For most NAF players, learning the flute happens in stages similar to the building of a house. First, you need a firm foundation. This foundation is the basic scale. Without a firm knowledge of the basic scale, your music will be a house built on sand.
Secondly, you begin building the supporting walls. This is your skill at playing from the heart. Unless you are comfortable with this ability, you will not progress with the Native American flute.
The third step is to add the roof. Your home then becomes a shelter for you and others. This is learning the skill of playing with others in a group or flute circle.
You then decorate you’re your house with embellishments or new techniques learned from other players.
For many, this is where their musical journey ends. They have built a home they are happy with. For others, however, there is a sense that something is missing.
What do you think of when you think of electricity? It is used to heat our homes in winter, cool our homes in summer, bring light to the darkness and prepare our food much more efficiently than a wood fire.
In terms of our analogy, I believe learning to read Nakai tab is the flute player’s version of adding electricity to their musical home. Let’s look at each use for electricity.
To add warmth to our homes. Playing songs others can sing along with is a great bonding experience. I have warm memories of standing around a piano to sing songs at family gatherings. To do the same with your flute, you need to be able to learn the songs quickly and easily. Knowing how to read music can open doors for you to share your music with friends and family.
To cool. Have you ever, as a teen-ager, been angry or upset and shut yourself in your room just listening to the radio? Music can be very soothing to the soul. Playing from the heart can be very soothing, but so can playing a special song from when you were younger or playing that special lullaby for a young child. Again, you need a way of learning these special songs.
To bring light. I have performed in retirement homes and for Alzheimer’s patients. Songs of their generation can help spark memories and reach places in them others may have thought to be lost. For a WWII memorial, singing songs of the era and patriotic songs meant so much to the veterans of that war and their spouses. Familiar tunes brought light to their lives.
To prepare our food. Playing music nourishes our soul. Playing from the heart is wonderful. So is learning from other musicians. Being able to see what other musicians have done and how they have done it can feed our growth as musicians. Babies learn by imitating others. Only afterwards do they find their own methods. We can learn so much by imitating our favorite musicians, then using the experience to create something of our own.
In each case, being able to read music is a great tool in your tool box. It opens many doors that would otherwise remain closed to you. Begin today to electrify your musical home.