Thursday, December 29, 2005

Back to it

I am back from holiday! I appologize for the lack of content the last few weeks, but the holidays had my mind elsewhere. I hope that you've had a wonderful holiday season.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pictures from the Bay Clan Holiday Concert

Here's a few pictures from the Bay Clan Holiday Concert at Stanford Childrens Hospital. From the reports that I heard, the kids had a great time and the parents and staff really appreciated the music. Kudos to the bay clan members for their inspiration to give back to the community during this holiday season. In the first picture, Scott is playing flute while Bob sits and listens for a moment.

In this second picture, Martin is playing flute while Tess drums and Frankie gets ready to play the didj.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Doc Tate Nevaquaya: Comanche Flute Music

If you are looking for a sample of some of the earliest recorded "modern" Native American Flute music, I highly recommend this recording by Doc Tate Nevaquaya. I purchased a copy of the record on eBay a few years ago and I love it. But it's not digital and so I can put it in my iPod. However, you can purchase a CD from Smithsonian Folkways recordings. This album was recorded in 1977 and the best part (I think) is the introductions which Doc Tate does for each track. He tells a story about the song or learning to play the flute and then plays the song.
His style is unlike anything which you will hear in today's recording/performing Native American Flute artists, but it's like stepping back into the past and hearing what the original songs must have been stylized like.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Wed., Dec. 21. 7:30 - 9 PM.with Barbara Druker.

Oakland, CA (near Rockridge). Easy freeway access.
7:15 PM doors open.
7:30 Opening Ceremony begins promptly.
$15.00 contribution.

Join us in sacred circle to honor the birthing of the New Solar Year, on this shortest day and longest night of 2005. Through drumming, chanting, andritual, we will celebrate the return of the Sun, and the rebirth of Light,Hope and Renewal within ourselves and the world. We will drum away what needs to be released, and drum in what needs to be reborn for empowerment and joy in 2006.

NO DRUMMING EXPERIENCE NECESSARY. Small block drums and rattles provided, or bring yours. Optional: bring floor cushion or small chair.

RSVP for location and driving directions.
Please note: cats live here. Shoes left inside door; wear warm socks.

BARBARA DRUKER, MSW, LCSW is a drum circle facilitator, ritual leader,Certified Professional Life Coach and Licensed Psychotherapist. Her work empowers people to live their true rhythms, reduce stress, restore balance and zest, and renew creativity. She presents programs in organizations, wellness centers, educational settings, conferences, retreats, and is available for your special event.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, see, or contact Barbara at: rhythmzest AT earthlink DOT net

Friday, December 09, 2005

Comments now enabled

I've enabled the "comments" feature on the blog. That means that you get to participate in the discussion now! It took a little bit of HTML crafting to get it working, it probably would have been easier to enable comments in the template before I started adding all the customization to the left column, but I learned a bit more in the process so all is well.

To use the comments feature, you simply need to click on "Post a Comment" after any of the posts and leave a comment (including historical posts). You can comment anonymously, but I'd appreciate it if you leave at least a pseudonym. I'll delete any comments that have inappropriate language (this is PG rated blog), so keep it clean...

I also added a new feature in the left column "what's in my CD player" which I'll change as I listen to new music/CD's.

Native American Indian Traditional Code of Ethics

I discovered a very well organized overview of Native American Indian Tradition Code of Ethics on the website of Sakoieta' Widrick. You can see the complete list by clicking on the link above. I printed out the page and put it up on the wall in my office, but the one item on the list that spoke to me today was:
"Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and friends.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

NAF Playing Tip #5: A Note’s Life

Before we can talk about ornamentation, it’s important to understand the dynamics of a note as it comes out of the flute. Starting from this point will allow us to better understand how the various ornamentation techniques work to modify the life of a note.
Just like our lives have a beginning, middle and an end, each note lives its life in the same way. There are some simple terms that describe the different periods of a note’s life (see Figure 1). The initial part of a note’s life is called the Attack; this period is from the point at which you start blowing until the note reaches full volume. The middle part of the note’s life is called the Sustain and this lasts from the end of the attack, until the beginning of the last part of the note that is called the Decay. The Decay is the period in which the note drops in volume until the sound stops. The Decay can anything from a long, slow decrease in volume to a very quick drop (or stopping) of the sound. Many times, the Sustain and Decay will overlap and it may be difficult to define the exact transition from Sustain to the Decay. We'll use these terms to help define the different ornamentation techniques that make this instrument produce such beautiful music.

Figure 1 - Life of a Note (Envelope)

Sustaining a note
The length of the note is simply controlled by how long you blow the note. It starts from the beginning of the attack until the end of the decay. Blow for a short time and you have a short note, blow for a long time and you have long note. Don’t forget that the length of the note is the one of the most important variables that you have in composing interesting music.

Volume Control
The volume of the note is controlled by how hard you blow into the flute. Blow hard and the note will be loud. Blow soft and the note will be quiet. If you blow too hard, you will likely produce a high-pitched squeal, this is called overblowing (we'll take about Overblowing in a future post) and is not desirable unless you do it on purpose.

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This Playing Tip is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Holiday Gift Guide: Winter Dreams CD

If you're looking for a great 'classic' Native American Flute Christmas CD, I highly recommend Winter Dreams by R. Carlos Nakai and William Eaton. I just pulled out my holiday music collection to get into the holiday spirit and I always love this CD. The CD features some classic Christmas melodies arranged for the Native American flute and stringed instruments. I would say guitar, except that William Eaton doesn't play your average guitar. He is one of the world's greatest designers and builders of unique stringed instruments. Many of his instuments have 30+ strings on them which makes it sound like there is more than one guitarist playing. Of course I don't need to say anything about Nakai's skill on the Native American Flute, it's pure magic. This is an instrumental CD, and it's one that I am sure will remain at the top of your holiday music hitlist (or even year round).

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Peter Mayer Christmas CD Coming

I just heard from Mark Holland that the new Peter Mayer Christmas CD will be available within the the next week. The name of the new CD is "Echos of the Season" and features the following folks: Jim Mayer on bass, R. Scott Bryan on percussion, Mark Holland on flute, Emily Randle on violin, Melissa Streuli on violin, Gary Hodges on cello, as well as guest appearances from Mac McAnally on vocals and guitar, Roger Guth on drums, Chris Walters on piano, Jon Nellen on tabla, as well as Tina Gullickson and Nadirah Shakoor on vocals. You can find more information, including a complete track listing on Peter's Website.
Mark and Peter collaborate on each others music, in fact Mark is on tour through December 18th with Peter's Stars and Promises tour. Mark plays Native American flute on Peter's CD's and Peter plays guitar on Mark's CD's. Peter is a member of August Child. Mark had mentioned the upcoming Christmas CD when he was out on tour this fall.

To get a taste of Peter's music you can download the track "Faith in Angels" off of Peter's latest album Musicbox from Peter's website . Faith in Angels is a great tune, with a rock feel with acoustic and electric guitar, bass and drums. I can't admit to listening to much of Peter's music outside of Autumn's Child, but I sure love his guitar playing on Authumn's Child albums.

Monday, December 05, 2005

FREE: Stanford Lectures and music on iTunes

I discovered some very cool content on iTunes, published by Stanford University. Stanford is experimenting with the idea of publishing content on iTunes, since the majority of the student population has iPods or other MP3 music players. You do need to have iTunes installed on your PC or MAC, but you don't need an iPod to listen to the content, you can listen to the content through iTunes on you computer. Stanford is publishing faculty lectures, featrured speakers, keynote presentations, school sporting events and student produced music on iTunes. And the best part is that it's all free!!
In the music department, Stanford Chamber Chorale and Orchestra is featured this month with a Christmas music theme. There are 12 tracks of Christmas songs that you can download for free. You can also download and listen to student produced tracks.
Check it out here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

On the Red Road at the Marin Museum

This is a fundraiser for the Marin Museum of the American Indian. $25 donation requested. It is a photographic essay depicting the cultural expression of America's first people. I haven't attended it yet, but I thought that I would post this for others who may happen through Marin this holiday season. If you get a chance to visit the exhibit, drop me a line telling me about your experience. More info here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

REMINDER: Elysium Calling at Borders

Just a reminder that Garth and Kenneth of Elysium Calling will be playing live at several Borders Bookstores tonight and tomorrow. If you're anywhere near Stockton or Modesto, it's worth the drive to hear these guys live.

Friday, December 2nd, 2005
Borders Books and Music
8-10 PM
10776 Trinity Parkway, Stockton CA 95219 209-951-2226
Price: Free

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005
Borders Books and Music
8-10 PM
3900 Sisk Rd., Modesto CA 95656 209-543-6095
Price: Free

Boycott SONY for Christmas...

I am adding my voice to the boycott of SONY products this year after their debacle with the CD Digital Rights Management software (which I discussed in a previous blog). This has been an example were the "blogsphere" influenced the corporate world and has made a real difference in the consumer experience. So I am urging you to forgo the purchases of SONY products this season.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

NAF Playing Tip #4: Whisper don't Shout into the flute

I realized that it's been a while since I posted a playing tip, and it's one of the key features that I wanted to keep up with posting on this this blog. So with this post, I am going to get back to the plan of posting a new playing tip every Thursday...

For new players, one of the first things to learn is how to control your breath for every note on the flute. You quickly learn that the least forgiving note on any flute is the fundamental, the note played with all the holes covered. In other words, the fundamental note is the easiest note to squeak or overblow when playing it. The key to not squeaking the fundamental is in controlling the amount of air that you blow when playing the fundamental note. I've found that the simplest trick for beginners to quickly get over this is to think "Whisper" don't "Shout" when playing the fundamental note (or any note that's being overblown). Most folks get this idea right away and are quickly on the road to controlling their breath on the fundamental.

As an exercise, you should find the 'squeaking point' for every note on your flute (and do it for each of the flute that you own). Some notes will squeak (or overblow) easier than others. Some won't overblow at all. Once you've mastered the breath control to play the scale without squeaking, you can go on to the next step of learning to use the overblow (the squeak) as an ornamentation technique. More on that in a future posting.

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This Playing Tip is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


My good friend RuthiE Neilan is presenting a 3 day workshop in February. Signups are open now:

Playshop for Native American Flute: Focus on Healing February 1-3, 2006 with RuthiE Neilan RN, MA, at Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, Arizona. This "Playshop" is for those with at least basic skill and technique in playing the Native American flute who wish to take their playing to a deeper and more personal creative level. The first thing we do in life is take a breath, the last thing we do in life is take a breath, in between all we do is breathe. Come share breath through playing the Native American flute with a focus on healing with RuthiE Neilan. All healing begins with self-healing. Healing = wholeness.

"We are told to play from our hearts. No one tells us how to get there, RuthiE shows us." (C.T. participant in 2003 Native American Flute: Focus on Healing retreat, Costa Rica).

Check in at the Renewal Center mid afternoon on Wednesday, February1, 2006. The opening session will be held in the Ventura Room ofPiper Hall at 4 PM. With an evening session following dinner. OnThursday the 2nd, there will be morning, afternoon and eveningsessions. Room check out is 10 AM on Friday, however we will haveclosing session in the Ventura room and depart after lunch.

Sessions will include meditation, art making, journaling, labyrinthwalk and yes all this pertains to playing the flute. We will play,play and play. No experience in creative arts necessary beyond basicskills in playing the Native American flute, just have a willingnessto be open to new experiences and trust your creative Spirit inprocess. Bring your Native flute in key of G for class sessions.

For more informaition contact RuthiE: ruthieneilan AT comcast DOT net

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New Magazine: Fretboard Journal

I just heard about the publication of a new magazine called "The Fretboard Journal". Yeah, yeah, I know that this isn't really a flute or drum related topic, but hey it sure looks like a cool magazine for those of you who play stringed instruments and it's my quest to bring interesting new music topics up here. This is the premier copy and it looks like a high quality magazine (er, Journal). You might pass this on to your guitar or mandolin playing friends.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

NAFFAQ: Can I clean the mouthpiece on my flute?

There has been a lot of discussion about spreading germs by sharing flutes at flute circles or when trying out new flutes from a flute maker. There are also many opinions about this. My opinion is just one of the many. It is tempting to try other folks flutes at a flute circle, especially when someone gets a new flute from a flutemaker that you may be interested in buying from. All I can tell you is that you should use your own judgement about sharing your flutes as well as playing others flutes. Definately don't play others flutes if you are feeling the least bit ill.
With respect to new flutes, there are a variety of methods that flute makers and resellers use to allow clients to tryout their flutes. For the flutes which I sell to my students in class, I use Purell hand sanitizer to clean/santize the flutes. Purell is a great product for this purpose (IMHO) because it includes moisturizers that help prevent the wood from dryings out and it minimizes and damage to the finish on the flute. Plus it has a nice smell.

Friday, November 25, 2005


OTHER MINDS in collaboration with Swedenborgian Church and Piedmont Piano Company presents three concerts -- Saturday, December 3, 2005, at 2pm, 5:30pm, and 8pm
Hypnotic, spiritual music to be performed on Piano, Violin, and Disklavier in candlelight concerts at San Francisco's Swedenborgian Church

WHAT: Other Minds presents a New Music Séance, in three mesmerizing candlelight concerts
WHO: Pianist Sarah Cahill, and the violin-piano duo of Kate Stenberg and Eva-Maria Zimmermann
WHERE: Swedenborgian Church, 2107 Lyon Street, San Francisco
WHEN: Saturday, December 3, 2005, at 2pm, 5:30pm, and 8pm
2pm, Concert No. 1, Walk in Beauty - works by Henry Cowell, Daniel David Feinsmith, Peter Garland, Janice Giteck, Bunita Marcus, Leo Ornstein, Dane Rudhyar, Eric Satie, Charles Ives
5:30pm, Concert No. 2, Nude Rolling Down an Escalator - works by Ruth Crawford, Alvin Curran, Kyle Gann, Andrea Morricone, Terry Riley, Henning Christiansen
8pm, Concert No. 3, Toward the Flame - works by John Adams, Johanna Beyer, William Bolcom, John Cage, Henry Cowell, Daniel David Feinsmith, Mamoru Fujeida, Lou Harrison, Gary Noland, Alexander Scriabin, Ronald Bruce Smith
HOW MUCH: Each concert $20-$50, sliding scale; Series tickets$50-$150, sliding scale
TICKETS: (415) 934-8134,
INFO: (415) 934-8134,

MORE: The intimate candlelit surroundings of Bernard Maybeck's Swedenborgian Church, built in 1895, will be the scene of America's first-ever New Music Séance, presented by Other Minds. Pianist Sarah Cahill and the violin-piano duo of Kate Stenberg and Eva-Maria Zimmermann will perform hypnotic, spiritual and rarely-heard contemporary music in a meditative mode. The music spans the period from Erik Satie's Gnossienne No. 5 (1889), to Charles Ives' Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1907), and through the 20th century to the present, including Self (2005) by Bay Area composer Daniel David Feinsmith.
Produced by Other Minds Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian, the three concerts in the New Music Séance feature five hours of solopiano music performed by Sarah Cahill, with additional performances by Kate Stenberg, violin, and Swiss pianist Eva-Maria Zimmermann. Audiences will be treated to performances of Alexander Scriabin's Vers la flamme (Toward the Flame, 1914) and the world premiere of Three Fantasy Pieces, from the early 1960s, by Russian-born American composer Leo Ornstein. Further highlights will be the American premieres of Andrea Morricone's Studio I and of Danish artist-composer Henning Christiansen's Den Arkadiske for violin and piano (1966), a Fluxus gloss on folk fiddling. Humanly unplayable music by Kyle Gann, Daniel David Feinsmith, and Gary Noland will be self-performed on a Yamaha Disklavier grand piano, including the world premiere of Feinsmith's Amalek.
For more information contact Other Minds at (415) 934-8134,

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Join Elysium Calling at Border Bookstores!

Garth and Kenneth are starting out the busy holiday season with some concerts at select Borders bookstores. If you happen to be in the area, stop by and say hi and support Garth and Kenneth.

Enjoy live music from Elysium Calling while you get a little holiday shopping done, find your next good book, or simply relax with a cup of coffee. Elysium Calling will be performing this December, at Borders in Modesto, Stockton, and two Roseville locations.

Here are the latest dates:

Friday, December 2nd, 2005
Borders Books and Music
10776 Trinity Parkway, Stockton CA 95219 209-951-2226
Price: Free!

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005
Borders Books and Music
3900 Sisk Rd., Modesto CA 95656 209-543-6095
Price: Free

Friday, December 9th, 2005
Borders Books and Music
2030 Douglas Blvd, Roseville CA 95661 916-768-3461
Price: Free

For additional dates, times, and locations, follow this link to their calendar.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bear's Thanksgiving Prayer for Friends and Family, 2005

This prayer touched my heart. It was written by Bear Limvere, if you decide to pass it on, just make sure that you give Bear credit. You can contact him at:
matotanka AT yahoo DOT com

"Grandfather, whose voice I hear in the winds, and in the stillness of
my spirit; whose breath gives life to all the world. Lean close to
the earth and hear our prayers, both those spoken aloud, and those
spoken in our hearts.

We gather with our relations to celebrate the gifts we have received.
Help us remember the gifts and blessings we have. We all have many
things to be grateful for, even if sometimes we have to search for
the reasons behind the gifts, or we feel overwhelmed by the pressures
of this world. We are thankful to be alive; to have the ability to
raise our voices in songs and prayers.

We pray for our elders and teachers; for our brothers and sisters;
for our children. We pray that children will honor and respect their
elders, and that elders will deserve that respect. We pray that
children will honor and respect themselves. These values encourage
our youth to become leaders and contributors in society. We pray for
our children and their children yet to come; for they are our future;
help them stand and be courageous.

We remember those who have gone before us. As we sing their songs,
and tell their stories, their memories are honored, and their ways
passed on. We mourn those that have left us, and pray for them as
they make their new journeys. Help us to remember them in a good way.

We pray for the people that come to the circle, and for those that
cannot, or will not. We pray for peace, and an end to wars. We pray
for our warriors that serve in the military, and for those that serve
the people at home. We pray for those who travel; for those who
cannot be with family; for those who are sick, or dying; and for
those who are hungry, cold, or alone. We pray for those who are
prisoners of war, crime, politics, and religion. Guide us to remember
and help them. We are all related. We all share the future.

We pray for commitment and responsible behavior to help those in
need. Help us be examples in life that others may follow. Let us
serve all people, our communities and country. Help us strive to be
leaders and contributors. Let us unite together so that we may have
the strength to protect our future. We pray to learn ways to settle
differences peacefully. Help us learn respect for each other's ideas.
Help us to value honesty and open-mindedness on all levels, from
children to parents to community to politicians to governments. We
will be happy when we create peace with each other. Remind us to live
what we teach. Spiritual values, honesty, and integrity start in the

We pray for those whose minds are closed; who believe that fear,
deceit, war, hate, bigotry, and repression are the way to success.
For those who are so insecure that they feel they must impose their
beliefs on all others. For those who must tear down others to make
themselves seem better or stronger. For those who are afraid to
accept responsibility. We pray for them, that their eyes and minds
may be opened, and the hearts of those around them to lessen their
impact on our country and the world.

We pray to learn and use the wisdom of all that have come before us.
Only when we all learn respect for all things can we truly succeed.
Help us remember that we are related to all things. The earth is our
Mother. All two-legged, four-legged, creatures of the air and water,
and the standing people are our brothers and sisters. What happens to
them also happens to us. Help us to be strong and gentle and
compassionate. Help us to always live in a good way. Help us respect
all of creation in our decisions and actions. Help us remember that
while we have the ability to change our environment and affect all
things, we must be sure that we should do this.

We are thankful for our families, those that we have chosen, and
those that have chosen us. Family is important and precious. Help us
always let them know that we love them; that we are always there to
support them, and that they mean the world to us. We pray that our
children will not repeat our mistakes.

We pray for these things, not for ourselves, but for all our
relations. Hear our prayers. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin. ? All my Relations.

Blessings to all, Bear Limvere

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Two Village Heartbeat events coming up

Invitation for Women Drummers in NoCal

I thought that I would pass on this invitation from Zorina:

"You are invited to the rhythm and ritual retreat for women. This retreat will be an opportunity to experience the simple ways that we can connect with ordinary ritual. Drum , dance, sing, and feel your spirit!
There are 8 slots left for this residential event spanning December 9th, beginning at 6 pm and ending at 3 pm on Sunday , December 11. The retreat will take place in Pescadero at the Venture Retreat. The setting is simple which can allow participants to enter deeply into the world of rhythm.
The cost is $275 per participant before December 1 , including meals and lodging. After that date the price will be $350.
Village Heartbeat


This event is for everyone (starts tonight):

What : TaKeTiNa, an exciting musical group process.
When: November 22th and November 29th
Time: 6:30- 8:30 PM
Where: The Friend's Meeting Hall in Palo Alto at 957 Colorado Avenue.
Donation $2 per person to pay the rent! Comments: This is a bigger space so you are welcome to attendwhether you have experienced TaKeTiNa before or not. Check it out! PS This is a practice group, so we are practicing!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Remembering friends

With Thanksgiving approaching, we are planning for our travels to visit friends and family in Arizona. I am sure that many of you are as well (planning to visit family & friends that is...). The trip to Phoenix is a biannual event for us, as my parents and two of my uncles families gather every year for a friendly family golf tournament and get together for the four day weekend. Four years ago when we attended, there was both a joyous and sad event to commemote. One of my uncle best friends has passed away that year, and since "Bud" had been involved in the annual golf tournament every year since its inception, he was like a member of the family. My aunt and uncle wanted to dedicate and plant a tree on the golf course fairway just outside their patio.
So on the Friday after Thankgiving that year, as a gorgeous Arizona sun was setting, we planted the tree. I played "Amazing Grace" on the NAF, while every member of the gathered circle of friends and family put a shovel full of dirt into the ground around the tree. This year, sadly, we have another passing to commemorate. Another friend of my aunt/uncle has passed this year. Marvel, was a wonderful lady who always had gifts for my kids, even though she only saw them once every two years. I'll always remember her generous spirit. Marvel's tree has already been planted early in the year, but I still plan to bring my flute and play for her tree as I grieve for her passing.
I hope that you find a moment this weekend to play your flute for thansgiving, peace and understand around the world or whatever fills your heart this holiday.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Thanksgiving Stories

Don has posted a couple of stories about Thanksgiving from the Native American perspective on his blog. I was considering posting them here as well but Don beat me to it, so while you're at it, check out his blog.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Kokopelli Christmas Songbook

With the holiday season approaching several folks have inquired about Christmas songs for the Native American Flute. The best book on the market is "A Kokopelli Christmas" by John Sarantos and Kimble Howard. It has a great collection of songs with both Nakai Tab and finger Tab (pictures of the flute fingerings) for both 6 hole and 5 hole flutes. It includes some classics such as: "Away in a manger", "O come all ye faithful" and "Silent Night". It also includes some less popular songs that still sound great on the limited scale of the NAF, including: "Conventry Carol", "Noel Nouvelet" and "Still, Still, Still". I have a half dozen copies for sale at $15 or you can purchase from the Oregon Flute Store. If you're interested in buying a copy, drop me a line at: oitz AT naflute DOT com.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

New "Favorites" feature for the Blog

Repeat vistors might have noticed that I just added a "Favorites" section to the sidebar. I've seen similar elements on other blogs, so I thought that I'd experiment with the blog template to see if I could add my own as well. Note that these are MY favorites, and don't reflect any"official" recommendations of the Northern California Flute Circle. I'd add more over time. I hope that you find this a valuable feature of the blog.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

NCFC Leadership Council Meeting and Member Survey planning

I am trying to schedule a NCFC Leadership Council meeting in the next month for all current and potential clan leaders. We need to work out the 2006 schedule, begin initial planning for the INAFA 2006 conference in August 2006, and discuss new ideas for expanding the circle. I have already received inquiries from 2 new regions who would like to join the NCFC as a new clans. If you are interested in creating a new clan or stepping up to a leadership role in your current clan, please contact me now!! It's always exciting when we have a core group of folks meeting on a frequently basis, who'd like to reach out and join the greater NCFC as a whole. We're also going to need additional leadership in many forms next year with the INAFA conference in Northern California.

In addition, I am working on the Fall 2005 newsletter. One of the key elements for this end of year newsletter is the member survey to help us better understand the needs and desires of our membership. If you'd like to contribute to this, contact me immediately. I am planning both a paper version distributed with the newsletter and an online version.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Shamanic Journey at the Center for Spiritual Living

I attended an excellent musical event on Wednesday Nov 9 this week at the Center for Spiritual Living in San Jose. I learned about this event from my drum teacher and friend Mike Fair who teaches and performs middle eastern drumming (if you're interested in learning to play the RIQ, TAR or doumbek, let me know... I'll put you in touch with Mike). I was further intrigued when I saw my friend and Bay Clan member Pat Wyatt on the bill, playing the Native American Flute.

The Center for Spiritual Living is buried in a residential community in South San Jose. I got off the freeway and followed my google maps to the Center. As I was driving down a residential street I was beginning to wonder if the address was correct. But, as it turns out the Center was right where it should be. The crowd started small, but gradually grew in size as we were serenaded by excellent guitar music (I apologize that I don't know all of the performers from the evening). The event started with a belly dancing performance, in which Mike played rhythm along with another drummer for a belly dancer. After that there was also a jazz dance performance to drumming by Mike and others. The real treat for the evening, however, was the meditation and shamanic journey in which Pat played the flute and Dave led the drumming on a frame drum.

This was my first experience with a shamanic journey. Dave led us on our path by invoking the journey with a strong cadence on the frame drum. It took a few minutes for my brain to relax and settle into the sounds which surrounded me, but my journey began. In my vision, I was met by my spirit guide in the form of a hummingbird. The hummingbird had glittering green feathers covering its body and hovered immediately in front of my face, beckoning me to follow him. As I agreed to follow, I was transformed into a hummingbird form, and my perception was changed such that I immediately could see every beat of my spirit guides wings as if time had slowed down. I also percieved the beat of my own wings and had the ability to fly. My spirit guide beckoned me to follow him again.

He took me on a journey through a huge (even more so from the perspective of a hummingbird) redwood forrest. At first it was very much like the scene from Star Wars as we dodged tree trunks and bushes as we sped along the forrest floor. My spirit guide would disappear behind one tree, only to reappear further up our path rounding another tree trunk. The sunlight played off of the bushes and plants and tree trunks as it filtered through the canopy above. This changed when my spirit guide brought me to the base of a gigantic tree, the largest in the forrest. He waited for me to catch up and then he immediately began to fly around the circumference of the tree as he spiraled up the tree. I followed. I could percieve in great detail the bark of the tree to my right as I followed clockwise around the tree. I could hear the drumming in the background growing in intensity, surrounding me, pushing me on. I took energy from the drumming and continued my journey.

As we sped to the top of the tree, I finally looked down and realized that we were out of the atmosphere, the blue sky had changed to the darkness of outer space. I could see the tree truck extending back through the clouds to mother earth, like the giant beanstalk that Jack climbed. My spirit guide stopped, hovering at the tip of the tree and made it known to me that he could go no further. I could see the stars spreading out above us. I knew that I was on my own from there. I thanked my spirit guide and began the rest of my journey towards the stars.

This where this journey ended. I am not sure what might have happened had I continued my journey or what will happen the next time I journey there. But I must say that I was enthralled by what I experienced and I am still replaying the journey in my mind.

Thanks to Dave, Pat, Mike and the other musicians who made this event possible. I will be back for other events at the Center in the future. I encourage you all to push your comfort level and limits as I did in this experience.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The woes of Sony Digital Rights Management

This is more general music related, than specific NA Flute related. But there has been a huge backlash against Sony Music in recent months about the
Digital Rights Management solution which they have implemented on many of their recent CD releases.
For those who are not familiar with Digital Rights Management, it's all about controlling the capability of a computer user to "rip" a song from a CD to an MP3 or other digital format. Now regardless of how you feel about copyrights and ownership of music by the musician, it's one thing to put the legal muscle behind it, and it's another thing to implement a draconian (in my opinion) method for restricting a users rights.
To make a long story short (
there's plenty of info available on the web), Sony has put a piece of software on some of their recent CD releases which installs itself on your computer when you insert the CD into your CD drive on your computer (normal stereo CD player are not effected...). Basically, this piece of software 'hides' itself deep in your computer and watches for you to play or attempt to copy the CD in question. What most folks are complaining about is that there's no way (for non-geeks) to remove this software from your computer once it's installed itself. Futhermore, it violates some of the basic consumer protections about installing such things as spyware, etc. As a result, it was just announced that Sony is being sued in the State of California over this issue.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a list of Sony CD in question.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

One of a kind, contrabass ocarina

I saw this on the web, it's a contrabass ocarina, built by
Clayzeness Whistleworks' Richard Schmidt on commission from a customer. Sandi and Richard make a wide variety of beautiful and inventive whistles, flutes and ocarinas. I have one of their plastic ocarina's and plastic flutes made under the BearPaw brand. The plastic ocarina plays really well, I highly recommend it for a $10 investment. The plastic flute does well for a $20 plastic flute, but the fingering is not the "easy" mode 1/mode 5 fingering (oh well, when will the flute makers learn that the cheap flutes need to be in the "easy" pentatonic fingering...). Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't forget: R Carlos Nakai in NorCal next week, Nov 18th

See my prior post for details...
Join a global network of Concerts for Peace
The Music for Peace Project, March 31 - April 2, 2006

I just learned about the Music for Peace Project, which is a global effort to fill the world with music as a call for peace.
According the the MP4P website, since its inception in 2003, the annual 3-day Music For Peace Project has sponsored 251 concerts in 30 countries on every continent. Founded by the Musicians' Alliance for Peace (MAP), an international community that promotes empathy, ethical thought and critical social involvement through music, each Music for Peace Project has been shared with audiences as diverse as the music itself.
The Music for Peace Project 2006 continues this tradition. By coordinating a vast number of concerts worldwide between March 31 - April2, 2006, the Music for Peace Project 2006 will bring popular and media attention to international peace efforts while building a global community of socially conscious artists.
To help MP4P reach their goal this year of 500 concerts spanning every continent during the weekend of March 31 - April 2, 2006, they are asking musicians worldwide to perform a concert in the name of peace, or to dedicate a pre-existing concert to the Project. All one must do is complete a simple, 30-second online form -- any musician can participate. I would encourage any of you to schedule and dedicate a concert or event on this weekend. Maybe we can arrange to have a flute circle for every clan during these dates.

To join, and learn more, please go to
write MAP at .

Monday, November 07, 2005

NAFFAQ: What's the most popular wood for making Native American Flutes?

No doubt, the Native American Flute can be made from many different varieties of wood. I would expect that everyone would develop their own preferences over time, as you have the chance to hear and play many different types of flutes/woods.
But the answer to the question: "What's the most popular wood?" would have to be cedar...
There are many varieties of cedar used for flute making today, including:
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Eastern Red Cedar
  • Aromatic Cedar
  • And my favorite: Port Orford Cedar

However, one of the key attributes to cedar is that it is a softwood. In wooden musical instrument manufacturing, different woods are used for different purposes. For example in guitar and violin construction, soft wood like spruce is used for the sound board (top) because they transmit sound the best. In Marimba construction, a hard wood like Paduk is used for the keys. In my experience, my cedar flutes practically jump out of my hands, while my hard wood flutes (like walnut) are much quieter. Of course there are many other elements of flute design which come together to contribute to the 'voice' of the flute, but if every variable could be held constant, then a cedar flute would be louder than a hard wood flute (IMHO). In fact, I only have my custom flutes made from cedar now.

The other consideration is that in the spiritual beliefs of many of the first nations, cedar and the other evergreen trees represent everylasting life, because they don't lose their leaves like the decidous trees do. In this respect, cedar has many spiritual properties which are apart from the sound.

By the way - if you have a question that you'd like me to answer here, send an email to: ncfc AT naflute DOT com

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Now for something completely different...

If you're looking for something completely different, check out the Zapotec Clay Death Whistle. This is a clay vessel made by Nashtavewa (Nash) who is a native of Mexico in the Oaxaca region, but who now resides in Southern California. Nash has studied the craft of clay flute making with Guillarmo Martinez.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Google Print Search Online Now

Despite all of the noise from authors and publishers feeling threatened about Google cataloging the world of print and making it available for the masses to search, Google print is now online. In my opinion, this is just another silly example of "old school" folks not "getting it" when it comes to the new world order. Why wouldn't you want to make your information available to the largest audience? In fact the Google Print interface puts links to purchase the material that you're searching right next to the results. What could be better for bringing new customers to your material? Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I support the new concepts of sharing information (see my prior Creative Commons posts). Anyhow, if you'd like to experience the beta version of Google print check out this sample for Native American Flute.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Information on Native American Languages

I stumbled into (or was led by the spirit to) the
Native American Languages Online Resources website. The Native Languages of the Americas is a small non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and survival of Native American Languages. This website is a growing online collection of information, history, linguistics and vocabulary for over 800 indigious languages of the Western Hemisphere. There is a ton of information currently on the site, more than can be browsed in a few minutes, so make sure that you have some time to spend if you click through to the site.

They also have a webpage dedicated to supporting
Native American Flute Makers.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Support the Commons

You notice that I've added a "Support the Commons" button to the blog today. Creative Commons needs your support to raise enough money to keep it's non-profit status. They need to raise $225K by Dec 31st. You can help by donating as little as $5 to the cause, or buy a T-shirt!. You can click
here to get the HTML to add to your site. Thanks for considering this cause.

Support The Commons

Sunday, October 30, 2005

R. Carlos Nakai in Concert in Sebastapol on Nov 18

R. Carlos Nakai will be in concert on November 18, at HFA - Sebastapol, CA, Community Center, with Keola Beamer. Keola Beamer is a Hawaiian Slack Key guitarist, who released the album "Our Beloved Land" with R Carlos Nakai. I haven't heard the album, but I'll bet it's nice mix. Please drop me a line if you have feedback on this album.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Looking for some Native American Science Fiction?

I just discovered a Science Fiction story written by a Native American author, and I am anxious to read/hear his story. I am a huge science fiction fan and I've also discovered "podio books" in the last 6 months. What's a "podiobook" you ask? Well, for starters a podiobook is similar to an "audiobook" or 'Book on tape" in that it's a reading of a book that you listen to. Podiobooks are a new form of audiobooks in that they leverage the new "podcasting" craze that downloads and delivers audio content to your MP3 player (or iPod...). With an Audiobook you get the whole book on one CD or at one time in one or more computer files. This format means that you can listen to the whole book in one sitting, or at your own pace. Podiobooks, on the onther hand, are set up to send you one chapter each week, so that you space out the book over a longer period. The latest iTunes software now helps you manage your podcast subscriptions. There are also several other Podcast management tools, including ipodder . The good news is that many of the Podiobooks are free, although the authors are asking for a donation if you like the books. I've become addicted to Podiobooks on my weekly 6 hour commute from the Sierra foothills to Sunnyvale, where I work. For NPR fans, it's interesting to note that NPR is now publishing many of the NPR programs for download via Podcast.

If all of this "Podio" stuff sounds too intimidating, you can also download and checkout the written copy of J. Scott Garibay book at By way, notice that J. Scott is distributing this books using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bay Clan Pictures

Here's a few shots from the last Bay Clan Flute Circle, where those in attendance had a hand drumming lesson lead by Bay Clan leader Frankie Sierra.
In addition to learning more about rhythm, folks had the opportunity to improvise and play flutes along with the drummers. Check the NCFC Calendar for the next Bay Clan event. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

iTunes Discovery Download: Blues by Theodis Ealey

Here's something completely different. If you are an iTunes user, the FREE discovery download for the next week on iTunes is the song: "Gimme Just a little Sign" by Theodis Ealey. This is a great blues riff in the key of G. A perfect tune to jam along with on a G flute, I immediately picked up my flute while I was listening to the song for the first time this afternoon!!
Things to do at your next flute circle: Play for a story or poem

Here are two excellent group exercises for your next flute circle:
  1. Have everyone select a poem of their choice to bring to the flute circle to read. Then select one or more people to improvise on the flute along with the reading of each poem. The reader might provide the flute player with some sense of the feeling within the the poem prior to the reading.
  2. Research Native American Stories at your local library or at a bookstore. Select one or more stories to read at the flute circle. Select one or more people to improvise to the story along with the reading. The music should serve as a backdrop to the story, not visa versa...

Both of these exercises develop listening skills in the flute player. The ability to listen while playing and build improvization skills to move the music along with the narrative. Encourage folks to experiment, you can always reread a favorite poem/story so that others can attempt their interpretation of the "musical score". Don't forget that drums and rattles may also be appropriate.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Exercise: The Long Blow

This is a great exercise for beginners and advanced players alike. It is a great way to warm up and transition from the other pressures of your day, into your time to play the flute.
First get comfortable, and sit upright in a chair with your flute. Shoulders relaxed.
Next, take a deep breath, cover the top three notes of the flute with the fingers of one hand, play this one note and hold it as long as you can, until you exhaust all of your air. Try to make the sound a steady tone from beginning to end. Use your ears and your hearing to focus on the sound coming from the flute. It may be helpful to close your eyes while you try this exercise, as you will be able to listen more closely to the note.
When you run out of breath, take another lung full of air and repeat.
You should feel all of the energy come out of you as you finish each breath into the flute. This is a very meditative and centering exercise.
Once you can complete this exercise on one note, practice this for each note of the scale. You should be focusing on creating a nice steady tone from beginning to end for each note.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Just a reminder that the Doc Payne Flute auction starts today!

If you were planning to bid on any of Doc Payne's flutes or just wanna check out the action, don't forget!
The ebay auction can be found herePosted by Picasa
House Concert How To...

House concerts are a quietly growing trend in the universe of musical performance. The world of Native American Flute music and performers are especially viable for house concerts. The NCFC's recent experience with Mark Holland, Elysium Calling and Scott August are several examples of this growing trend. House concerts offer a unique experience for both the performers and the audience, most important of which is the opportunity for a more intimate setting than larger venues.

Some of the key House Concert guidelines include:
  • Concerts are held in private homes or private spaces such as condo recreation halls or common spaces.
  • Profitless motivation, most/all money goes directly to the performer
  • Audience capacity is smaller than other public venues
  • Performance is usually by invitation only
  • Performers typically perform acoustic sets. This is a perfect combination for native american flute players, except where you'd like to have some reverb or other effects on the sound. In the example of Mark Holland, Mark played the majority of his songs along with tracks played on CD. In the case of Scott August, Scott played along with background tracks running on his iMac computer.
  • A meal is usually served in potluck form with the audience bringing the food
  • Traveling performers are sometimes provided room and board for the evening by the host

For performers, house concerts provide an opportunity to perform in a small venue where the audience is typically more attentive than a coffee house, resturant or a bar. House concerts also provide a more fruitful environment for selling CD's than your typical bar or coffee house, offering a greater revenue opportunity for the performance.

Back to the topic of house concerts for Native American Flute, there are many performers out there today who would welcome the opportunity to perform in a house concert setting. Some of these performers are just starting out, others are well known artists. Mark Holland chose to initiate his west coast house concert tour because he wanted to increase his exposure to a west coast audience who didn't know about him. Elysium Calling has built their emerging following out of performances at flute circles and small venues. If you are an budding artist who would like to enhance your career, you might consider the house concert circuit as a path to both expose your music and enhance your performance skills.

Hosting a house concert

The other side of the equation is of course the host. In the NCFC, we've built our flute circles on the model of individual hosts opening their homes for the events. A house concert is only a little different from this model. As a host, you of course need to have the space, either inside or outside, to stage the event, but it doesn't need to be a concert hall. A typical house concert can be anywhere from 20 -50 people. Probably the biggest consideration is parking. I have a vision for my dream house which includes a large enough space to be configured for house concerts, maybe someday this will become a reality...

If you'd like to know more, I found the following two resources online:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Creative Commons Copyrights

I am exploring the use of "Creative Commons Copyrights" for my material posted here. I hate having to add the "copyright by...." after the playing tips and stuff, but since I am pulling it out of my Beginners Guide to the Native American flute, I have to do this in order to protect the document. But I'd also like folks to be able to borrow what they need, because for the most part I have borrowed the knowledge that was lent me by those who came before.

In researching the Creative Commons Copyright idea, I have learned that this is an interesting new way to provide access and use of your material, while protecting some of your rights as a copyright owner.

First of all, copyrights are protected as soon as you finish your material, whether or not you include the famous (C) symbol. This includes any song which you record, or lyrics, poem, or story which you write. You own the exclusive rights to copy, distribute and sell this material.
Let's say that you create and record a new song with your flute. If you burn this to a CD or post it online on a bulletin board, you own the copyrights to the song. That means that someone is not entitled to take your recording and use it as a soundtrack for their class project or vacation slideshow. But what if you'd like to give folks the rights to use your awesome new song as long as they don't make money from their new creation? Well, they can certainly contact you for a release of the copyright, but unfortunately this requires a bit of knowledge and probably some lawyer-speak to do it right. This is where the Creative Commons was born. The Creative Commons defines a new spectrum of copyright possibilities where you can "preapprove" some uses of your material, while restricting others. Creative Commons provides standard "Copyright" definitions which include common language that anyone can read, the lawyer speak that will hold up in a court, and computer readable language that will (in the future) support computer searches for material with specific Creative Common licenses. This means that when you publish (or upload) a song with a Creative Commons license, you can tell the world that (for example) commercial uses of your material are restricted, but any non-commercial use is OK as long as you are given credit for the material. A FAQ is posted on the Creative Commons website.
I will post more on this topic in the coming weeks as I learn more about the issues involved.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Butch Hall Flute Raffle Winner!
Here's a picture of a happy Sandra Jones, from the NCFC Bay Clan, who was the raffle winner of the Butch Hall Mita la Cola flute at the Fall NCFC Camping trip in September 2005. We raffled off the Butch Hall flute (thanks Butch!), several NCFC logo items and some CD's to the campers in attendance at the end of Scott August's performance that Saturday night. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Glen Velez in San Francisco in November

Alright, admittedly this post isn't about the Native American Flute, but if you love world music, then you can't miss seeing Glen Velez while he's in Northern California next month. Glen Velez is simply one of the premier frame drummers alive in the world today. Glen changed the world of frame drumming when he began to mix a variety of classical and modern drumming techniques on the frame drum. This is an opportunity that you won't want to miss. If you can afford it, check out the frame drumming class with Glen on November 20th. Glen rarely gets to the west coast.

Thursday, November 17, 2005
Performance with Coleman Barkes
Herbst Theater

San Francisco, CA

Friday, November 19, 2005
Urban Medicine: A Potent Brew of World Music
Trio concert with Lori Cotler & Stephen Kent
California Institute for Integral Studies

7-9 pm
CIIS Main Building, $20
1453 Mission St.San Francisco, CA

Sunday, November 20, 2005
Introduction to Frame Drumming, with Glen Velez, 10am-1pm, CIIS Main Building, $65/$130 for both Velez workshops.
Advanced Techniques for Frame Drumming, with Glen Velez, 3-6pm, CIIS Main Building, $85/$130 for both Velez workshops, 415.575.6175
California Institute of Integral Studies
1453 Mission St.San Francisco, CA

Monday, October 17, 2005

Fipple Designs - For Native American Flute

I found an excellent link on Clint Goss's website describing the various fipple designs for the Native American Flute. Remember that the design of the sound hole is what gives your flute its unique voice. This is where the sound is produced, and the design of the fipple and the sound hole both contribute significantly to the voice of a flute. My personal choice is for the air channel to be partially in both the fipple and body of the flute. This design allows the splitting edge of the sound hole to be positioned in the center of the airstream, and I've found that if done properly, it produced the clearest tone in the voice. Generally, IMHO, flutes which put the air channel entirely in the fipple are more "airy" than other designs, although this isn't necessarily a bad design. It all depends on how the flute maker intended to voice the flute.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

INAFA Flute Raffle: Brent Haines Flute

This quarter INAFA is raffling a Brent Haines Flute . Raffle tickets are only $3 a piece, a small price to pay for a Brent Haines flute, plus the money goes to a good cause. Check out the link for to see this awesome flute.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Doc Richard Payne's Flute Auction

Good news for those who'd like to own one of Doc Payne's flutes, but can't afford to fly to Albuquerque to be at the auction to bid in person. The auction is going to be carried on Ebay Live Auctions. Click here to see the list of flutes online. Don't expect to find any inexpensive flutes here, these are all collectors items, and from what I've previewed online the majority of flutes left for sale in this auction are the flute documented in Doc Payne's book: "The Native American Plains Flute". I expect that most will go for between $500 and $1000. There is also a 20% fee for purchasing through the Ebay live auction, but that may be less expensive than a flight to Albuquerque for a single flute.

Note, that INAFA would welcome the donation of any of these flutes to their permenant archive. Doc Payne was a board member of INAFA. So if you're feeling especially generous, I would encourage you to consider this option.

I am also considering the formation of an "investment group" to bid on and purchase one or more of these flutes. If this is something that you'd be interested in, drop me a line quick to: mike DOT oitzman AT gmail DOT com.
NAFFAQ: The flute won’t make a sound when I blow into it. What’s wrong?

There may be several causes.

  1. Always check the position of the Bird/fipple to make sure that it is properly positioned (see my earlier post on positioning the fipple).
  2. Make sure that the flute has not watered out.
  3. Make sure that there is no foreign material in the compression chamber of the flute (i.e. lint, spiders, etc…). You may need to disassemble the flute by taking off the bird to be able to look up through the compression chamber.
  4. Last, but not least, make sure that the bird/fipple is on facing in the correct direction, especially if you've just removed/replaced the bird/fipple.

A funny story here. I had a student in one of my classes who brought her own flute to class. If was flute that was gifted to her several years earlier. She was having difficultly making a good sound out of the flute, so I asked if I could play her flute. When I attempted to blow through the flute, I immediately noticed the flute was very difficult to blow through. Upon further inspection, I found that the flute had the egg sack from a prior "litter" of spiders in the breathing end (slow air chamber) of the flute. (The spiders were long ago hatched....). It turns out that the flute had been displayed on her fireplace mantel and not played for many years. We solved the problem by removing the spider egg case with a pencil (which happened to be the right diameter). Her flute played fine after that.

By the way - if you have a question that you'd like me to answer here, send an email to: ncfc AT naflute DOT com

Thursday, October 13, 2005

News about the Apple Video iPod and digital recording

I was gifted an Apple iPod Shuffle back in July. Until that point, I had resisted buying an MP3 player, although my laptop is full of my flute CD's in MP3 form. I listen to flute music all day at work, because I do a lot of writing and other computer work in my job. Well the Shuffle turned out to be a great gift, I love it's compact design and since I usually shuffle my songs on the PC, it's perfect for me. The only problem was its limited memory, I couldn't get all my songs on it. I also have a CD player in my car that plays MP3's so I can listen to a large selection of music burned as MP3's in the car on my long commute. I have friends who have the larger (original) iPod's who swear about the advantage's of being able to rip all of their CD's onto one device, and now with the car adapters, they no longer use their in car CD players. I guess I am finally seeing the vision.
Now, with the announcement this week of the new Apple Video iPod, I am really interested in purchasing one. But it get's even better... I just learned that the new Apple iPod will also be able to record high quality audio (44.1Khz) in stereo. Thus making the iPod Video an excellent portable digital recorder. For flute players, this means that you'll be able to take your flute music anywhere and record your songs as they come to you. What a great combination! I've been considering the purchase of digital recorder to do field recording (like at flute circles), so this may well do the trick. I can't wait to read more reviews on this topic. I'll post more as I learn about it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mayan Gourd Drum and Ceder Flute Making Class Oct 15/16

Guillarmo Martinez will be in town to teach two classe s this weekend at the Caning Shop in Berkeley. The Mayan Gourd Drum class is on Saturday and the Cedar Flute class is on Sunday. I took the Mayan Drum class a couple of years ago and came away with a wonderful drum. This was the start of my drum making career. I am still growing bottle gourds (I've several in the garden this year) from that original gourd that I cleaned out in that class. This is an experience not to be missed.
Bay Clan Flute Circle on October 16th

The Bay Clan has scheduled a flute circle for this coming Sunday, October 16th. Frankie just got back from the Zion Art and Flute Festival and he is excited to share memories / stories from the event. You can also view this on the NCFC Calendar.

When: Sunday, October 16th
Time: 1 PM thru 4 PM.
New for this meeting:
1. We will show the video documentary "Songkeepers".
2. There will be a beginners hand drumming workshop.
3. And a report from the Zion Art and Flute Festival.
Please e-mail Frankie Sierra for address and details: f DOT sierra AT comcast DOT net

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Back from Amsterdam - a tale of jetlag...

I returned from my trip to Amsterdam on Saturday. Here it is Monday and I'm finally over my jetlag. Usually I'll take a Tylenol PM to help me sleep all night on the evening that I return from a long flight and this usually does the trick to get me back in the timezone. But since I got back home on Saturday morning at 2 AM and I had a gig early in the afternoon on Saturday, I didn't want to chance being too drugged out for my performance, so I skipped it. My performance was great, I was running on adrenaline. I got to sleep early on Saturday night, only to wake up at 2AM on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I was awake for 3 hours before I could go back to sleep.
So I FINALLY took a Tylenol PM on Sunday night, and woke up feeling great after 8 hours of solid sleep on Monday morning. Glad that's over.

Regarding Amsterdam, I had a great time. It was fun to be in one city for the whole week, unlike my usual business trips to Europe where it's a different city every day for a week. I took my flutes downtown and played for all of the shoppers on Thursday evening. The stores are open late on Thursdays in Amsterdam (good thing to know...). I needed the practice badly as I hadn't had the chance to practice all week in the hotel. Wouldn't you know it, the only ones to throw me money were my workmates (and then they promptly picked it up, the thieves...). Actually, I wasn't playing for money, I didn't want to piss off any of the other street musicians, and well I don't need the cash anyway. I am hoping to post a picture when I get some back from my work friends who were there.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Guitar Chords to accompany the Native American Flute

Do you have the opportunity to jam with a guitar player? If so, the enevitable question is what chords to play along with what key for the flute (or visa versa). Once again, Clint Goss has some excellent material on his website about the guitar chords that go along with the various NAF keys. Note that the chord definitions can also be viable for playing along with a piano player who can improvise around a lead sheet.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

NAF Playing Tip #3: Breathing
by Mike Oitzman

This is the first in a series of tips about proper breathing.

Breathing is the most important aspect of learning to play the flute. In many ways your breath is the life of the flute. In some traditions it is said that the flute maker removes the heart of the wood from the flute in order to make the flute, and it is up to the flute player to “put the heart of the flute” back in with their breath. I have played the guitar for 25 years now, and never played a woodwind before I discovered the Native American Flute. I have discovered so much more expression in playing the flute than I have ever been able to achieve with the guitar. I would say that this is because of the use of the breath, and the fact that speaking and playing both rely on the breathe for expression. Most of the traditional flute songs were extensions of vocal songs or vocalizations that had been handed down from generation to generation. In this way proper breathe control is the difference between simply playing the flute and really playing the flute.
As with any physical activity, practicing correct breathing is as important as playing the correct notes. Flute playing is a vascular activity, one that requires practice. You’ll notice a difference when you haven’t played for a while and then pick up your flute again.
We are going to concentrate on stomach breathing or breathing from the diaphragm. This is the same technique used in singing.


Correct posture is the first key to breathing properly. To practice the flute, you should be sitting comfortably with both feet flat on the floor. There are three things to think about in your posture: Back, shoulders and arms.

  • Your back should be erect but not at “military attention”.
  • Relax your shoulders and let them drop. As you (re)learn how to stomach breath, remember not to let your shoulders creep back up.
  • Your elbows should be comfortably by your side, hanging from your shoulders.

Copyright 2001 by Mike Oitzman. This playing tip or exercise may not be reproduced in any form, electronic or print without the express written permission of the author.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

NAFFAQ: Should I keep my “pinkies” on the flute all the time?

The answer here is to do what feels most natural. I use my pinkies as a guide to locate the flute, which subsequently leads my other fingers to the holes. So my pinkies (which aren’t covering any holes) tend to come off of the flute as I move up the scale, but are the first to fall back to the flute when I start back down the scale. This may sound like a lot to think about when you are playing, but with practice it becomes autonomic. If you find that you are missing the holes with your fingers as you go to put your fingers down to play a note, you might stop and look at what your pinkies are doing during all this. Your pinkies also serve to help stablize the flute when you lift all of your other fingers from the holes as you move up the scale.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mary Youngblood Concert on Oct 15th

Mary Youngblood will be performing at the Woodland Opera House Theater on Saturday October 15th at 8PM. The Woodland Opera House is just 5 minutes north of the Sacramento Airport, which is about 2 a two hour drive from the bay area and about 1.5 hour drive from Modesto. This is a great opportunity to see Mary live in concert. (PS - Mary loves to invite folks from the audience to play along with her, so bring a drum or rattle)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Travel Abroad

I am in Amsterdam this week on business and I brought my flutes along for the trip since I have a performance this coming weekend when I return home. I didn't want to bother with carrying my flutes on the plane so I packed them into my checked baggage. First of all, I didn't pack any of my cherished flutes, as I didn't want to trust them to the checked baggage because I had to change planes in Houston. Secondy, I packed my flutes in the standard Laughing Mallard flute cases and the flute cases fit perfectly into my large TravelPro wheeled suitcase with enough room left for a weeks worth of clothes. Everything arrived in perfect shape. I've heard a lot of stories about folks getting stopped at security with their flutes, and I didn't want to bother with that issue either.

There are several online resources for information about traveling with musical instruments, and if you plan to travel with your flutes you should definitely check with the air carrier before arriving at the airport. If I was to bring along one of my invaluable flutes, like my Woodsong flute, I definitely wouldn't let it out of my sight. I always travel with at least one flute, usually one small enough to fit into my bag. The Ken Light PF Series is a great travel flute, BUT note that this flute isn't fingered in the 'easy tuning', rather Ken uses his own fingering. I don't recommend this flute as an entry level flute (it makes a great addition after you've learned to play the easy fingering... my opinion). Sam Kurz, also makes a 5N1 flute which breaks down into a nice compact package that is easily packable.

Here are some online resources for traveling with instruments:

Nation Association for Musical Education
American Federation of Musicians

Thursday, September 29, 2005

NAF Playing Tip #2: Cover holes with finger pads
by Mike Oitzman

It is important to make sure to completely cover the holes of the flute with your finger pads, not your fingertips. You type on a keyboard and play the piano with your fingertips, but this is poor flute playing technique. You should cover the finger hole with the “meaty” part of your finger pad.
Try this simple test to see if you are covering the holes correctly:

  1. Cover all of the holes of the flute with the correct fingers.
  2. Press and hold down your fingers on the flute holes (make sure that the finger holes are completely covered)
  3. Count to five (one Kokopelli, two Kokopelli…)
  4. Lift your fingers away from the flute, and look at the circular impressions from the holes on your fingers. Are they all on the finger pads, or are some on the fingertips?
  5. Put your fingers back on the flute and adjust those fingers that were improperly positioned.

Remember, it is important to get into good habits early in your playing career as you develop the finger memory for how your fingers want to cover the holes.

Copyright 2001 by Mike Oitzman. This playing tip or exercise may not be reproduced in any form, electronic or print without the express written permission of the author.