I know that there are many of you who would like to make a Native American style flute. That’s how I got started. My thought was ‘I’m a woodworker, why spend the money if I can make one myself’. This started me down a path that continues to this day.
If I had known then what I know now I might have been hesitant. Knowing how to make things out of wood is one thing. Knowing how to make a musical instrument that has the proper sound is another. It was only after I had made quite a number of Love flutes that I began to understand the dynamics of sound creation.
The absolute best way to get started in Indian style flute making is, of course, to study with an accomplished flute maker. When I decided to make my own flute I was prescient enough to seek out someone to help me. Having a teacher makes a huge difference in the steepness of the learning curve. When you have an experienced teacher you have access to a body of knowledge in dynamic form. When you make mistakes – and you will – the experienced teacher is there to show you how to correct them. Or to show you how to do it right the next time.
Those of us who make Native American style flutes professionally seem to agree that the second most efficient way to make a flute is to reverse engineer a good flute. Reverse engineering is to carefully study a quality existing flute. Then you try and make as exact a copy as possible of that flute. With reverse engineering you have a functioning finished product to study and compare with your flute in progress. Measurements of all the dimensions and angles are there in front of you. Of course this means that you have to buy or borrow a good flute. But in my opinion it is well worth the cost.
If you just want to get your feet wet in the flute making game then you can get a flute kit. My preference would be to get a flute that is already glued up and tuned. All that is left for you to do is the shaping and finishing. This eliminates the difficulties of learning the intricacies of crafting a flute from scratch. Also you don’t need a lot of expensive tools. This way you are almost guaranteed to end up with a playable instrument.
Other types of Love flute kits consist of two pieces of wood with the barrel and slow air chamber hollowed out. With the heavy machining done it is up to you to glue the two halves together and cut out the true sound hole and exit hole from the slow air chamber with hand tools. You must also drill the tone holes. There is a lot of room for error with even the best of instructions. Even variations of a very small fraction of an inch can make big changes in sound quality. With even the best flute kit and instructions you may or may not end up with a playable instrument.
Another way to get into flute making is to take a flute making class. I have never attended one myself. But I have seen a few flutes that have come out of such a class. I can’t say that I was very impressed with what I have seen and heard. But, I’m sure everyone had fun and went home with a flute that they could make sounds on. A single flute making class will not make you into a good flute maker. It will get you started though.
There are several books on how to make a Native American style flute. And there is at least one comprehensive DVD. These materials show in relative detail a step-by-step process that may provide enough guidance so that you can make a playable flute. I have not read the books nor have I seen the DVD. So I will not comment. Flute lesson videos are also posted on U Tube and other sites. If my own experience is any guide even the best book or DVD will not give you more than a rudimentary idea of what Love flute making entails.
If you feel the strong urge to make an Indian flute don’t be discouraged by your mistakes. No one makes a great flute the first time. In order to become a good flute maker you must make many flutes and learn from your mistakes. By analyzing what you have done wrong and applying that knowledge to your next love flute you will make better and better flutes.
For more help making a Native American flute you can join an internet group – firstname.lastname@example.org