How to Play a Duet on the Native American Flute

Two Stellar Premiere flutes in the keys of E and A that can be played together in a duet. https://www.stellarflutes.com

This post is all about how to choose two compatible Native American flutes and how to play them together. There are few feelings more amazing than finding harmony with another person. Native flutes are very well suited to help you achieve this because they feature a pentatonic minor scale that is easy to harmonize with.

You might have notice though that not all flutes can be played together, without the need for ear plugs that is! Let’s learn more about the various combinations that do work:

The fool proof combo

Two flutes in the same key will always sound good together as long as you are both playing in the 5 note pentatonic scale. This could be two flutes in the same key and octave, or two flutes in the same key but different octaves. If you keep that third finger from the top down, all the other notes will sound good together in any combination, don’t be afraid, give it a go! Start off by playing together slowly, then experiment with one person playing slowly and one person playing more quickly.

Tip: try to take a pause to breath when the other person is still playing. It will create a seamless, effortless sound.

In these examples my father and I are playing from the heart, nothing was practiced. The more you get to know your duo buddy, the better you will sound together.

Here my father and I are demonstrating two flutes in the key of G in the same octave:

Here we are playing two flutes in the same key but in different octaves:

5th and 7th interval combos

Ok, so maybe the person you want to duo with is your partner and you don’t really want to buy two flutes in the same key. Let’s add some variety!

This is where things get a little bit trickier, but I am going to simplify it for you. You might have heard of playing in 5th and 7th intervals to create harmony, what does that even mean!? I could tell you, but maybe you just want to play flutes and not spend all day learning new music terminology.

Here’s the easy trick. You know that nifty Stellar fingering chart in our booklets? This one:

find a key in the far left column. Maybe you already have one flute, or maybe you just love the sound of a particular key. Let’s say key of A for this example. Follow the column over to the right find row 6 and 8 , in this case the key of E and the key of D , these are the keys that will go along with a key of A flute. You can repeat for any key.

You might find initially that these combos are a tiny bit trickier. The reason is that in each of these combos there is one note that doesn’t sound good with the other flute.

You can find this note by writing the pentatonic scales for each key down (the shaded columns) as I show here, and circling the odd key that isn’t in the main scale.  You will very quickly learn to avoid playing this note with a little practice.

Here my dad and I are playing an A with an E (we find the bad note right away!) :

It is a truly delightful experience to play Native American flutes with another person, be they a partner, child, parent, or even a new friend. We learn a something about each other when we communicate through music and this is a very fun way to do that!

Until next time , happy fluteing

-Lily

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