Playing From The Heart

Learning to tap into the music
that's within you.

 

PLAYING FROM THE HEART
Part 1

One of the beauties of the Native American flute is that it is within reach of people who have no musical background at all. The majority of Native American flute players have no formal musical training. I say formal because I believe that most human beings innately have music inside them. We respond to rhythms, melodies, and harmonies from birth, or even while still in the womb. It is all part of being human.

Unfortunately I meet many NAF players, or people that are thinking about becoming one, that worry they don’t have any musical training and therefore they lack something when it comes to making music. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth. I say this as a person that has a life long musical back ground, including a degree in composition and a fifteen year career of writing music for TV commercials and corporate films. I’m not saying that musical training doesn’t help, but a lack of it is no reason to avoid playing the Native American flute. Music is a basic expression of human emotional. If you are drawn to music that desire for expression is already stirring within you. Besides, there are plenty of people with little or no musical musical training that are world-famous musicians. Many rock, blues and pop musicians have very little musical training and yet we hum their tunes and buy their recording all the time. They must have something in their hearts...

The music is already inside you, you just need to get it out.

WHAT IS PLAYING FROM THE HEART?
Playing from the Heart is what the Native American flute world calls improvisation. To improvise is to make something up while performing. At it's most extreme it means to play what ever pops into your head at any given moment. Most of the time however, the player is working within the idiom of one or more styles of music, e.g. jazz, rock, blues, folk, even classical. Music for Native American flute has it's own idioms and it also draws frequently from folk, blues, rock and some jazz as well.

This may sound overwhelming to a beginner, but let's not worry about anything other than solo NAF idioms. These include moderate tempos, finger chirps, trills and embellishments, serene melodies, a smooth vibrato and a strong melodic movement toward the low note of the flute. There are also some traits you don't hear too much like blazing fast riffs, chromatic melodies, and odd meters. I'm not saying people never do these on the NAF, just not very often so I wouldn't worry about these right away, if ever.

Knowing what others are doing, and how the NAF is usually played gives the player, especially a beginner, a place to start. In other words, you've heard Native American flute music that you like, so improvise in that style. Let's look at some some thoughts about "Playing from the Heart".

THERE ARE NO RULES
The first rule of “Playing from the Heart” is there are no rules. None, nada, zero. If you’re looking for the secret magic formula for making great music then, please, when you find it, let me know. Frankly, if there were rules that would suck because then all music would sound basically the same and we’d all be really bored. There aren’t even rules about what makes a piece of music great or just good. Most of the time it just comes down to one's likes and dislikes.

For example, if you wanted to, you could write a piece that only plays the low note of your NAF over and over again for 3:00 minutes and call it music. Is it great or even good music? I know I’d be bored by it, but someone else might not be. In fact, I’ll bet you someone’s already written a piece just like this, and if they haven’t, well, I just did and now it’s my piece. I call it “Low Note Ennui.” Guess you’ll have to use the second hole for your version.

NO RULES BUT...
Just because there aren’t any rules doesn’t mean there aren’t common elements that you hear in the music around you. There are things that players, songwriters and composers do because it’s part of our western musical culture and people respond positively when they hear them. Every style of music has their own traits and so does music for Native American flute. There is a basic sound and playing style that most NAF players incorporate into their playing. They do this because people like it. I've met very few musicians who play a certain way because people don't like what they play. Music is a two way street. The player does something their audience enjoys and they in turn are rewarded with positive feedback for this. This causes more and more players to adopt these techniques and pretty soon a style is born.

EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN PERSONAL STYLE
Musical styles, like fashion, change all the time. That’s because someone tries something new, people like it and are influenced by it. Everyone from Joe/Josephine NAF player to the biggest rock acts in the world are influenced by others. My music is made up of many influences, including music from all over the world, books, movies, art, visits to the southwest, and my passion for music. These influences are all then filtered through me to become uniquely mine. So pay close attention to the music you like. Try to figure out what it is you like about it. Follow along and see how they do it. Getting to know your influences will help you make music that is uniquely "yours".

HANDY TIPS FOR "PLAYING FROM THE HEART"
The best way to get better at “Playing from the Heart” is to just play. Play a lot. To get started here are a few tips to help you find your music.

 

Find the rest of this article in The Complete Guide to the Native American style Flute by Scott August

The Complete Guide to the Native American style Flute

Learn more about:

-QUALITY OF SOUND
-TYPES OF WOOD
-TUNING
-FINGERINGS
-EASE OF PLAYING
-HOW TO LOOK LIKE A PRO WHEN BUYING A NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE
-BREATH CONTROL
-OVER 24 FINGER EXERCISES TO GET YOU PLAYING WITH CONFIDENCE
-PLAYING FROM THE HEART
-WRITING YOUR OWN SONGS
-REMEMBERING WHAT YOU PLAY

© 2012 Cedar Mesa Music


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