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A Beginners Guide

to the

Anasazi Dream
Flute
by
Mark Purtill

Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved

The Anasazi Flute


The recent arrival on the music scene

of the Anasazi flute has engaged the

interest of many who want to explore this very ancient and unique instrument.
The work of Michael Graham Allen (Coyote Oldman) in re-creating the
instrument for modern players has been a springboard for other makers who
wish to provide curious players with instruments. Long heralded as difficult to
play because of the rim-blown embouchure, the results of the effort given to
the Anasazi flute are well worth the hours spent in practice. In fact, the relative
ease of the Native American flute is the only reason the Anasazi flute seems
difficult. Once a player finds the comfortable holding positon and consistent
mouth formation, the Anasazi flute is no harder than a South American quena
and much easier than the Egyptian ney. While no one knows exactly how the
flutes were originally played or how they were used in the society of the
ancient people, this flute is truly a gift from the past that deserves to be reintroduced.
What we do know about Anasazi flutes that make them intriguing is that
the scale pattern marked by the soundholes on the flute was consistent among
the flutes found in the Four Corners area. That indicates that the scale was a
standard to be adhered to, not just a personal expression of sound. It suggests
to me that there might have been some call and response playing, and some
traditional tunes played among the people. In the area of pure speculation, the
high and clear upper registers also hint at the possibility of using the flutes as a
warning or lookout signal alerting the people to invading tribes.
The original material used for the Anasazi flutes was harvested from box
elder trees during the season when the tree sent out shoots or suckers from its
roots. Growing several feet high, the suckers were cut when the pithy interior
of the shoot was soft enough to either rasp out or burn out, creating a hollow
tube. Soundholes were either burnt or drilled and some flutes indicate that the
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Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved

player placed the left hand on the bottom holes rather than the top holes as
most of us do today. The actual embouchure, or mouth formation, is unknown.
There were not any sharply chamfered edges on the blowing end, as there are
on modern versions. It is also possible that the flute was held out to one side,
transversly. Since the Anasazi were not a tall people, it is probable that the
player stood while playing.

Anasazi Dream Flutes


In my attempt to create a good beginning instrument for discovering the
Anasazi flute, I am offering the Anasazi Dream flutes as an affordable
introduction to the fingering and tone that makes the Anasazi flute unique. The
PVC material responds to the breath in a very satisfying way. The mouthpiece is
designed to get the optimum sound possible and help the player achieve a
good sound in a short amount of time.
All of the Anasazi Dream flutes are tuned close to a concert pitch of
A = 440 hz. There is some slight variation among the flutes but it is of no
importance if you plan to use the flute as a solo meditation instrument. If you
are playing with a tunable stringed instrument, (harp, guitar, cello, etc.) it is
also easy to adjust the tuning. In displaying the traditional notation, I have
chosen to represent the actual pitches for a few reasons:
1. If you wish to pick out a tune (or have someone else play it for you) on a
standard instrument like the piano, you will not have to transpose.
2. The range of the instrument fits comfortably on one staff.
3. If you are a composer, knowing the actual pitch of an instrument makes
things much easier.
4. These notes should also be available on any other makers flutes, not just
the Anasazi Dream flute.
5. If a flute is pitched higher or lower by a half-step or so, you can transpose
for the accopaniment instrument and still read your part.
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Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved

I recommend that the beginner to the Anasazi dream flute follow the
instructions in this manual and not be afraid to experiment or modify anything
that helps create a beautiful, flowing sound. although I conclude the guide
with some music in standard notation, the real joy of this flute is in the
improvisational explorations that playing from the heart elicits. Relax, take
your mind out of our present time and enjoy the beauty of sound that can be
found on this flute.
After reaching a level of success with the Anasazi Dream Flute, I
encourage players to seek out the artists and craftsmen of wooden instruments
and try their versions of the Anasazi flute. My respect for the true artisans in this
field is boundless, and we should all support them.
Acknowledgements: The information that I have shared in the above text
comes from my recollections of lectures by Michael Graham Allen and Robert
Gatliff, both fine historians and Michael a master flutemaker. If I have misstated
any facts, it is entirely my error, not theirs and any speculation is completely
mine. I encourage people to seek them out on the web for further information.
The fingering diagrams for this booklet are courtesy of Clint Goss
(www,NAFTracks.com), which came to me right before I sat down to write this
manual (which once again proves to me that there are no coincidences!). Clint
is an inspiring musician and teacher who knows how to encourage and
motivate. The music fonts were invaluable to me in creating this guide and I
owe him many thanks. My thanks also to Vince Redhouse for his
encouragement to follow through with my dreams of becoming a better
musician and sharing the gift of music with others.
Most of all, the support of my wife and family for this endeavor has been
most helpful and I hold them close as a source of love and inspiration.
Mark Purtill
September, 2008

Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved

Embouchure and Playing Position


I always ask a potential player to imagine those days as a child when we
would finish off an empty soda bottle and blow across the rim to make that
hollow little "toot" that resulted. While playing the Anasazi Dream flute is
not exactly the same, we have at one time or another used some of the
same muscles to create a flow of air to produce sound.
The object is to guide the breath with your upper lip muscles, curving
them slightly inward and blowing across the angled edge of the
mouthpiece (see Pictures 1 & 2). Although every mouth is different, we all
have the ability (with a little practice) to channel the airstream.

Picture 1, front view


Note that the flute is angled slightly to
accomodate the direction of the airflow.
Experiment by adjusting the position of the
flute to get the best sound.

Picture 2, side view


The lower part of the mouthpiece is rested
against the bottom lip and the upper lip is
out in front of the upper edge of the flute.

Begin by holding the flute with the left hand covering the top three holes. Bring the
bottom of the flute up to your lower lip while narrowing down the muscles of your upper
lip. Start a breath of air down the tube of the flute while raising or lowering the angle of
the flute until you hear and feel the clearest response. Do not be discouraged if you do
not get a note immediately, it is a different feel from the standard Native american flute.
When you do get a tone, note if it has a "fuzzy" or "raspy" sound. If so, try focusing the
upper lip muscles again to direct the airstream. Many people often become slightly dizzy
after several attempts, so pace yourself and lower the flute from your mouth, walk around
a little and try again. After getting the sound focused, add the bottom three holes with the
right hand and try alternating between those two notes to get a feel for the spacing and
tone quality.
I have found that it is not necessary to use your tongue as an articulation aid as we do in
recorders and Native American flutes.
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Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved

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Basic Modal
Basic Anasazi
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Modal Scale
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5 ^ ~ 1 * 3 5 ^ ~ *1 3 5 ^ ~ 1* 3 5 ^ ~ 1* 3 5 ^
The above scale will help you become familiar with the characteristic sound of the Anasazi flute. Notice that the scale
does not utilize every fingerhole in order from bottom to top. It is a 5-note (pentatonic) scale: A, B, C#, E F#, A.
The octave A (measure 6) needs a slight increase in wind pressure to sound the note. Releasing the top hole helps keep it
in tune. The F# (measure 5) on some flutes is sometimes helped by also covering the bottom hole, but is not always
necessary.

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Basic Scale Melody

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If you come to the Anasazi flute from the Native American flute, you will appreciate the wonderful variety of tunes you can
play with just an octave. The modal scale encompasses the keys of A Major and F# Minor. As an excercise, try playing the
root note (all 6 holes covered), accelerate the breath and release the top hole to get the octave of the root.
After you feel comfortable with this initial scale, move on to the extended scale. Note: If you are note a note reader, count
the black notes as 1 beat each, and the dotted hollow note as 3 beats.

Finger diagrams courtesy of Clint Goss, www.NAFTracks.com


Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved
5

Extended Scale Pattern

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C#

OB

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A

C#

OB

OB

OB

The above scale adds a few more finger positions and extends the range out past the first octave. Notes
marked with an asterisk (*) mean that sometimes closing the bottom hole is necessary to stay in tune. Notes
marked with "OB" indicate overblowing, which is a narrowing of the lip and an increase in the wind
pressure going through the tube. The last three notes are quite a challenge at first. It is easier to try them
while outside (since the increased pressure results in high volume) before you learn to control it. Spend more
time on the lower notes first.

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Minor Exotic scale pattern with F natural


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M. Purtill

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Exotic Scale: Adding the fingering for F natural and playing


this combination illustrates an orientalism that reminds one
of the japanese shakuhachi. It is easy to imagine that this
fingering and note combination may have been used in
ancient times.

1 13 354 5^( ^~ ~*7 *

Finger diagrams courtesy of Clint Goss, www.NAFTracks.com


Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved
6

This beautiful traditional american folk song fits nicely on the Anasazi flute. I
have added fingering diagrams sparingly, just enough to keep you on track. The
asterisk (*) suggests closing the bottom hole if necessary for tuning.

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Shenandoah

Andante (&66)

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Trad. American Folk Song arr. Mark Purtill

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I thought it particularly fitting that an American folk song rests so well on the oldest of North
American instruments. This now brings me to the subject of playing recognizable melodies
on the Anasazi flute. My take on it is that while improvisation and "playing from the heart"
is a perfectly valid way to go on this instrument, the occasional folk song or snippet of a
classical tune helps me to find new ways to approach the flute. Some of the tunes you might
find include: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus*, The Way We Were, Tu-ra-lu-ra-lu-ra (An
Irish Lullaby). I was able to explore the range and fingerings that led me to better
improvisations on my own. It also never hurts to play a familiar tune to the uninitiated,
which seems to validate the instrument as "legitimate".
*Thanks to Michael Graham Allen for suggesting that!

Finger diagrams courtesy of Clint Goss, www.NAFTracks.com


Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved
7

Now a little classical music, from the "New World "


Symphony, on an ancient New World instrument.

--- *
,
*

Theme from "The New World" Symphony


A. Dvorak, arr. M. Purtill

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This takes a bit of effort to keep it going, but it is an expressive melody that helps you to
develop phrasing and breath control. The higher notes give good practice on changing
the wind pressure. Once again, I've added diagrams sparingly. Look for patterns of
repeated notes.

Finger diagrams courtesy of Clint Goss, www.NAFTracks.com


Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved
8

Now What?
When you start to feel that you are getting a consistent sound quality from your flute, try
to use some simple techniques to develop your improvisations:
1. Use repeating patterns of short note phrases, playing louder, then softer.
2. Get a friend to play a drum (or record yourself playing a drum beat), and
play your flute to a rhythm.
3. Start playing on a different note than the root and try ending the
improvisation on another note.

Some Last Thoughts


I hope that this introduction to the Anasazi flute has given you the basic tools to
begin your flute journey. I have not tried to make this a comprehensive work in terms of
references because with today's internet it is easy to search and find answers to
questions. I also did not go into playing trills or ornaments because I'm certain that the
curious player will find the ways to embellish and personalize his or her playing style.
If you would like to contact me personally, I refer you to this URL:
www.anasazidream.blogspot.com
I wish you joy in the discovery of a new sound,
Mark Purtill
September, 2008

Mark Purtill, 2008, all rights reserved