Traditional Native American flutes are known by several names, the most common being love flutes, or courting flutes. As the name suggests, they were flutes played in courting rituals - by a young man serenading his intended bride. Generally they were played for no other reason, although some men are known to have played them for their wives as a sign of love. IMPORTANT NOTICE! Health and sanitary regulations prohibit the exchange or return for credit of any mouth blown instrument.
These double-chambered flutes were traditionally played by the Plains Indians. Native Americans had no sheet music, or a scale to go by, therefore, music came from the heart. The flute was used by men to court the women they loved, and for this reason Native American flutes have also been given the beautiful name of the "Love Flute". These flutes are now played and appreciated by both men and women.
Courtship was not the private affair that western culture takes for granted. Most courting was very formal, and took place in full view of the rest of the tribe. When a young man courted a woman he was dressed and painted in his finest . He carried a special blanket, woven by the female members of his family - a sister or other close female relation, which he would invite the woman to share.
There, standing together under the watchful eyes of the tribe, they whispered together - the only form of "privacy" afforded them. A popular girl might have a row of young men waiting for her, each carrying his own courting blanket to wrap her close to him. How the love flute came to be a part of these courting rituals is the subject of many sacred stories.
To play Native American flutes, you need to use bagpipe finger position - cover the holes with the flat part of your finger between the first and second knuckles (on your index and middle fingers) and on the pad of your ring finger. At first, this might seem awkward, but after awhile it will feel less strained than if you tried to use your finger pads, as you would on a smaller whistle. When placing your fingers over all of the fingering holes of your flute, make sure that no air is escaping. Blow gently into the flute. If you hear an unpleasant sound, high pitched sound, or squeak, check to make sure no air is escaping under your fingers, also check the block/fetish to make sure it is positioned correctly.
Once you have a nice sound with all holes covered, start from the foot (bottom) of the flute and lift one finger up at a time, while gently increasing your breath. When all holes are uncovered, then start from the top down, closing each hole. Do this several times until you can do it creating a nice tone, while "memorizing" the fingering holes.
A note about Native American flutes - just as a "French horn" is a particular type of musical instrument, "Native American flute" refers to a particular type of musical instrument and does not imply that it was made by an enrolled member of a federally-recognized tribe.