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