How to Play the Native American Flute

Getting Started:

When your first flute first arrives it's important to check to make sure the Bird (Fetish) sitting on top of the flute is in the right position. Otherwise, getting the correct tone will be difficult. Refer to our block placement article before getting started. 

Hand Placement:

To hold the flute properly you want your right hand to cover the lower three holes and your left hand to cover the upper three holes. You will be only using your Ring, middle, and index finger to cover the holes. The little finger and thumb will be used to support the flute.



Finger Placement: Starting with your right hand your ring finger will cover the furthest hole (Hole 6). The middle finger will cover the next hole up (Hole 5). Your right Index finger will cover the 3rd hole from the bottom (Hole 4). 

With your left hand, your ring finger will cover the 4th hole from the bottom (Hole 3). Your Middle finger will cover the 5th hole from the bottom (Hole 2). Lastly, your Index finger will cover the last from the bottom (Hole 6)

(Refer to Flute Players Numbering)


Breath Pressure:

Getting the right breath pressure can be a challenge at first. Learning the flute is learning how to control your breath. The pressure of your breath will contribute to having a clear tone. You want the breath pressure to be soft. Most flute players when first beginning will blow too hard. Try to focus on getting the breath soft. Too soft and the tone will sound weak. 


Basic Scale:

Learning the Minor pentatonic flute scale is very simple! However, the challenge is training your finger to cover the holes completely. Most first-time players will encounter this challenge. If your finger is not covering the holes completely, then you will hear a high pitch tone. If this occurs- position your fingers over the holes and blow soft.

Time to learn the scale! 

This picture above demonstrates the basic minor pentatonic scale. The black dots on the flute picture represent the holes being covered, while the white dots represent the holes being uncovered. As you may notice your left ring finger will always remain covered on the flute. 

Lesson 1: Start with practicing the scale with just your right hand. Maintain holding down all holes with your left hand. Now practice the first 4 notes in the scale. 


Once you feel comfortable with this. Add in the next 2 notes!


That is it! Congratulations you just played your first scale! Use this scale format below to continue practicing. This will help you get familiar going up and down the scale.



Practice Practice Practice: It takes time to train your finger to cover the holes completely and fine-tune your breath pressure. Once you master the scale, now it's time to begin making up your songs from your heart. 


Avoid overplaying you do not want to overplay the flute or else moisture will build up and cause tonal issues. Just like any instrument the flute needs time to break in. The moisture from your breath causes stress inside the flute. Limit yourself to 30-45min of playing at a time. Allow the flute to dry out for a couple of hours before picking it up and playing again.