Thursday, June 08, 2006

Playing Tip #22: Places to play

You don’t have to look far to find a place to play your flute. However, I’ve found the most inspiring places are those where nature has an influence on my mood. Acoustics is another important consideration, especially as you practice. Don’t be surprised if, while playing in place like a stairwell or hallway, some notes are amplified more than others. It means that the room is “tuned” for the amplitude of the note that you just played. For example the stairwell in my last house was tuned to an “A”, and whenever I hit an “A” note on any of my flutes it this note was naturally amplified.


I think that the Native American Flute is most inspiring to play outside. Whether your inspiration is found in the trees, a robin bouncing along in the grass or the rising moon, nature will speak to you when you play the flute if you open your eyes and ears to it.
When playing outside, it’s important to realize that the wind (any breeze) will affect the ability of the flute to make a sound. If there is enough of a breeze, your flute might not make any sound at all. This is because the breeze blowing across the top of the flute may negate the ability of the air to vibrate effectively within the flute. You can minimize this effect by turning your back to the wind/breeze, but it is impossible to remove all of the wind effects.
Temperature is another important factor. I don’t recommend playing outside in any temperature below about 65º F. As the temperature drops below your body temperature, you experience more dramatic “watering-out” of the flute, to the point where the flute will not make a sound (regardless of whether there is any breeze). It is also important to try to keep your wooden flutes in the temperature range between 65º and 95º (or body temperature). Remember this when traveling with your flutes in the car or backpacking.
Some of the most exciting places that I have played my flute have been caves and canyons where you can experience a natural echo to your playing. If you find yourself in an urban setting, don’t forget that there are a lot of cement canyons and caves to experiment with.

Stairwells & Parking Structures

In the absence of a canyon or cave, a stairwell can produce a pretty exciting natural amplification of your flute. Try it in your office building, or the next time you stay in a hotel. I’ve even taken my flute out and played in a parking garage. Soon you’ll find yourself searching for these interesting acoustic experiences.


Of course I can’t forget to mention one of the man-made caves that we all have in our houses. Interestingly enough, the bathroom is a great place to submit your self to a natural acoustic phenomenon. Just like “singing in the shower” makes us all sound like professional singers, playing your flute in the bathroom is a great acoustic experience. To increase the echo, try taking all of the towels off the towel racks, take the shower curtain down and the bath rug off the floor (if your bathroom is not carpeted). Oh, and did I mention that it also comes equipped with comfortable seating?

What's your favorite place to play? [Leave a comment...]

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1 comment:

urbanflute said...

Wow, you are truly a kindred spirit!
It was playing in stairwells as a high school student that I truly fell in love with the sound of the flute and the expression that was possible. Paul Horn's Inside recordings improvising in the Taj also made an impression on me early on. Here is a recording on Native Flute when I went in search of Kokopelli during rattlesnake season in Arizona's Superstition Mountains:
Cheers, and Happy Fluting,
Urban Flute Project