Flutopedia - an Encyclopedia for the Native American Flute

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About Flutopedia.com

Head and Heart

Musicians seem to work in two spaces: heart space and head space. We play from the heart to express and inspire; we move into the head to expand our understanding, historical context, and our toolbox of playing techniques. Some stay in one space for a while, maybe a long while. Others move back and forth between them frequently.

Vera and I host Native American flute workshops that live mostly in the heart space (in the traditions of my music facilitation training with Music for People). For almost any question, direction, or topic we try to have a musical exercise or activity that involves the participants and provides a humanistic approach to learning and growth.

We got a lot of requests for (head-space) information at these workshops, so we started developing handouts that people could take home. This freed people from taking (head-space) notes during workshops, but the handouts quickly became cumbersome and consumed a lot of trees. We distributed the handouts in PDF format, but they also became cumbersome and difficult to keep updated. So Flutopedia grew, in part, out of this need for an resource repository for information to expand our understanding, historical context, and our toolbox of playing techniques.

Much of what you'll find on Flutopedia is head-space type stuff. Use it when the mood strikes, when you become inquisitive, when you want to expand your toolbox. But please don't forget to return this information back into the service of your own heart-space music — the most natural home for this instrument and the music that springs from us.

Navigating Flutopedia

There are many ways to locate information on Flutopedia! Try the menu-bar at the top of each page, which links you to all the content pages on this site:


For other ways to tour Flutopedia:

  • Visit the Table of Contents, a comprehensive list of all Flutopedia web pages. You can easily get to the Table of Contents from any page by clicking on the
    Table of Contents logo at the top-left corner of any page.
  • You can tour the Flutopedia web pages using the Previous Page and Next Page buttons. Sometimes, a web page is part of a sub-group of pages – for example, the list of transcribed songs. In that case, you can use the Up a level button to take you back up a level. You can also use the Up a level and Up a level buttons to skip the sub-pages in the group.
  • Check out What's New for recent updates to the site.
  • Use the Search box at the top-right of each page. The search is a local function of Flutopedia (as opposed to an outside service, such as Google), and is blissfully non-commercial.

Some pages, particularly those dealing with Native American flute education for players, are marked with a flag indicating the level of experience it is designed for:

B or Basic      I  or Intermediate      A or Advanced

However, note that the use of these levels is still somewhat incomplete and inconsistent. I hope to make these more organized and comprehensive in the future.


All hyperlinks on Flutopedia are underlined. Colors and fonts are used to indicate the type of link:


You can click on many of the images, such as this picture of my first Native Amercan Flute by Kai Mayberger of White Raven Drum Works. This will show either an expanded image or detailed information, including credits. You can also click on the Larger image or the More Information icons below the image to expand the image or see the detailed information.

My first Native American Flute, by Kai Mayberger

My first Native American flute Larger image

Any images on this web site without credit information are my own work.

Flutes in the Left-Hand Panel

Flutes shown vertically in the panel on the left are (mostly) from my collection. They're provided for graphic ambiance and don't necessarily relate to the material in this content panel.

The flute shown on the left of this page was made about 1930–1935. The documentation that came with the flute says “Sioux Love Flute. Yankton Lakota. Fort Randall South Dakota. Rance Estate Purch.”

Desktop Icon

If you save a link to this web site or add it to your Favorites, you will see the Flutopedia Icon icon highlighting that link.

Intellectual Property Issues

Please see the Flutopedia Legal Statement for copyright, trademark, intellectual property, and other legal issues.


For better formatting (and to save some trees) the top and left-side navigation panels on these web pages are not printed. Only the content area get sent to your printer.
However, please consider the impact of printing out large portions of this web site. The References page alone takes 108 pages to print (last time I checked) and
       a printout of all pages on Flutopedia would consume about three trees
(based on information from TAPPI, PrintGreener.com, RainforestMaker.org, and ConservATree.com, assuming 19 reams of paper per average paper-producing tree).


One of my goals in researching the topics on this site was to rely, as much as possible, on primary sources. And I have tried to maintain a distinction between information that comes from those sources and my own personal experience and opinions.

However, the primary sources can only convey so much information. Especially when dealing with cultures where much of the history and creative energies were passed by oral tradition, the primary sources may not represent all apsects or viewpoints of the story.

Please realize that the telling of the rich history behind the Native American flute is an ever-unfolding process, something that I hope the continued evolution of this web site can continue to embrace.

Personal Communication

Some of the sources for information on this site involve personal communications that I have had with an authoritative source. The date of that communication are given in the alternate text associated with the personal communication reference. You can hover over the link to see this information.


The general manual for style on this site is: Wikipedia:Manual of Style. However, while care is taken to reasonably adhere to a consistent style, more effort has been put into content. Also, the development of this site began when Wikipedia was in it's infancy and the Wikipedia:Manual of Style did not exist, so the style of pages has changed over time. If you have suggestions regarding style, please contact me.

American Indian Cradle Songs by Natalie CurtisReference Citations

This web site has many citations to references related to music in general and the Native American flute in particular. All the citations to reference material are listed on the Reference Page. I also add convenient access to the source material, where possible.

Here is an example of a reference citation:

“… Bob Fink ([Fink 2004] Neanderthal Flute: Oldest Musical Instrument's 4 Notes Matches 4 of Do, Re, Mi Scale, updated 2004) carried out extensive analysis on the bone flute …”

If you click on the [Fink 2004] citation tag (try it!), it will take you to the reference for the article. However, if you click on the Neanderthal Flute: Oldest Musical Instrument's 4 Notes Matches 4 of Do, Re, Mi Scale, updated 2004 icon (try it!), the web site with the source material will open directly in a separate browser window.

This site has a large number of Adobe PDF® (“Portable Document Format”) reference files. In particular, most of the reference documents (journal articles, reports of the Smithsonian Institution, books, etc.) that are provided are in Adobe PDF format.

Here is an example of a reference citation to a PDF document:

“... some really interesting lullaby melodies are in [Curtis 1921] American Indian Cradle Songs that were collected from various tribes ...”

Again, the [Curtis 1921] citation tag takes you to the references page and the American Indian Cradle Songs PDF File icon (try it!) opens the reference PDF document directly in a separate browser window.

For more information, visit Reference PDF Files.

Get Adobe ReaderTo view PDF files, you will need Adobe Reader® Version 6.0 or higher (previously called “Adobe Acrobat Reader”), or some other program that can display .PDF files. The latest Adobe Reader software can be downloaded and installed, free of charge, from this Adobe web site. If you have a visual disability, Adobe offers resources to enhance the accessibility of PDF documents. Visit the Adobe Accessibility Resource Center, and in particular their page on Adobe Reader Accessibility.

Audio Streams

Many Flutopedia pages have audio streams that you can play using a small audio player that appears on the web page. Most of these audio streams are examples of playing technique or small teaching lessons.

To check if your the audio player is working properly, to see on how to use the audio player, or to troubleshoot problems playing the audio streams, visit Using the Flutopedia Audio Player.


You can quickly resize Flutopedia web pages for best readability using these keyboard shortcuts … try them!

Accessibility / Readability Shortcuts
Function Windows Macintosh
Increase Text Size [Ctrl] + [Command] +
Decrease Text Size [Ctrl] - [Command] -
Restore Default Text Size [Ctrl] 0 [Command] 0


This web site is routinely tested for correct operation and formatting on these browsers under the Windows 7 (64-bit) operating system (browser versions as of August 26, 2011):

  • Apple Safari version 5.1 (7534.50)
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer version 9.0.8112.16421
  • Mozilla Firefox version 6.0
  • Opera version 11.50 build 1074
  • Google Chrome version 13.0.782.215

It also underwent one-time testing on these systems:

  • Apple The New iPad (third Generation), iOS 5.1, tested 3/18/2012.

This site is also tested for usability by blind and limited-sight users (see the next section) using the JAWS screen reader by Freedom Scientific as well as the FANGS plugin to Mozilla Firefox, developed and provided free of charge by Peter Krantz.

Accessibility for Blind and Limited-Sight Players

I have attempted to make Flutopedia accessible to blind players and players with limited-sight. In particular, this site is coded with features to provide the best audio rendering (vocalization) of images and text by screen readers and other assistive technologies. In particular:

  • All text in non-English languages are coded so that text-to-speech systems can correctly alter pronunciation to suit the language.
  • All images have ALT attributes that describe the image, and most images are linked to a higher resolution and more detailed version of that image.
  • Finger diagrams such as Finger diagram closed closed closed open open open have been specially coded so that screen readers will vocalize the finger diagram in an understandable way. For example, the finger diagram image in the previous sentence should vocalize something like “Finger diagram closed closed closed open open open”. As a more complex example, the finger diagram Hopi five hole finger diagram open closed closed open open should vocalize something like “Hopi five hole finger diagram open closed closed open open”.
  • Finger diagrams shown in SNAFT format are coded to render will for screen readers, although this is somewhat problematic at this point in the development of HTML. (There are technical issues with the specification of ALT attributes for text and their use by screen readers.)

See the Flutopedia Accessibility page for more information. I (and other limited-sight players) would appreciate feedback in this area from players who make use of these features of Flutopedia.

Character Sets and Fonts

To handle myriad of special characters used by the languages of world cultures, Flutopedia uses Unicode characters. For example, the written form of Cherokee as developed by ᏎᏉᏯ [se-kwoh-yah]. This is described in detail on the Browser Capabilities page.

I've chosen fonts for this site that should be available on most, but not all, systems. The primary fonts used are Verdana, Courier New, Times New Roman, Arial Unicode MS, Arial, and Papyrus.

The Native Flute Handbook

Click to download the Native Flute Handbook.
There is no cost for this 400+ page PDF book. Download


You'll also notice the phonetic pronunciation shown above ([se-kwoh-yah]). These use the phonetic Flutopedia Pronunciation Guide and are based on my best interpretation from the original source material or by talking to people who best know the pronunciation. For example: Anasazi flute [ah-nah-sah-zee floot].


Measurements are given in both the English and Metric systems. When a measurement is taken from a referenced source, the measurement as shown in that referenced source is given. A conversion is also provided in (parentheses), calculated by me to at least the precision of the primary measurement. If the conversion is also provided in the referenced source, and it disagrees with my conversion, that is specifically noted.

Some examples: 3″ (7.6cm), 3.0″ (7.62cm), 7cm (2.8″), and 7.13cm (2.81″).

Note that these measurement conversions are done, even if they are within quoted text.


There are many date systems in use, especially in archaeological references. To avoid confusion, I convert dates (other than archaeological epochs) to the world's most commonly used year-numbering system that is based on the Gregorian calendar. I use the modern substitutions of:

  • “BCE” (“Before Common Era” or “Before Current Era”) for “B.C.” (“Before Christ”) and
  • “CE” (“Common Era” or “Current Era”) for “A.D.” (“Anno Domini” … an abbreviation of the Latin “anno Domini Nostri Jesu Christi”).

Years count forward from 1 CE. The year 1 BCE is the year before 1 CE (there is no year 0) and years count backwards from 1 BCE.

When a date taken from a referenced source is not in the Gregorian Calendar (CE, A.D., BCE, or B.C.), the original date as shown in that referenced source is given in (parentheses).

Gregorian Dates in Other Languages

Some references cite dates from the Gregorian calendar, and in particular dates BCE, in their respective languages. Here are some examples that I have found in references cited in this web site, as well as in other locations (such as on placards in museums that I have visited):

Chinese: “公元” (“Common Era”) for CE.

French: “av. JC” (“avant Jésus-Christ” … “before Jesus Christ”) for BCE.

German: “v. Chr. Geb.” (“vor Christi Geburt” … “before the Nativity of Christ”) or simply “v. Chr.” (“vor Christus” … “before Christ”) for BCE and “n. Chr. Geb.” (“nach Christi Geburt” … “after the Nativity of Christ”) or simply “n. Chr.” (“nach Christus” … “after Christ”) for CE.

In East Germany there was use of the terms “v. u. Z. (“vor unserer Zeitrechnung” … “before our chronology”) for BCE and “u. Z.” (“unserer Zeitrechnung” … “of our chronology”) for CE.

Hungarian: “i. e.” (“időszámításunk előtt” … “before our era”) for BCE and “i. sz.” (“időszámításunk szerint” … “according to our era”) for CE. Another variation is “Kr. e.” (“Krisztus előtt” … “Before Christ”) for BCE and “Kr. u.” (“Krisztus után” … “After Christ”) for CE.

Italian: “A.C.” for BCE and “D.C.” for CE (seen in museums in Sicily). Also “a.e.v.” (“Ante Era Vulgaris”) for BCE and “e.v.” (“Era Vulgaris” or “Era Volgare” … “Common Era”) for CE.

Japanese: “西暦” (“seireki” … “Western calendar”) for CE.

Korean: “기원전” or “紀元前” (“Kiwonjeon”, an abbreviation of “Seoryok Kiwonjeon” meaning “before the origin of the Western calendar”) for BCE and “서기” or “西紀” (“Seogi” … “Western Era”) for CE.

Latin: “a.C.n.” (“ante Christum natum”) for BCE.

Polish: “naszej ery” (“of our era”) for CE and “przed naszą erą” (“before our era”) for BCE. Another variation is “przed Chrystusem” (“before Christ”) for BCE and “po Chrystusie” (“after Christ”) for CE.

Portugese (Brazil and Angola): “E.C.” (“Era Comum” … “Common Era”) for BCE and “A.E.C.” (“Antes da Era Comum” … “Before Common Era”) for CE.

Islamic Dates

Tunisian coinage, showing correspondence of Common Era and Islamic Dates

Tunisian coinage, showing correspondence of
Common Era and Islamic Dates Larger image

Years designated in the Islamic calendar (A.H. or B.H.) do not map neatly onto the Gregorian calendar, since the Islamic calendar uses a lunar cycle with years that are 10 to 12 days shorter than Gregorian years.

To convert between A.H. and CE, these formulas are used:

CE = (0.97023 × A.H.) + 621.57
A.H. = (CE − 621.57) / 0.97023

Archaeological Dates

For imprecise dates far in the past, I generally round the converted dates as appropriate for the apparent imprecision.

Some of those original dates reference the archaeological calender denoted by “B.P.”. B.P. means “Before Present” – the number of years before 1950 CE. (Note that, since there is no year 0, 1950 B.P. corresponds to 1 BCE. So the year 3,000 B.P. is equivalent to 1051 BCE, but this issue is overlooked in conversions since these dates are generally not precise to that degree.)

Approximate dates prior to 8,000 BCE (10,000 B.P.) generally refer to archaeological epochs and are given in the standard “years ago” format.

Note that these date conversions are done, even if they are within quoted text.

Grand Gulch Flute Replica crafted by Jonathan Walpole

Grand Gulch flute working replica crafted by Jonathan Walpole Larger image

Caveat Regarding Tunings of Working Replicas

One approach to understanding the historical music of a culture is to craft working replicas of archaeological artifacts from that culture. Flutopedia has a number of tables showing the pitches measured from playing these working replicas.

However … there are many pitfalls to developing working replicas. As Dayton C. Miller once noted ([Miller-DC 1935], page 100):

One cannot even approximately calculate the length of a flute tube which will sound a given note [musical tone]; one cannot by theoretical calculation locate any finger hole on a flute tube which will produce a given tone.

So please take these pitches only as a rough guide. It is likely that the relative pitches of any particular working replica are more accurate and useful than the absolute pitches that are reported.

With regard to pitches measured on working replicas of rim-blown flutes, Jonathan Walpole (personal communication, February 14, 2012) notes that:

Blowing style makes a substantial difference to the pitch. When I blow obliquely, I easily have well over a semitone of flexibility in pitch depending on what I do with my embouchure. So, fine tuning is something we shouldn't worry too much about on these flutes. That's one of the reasons I didn't add the cents information to the information I posted -- its all within a fairly large margin of error, and the whole point of posting was not to say “this is precisely the scale of these flutes”, but to give a general idea.

Is Clint Repeating Himself?

Many musical cultures train people in a fairly rigorous style. Young musicians are trained from scratch and everyone is presented with the same material. Students who do not absorb quickly enough or emulate their teacher's playing precisely enough are discouraged from continuing with their music.

The culture surrounding the Native American flute is radically different from this approach. Most people find the instrument inviting and easy to play. People find that they can improvise melodies and express themselves easily with a minimum of lessons and little intellectual gymnastics.

Once they master the basics of the Native American flute and want to expand their playing and understanding of the instrument and of music in general, they might seek out a teacher or a source of information, such as Flutopedia. So people arrive here from many backgrounds, with a huge variety of experience in music, the Native American flute, and life in general.

Because people with such a wide range of experience arrive here, you will often find the same material presented in different ways and in different depths of details on various parts of Flutopedia. If some topic that you're interested in is confusing, poke around some more, and you're likely to find it presented another way someplace else!

Rabbit Holes

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland More information

The world of young Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) changes dramatically when she falls down a rabbit hole. Sometimes when you investigate particular issues in music, you can get the feeling of being Alice falling down that same rabbit hole. What appears to be a straightforward question gets more and more murky, with caveats, special cases, and historical issues popping up that take you farther and farther from what you hoped would be a straightforward answer.

The 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!? (also written What tнe #$*! Dө ωΣ (k)πow!?) discusses a lot of seemingly straightforward questions, and carries the tag line “how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?”. So, in that spirit, I say that a question or topic is a rabbit-hole question or a rabbit-hole topic as a kind of warning (or an invitation, if you're so inclined) — take the simple answer if you're happy with it, but know that there are many, many more issues behind that simple answer, and you can go as far down the rabbit hole as you wish.

Here's a few rabbit-hole topics:

Reference PDF Files

Kirtas APT Books Scan 2400 GoldSource material for the reference PDF files were typically provided by a library and digitized by one of the large book digitization efforts such as Google, Inc. in support of Google Books or Microsoft Corp. in support of the now de-commissioned Microsoft Book Search.

Microsoft Book Search was launched December 11, 2006 and was de-comissioned May 23, 2008. The Kirtas APT 2400 Gold robotic scanner shown at the right is typical of the scanners used in the Microsoft effort. Microsoft digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles in their book digitization effort (see this TechCrunch article), primarily from the University of California, Trinity College Library, the University of Toronto, and Cornell University.

Some specifics about the reference PDF files that I have added:

  • The first page of each reference PDF file has the specific details of the reference, including the full citation for the material.
  • The pages are cropped and trimmed from the original scanned pages, to eliminate whitespace. However, no scanned content has been eliminated from the pages in the file. Only the PDF CropBox has been set to trim the pages when viewing or printing.
  • Extensive meta-data information (title, author, citation, rights management, etc.) has been added to each reference PDF file.
  • You can use text search on any reference PDF file on Flutopedia, based on optical character recognition software in Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro.
  • All fonts used reference PDF files have been embedded in the file itself, so they should display identically on different systems.
  • All reference PDF files conform to the PDF 1.5 standard and can be read with Adobe Acrobat Reader 6.0 (circa 2003) or later.
  • Reference PDF files have been optimized for fast display on web browsers, so you only need to wait the time it takes to download a single page before you can begin viewing the file.


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To cite this page on Wikipedia: <ref name="Goss_2022_about"> {{cite web |last=Goss |first=Clint |title=About Flutopedia.com |url=http://www.Flutopedia.com/about.htm |date=7 June 2022 |website=Flutopedia |access-date=<YOUR RETRIEVAL DATE> }}</ref>