Two Tunable Drone Flutes

A look at some unique
Native American flute designs.

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Two Tunable Drone flutes

On my recording New Fire there is a song called Cactus Dance. This was recorded using a High Spirits tunable drone flute. A drone flute is basically two flute chambers built into one flute body. One of the chambers has finger holes and plays like a normal Native American flute while the other chamber doesn't have finger holes. This second chamber is usually tuned to the bottom note of the flute. Therefore this chamber only plays one note or "drones" while the other fingered chamber plays the melody. Not unlike a Bagpipe.

hs_double_aAs you can see on this the photo from the High Spirits website the flute is joined at the mouthpiece and then spreads apart. The ends are joined by a cross brace. From the player's perspective the right chamber has finger holes and plays the melody while the left one "drones" only one note. In the flute the pictured that note is the bottom note of the flute. In this case an A above middle C. (Both chambers are tuned to a bottom note of A.)

The flute that I played on Cactus Dance was slightly different in that the drone chamber did have finger holes. These holes could be covered or uncovered using leather straps. (A similar strap is shown covering hole #4 on the right chamber of the flute pictured.) Covering or uncovering the holes alters the pitch of the drone. As a NAF player I really liked the freedom to change the drone's pitch. Let's listen to a sample of Cactus Dance from New Fire recorded with a High Spirits flute.

Playing this flute is a lot of fun and exciting The only problem was the flute's V design wouldn't allow me to transport it in one of my flute cases. It was too wide at the end. So I stopped playing Cactus Dance live.

Then one day I got an email from Rich Halliburton. Rich is a local southern California maker that I had become friends with. His company is called Querencia Flutes and he makes some really beautiful instruments. You may have met him at Zion last fall. The email he sent me had an attachment of a design for a two chambered flute that a customer had sent him with some very odd tunings built into the finger holes. Rich was curious to know if I thought the design made any sense from a players perspective. To be honest I didn't think it would make a very practical flute but it looked a lot like my High Spirits drone, only without the chambers spreading apart. Something that would fit in a flute case. I mentioned this to him and how much I would love for him to make me a flute based on that tuning system. What he made me was a work of art.

THE QUERENCIA DRONE
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The flute is in the key of A. As you can see there are two chambers, two blocks and two "true sound holes". There are also two mouth holes. There are two rows of finger holes and between them a row of smaller holes. The flute is 20" long with 7/8" bores. Let's take a closer look at this flute.

TUNING AND CONSTRUCTION
DSCN7857_e800_v Looking again from the players perspective, the right chamber plays like a normal Native American flute using a standard pentatonic minor scale and standard fingering. This is the side with all six holes. On the left chamber there are only three holes. Each of these can be covered with a leather strap like the High Spirit flute. One end of each leather strap is threaded though one of the smaller holes in the middle of the flute. Then you tie the ends of the leather as you would to hold any block. Rich also used this same design for the blocks on the flute. If you look closely you can see the ties for each block does not wrap around the entire flute but threads through holes drilled between the two chambers. Exactly the same as the smaller holes below them.

Covering any hole on the drone chamber with a leather strap produces the same pitch as covering the equivalent hole on the playable chamber. For exmaple: If all three holes are covered the drone produces the bottom or "root" note. If the top two holes are covered while the bottom hole is uncovered then the drone plays the minor 3rd of the scale. Uncovering the bottom two holes while the third hole is covered produces the 4th note of the scale and so on.

To learn more about the notes of the Native American flute scale review the earlier articles
Playing your first scale on a Native American flute and
Playing from the Heart -Part 2

 

 

 

 

WOOD AND STONE
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The flute body is made from Mineralized Poplar, the end cap is southeast asian Amboyna Burlwood while the mothpiece is Cocobolo and Oregon Big-leaf Maple.

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The raven blocks are made from Maple burlwood with overlays of Madrona, Hawaiian Koa and Walnut Burlwood.

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The ornamental inlays consist of a Abalone cap at the mouthpiece, two Australian Fire Opals on the fetish blocks, a gold Abalone cap on the spine and to Mother of Pearl caps on the sound chambers.

Rich Halliburton A drone
Photo © Barbara Garlinger

As I mentioned I now use this flute to play Cactus Dance live. Let's listen to an excerpt of that song played on this flute but without the other instruments CACTUS DANCE SOLO SAMPLE

I also recently recorded an improvisation with this flute during one of my live performances in southern Arizona last month. It's called Valley of the Sun and you can listen to it HERE

OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES
How to Buy a NAF, part 1
How to Buy a NAF, part 2
How to care for your NAF
Playing your first NAF scale
Strengthening your Fingers
Playing from the Heart Part-1
Playing from the Heart Part-2
NEW Recording your NAF, basic Home Studio set up
NEW Starting your Own Music Label part 1

You can also find all the articles HERE

DO YOU NEED A FLUTE?
Visit the
Cedar Mesa Music Store. Members of my E-mailing List get a 10% discount on all flutes we sell.

You can also find a list of makers who's flutes I play on my web site.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE NATIVE AMERICAN FLUTE
NAF History and Construction

Please support these posts by purchasing copies my recordings of Native American flutes.
Native American flute music by Scott August
Sacred Dreams
Native American flute music by Scott August
Ancient Light
DISTANT SPIRITS
Nominee Native American
Music Award



SACRED DREAMS
Winner! Native American
Music Award



NEW FIRE
Nominee
Native American
Music Award

Winner!
Indian Summer Music Award
ANCIENT LIGHT
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