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NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE FORUM
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Breath Technique
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By Joel Shaber
 
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     The flute is an extension of your voice. We all have a voice, a distinctive one, and we use it in varying ways: we talk, we hum, we whistle, we yell, we sing, we chant. When talking, for instance, we use our voice and our breath differently than when singing. Good tone on the Flute is produced by using the voice and breath as you would when singing or chanting. Here is an exercise which will help you connect what you already know how to do -- sing -- with what you are learning to do -- sing with the flute.
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     1.) Go somewhere where no one will hear you -- where you can do weird stuff, like singing, without being embarrassed. Play the lowest note on your flute -- all fingers down. Play this note for one easy breath's worth of time. Listen to your flute resonating in your hands. Now, sing this same note for one easy breath's worth of time. Listen to your voice resonating through your body on the same pitch as your flute resonating in your hands.
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     2.) Sing the pitch again, but this time imagine you are a great Italian Tenor singing this note. Let it come from way down in your diaphragm. Sing a big old "WAAAAAA" of a note. Sing it again in this way and pay attention to how it feels to sing from the center of your body, from your diaphragm. Put your hand on your stomach as you sing your big Italian Tenor note and feel how your whole torso sings the note. Remember how it feels to breathe like this.
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     3.) Play the low note again on your flute, and make it come from deep down in your diaphragm, like your imaginary Italian Tenor singing through your flute. Listen to the tone resonating in your flute as an extension of your natural singing voice. Play the note as if "singing" the note through your flute -- and "sing" the note like it means something. "Sing" the note through the flute like sun beaming through misty Redwood trees. "Sing" it like the power of ocean waves. "Sing" it like Morning Dove greeting the day. "Sing" it like a Mountain Lion stalking. "Sing" it like gently rippling water reflecting the moon. "Sing" the meaning from the center of your being, up through your flute, and out to the world.
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     4.) Repeat the above exercise playing two notes during one easy breath. The lowest note and the note with only one finger raised. Play them; sing them; play them with meaning; play and sing them with varying durations of long, short, and almost equal notes. Repeat, using two different notes.
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     5) Repeat the above exercise, using only three notes, played during one easy breath's worth of time. Actually sing a little "song" using only these three notes. Make your little "song" only one breath's worth of time long. We call this little song, one breath long, a "phrase." Play on your flute, the phrase you just sang, and play it in one breath's worth of time. Then actually sing another different, three note phrase in one breath's worth of time. Play it on your flute, also in one breath.
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     You can vary this exercise in many ways. Be creative. You will experience the valuable connection between your voice and your flute.
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Copyright 1999 by Joel Shaber
Updated July 16, 1999 LH
All rights reserved
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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