The Native American flute is, like a European
recorder, a fipple flute. A fipple mouthpiece has a block that
forms the floor of the windway, so a fipple flute is simply a flute
that is played from the top instead of the side. Almost every
culture in the world has simple one chamber fipple flutes. The
Native American flute, however, is not one chamber. Its tube is
divided into two sections by a wall or stop. Breath from the player
enters the first section, the high pressure wind chamber. From there
the air is forced through a flue between the stop and the ornamental
block. As it exits the flue it crosses a small, usually square,
hole. The far side of this hole is called the fipple. When the air
stream hits the Fipple, it is split in two, which causes it to
vibrate. This vibrating column of air then enters the second section
of the tube, the Sound Chamber. The player, by covering and
uncovering the Tone or Finger Holes in the Sound Chamber, controls
the length of the tube, which determines the pitch that is played.
Most modern Native American flutes are tuned to a specific
pentatonic minor key and can only play the notes in that key. To
play in another key you need another flute. Native American flutes
come in many lengths and bore sizes. They are made of different
woods but cedar is the most common..
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