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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

NAF Frequently Asked Question (FAQ): Why does the flute squeak sometimes?

The most common cause for squeaks is air leaking out through an improperly covered hole. When the flute squeaks, immediately freeze your fingers on the holes and see if you can repeat it. Then try adjusting your fingers and blow again. 90% of the time you will discover that one of your fingers slipped off a hole slightly or you had misplaced a finger on a hole. Another source of squeaking can be an improperly positioned bird. This typically presents itself when more than one note squeaks, and it seems like nothing is working (with your fingers) to improve the situation
Finally, you may be pushing too much air through the flute. In this case you are "overblowing" the note. For beginners, try to think "whisper" rather than "shout" as you blow into the flute. As you advance in your playing, overblowing becomes an ornamentation technique...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dr Richard Payne's Flute Collection to be Auctioned

It's worth noting that the remaining flutes from Dr. Richard Payne's flute collection will be auctioned off in Albuquerque, N.M. on October 21-23, 2005. This will be the last chance to own a flute from the collection of one of the most influential NAF flute collectors. Dr Payne was featured in the video "Songkeepers" and it highlights his influence on the resurrection of the NAF and on many of the flute players and flute makers in the business today. If you haven't seen this video, it's a must see. I show it to all of my beginning students because I want them to have a sense of the history of the instrument. He is also featured in a biography video called "Toubat", you can purchase a copy of either video from the Oregon Flute Store. I was never fortunate enough to met Dr Payne while he was alive, but those who did met him tell me that he was an incredible man. One of my favorite parts of the Toubat video is when you get to see the incredible collection of flutes hanging on the walls of Dr Paynes home. Many of his flutes of lessor importance where auctioned earlier in the year on eBay, so I imagine that the best flutes are left for this auction.

The auction will be at the Wyndham Hotel, 2910 Yale Blvd SE, Albuquerque, NM, 87106. To order a catalog for the auction, contact: RG Munn Auction at (505) 678-3676

Note: this information came from the latest INAFA newsletter, another good reason to join INAFA

Monday, September 26, 2005

INAFA Conference Dates August 2-6, 2006

As promised, we now have the official dates for the INAFA conference next year. The dates will be Aug 2-6, 2006, in Belmont CA. I am starting to get questions about the conference, but I'd like ask folks to contact INAFA directly. There are still a lot of logistics to work out with an event of this size and Kathleen Joyce from INAFA will be coordinating it all. The role of the NCFC will be to help with volunteers before and during the event. We want to make sure that there a consistent information, so I will be forwarding any questions on to Kathleen to answer. As information becomes available, it will be posted on the INAFA website. You can reach Kathleen Joyce and INAFA at this email address: INAFA at AOL dot COM

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The best Flute under $50?

As a flute teacher, I am constantly on the hunt for good quality, inexpensive flutes to recommennd and sell to my beginning students. One of the best flute makers in the industy (IMHO) is Butch Hall. Butch has been making flutes for a long time and I always loved his $49 Little Horse flute in A minor. But, for the longest time, Butch made his flutes with his trademark fingering. Butch designed his flute fingering to enable an octave and a half (15 notes) in his flute, something that I admire becuase of the extended range of the flutes. However, for beginner students, I recommend starting with a flute with the 'easy tuning'. Butch makes one of the easiest to build flute kits, which he tunes in the easy tuning, so two years, while I was making a purchase of bunch of flute kits for a class, I asked Butch if he would consider making his Little Horse flute with the easy tuning fingering. Unfortunately, his reply was that to keep the price low on the Little Horse, he already had established the jigs for drilling the holes, and that it wouldn't be cost effective to change. I understood the answer... fast forward to today.
While I certainly can't take credit for Butch's decision to change, but I can give him many kudo's for the making the choice to offer the Little Horse now with the easy fingering (mode 1/mode 4). The other thing that has enabled Butch to offer this flute is that he is drilling all of his 7/8 inch flutes, and I think that improves the accuracy of the sound.
In addition to the Little Horse, Butch is also offering his Le Mita Cola (retail $59?) which is the big brother to the Little Horse, in the key of G minor. So in my opinion, if you or someone you know is looking for great entry level instrument, I highly recommend both of these flutes by Butch Hall.

Friday, September 23, 2005

NAF Playing Tip Number 1: Positioning the Bird or Fipple
by Mike Oitzman

This is my first post of Native American Flute playing tip's. I didn't want to commit to a "Tip of the week", so we'll see how frequently I can post on this topic.
If you have a question that you want answered send it to: ncfc at naflute dot com (you'll need to construct that email address appropriately...)

So on to this first tip: Positioning the Bird or Fipple

Before playing the flute, you may need to adjust the Bird (AKA Fetish or Fipple) of the flute, as it may have shifted while transporting your flute, or laying the flute down may have knocked the Bird out of alignment. Moving the Bird actually changes the sound of the flute. Every time I get a new flute I spend some time moving the Bird around to find the “sweet spot” for the bird. I then move the Bird progressively forward and backward to find the limits of the Bird placement. This helps me to understand the sonic possibilities of the flute. To properly position the Bird you need to find the optimal position for the bird. NOTE: I usually make a light mark on the flute with a pencil to note the optimal position of the fipple, this lets me quickly reposition the bird when I am on stage during a performance or presentation.

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.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Two Big NA Flute Events upcoming in the West!

If you haven't heard about, or seen the recents posts, there are two events coming up that I would recommend, if you can get to them:

Oct 7-9 - Zion Canyon Art and Flute Festival
Springdale, Utah
This event features a long list of performers, including Peter Phippen, Coyote Oldman, Saggio, Raymond Redfeather & Dennis Sizemore and it looks like it's going to be a great 3 day event. In fact, several folks from the NCFC are planning to go. If you're interested in going, contact Frankie Sierra (bayclan at naflute dot com)

Oct 22 2005 - Circle of Harmony
Poway - Southern California
This event is being sponsored by Whirlwind Studios. If you can get to So Cal for this event, it will be an event to remember. Mac Lopez always put on a great event (in fact this event is so big that he's started doing it every couple of years). Also, there are 3 awesome flutes to be raffled at this event, including a flute by Geri Littlejohn, a flute by Billy Crowbeak and a flute by Whirlwind Studios. Contact Mac Lopez (Mac at whirlwindstudios dot com) to purchase a ticket for the flute raffle.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

2005 NCFC Camping Trip Memories

Well the 2005 camping trip is now just a memory. But what a memory it is!
We had a wonderful time in the Santa Cruz mountains last weekend for the fifty year in a row. The weather was beautiful, if not a tiny bit cold...
On Friday night, we hosted Elysium Calling in concert. Garth and Kenneth played selections off their new album: Imagination. They also invited folks from the audience to come up and jam with them throughout the evening. It was a great show.
On Saturday, Scott August was up for the day. He presented a beginners workshop in the morning and I know that Walt and Barbara (the two folks present who are just starting their flute path) appreciated Scotts insight. I know that Dan and I learned a few tricks from Scott's teaching style. I always appreciated seeing how others present the instrument to new players.
In the afternoon, we had Scott present a songwriting/composing workshop. Since Scott is a composer in his 'day job' this was a unique opportunity to learn from a pro. Scott presented many ideas for putting a composition together, starting with what he called "atoms" and building from there. As the last exercise, he sent us all into the woods for 30 minutes to compose a song using the skills he has taught us. When we returned, everyone - including the beginners in the crowd, played their composition. It was fun to see everyones idea come together, even in that short period of time.
On Saturday evening, Scott played a concert featuring tunes off his new album: New Fire. It was spectacular. Even though Scott played along to recorded tracks (flute karioke) in the background, he kept it interesting with rattles and other sound effects. I especially enjoyed the song "Sombra de la luna" which features a Clay Mayan Moon Goddess flute made by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl
We're not sure if we're going to have the camping trip next year, with the INAFA conference happening in the bay area. If we do, don't miss it.
NCFC Wins bid to Host 2006 INAFA Conference!!

If you haven't heard the good news, the Northern California Flute Circle has won the bid to host the 2006 INAFA conference. What's the INAFA Conference you say?
Well, INAFA is the International Native American Flute Association, a organization dedicated to the preservation of the Native American Flute. Members recieve a quarterly newsletter dedicated to the Native American Flute and packed with interviews, songs and stories.
Every two years, INAFA puts on a week long conference with workshops, concerts and vendors. Next year, we get to be the host circle.
We don't have the exact dates yet, but it's lo0king like the first week of August 2006. I'll post as soon as I get the final details. The conference will be held at Notre Dame College in Belmont, in the San Francisco bay area.
I want to personally thank Bob DiMattei for his hard work and dedication to winning this bid for the NCFC. Now the real work begins as we work with Kathleen at INAFA to settle the many details for the event.
I won't even talk about my lazyness in posting to this blog the last 15 months. BUT needless to say, I am back at it and committed to keeping up date with the latest things going on with the Northern California Flute Circle.