Friday, March 31, 2006

First Flute story

Jon Sherman, on the Montana listserv sent this message:

"Here's a wonderful telling of the first flute by Dakota elder Mary LouiseDefender Wilson. At the link there's a transcript and an audio mp3. It's really good to hear it told. The ending is one I hadn't heard before.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

NAF Playing Tip #14: The Fade

The fade is simply an extension of the “Long Blow” exercise that we learned in an earlier playing tip. The key difference to the fade is that it should start as a strong, steady note that gradually fades (hence the name) to silence. The Fade is typically played at the end of a phrase or a song. A Fade can either be a short Fade or a long Fade, but it should be a linear decrease in the volume from the beginning of the Fade through the end point. The difficulty in learning to do the Fade is that each flute that you play will fade differently, and high/low notes will have different characteristics in the volume of air required to perform the fade. The figure below illustrates the difference between a normal note and a fade. The vertical axis is volume, the horizontal axis is time.


To better understand the fade, lets try the “Long Blow” exercise combined with a fade. To do this, cover the top three holes of the flute. Take a breath and blow a long steady note on the flute. Next, try to blow the same length of note, only decrease the volume of the note at a steady rate until there is no more sound coming from the flute. This is a fade! Practice this until you can fade both long and short notes.

Alternatively, start with a short fade on a note and play progressively longer fades with the same note. With each new note increase the time to fade to silence but play the fade in way that the decrease in sound is continous (linear) from start to end.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

JP Gomez Flutes available

I just got word that JP Gomez (Heartsong Flutes) has some new flutes for sale. If you've never played or heard one of JP's flutes, then you're really missing something. JP is near the top of my flute wish list, and it's rare that he has this many new flutes available at one time. Usually the backlog is long for a custom made flute from JP. So if you're in the market for a new flute (even if you aren't) check out these new flutes from JP.

Musical Echos coming up

For anyone with the resources or opportunity to travel to the east coast, Musical Echoes is a month away... and this has become a large spring Native American Flute event. It looks like there is a great line up of both guest artists and workshops. They also have a nice website with lots of pictures. Musical Echos is also known for its flute playing competition.

The guest artists include

  • Bill Miller
  • Jeff Ball
  • Coyote Oldman
  • Robert Tree Cody
  • Arvel Bird
  • Raymond Redfeather
  • Billy Whitefox
  • Michael DeMaria
  • Ed Winddancer
  • Nation of Change

The NAF playing competition finalists are:

  • Sharon Ellis, VA
  • Randy Granger, NM
  • Gordon Gulledge, FL
  • Julie Harris, NY
  • Mike Serna, TN

Workshops include:

  • Advanced Flute Playing Techniques .......taught by Jeff Ball
  • The Art of Recording........Coyote Oldman (Michael Graham Allen)
  • Craft Your Own River Cane flute..........Jim Gilliland (winner of 2005 Musical Echoes flute makers competition.)
  • The Art of Jamming......Dusty Moore (this one will be a blast!)
  • Learn to Read Tablature for the NAF.......Robin Horne
  • Basket Weaving......Connie Swanger
  • Flute Making, Tuning and finishing......Raymond Redfeather

Visit the website for more information!
Musical Echoes Gathering
Apr. 28-30, 2006
Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March Madness

I am not a huge basketball fan (even if I am 6'5"...), but I always love an underdog story. Here's a video of an autistic basketball player that a workmate sent me that will make you smile, a true champion story.

Grand Canyon Flutes

I recently discovered a new online Native American Flute vendor called "Grand Canyon Flutes".
This is not an endorsement, and I have not purchased anything from them yet, but they do have one of the nicest looking Native American Flute websites that I've seen in a while (although our friends from the Oregon Flute Store have recently redone their website).

If you've purchased something from Grand Canyon Flute, please leave a comment to this post letting everyone know whether they are a good vendor or not. It's nice to see the market emerging for flute resellers.

Looks like they are reselling flute from various flutemakers, including:

Grand Canyon Flutes also seems to be one of the few folks selling a variety of flute racks.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Bay Clan Circle coming up on April 2!

Frankie Sierra sent the following information about the upcoming NCFC Bay Clan Flute Circle:

EVENT: March Bay Clan Flute Circle and Flute Play Along Experiment
DATE: Sunday, March 33rd (April 2nd), 2006
TIME: 4 to 7 pm
LOCATION: Sunnyvale, CA (send e-mail to organizer for details)
HOST: Ruth
ORGANIZER: Frankie Sierra 1-408-204-FLUTE, bayclan AT naflute DOT com

SCHEDULE: (Important: remember this day to push the clock forward 1 hour for daylight savings time).
4:00 PM: Short Stories and Poems with Flute Play Along (45 minutes).
4:45 PM: CD Music with Flute Play Along (45 minutes).
5:30 PM: Potluck social, and INAFA convention talks (30 minutes).
6:00 PM: Group Fluting Games (30 minutes).
6:30 PM: Open flute time.
Ongoing: Douglas Spotted Eagle First Breath DVD playing on laptop.

1. Flute play along with poems, stories, and popular music.
2. We will try some group fluting games for a change.
3. First Breath DVD will be showing in the background for those who haven't seen it before, or in a long time.

WHAT TO BRING:Let see...oh yes, your flutes, of course. Since we will behaving a potluck, and dish to share will be great. I will bring a KFC bucket, so you can plan on complementing around that. And our hostess will provide drinks. For the play along segments, you may want to think of a favorite poem, short story, or music CD you would like to share with others.If you know people interested in native flute playing, or just listening, please invite them as well. And we always welcome other instruments to play along with (eg: drums, didg's,guitars, etc).

THINGS TO TALK ABOUT: It's time to start planning for INAFA convention in August. We will need a few volunteers for staffing the INAFA booth,and also for helping visitors and vendors during conventionhours. I will like to suggest we create a signoff sheet for volunteers so they can choose the hour slots they can commit. This way people can plan attending some of the events, andvolunteer at times around the events of interest. Bob DeMattei also informed me, that we may need some temporary storage help for vendors who would like to ship stuff ahead of the event, but we may be running short on facilities for such storage at the venue. And we can also talk about hosting musicians from Autum's Child band (Mark Hollands group) on the evening of August 4th. We have pledges to accomodate 2 out of 3 (thus we are still looking for accomodations for the last musician).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

NAF FAQ: Where can I find online sources of NAF Sheet Music?

There are a couple of sources for free NAF sheet flute online.

I highly recommend Flute Tree. This site by Robert Gatliff provides the notes for many songs online. The best part is that you can choose how you want to view the notes and the fingering your flute is using so that the tablature matchs the fingering of your flute. If you don't read flute tab, then you can choose the "piano roll" version, which gives a real nice representation of the note timing for non musical trained folks.

There are several Yahoo Groups focused on NAF Sheet music. You'll need to join the groups to view and download the posted sheet music files. If you don't want to receive the emails you can setup your yahoo user account to read the messages online.:

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Internet Wayback Machine

If you want to take a stroll down memory lane, you should check out the Internet "Wayback Machine" on the Internet Archive. (look for the Wayback Machine dialog box near the top of the screen).
The Internet Archive has been taking snapshots of the entire world wide web since 1996. With it, you can look at earlier versions of current web URL's or view the content of extinct URL's (dead websites). Be prepared to wait a little while for the archived webpages to load. I found that this was an interesting review of earlier content on the web for Native American Flute resources on the web. Try searching the wayback machine for some of these URL's:

On the Internet Archive, you'll also find an amazing storehouse of moving images, live music archive (Attention NA Flute artists: submit your concerts!!!), audio recordings and text articles.
WARNING: don't go browsing unless you've got several hours to kill wandering around the archives!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

NAF Playing Tip #13: Interacting with the audience

Audience interaction is a critical skill that any top performer needs to master. Whether you are performing for a small group of folks, like a flute circle, or when you are onstage at a major venue, the rules are the same. You want each member of the audience to feel like your performance is just for them. I seen performers come on stage and deliver a spectacular musical performance, yet never connect with the audience. And I've seen other's who have delivered a mediocre performance in musical terms, yet deliver a fantantic overall experience through their interaction with the audience and setup for the song. Now I am not suggesting that you turn a musical performance into a lecture, but thinking about your 'banter' in your setup and conclusion to each song goes along way to make the musical performance that much more special. It also helps to reduce the stress that you are feeling on stage, when you can connect with the folks in the audience.

If you don’t enjoy performing, there’s no reason to really do it. It’s that simple. The audience should be your ally. The best adrenaline rushes come from the interaction between performer and the audience. As a performer, you have the task of defining the performance. You are the magician making the magic happen (or not happen) on stage.

Here are a few tips:

  • Even seasoned performers get nervous.
  • Look at your audience; connect with them through eye contact. If someone lights up (as in smiles...not tobacco or something else...) when you look at him or her, you’ve made contact, and you can use this to help lighten up your nervousness.
  • Smile, relax, take a deep breath. Even though you are on stage, you don't have to be talking or playing every moment. It's OK to adjust/tune your flute/instument between songs, just don't let this linger toooo long.
  • Enjoy the adrenaline rush; it’s one of the reasons why most people get hooked on performing. If you don’t enjoy the adrenaline rush, your performing career will be short lived.
  • Invite people you know, love or trust to be a part of the audience. Their presence will help to calm your nerves.
  • Tell a story between songs (see a future playing tip)
  • Close your eyes when you play. What better way to remove the distractions of the situation and get lost in the moment.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

New BLOG focused on Framedrumming

I've started a new blog, focused on framedrums, hand drums and middle eastern rhythms. It's at I'll use that blog to post the more dance and middle eastern drumming topics, but I'll still post relevant Northern California related drumming topics here for the folks interested in things which are happening in NoCal.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Latest Kalimba Creation

During the Christmas holidays this year, I had some extra time on my hands, so I finally got around to assembling some kalimbas from materials which I purchased over a year ago. They are really simple to create, in fact I bought the wood already cut at Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) store. The wood is alder, 1/4" thick, and the top and bottom pieces come in 5" x 24" planks, and the side pieces come in 1.5" x 24" strips. I cut the basic box to measure 5" x 8" x 2". Really simple, only a few cuts with the saw and you're ready to glue it together. The clamp is made from U channel, cut from an old shelf bracket (you know the movable shelfs that you attach to the wall. A piece of aluminum bar (also from OSH) clamps the keys. The only part which took a bit of looking was the spring steel for the keys.
On an earlier prototype, I used the fingers from an old rake. But the best supplier for new material is Music Kits. They have it in any length you want. If you're not one for cutting, you can also purchase a complete kit from Music Kits. In fact, they have a wonderful selection of kits to assemble everything from a harp, to a guitar, to a banjo.

The Kalimba has 8 keys, and it has a diatonic tuning in the key of G major. Tuning a kalimba is bit of a chore, but I've quickly learned that if you make the key a little sharp (too short) then it's easy to tap it into tune a bit at a time from the rear (top) of the kalimba. Having a digital tuner helps a lot.

The picture below shows the basic contruction of the kalimba.

I decided to finish one of the kalimbas as a "going away" gift for one of my friends from work, Cordelia. I wanted to do some woodburning and she loves birds so she asked if I could put a raven on it. I wanted to do something Native American style and I found a wonderful image of a North Western Pacific style raven, which I woodburned on the back of the kalimba. You can see the work in the image below.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

Help with Housing for INAFA Convention

If you live in the Bay Area and would like to open your home for a guest or two during the INAFA Convention in August, we'd like to hear from you now! We have fielded inquiries from several musicians and flutemakers who will be traveling to California for the event, and they would like to find housing for one to three nights during the event. This is a great opportunity to get to know these musicians and flutemakers on a personal level.

Likewise, if you are a flutemaker/vendor or musician performing at the INAFA Convention, feel free to contact us with your travel schedule and houing needs. Email: ncfc AT naflute DOT com

Friday, March 17, 2006

Mary Youngblood in Concert tomorrow 3/18

I just learned that Mary Youngblood will be playing Native American Flute music in Nevada City tomorrow, 3/18 at a Benefit concert for the Nevada County School District. Mary's website gives some details on the event. I don't have anymore detail on how long Mary will play or when she's going on stage, but here are the details:

Miners Foundry
325 Spring St.
Nevada City, CA

NAFLUTE passes the 1000 visitor mark

Happy St Patty's day!
I want to thank all of the folks who visit regularly and who have passed on the word about this blog. We passed the 1000th visit this week, since I loaded the site meter last fall. Please continue to send me the notes and event notifications, that's what makes this work!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

NAF Playing Tip #12: Watering out

All Native American flutes will eventually “Water out” if played too long. This occurs when the condensation from your breath collects in little droplets in the air channel and disrupts the flow of air over the sound hole. You will notice that the flute simply stops making a sound as you blow into it, or the sound gradually or suddenly become very quiet, even though you are blowing through the flute. Depending upon how they were finished, some flutes may water out quicker than other.

Ways to prevent Watering Out

  1. Bring your flute as close to body temperature as possible before playing or a performance.
  2. Don’t drink hot drinks (like coffee or tea) before playing.
  3. Don’t play your flute too long. Use multiple flutes during a public performance to allow the flutes to dry out between songs or keep the flutes “dry” prior to playing them.
  4. Wax the air channel under the bird. (NOTE: use only wax designed for Wind Instruments)
  5. Brush your teeth immediately prior to playing, toothpaste is a drying agent and will dry alot of the moisture in your mouth. (this will only work for a while)
What to do when your flute waters out
  1. Forcefully blow out through the flute with a finger partially covering the sound hole (to prevent sound)
  2. Shake the excess water from the mouthpiece of the flute (make sure that your bird/fipple is secure or hold on to it so that it doesn't go flying).
  3. Put it down and play another flute. It is especially important not to be embarrassed if your flute waters out during a public performance. You can end the song, and most of the audience won’t know any different. You can quickly apply technique #1 (away from the microphone) and continue with the song, or you can pick up another flute and continue the song. Just like breaking a string on a guitar, either the song goes on or it’s over, but don’t make a big deal about it!!

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lance Armstrong needs your help

Dear friends,
I am posting the following message on behalf of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I am a cancer survivor and everyday is gift to me. I hope that you will join Lance and I in supporting the National Cancer Institute.

Lance Armstrong - We are the voice for people living with cancer
Forward this Email View as Web Page

Somewhere in America today, someone will be told they have cancer. It's a scene that will be repeated 3,500 times throughout your standard work day - that's the equivalent of more than seven new cancer diagnoses every minute that you spend at the office.

That day came for me on October 2, 1996. Like 10 million other Americans currently living with cancer, I suddenly faced a new world filled with fears, doubts, challenges and questions. But I was lucky. Unlike those being diagnosed today, I never had to question my government's commitment to my future. However, this week Congress is considering a budget that, for the first time in 40 years, slashes funding for cancer research programs, cancer survivorship programs and important cancer-related initiatives.

If Congress approves the President's proposed 2007 budget, lawmakers will effectively turn their backs on our national commitment to defeating one of our leading killers and turn back the clock on progress against the disease Americans fear most. As proposed, the 2007 budget cuts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget by $179 million and carves $40 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Far from arbitrary figures, these funding cuts translate directly into diminished research discovery, treatments and programs that help people with cancer live life on their own terms.

While all of us understand the need for budget constraint and the difficult choices facing our elected officials, we also know that taking money from the fight against cancer is not a tough choice - it's simply the wrong one.

We have so much to gain and too much to lose, so I'm challenging you to join me in this effort today by contacting your representatives in Washington. I urgently need your help to protect funding for cancer programs.

Tell your representatives loud and clear that the fight against cancer deserves more, not less. To contact your representative now, send a message from our Web site.


Lance Armstrong

Cancer Survivor

Founder, Lance Armstrong Foundation

SIGN-UP FOR THE LIVESTRONGTM NEWSLETTER to receive general LAF newsletters and updates.

© Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) :: P.O. Box 161150 :: Austin, TX 78716-1150 Privacy Policy


Monday, March 13, 2006

AOL's plan to charge for email messages

If you haven't heard or read the news lately, AOL has a plan to charge for 'certified email'. This is essentually the first tax on email. Upon hearing about this solution, I was immediately concerned about about the impact of this proposal on the ability of small organizations like the NCFC to be able to send bulk emails to our members who have an AOL email account.
Here's what I have learned:

"Messages from senders in the paid Goodmail program will be highlighted as "AOL Certified" and will display images and links to Web sites automatically. Messages from most other senders, who do not pay the fee, are delivered in such a way that the recipient cannot immediately see the images or click on the links. Users will always receive messages from senders listed in their address books.

Apparently the fees per email would be in the 1/4 to 1 cent range. This wouldn't be a huge impact the bottom line for an organization like the NCFC, but would be a pain to implement and the time required to setup payment would be out of proportion to the $1.00 that we'd likely spend on email to AOL account owners per year. Anyway, I hope that this turns out to be a non-issue in the big picture. My fear is that this is only the first brick in the wall. While I hate spam as much as the next person, I still fail to see how paying for email resolves the problem. After all, the spammers and advertisers are the ones with the deep pockets.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Guillermo Martinez in San Francisco Area this weekend

Our friend and flutemaker from Southern California, Guillermo Martinez, will be at Fort Mason for the Contemporary Crafts market in San Francisco this weekend (March 11, 12). The event runs from 10 AM to 5 PM . He will also honor INAFA kokopelli bucks discount coupons. He has some special flutes that he just finished, so you're likely to find something good in his booth.

If you can't make the show, you can still check out and purchase a variety of his flutes from the Oregon Flute Store (tell JoAnn that Mike sent you...). My favorite flute made by Guillermo is the clay flute called the Tlapitzalli shown on the picture to the right. I purchased one of these flutes from Guillermo a couple years ago when he was at the De Anza Pow Wow. If you're not familiar with Guillermo's work, he makes both North American and South American style flutes. He is one of the few flutemakers who is skilled in making fine quality clay instruments. The Tlapitzalli is one of his creations, and is based on the design of Aztec temple flutes which he observed in the Mexico National Museum in Mexico city. At least that's the story that he related to me.

Another fun whistle which Guillermo makes is called the Tezcat. This whistle is designed similar to an Aztec instrument of the same name. I use this whistle to make any number of bird sounds.
Guillermo says that the the Tezcat whistle was used by Aztec priests during human sacrifice ceremonies. It is an incredibly loud instrument if you blow it wide open. As the story goes, the sound coming from a stadium full of folks blowing this whistle would put the crowd into a state of altered reality.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

INAFA Convention Registration now ONLINE!!

INAFA has opened the registration for the fall INAFA convention. This is going to be one of the most exciting Native American Flute events on the west coast this year, and the Northern California Flute circle is proud to be the hosts for this years' event.
You can now download and print the INAFA Convention registration form. If you are planning to stay onsite, in the dorms, I would encourage you to mail your registration as soon as possible. There are a limited number of rooms available onsite, and these will go quickly. I've talked to a lot of folks over the last couple months, and most folks prefer to stay onsite.
I'll post a future blog entry on some of the best places to stay offsite if that's your preference, or if that's your only choice once all of the onsite housing is gone. One of the nice things about staying onsite is that you'll be able to park the car and hang out all week without the need to drive around. I know that many folks in the bay area, from the Northern California Flute Circle will be able to stay at home and commute to the events every day. If you are a bay area resident and would like to open your home or spare bedroom to someone coming from out of town, drop me a line, maybe we can connect you. Many of the vendors (i.e. flutemakers) coming from out of town try to minimize their expenses for events like this. It could be a way to make a new friend!!


Convention Dates: August 2-6, 2006
Where: Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, CA
Registration Deadline: May 31, 2006
Convention fee: $50
Onsite housing fee: $375
Vendor fee: $150

NAF Playing Tip #11 Exercise: Play & Repeat Pattern

This excercise is designed to help build your song composition muscles. While it is mechanical in nature, if you combine this exercise with last weeks tip on changing the tempo, emphasis and duration of individual notes, you will find that this is yet another technique in music discovery. Whenever I've lost my muse and I am trying to discover a new melody, I employ this technique to find new melody lines and song phrasings.


Play a phrase, and then try to repeat the phrase on a different part of the flute (using the same finger pattern), but start with a different note. You will find that it isn’t as easy as it sounds because this exercise forces your brain to play a pattern with a different set of fingers. It also forces your brain to store the pattern of notes relative to each other, which builds a very important musicianship muscle. If you master this technique, you will be well on your way to being able to play music by ear, and to be able to deconstruct songs that you hear other artists playing on a CD. This is also an excellent technique to employ when playing harmony.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

THIS WEEKEND Mexica New Year Celebration San Jose

Xavier will play throughout the day Saturday and have a special presentation Sunday, hope to see you there!!!Gathering this second year in the West side of San Jose @ the Gardner Community Center and Park.

Tentative Event Schedule:

Saturday, March 11

6 AM Sunrise Ceremony and Honoring of our Elders
8 AM Preparation of our Ceremonial Circle and Alter (Momoztli)
10 AM - 4 PM: Music, Song and Dance Ceremony including representatives from the following nations: Ohlone, Washoe, Zunis and Mexicas
12 noon: Begins In Toka Tokaitl "Siembra de Nombres" Mexica Naming Ceremony.
5 PM: Mexica Music Presentation by: Mixcoacalli (LA)
6PM: Live music by San Jose's own Lado Oriente (Cumbias) and Tecpot (Hip-hop)

Sunday, March 12

12 noon: Tianguiz/Market place opens up
1:30 PM: Live Performance by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl
2:30 PM: All Nations Drum Group and Medicine Warrior Dancers from Oakland, CA
3:00 PM: Lawrey Bagey (World Class Navajo Hoop Dancer)
3:30 PM: Keynote Speaker Ocelocoatl (Mexico Tenochtitlan)

Mexica Tianguiz /Indigenous Arts & Crafts Market (Both Days):

Huey Tlahtocan (Chicago) Anahuac Designs (LA) Enrique Romero (Decoto) Primer Pueblo Libereria (San Jose) Maya Jade (LA) Indigenous Revolution (LA) Puro Chicanismo (Oakland) Cultura (San Jose) Corazon del Pueblo (Oakland) Pochteca Imports (LA) Inkas (Stockton) Apoyo Tarahumara (Watsonville) Insurgentes (Echo Park) Nash Tavewa (Orange County) Pochtecayotl (San Jose)

There will be Food for Sale, Raffles, Kids Activities and More.

Sponsors: This event is realized with the help and hard work of the following organizations: Indigenous Peoples Council, Native Voice TV, El Observador Publications, Resources for Family and Community, SEIU Local 715 Latino Caucus, Gardner Advisory Council and Calpulli Tonalehqueh
Come support this important historical gathering... Tlazo camati on behalf of Calpulli Tonalehequeh,

Yei Tochtli Mitlalpilli

Mary Youngblood announces "Dance with the Wind" release party

Mary Youngblood has just announced an album release party and concert in Sacramento, for her upcoming album: "Dance with the Wind". As of this posting, the East West website does not have the event posted on their calendar, but you can call and purchase tickets. It's not a huge site, so this will sell out!! Let's have a big NCFC showing to support Mary!

I had the chance to hear some of the songs from the new album during Mary's concert in Grass Valley last month. We're in for a treat, this is going to be another excellent album.

Sacramento East West Bookstore
Saturday, May 20, 2006
7-10 pm
2216 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Fair Oaks, CA
Phone: 916-920-3837

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Stellar's Electronically Tuned Rooster

This is the humor posting of the month! I just got done reading a wonderful story, written by Erika Stewart on the Stellar Flute website. It's a story of human and chicken interaction, but I won't spoil the plot - you'll just have to read it yourself. Anyone who's ever tried to play a song for the animals in your lives will enjoy this one.

While you are there, make sure that you check out the wonderful and unique flutes made by Tom and Erika Stewart.

Friday, March 03, 2006

NAF FAQ: What is a Flute Circle?

I am often asked the question: What is a Native American Flute circle?

Short answer: it's a gathering of people who play the Native American Flute for fun, personal enrichment and fellowship. It's nothing more complicated than that.

It's not about being "Native American", although most folks who attend a flute circle cherish the rich cultural background of the Native American Nations. It's not about being "New Age", although some folks find a stong identity in New Age philosophy. It is about the music, and everyone in attendence wants to hear Native American flute music or improve their skills with the Native American flute.

Each flute circle, and each event for that matter, has it's own personality. I've been to flute circle events where it was nonstop spontaneous playing for three hours, and I've been to other events where all we did was share stories and talk about flutes and flutemakers for three hours. I've been to events where everyone was a beginner and other events where everyone was a seasoned musician of some sort or another. I've been to other flute circles where I never touched a flute and played percussion all afternoon while everyone else jammed along on the flute or other instruments.

Regardless, the most important thing in my opinion is to have fun and be spontaneous at any flute circle event. I love discovering new melodies when playing a duet with somebody who I have never jammed with before. I equally love seeing somebody "light up" with excitement when they learn a new technique or find some new source of inspiration which they've never had before.

I've made some wonderful lifelong friends through my experiences with the Northern California Flute circle. I hope that you find your experience with your local flute circle/clan to be a similar experience. Just remember that flute circles are a grass roots organization. The flute circle is nothing more and nothing less than what everyone together contributes to the organization. Whether you are leading an event, hosting an event or attending an event, everyone contributes to the experience. I encourage you to take the time to welcome new faces and include everyone in the experience. Invite somebody new to a circle. We always have a meal as part of the flute circle, because nothing builds a community like sharing a meal together.

If you would like to find a flute circle in your area, you can either look online at the NCFC website (for Northern California and surrounding areas) or the INAFA website for a listing of worldwide flute circles.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

African drum maker infected with Anthrax

Some of you may have heard the news or story about an African drum maker who became infected with naturally occuring b. anthracis, while working with untreated animal skins. Here's an exerpt from an email I received on one of the email groups highlighting this story:

"Subject: Update on Vado + Regarding Anthrax: Specific Facts for Drum-makers, Drummers, & Dancers

hi all,I've been requested to get this out to everyone by the people closest to Vado, the West African dancer from the East coast who came down with anthrax last week. This is an 8 page pdf, written by Krista Retto, the daughter of a registered nurse and a close personal friend of Vado &Lisa's, who is helping them get through this crisis. I have already posted this information to the Djembe-L files section, you can click here to see the pdf I have also put the entire text, with photos, on The African Music Encyclopedia, as a public service:
Feel free to download the pdf and distribute to anyone who might be interested or whom might really need this information. One request from the friends and family - please try to restrain yourselves from emailing them for updates, they are overwhelmed with the hundreds of emails they have already received. I have suggested they add a guestbook totheir site for everyone's well-wishes, please try to be patient and give them some time to get this done. If you would like to help:f or the friends and community who love Vado, Loving friends of Vado's have set up a recovery donation fund for him.

If you would like to contribute, send a check or money order to:

Diomande Trust
c/o A. King105 E. 15th Street #48
New York, NY 10003

NAF Playing Tip #10 Exercise: Play & Repeat with emphasis

Here's a good exercise to engage your creative muse. This exercise is designed to iteratively modify a given phrase or group of notes, creating a slightly different melody simply by emphasizing a different note or grouping of notes each time. I have used this technique many times to perfect the phrasing in a song.

Play a short phrase, and then repeat it but emphasize a different note. You can emphasize a note using any of the ornamentation techniques that you have learned, or by simply playing the note louder, softer, longer or shorter. This exercise is a great precursor to constructing a song, and it is a great skill to build upon because it trains your brain to think about a phrase in different ways. A lot of time this kind of experimentation may actually give you a better sounding phrase than you originally started with, or it may completely change your mood.

Creative Commons License

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

High Quality Djembes

I had a friend ask me the other day where to purchase a good Djembe. There are ton's of auctions for Djembe's on Ebay, but I don't recommend this as a source since the quality of Djembe's can be so varied. There are very few sources from which I will purchase a drum site unseen. However, of those sources here are my recommendations:

Drumskull Drums (in Santa Cruz, CA), which also has a great listing of classes/workshops in Northern California.

Mountain Rhythm (in Canada), which feature a unique/patented drum tuning mechanism. Note that you can find Mountain Rhythm drums for sale on Ebay, probably a good choice. They don't make any bad drums.

If you have the opportunity to travel to Santa Cruz, you can also visit Rhythm Fusion (downtown Santa Cruz) and play their inventory of drums (and other wonderful world instruments). This where I bought my first Djembe. However, if you're going to make the drive, make sure that you give the guys at Drumskull a call as well and stop by their place (it's not really a store...).

Finally, if you live on the peninsula, I recommend contacting Richard Saasta of Rhythmic Intentions. I met Richard through the Peninsula Pulse Drum Circle and he makes wonderful drums. I also had him make a custom Djembe stand for me (pictured in the image to the left), so that I can play standing up at the drum circle. Richard takes the a basic shell (which he buys wholesale from Drumskulls) and then finishes and carves the shell before skinning it. He has a nice inventory of drums available and is happy to let you "try out" a drum at the monthly Peninsula Pulse drum circle before you purchase a drum. (Tell him Mike sent you...) :-)