV in the room, you can mute the sound and play your interpretation of the soundtrack to movies or commercials. Mute the sound and take turns playing what you think the soundtrack to the visuals should be. Commercials are especially fun!
19. What’s in the Fridge?
Here is an imaginative game that encourages spontaneity and fun. A person chooses a common item, like catsup; pickles; milk; orange juice; a type of fruit, like strawberries; a vegetable, such as a green pepper; or leftover spaghetti, etc., that would most likely be found in a refrigerator and then plays it. Like “Name that Colour,” above, think in terms of the “personality” of the item. If it had a voice, what would it say; and if it had a sound, what would it sound like? The rest of the people in the Flute Circle then have to guess what item is being played.
20. Foreground and Background
In this game, two players each decide who will play in the background and who will play in the foreground. A good technique for playing in the background is ostinato, where a few notes are repeated over and over again. The other person must improvise the foreground over the repeating ostinato. Both players can then switch.
21. Flute Scramble
Playing Flute Scramble gives everyone a fun and challenging way to practice their composition and improvisation skills. The first person in the Circle plays six notes in a brief phrase. The next person in the Circle must play a different phrase using the same six notes. The phrases can also be varied by playing some notes longer or shorter, accenting different notes, using different embellishments, or using a different rhythm. Continue around the Circle until everyone has had a chance to play the six notes. It is always astonishing to hear the variety that can be achieved with six notes! This helps us to open up to the endless possibilities of composing songs on the Native American Flute.
22. Rolling the Dice
Another fun game in which people are challenged to stretch their creativity and improvisational skills is “Rolling the Dice.” The first person in the Circle rolls a set of dice and totals the numbers, and then must play something using the total number of notes indicated by the dice. The second person in the Circle then rolls the dice and must play the total number of notes rolled on the dice, while trying to connect to the melody started by the first person. Continue around the Circle until everyone has had a chance to roll the dice and add to the melody.
23. Pick a Person
In this game, one person silently chooses a person in the Flute Circle to describe by “playing them” on the Flute. When “playing” a person, think in terms of their personality, age, mannerisms, voice, movements, etc., and incorporate this into your description, together with associated embellishments, rhythm, dynamics, key of flute, melody, etc. The rest of the group has to guess which person is being described musically. Whoever guesses correctly then chooses a person to play, and the game continues for as long as desired.
24. Incidental Rhythms
Here is another way to challenge everyone to actively listen, exercise restraint, and thoughtfully plan the percussive elements of music. One person starts with a “heartbeat” on the drum. As you go around the circle, each person must add an incidental sound with percussion, as either one person solos on the Flute, or two people duet, and the heartbeat remains steady. The object of this game is to keep the incidental percussion going around the circle multiple times. This game helps everyone, both percussionists and Flute players, all work together with rhythm and improvisation.
25. Elemental Flutes
For this game, have each person choose one of the elements (Earth, Air, Fire, or Water) to play. Go around the Circle and each person takes their turn at conveying one of the aspects of an element in all of its myriad forms. Some examples are:
Earth: Ground; Dust; Mud; Minerals; Rocks; Mountain; Sand
Air: Wind; Hurricane; Inspiration; Breath; Breeze; Storm;
Fire: Heat; Sun; Warmth; Candle Flame; Hearth fire;
Lightning; Forest Fire; Star; and
Water: Stream; Ocean; Steam; Vapour; River; Crashing Surf;
Lake; Pond; Tears; Trickle; Ice; Snow; Waterfall;
Try to convey the personality of each of the elements. You can also play attributes you feel go with each of these elements. For example: Earth = Strength; Air = Ideas; Fire = Passion; and Water = Emotions. Use your creative imagination! This game teaches us to expand our repertoire in a new and innovative way.
26. Panning Flutes & Rhythm
Here is a fun way in which everyone can participate as a group and experiment with dynamics. Divide the Flute Circle in half, with two Flute players at the mic, each leading half of the percussionists. The first Flute player plays with their half of the percussion group for a few minutes, then both the Flute player and percussionists slowly begin to fade out. As the first group fades out, the second Flute player and percussion group slowly fade in, picking up where the first group left off. This continues for several rounds of one group fading out, while the next group fades in, all the while keeping the tempo, tone, and mood established at the beginning.
27. Human Flute
This game requires at least 6 people with a Native American Flute, and a “Conductor.” The six people form a line, and each person chooses one different and specific note to play on the Native Flute. The Conductor stands in front of the line, and each time the Conductor points to a person, that person plays their note. The Conductor continues to point to different people as he “composes” a song and the Flute players play their individual note, following the Conductor’s cues. The Conductor can indicate that he wants a certain note played multiple times, or held longer, or played very quickly. The Conductor, through creative movements and gestures, must also indicate loudness/softness, embellishments, and accents to be played by the Human Flute.
28. Name Game
For this game, each person must play something on the Native Flute using the syllables of their name (first, middle, and last), which become the rhythm and accents used in the song. For example: “Charlie Brown” has 3 syllables, with the emphasis on “Brown.” “Pippi Longstocking” has five syllables, with the emphasis on the third syllable. This would become the rhythm and accent(s) used for the improv being played by each person.
29. Question and Answer
Here is a great game that helps people experiment with the nuances of emotional expression on the Flute. Everyone in the Circle chooses a partner. One person begins playing the Flute, as if they are asking a question to their partner. Then their partner responds as if answering the question. Here is where, using our creative imagination, we can really “feel” this conversation going on. Alternatively, one person can be playing the Flute, while the other part of the conversation can be done verbally, for an entirely different effect. This also has the benefit of including people who do not play the Native American Flute in the game.
30. Tag, You’re It!
In this game, one person goes up to the mic and begins playing the Flute. At some point, he or she randomly points to another person, who has to come up to the mic and continue the song. The person at the mic continues playing until the next person arrives at the mic, and then sits down. This continues until all have been chosen and have had a chance to add to the song.
31. Guess Again
Often we are able to recognize a certain person’s playing style immediately upon hearing the first few notes they play. This game challenges the Flute player to do something different—not easily associated with their style of playing. You will need some type of blindfold for this game. To begin, one person in the Circle is blindfolded and sits quietly in the Circle. After the person has been blindfolded, another person goes to the mic and tries to make sounds, play notes, etc., on the Flute and disguise who they are. The blindfolded person must guess who is playing at the mic. If the blindfolded person guesses correctly, the person at the mic must then be blindfolded, and the game continues. If the blindfolded person guesses incorrectly, the game continues until there is a correct guess.
32. Flute Freeze
This is a fun way to get everyone up and moving. To begin, one person with a Flute goes up to the mic and begins to play. Everyone else remains standing and, while the Flute is being played, must stay in constant motion. When the Flute Player abruptly stops, everyone must “freeze” in the position that they are in. The length of time of the “freeze” is at the discretion of the Flute player. When the Flute player then begins to play again, everyone is once again free to move. If you do not “freeze” in time, or you move during a “freeze,” you must sit down, remain seated, and sit out the rest of the game.
33. What’s in a Name?
For this game, one person goes up to the mic with a Flute, and the group invents a “song title” and calls it out to the Flute player. The person at the mic must then play a song that goes with that title. An example might be: “Weeping Willows,” or “Ancient Path.” Whatever the group comes up with. Be sure to have some sort of recording device handy, as you never know what beautiful melody may come out that you may want to capture!
34. Making Rain
This is a game in which everyone can participate at the same time. One person plays a Flute at the mic, while another directs the other participants. The object is to make sounds simulating rain, while the Flute player plays an accompanying “Rain Song.” The director listens to the Flute player for cues, and guides the rest of the group by cycling between: Rubbing hands, snapping fingers, tapping the back of the hand, slapping thighs, and stomping feet. Here is a link to a YouTube video demonstrating this process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKDGCgXtETc (please be aware that there is an added component not demonstrated in this video of tapping the back of the hand).
35. Hidden Flute Echo
This game gives people practice in listening and then translating what they hear onto the Native Flute. Two people go up to the mic; one person turns his back to his partner (the “Hidden Flute”), and plays a short melodic line, including embellishments. The second person must echo on their Flute what they heard being played by the Hidden Flute. If they are correct, they then get a turn at being the Hidden Flute, and a new Flute player tries to echo their Hidden Flute. If not, then both a new Hidden Flute and Flute player come up and begin again.
36. Rhythm Pattern Memory
This is a great game to help people learn to hear and duplicate rhythms, whether using percussion instruments or Flutes. One person plays a pattern on a drum, or other percussive instrument. The second person repeats the pattern on their percussion instrument, and then adds a pattern of their own of the same length. This continues around the Circle, until it becomes impossible to remember all of the rhythm patterns. As an alternative with a higher level of complexity, this same game can be played by using Native American Flutes, rather than percussion instruments. When using Native Flutes, not only are people having to remember the rhythms, but also the melodic lines being generated.
37. Rhythm Bee
This is a game patterned after an old-fashioned Spelling Bee. The Flute players stand in a line, with one person acting as the “Pronouncer.” The Pronouncer plays a short rhythmic melody. Each standing person in turn tries to repeat the melodic rhythmic pattern demonstrated for them by the Pronouncer. If a player misses something, he must be seated. If a player duplicates the melodic rhythmic pattern correctly, he remains standing. When everyone standing has had a chance to play the rhythmic melody demonstrated by the Pronouncer, that round is ended, and the Pronouncer then gives the remaining standing Flute players another new rhythmic melody. The person who remains standing the longest is the winner.
38. Hand Jive
Most of us can remember a teacher in grade school standing at the front of the class using his or her hand to show the class whether the next note they will be singing was high, low, or somewhere in between, thus directing the melody with a hand held horizontally (arm vertical, wrist bent, hand horizontal). In this game, one person stands at the mic with a familiar melody in mind. Making no sound, he or she uses their hand held horizontally in the air to slowly show the intervals of the melody they have in mind as the Flute player plays each note as indicated. The Flute player who correctly plays the melody then gets to direct the next melody. If the Flute player guesses incorrectly, he or she sits down, and a new Flute player takes their turn.
This is another great tonal memory game. Everyone stands in a Circle and is assigned a note on their Flute. Each person goes around the Circle and plays their assigned note. Everyone then mills around and changes places in the Circle. One person plays a note (the “guessing person”) and then must choose the other person in the Circle with that note. If the guessing person is incorrect in their choice, then all mill around and change places in the Circle again, and the game continues with a new “guessing person.” If the guessing person is correct, the person in the Circle with the note chosen must sit down, and the guessing person is allowed to choose again. The “guessing person” is allowed to continue to choose as long as they make the correct choice of who in the Circle has the matching note they played. When the guessing person chooses incorrectly, they must wait until all others have had a chance to be the “guessing person” before they are able to take another turn. The object of the game is to correctly match all of the notes, until all of the participants have had their notes matched and are seated, with the guessing person being the only person left standing.
40. Air Flute
This is a fun game that requires close observation, as we must do with our partner in any duet. Two players go up to the mic. The first player plays “Air Flute,” meaning they are moving their fingers, but with no actual sound coming out of the Flute, while the second player plays aloud what the first player is playing on their Air Flute. This can continue until all have had a chance to play both “Air Flute” and play aloud.
41. Musical Relay Race
For this game, you will need a stopwatch and to divide the Flute Circle evenly into two groups: Team A and Team B. One person, acting as the “Officiant,” passes out an embellishment card to each person on Team A, and then plays a short melodic phrase. This game is timed, and the clock begins when the first person in Team A begins to play, and ends when the last person on the team correctly plays the melodic phrase, including their embellishment, given by the Officiant. Team A begins with the first person playing the piece demonstrated by the Officiant, and inserts their embellishment into the piece. If incorrect, that person must repeat the phrase, with their embellishment, until correct. Once they have successfully played the correct melodic phrase and inserted their embellishment appropriately, the next person in the team is then able to play the same melodic phrase, this time inserting the embellishment on their card. This continues, until the last person in Team A has played the melodic phrase given by the Officiant correctly, including the embellishment on their card, and the clock is stopped. Team B is then given the opportunity to beat Team A’s time, following the same procedure with a different short melodic phrase given toTeam B by the Officiant. The same embellishment cards can be used for both Team A and Team B.
42. Lost Note
Here is a unique way to work with melodic variations, listening, and composition skills. One person plays a short musical phrase. The second person plays the same phrase, but drops one note, substituting another note in its place. The first person must then play the same piece played by the second person and drop one note, substituting another note in its place. This continues back and forth, each time dropping one note and substituting another note in its place. It is interesting to see how the melody changes after several rounds. As an alternative, rather than having only two people going back and forth, this game can be continued around the Circle, with each successive person dropping a note and substituting another note in its place.
43. What’s My Melodic Line?
This is another game that helps everyone to work with creative ways to convey abstract concepts and personalities by playing them on the Native American Flute. If it had a voice, what would it say? What would it sound like? For this game, you will need one Flute player and a “Moderator” at the mic. The Moderator whispers a job description, an animal, the name of a famous person, a famous place, etc., into the Flute player’s ear. The Flute player then plays their characterization of whatever was whispered to them by the Moderator on the Flute. The people in the Flute Circle are allowed to ask any question, as long as it can be answered with a “Yes” or a “No” answer. For example, they may ask questions beginning with: “Are you . . . ?,” such as: “Are you an animal?” or “Are you a famous person?” or “Are you a mineral?,” (e.g., animal, vegetable, or mineral) etc. If the person asks the question in an incorrect manner (i.e., without beginning the question with “Are you. . . ?“), they must sit out the rest of the round. Each time a question is correctly phrased by a person in the group and answered with either a “Yes” or “No” answer by the Flute player, the Flute player plays another short “descriptive” piece as an additional clue. Questioning continues in an attempt to narrow down the possibilities until someone makes a correct guess. The person who guesses correctly then takes a turn at What’s My Melodic Line?
We hope you enjoy this selection of Flute Circle Games. At the very least, it will help you to experiment and develop some Flute Circle Games of your own. The possibilities are endless! If you wish to share additional games and ideas, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many thanks to all of the members of Cascadia Flute Circle who contributed to this Article by lending their support, energy and enthusiasm to new ideas presented at our Flute Circles, and their willingness to be playful, laugh and share. You guys rock! Happy Fluting!
Copyright 2010, Stephanie Baldridge