Flute Circle Value: Native American Style Flute

If you have ever had the joy of playing in a flute circle with your Native American style flute, you know the experience is valuable in so many ways.

poplar-flute-walnut-birdSocially,  you get to meet wonderful people and interesting flutes. All attendees have interesting stories — some as flute players, flute makers, or percussion players.  With every new flute someone brings to the group, there’s learning about different woods, styles and tones.

Health wise, the obvious health benefit comes from learning to control one’s breath to play the flute.  Being able to draw enough breath for three notes in a row is a discipline that helps you learn to breathe more deeply and efficiently.

Our group, The Gainesville Flute Circle, starts out by playing a “one breath solo.”  You take one big breath and play your flute.  One note or many notes. Whichever you like. But you can only play as long as that first breath.  As soon as you are taking a second breath, your song ends.

Flute Haven 2015
A group at Flute Haven improvises and records

When the group first started, some of us could play about 3 notes and our song ended. But in the past year and a half, I have noticed group members playing entire songs on one breath.  A discipline and a skill that improves one’s breathing and one’s playing.

A secondary health benefit can be gained from listening.  Listening is a lost art in today’s world.  Yes, we have a lot of music we can listen to “on demand” with our mobile devices, but that is not the kind of listening I mean. I mean listening to the other flutes with both our ears and our understanding.   Can we hear what our neighbor is playing so we can  figure out how our flute will play well together with our neighbor.  This is a very difficult skill — all the moreso because it would seem obvious.

An example of a listening can be heard from this exercise.  A pattern of notes is played by 3 or 4 people over and over.   A couple more people play some percussion.  This forms a background for one person to listen and then weave a song that sounds good with the background patterns. You can hear that exercise in this sample below.

The final health benefit is keeping our memories  sharp.  We do not read from music in The Gainesville Flute Circle.  That doesn’t mean that members don’t use sheet music. But in the circle we encourage improvisation and playing freely.  To be able to play freely, however, we listen and also teach our fingers how to play the notes that will sound best when played with others playing the flute freely. That takes muscle memory. If you train your fingers to know and to remember, eventually your fingers will dance on the flute when you need them to.  You can hear some dancing fingers in the sample below — one set of fingers dances quickly and one set of fingers dances slowly.

There are other values to Flute Circles, but rather than spell them all out, I will leave them for you to discover when you become part of a circle.

Our Gainesville Flute Circle will resume meeting in September, 2016, after a brief summer hiatus.  If you live nearby, I hope you will join us.