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NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE FORUM
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Spirit of a Flute Maker: A Conversation with Scott Loomis
By John Sarantos
 
Originally Published in "Voice of the Wind", April 1999
 
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  Spirit of a Flute Maker: A Conversation with Scott Loomis
  Page #4 of 7

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     John: You use several kinds of woods for your flutes. How does the wood effect you as far as deciding what type of woods you use?

     Scott: For the four standard flutes, I've chosen those types of woods because they are very similar in consistency and tonality. They're very slightly different from each other. Like the Sitka Spruces and the Eastern Red Cedar are a little brighter in their tonality than the Western Red Cedar and Redwood. They are a little bit warmer in their tonality. I just found that these four woods make a good flute. And you can still find real good wood because it is really important to find very tight grain and clear wood for a consistent sound. And that is what I am trying to get is a consistent sound. And I think that is one of the things that I am known for, producing a consistent product.
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     John: What kind of wood do you use for your carved and fancy flutes?

     Scott: For the carved and fancy flutes I've gone to the hardwoods because hardwoods are easier to carve and also because of the different densities, thickness of the hardwoods, the carvings don't effect the sound of the flute as much as it would in a soft wood. In a soft wood that sound vibration is disrupted by the different thickness of the wood caused by the carving, which makes a difference in the sound.
     About 3 years ago I've become knowledgeable enough to be able to manipulate the tonality of the flute to be again consistent with my sound in these fancy flutes. It took me a long time to get up the courage to branch out into these carved and fancy flutes because I am so concerned about the tonality and the sound. But now I am just having a blast (big laugh) because I am finally able to use my artistic side and still feel good about the sound.
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     John: I've also noticed that for the fun side of flute making, you have been making the smaller, higher sounding flutes. When I was playing one of them in a chapel in Seattle, I was making raven sounds with it and it sounded like the rafters were full of ravens singing.

     Scott: That's one of the things Sky WalkinStick did for me. He took me under his wings and was teaching me about these flutes. He's the one who broadened my horizons. He said, "Hello, why don't you make me a 'C' flute, a low 'C' flute?" I said, "OK." So I would go out and experiment and try to get this "C" flute going. I'd come back and the next time he'd say, "Well, why don't you make me an "E" flute?" Because nobody was doing any at that time. So like I said he's the one that broadened my horizons that way. That's why I make twenty-two different flutes from high pitched "G" to that middle "G" that a lot of flute players have, to a very low deep "G" and every half step in between. Because that's fun.
     Like you were saying before, each flute has its own voice, well each flute also has its own mood to be sung with. And I find that in certain moods that I have I pick up a high pitched flute, and in certain moods that I have I pick up a low pitched flute; other moods, it's one of those mid-ranged.
     I can do a real melancholy sound out of this really high sounding "G", but I can also do a real happy sound out of a high pitched "G". So, ah, did I just contradict myself just then? (both laugh)
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     John: I'm trying to think. You said melancholy sound as opposed to low pitched sound. So, I think you're o.k.

     Scott: Right. (laughter)
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     John: I find it humorous when someone is playing a low "E" flute and they say they love it but that they can't get the highest note to sound the way they want to. That's because it's a low flute and it's not designed to play the highest note the way a high pitched flute is.

     Scott: I think that's the beauty of having an instrument that is so range limited. Sam Kurz who is a recording artist was telling me that every time he gets a different pitched flute from me, he finds five or six new songs. Therefore, I think it is a creative stiffness to have such a small range in a flute. So you have to go upper or lower in pitch. Plus it keeps all of us flute makers in business. (laughter)
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     John: About the consistency of your flutes. Gary and Sherrie Kuhl and I were playing several "G" pitched flutes one night trying to hit the high "A". Some of the flutes would hit it, but we had to play one or two notes below it and work our way up, but your flutes were consistent every time.

     Scott: Well, that's good to hear. That's the way I intended it to happen. (laughter)
     My daughter calls me anal retentive. I'm a perfectionist and when I set my goal, because I am also goal-oriented, I set my goal to create a quality professional instrument. My target customer base was going to be the recording artist, the professional, the musician. And that is what I set my goal for. That's who I sought out; people who made their living with music. And I think it paid off because I have listened to those people, and they have told me what they want. So, I do that.
     I'm telling you a whole lot more than I've ever expressed to anybody before. And it feels good to be able to let that out because I haven't been able to do that, and I think it is important that people know that it's not just a job. That work can be really good to people if they treat it the right way. My Grandfather used to say that if you approach your work in the right way then no work is demeaning.
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Copyright 1999 John Sarantos
Updated April 18, 1999 by LH
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