Thanks to the rich culture of instrument makers who craft Native American flutes, we have a huge wealth of tunings for this instrument. This (among other things) sets the Native American flute apart from virtually all other musical instruments currently produced today, which tend to all be designed with very similar tunings and fingerings.
There are primarily two questions about tuning:
- What tuning was the instrument designed for?
- Is the flute well-tuned?
The first question deals with the scale and fingerings that the instrument was intended to play. For a survey of the common tunings that are made for present-day instruments, see the NAF Tunings page.
The second question relates to many issues of the instrument:
- Relative tuning: Was the flute crafted to be in-tune with itself?
- Multi-chamber flutes: Are the different chambers of the flute in tune with each other?
- Concert tuned: Is the flute in tune with some outside standard, like a piano or an electronic pitch meter?
- Temperament: What temperament system was used to tune the instrument?
These questions involve:
- the maker of the instrument (how carefully the flute was tuned and whether it was tuned to equal or just-intoned temperament),
- how the flute is played (primarily breath pressure), and
- the conditions you are playing (primarily temperature).