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NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE FORUM
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Fine Tuning Your Native American Flute
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by Scott Loomis
 
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     Introduction
     FAQ
     Instructions
     Step One: Getting Started
     Step Two: Note by Note
     Step Three: Scale for your G# PVC Flute
     Step Four: Finishing
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     For those who are reading the Flute Forum for the first time, this is the educational area of the web page, where we share ideas that will improve your experience with the flute. As always, the Flute Forum is here to serve your needs. If you have questions related to flutes, comments about this column, suggestions about how we might better address your specific needs, or the needs of flute players in general, please contact us at worldwind@mindspring.com (Dennis) or webmaster@loomisflute.com (Scott).
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     Of all of the questions we've received from Forum readers, questions about flute construction and tuning have been the most frequent. In this issue of the Flute Forum, Scott shares his method for tuning Native American Flutes. You can find additional information for instrument makers, including PVC instruments, on our Links Page.
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Fine Tuning Your Native American Style Flute

     The following instructions are designed for tuning the PVC flute made from the directions in the previous Flute Forum. However, other than the G# scale in Step Three, the information applies to other scales and wooden flutes as well. For other flutes, I recommend that you use the formulas and hole placements used in Lew Paxton Price's books (see Links Page for Lew's address) to lay out your flute. Later, once you've gained experience, you can place holes in a more customized array for your hands. Remember that the volume of sound coming from a hole is controlled by the size of the hole, so you should try to place finger holes so that they are all of near equal size.
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  STEP ONE: Getting Started
    What you'll need to fine tune your flute:
      Your handmade flute, complete except for the fine tuning
      Chromatic tuner, available from any good music store (Prices range from about $12 upwards to $600. A $20 tuner will be sufficient for non-professional flutemakers.)
      Drill press or hand drill, with bits in 1/64" gradations
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     The length of your flute determines the fundamental or lowest note. The longer the flute, the lower the tones. Always make your flute a little longer than needed, then cut it back 1/8" or less at a time to get the pitch you want. For the G# flute, you can test the pitch before drilling your finger holes or by covering all six holes and playing into the chromatic tuner. If the pitch is too low (below a G#), cut it back slightly. If the pitch is too high, you've gone too far. As you proceed, keep in mind that attention to detail and taking the time to do things right will mean a better-sounding flute.
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  STEP TWO: Note by Note
     In tuning your flute, there are two important rules of thumb. First, the further the finger hole is from the fipple, the lower the pitch will be. Second, enlarging a finger hole will make the pitch higher. Keep these in mind as you proceed.
     Start by drilling the finger holes with a small drill bit (3/16"). Then, starting with the lowest note (farthest from the mouth end), each note is tuned by playing the note into the chromatic tuner and enlarging the hole until it sounds the correct pitch. Once this is done, check the bottom holes again. Each of the finger holes affects the others. Enlarging a hole will slightly flatten the pitches (holes) below it and slightly sharpen the pitches above it. Therefore always work from the bottom (farthest from your mouth) up until the holes give the correct pitch. Be careful and patient and remember--you can always make a hole larger; it is a real hassle making it smaller.
     That's it. No magic. Really simple. Good luck!
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  STEP THREE: Scale for Your G# PVC Flute
     For those of you tuning your PVC flute (see previous forum for illustrated instructions), here is the scale for you to tune to. The fundamental note (G#) is created when all six holes are covered. The finger holes are tuned to the next six notes.
     (End of Flute)     G#     B     C#     D#     F     G     A     (Fipple)
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  STEP FOUR: Finishing
     After you've finished fine tuning your flute, use the fine sandpaper and steel wool to polish the inside of the flute. See the previous Flute Forum for detailed instructions on how to do this.

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     Do you have questions about caring for or playing your Native American flute? We"d love to hear from you. Email: webmaster@loomisflute.com
 
 
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Copyright 1998 - 2010 by Linda Hugle
All rights reserved
 
Updated December 2009 - catNcap Enterprises