Flutopedia - an Encyclopedia for the Native American Flute

Sign up for our Flute Newsletter

 


 
Previous PageNext Page
Flutopedia Symposium

Flute Keys

This page lists the various keys of Native American flutes (NAFs). The key of the flute is the lowest note that the flute plays … often called the fundamental note note of the flute.

Although I have assigned ranges to the keys of flutes, these ranges are not in general use — these assignments are completely my invention. If you have any comments on my choices, please email me at clint@goss.com. The ranges are:

  • Ultra-High / Sopranino The extreme upper end of the range for playable Native American flutes. These flutes are typically used for special effects and ornaments on songs, rather than creating melodies.
    Very few flute makers craft flutes in this range.
  • Very High / Soprano The upper end of the range for practical melodic Native American flutes. These flutes are typically used for special effects, counterpoint to a lower flute, or for use over drums.
    Few flute makers craft flutes in this range.
  • High / Alto A range of flutes that is quite high, but playable flutes can be made. Small fifes have historically been made in this range. NAFs in this range often sound good when paired with a flute an octave lower in duets.
  • Mid-Range / Medium / Tenor The range for the majority of Native American flutes that are constructed. This range strikes a balance between a good sound for the Native American flute, and the ability to reach the finger holes for most players. The center of this range, the keys of F# and G, are the most common keys for Native American flutes. These keys are a good choice for most first-time players of the Native American flute. For adult players with a smaller hand reach, a Native American flute in the key of A might be a better choice.
  • Low / Baritone A range that usually produces a soothing, mellow sound from the Native American flute. Often used in mellow or meditation style songs. Since Native American flutes do not have keys or mechanisims to extend the reach of the fingers, these flutes tend to be difficult to play for people with a small finger reach. NAFs at the low end of the baritone range often are "side-blown" so that the arms can reach the finger holes.
  • Very Low / Bass The extreme lower end of the range for playable Native American flutes. Flutes in this range are sometimes produced as a curiosity rather than a serious attempt at producing a quality sound. One exception is the Slovakian Fujara ... an instrument of excellent sound quality that is a cousin in design to the Native American flute.
    Few flute makers craft flutes in this range.
  • Ultra-Low / Contrabass Below the range for playable Native American flutes (although this might change in the future).
Jaina Block Flute of clay, 700 CE

Native American flutes in the key of B spanning four octaves.
Fundamental notes are B2 (topmost flute) to B5 (bottommost flute),
ranging from about 5 feet to about 10½ inches.
Flutes crafted by and photograph courtesy of Barry Higgins of White Crow Flutes.
The topmost flute was used to record the B2 sample below. Larger image

For more information on the Frequency and Piano Key#, see Octave Notation.

Unless otherwise noted, all sound samples played by Clint Goss, from instruments in my collection. The Flutopedia audio player used on this page can have multiple sound samples running at once, so you can experiment with what keys produce nice harmonies (or dissonance, if you like):

Keys of Native American Flutes
Range Key and
Fundamental
Note
Sound Sample Frequency
(Hertz)
A4=440
Piano
Key#
Notes
Ultra-High
Sopranino
E7

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

Thanks to Alan Williams for recording this sound sample.
2,637.020 80  
Eb7 (D#7)   2,489.016 79  
D7   2,349.318 78  
C#7 (Db7)   2,217.461 77  
C7   2,093.005 76  
Very High
Soprano
B6   1,975.533 75  
Bb6 (A#6)   1,864.655 74  
A6   1,760.000 73  
G#6 (Ab6)   1,661.219 72  
G6   1,567.982 71  
F#6 (Gb6)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

1,479.978 70  
F6   1,396.913 69  
E6   1,318.510 68 E Bamboo micro-flute - needs to be recorded
Eb6 (D#6)   1,244.508 67  
D6   1,174.659 66  
C#6 (Db6)   1,108.731 65  
C6   1,046.502 64 C Bamboo micro-flute - needs to be recorded
High
Alto
B5   987.767 63  
Bb5 (A#5)   932.328 62  
A5

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

880.000 61  
G#5 (Ab5)   830.609 60  
G5

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

783.991 59  
F#5 (Gb5)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

739.989 58  
F5

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

698.456 57  
E5

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

659.255 56  
Eb5 (D#5)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

622.254 55  
D5

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

587.330 54  
C#5 (Db5)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

554.365 53  
C5

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

523.251 52  
Mid-Range
Medium
Tenor
B4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

493.883 51  
Bb4 (A#4)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

466.164 50  
A4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

440.000 49  
G#4 (Ab4)   415.305 48  
G4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

391.995 47  
F#4 (Gb4)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

369.994 46  
F4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

349.228 45  
E4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

329.628 44  
Eb4 (D#4)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

311.127 43  
D4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

293.665 42  
C#4 (Db4)   277.183 41  
C4

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

261.626 40 Middle C on a piano
Low
Baritone
B3

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

246.942 39  
Bb3 (A#3)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

233.082 38 Lowest note on a concert (silver) flute and an oboe.
A3

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

220.000 37  
G#3 (Ab3)   207.652 36  
G3

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

195.998 35 Lowest note on a violin.
F#3 (Gb3)   184.997 34  
F3   174.614 33  
E3

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

164.814 32  
Eb3 (D#3)

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

155.563 31  
D3   146.832 30  
C#3 (Db3)   138.591 29  
C3   130.813 28  
Very Low
Bass
B2

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

Thanks to Barry Higgins / White Crow Flutes
for recording this sound sample.
123.471 27  
Bb2 (A#2)   116.541 26  
A2   110.000 25  
G#2 (Ab2)   103.826 24  
G2

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

97.999 23  
F#2 (Gb2)   92.499 22  
F2   87.307 21  
E2   82.407 20  
Eb2 (D#2)   77.782 19  
D2   73.416 18  
C#2 (Db2)   69.296 17  
C2   65.406 16 Lowest note on a cello.
Ultra-Low
Contrabass
B1   61.735 15  
Bb1 (A#1)   58.270 14  
A1   55.000 13  
G#1 (Ab1)   51.913 12  
G1

Audio Player disabled - visit Troubleshooting.

48.999 11 … with 11′ of PVC pipe
F#1 (Gb1)   46.249 10  
F1   43.654 9  
E1   41.203 8  
Eb1 (D#1)   38.891 7  
D1   36.708 6  
C#1 (Db1)   34.648 5  
C1   32.703 4  
Sub-Bass B0   30.868 3  
Bb0 (A#0)   29.135 2 Lowest typical note on a contrabassoon.
A0   27.500 1 27.5 Hertz. Lowest note on a piano.
G#0 (Ab0)   25.957    
G0   24.500    
F#0 (Gb0)   23.125    
F0   21.827    
E0   20.602    
Eb0 (D#0)   19.445    
D0   18.354    
C#0 (Db0)   17.324    
C0   16.352    

 
Previous PageNext Page