A Few Definitions

Here are a few definitions that are used in describing Native American style flutes (NAF's). These terms are in common use among flute makers and players, and were mostly taken from the Yahoo flutemakers group. (Don't take these as gospel. I don't pretend to be a musicologist - just a flutemaker. Comments are welcome....)

TSH = True Sound Hole - The hole in the top of the flute that produces the sound.

SAC = Slow Air Chamber - A chamber between the mouthpiece and the flue of the flute. Not all NAF's have SAC's.

Flue = A shallow channel which may be in the top of the flute body, in the bird, or created by a space between the flute and the bird. Your breath flows through the flue and strikes the cutting edge of the soundhole to create the sound.

Totem, block, bird, fetish = A small block, sometimes carved into a design or animal figure, that sits on the top of the NAF and covers the flue and directs your breath against the edge of the TSH.

Foot, south end = The far end of the flute away from the blowing end.

Mouthpiece, blowing end, north end = the end you blow into.

North = Toward the mouthpiece.

South = Away from the blowing end.

Cutting edge, lip, labium = the angled part of the south side of the TSH that splits the air stream coming from the flue and causes the oscillations that make the sound of the flute. On an Anasazi or Hopi style (rim-blown) flute the rim of the blowing end performs this function and your lips form the flue or airway. This function is called an embouchure.

Tone holes, finger holes = the holes that are covered with your fingers to make the flute create different pitches.

Rim blown flute = an instrument which is played by blowing across, rather than into, the end of the flute. Your lips form an airstream that strikes the rim edge of the flute to create the sound. Rim blown flutes are generally more difficult to play than fippled, block, or "recorder" style flutes. Examples include quenas, Anasazis, and neys.

Fipple = the wooden plug or block forming part of the flue or airway on an instrument like a recorder.

Bore, sound chamber = the long chamber of a flute that acts as a resonating cavity.

Bore diameter = the diameter of a circular bore cross-section. If the bore is not circular, the diameter of an equivalent circular cross-section is calculated and used for tuning.

L/D, aspect ratio = the length of the bore from the wall of a NAF or the entire length of a rim blown flute, divided by the bore diameter (assuming a circular bore). For a NAF this is typically around 18, for an Anasazi around 35-40. This value will affects the ease with which the flute overblows, and the the tone, among other things.

Tuning or directional holes = one or more (usually four) holes placed towards the foot of the flute for tuning purposes. They effectively terminate the length of the sound chamber at that point rather than at the foot. They are not to be confused with fingerholes unless you have hands the size of King Kong's.

Fundamental = the lowest note a flute will play with all holes covered.

Verdi or Universal Tuning: Prior to the standardization of the key of A to 440 hertz, composers and orchestras chose the pitch they found most pleasing, resulting in a range of pitches for A. Verdi felt that A = 432Hz was more pleasant and harmonious, so he used this pitch. Some people feel this tuning is inherently linked to the harmonies of the universe. For more info, search for "Verdi tuning" or "A=432Hz."

Grandfather tuning = tuning a flute using body measurements or other traditional methods rather than tuning to concert pitch. This may produce a flute that plays beautifully or one that just sounds like it's not tuned at all(my opinion).

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