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SNAFT - Simplified Native American Flute Tablature

SNAFT is an easy notation for writing fingerings (which finger holes are open and closed) in character form. It works great in E-Mail messages and simple text files. For example, rather than saying “keep all your fingers down except for the bottom two holes furthest away from the end you blow into”, you can just write <xxx|xoo.

It was originally developed by Randy Goodhew. The version that I present here has some minor modifications to his original design.


The basic characters of SNAFT are:

Character Meaning
< Mouth end of the flute … always at the left
x Hole closed
o Hole open
h Hole is half closed
| The break between the left and right hand

SNAFT is written left to right, with the mouth hole always at the left. Some examples:

    <xxx|xxx = All holes closed.

    <xxx|xxo = One hole nearest the foot of the flute is open.

    <xxx|xxh = One hole nearest the foot of the flute is partially open.


Here is an example of the Mode 1 Pentatonic Minor Scale, as played on many contemporary Native American flutes:


And here is the Mode Four Pentatonic Minor Scale, as played on many contemporary Native American flutes:



You may notice in the example above that a tooltip pops up in your browser if you rest over the SNAFT examples. (A tooltip is a pop-up window provided by some browsers that shows the title of an item). You may also notice that the tooltip shows a vocalized version of the SNAFT text.

This web site provides vocalization text on SNAFT text to assist blind and limited-sight players who use screen readers and other assistive technologies. For more information on providing vocalization text, see Accessibility issues relating to using finger diagrams on web pages.

Other Flute Styles

Here are some examples of how different flute styles might be represented:

  • Five hole flutes: <xx|ooo
  • Shakuhachi-style fingering (usually fingered as: thumb - index - ring | index - ring): <xxo|oo
  • Papago-style three hole flutes: <xoo

Advanced SNAFT

Here are some advanced notation conventions:

Character Meaning
q Hole is ¼ closed
c Hole is “cracked” - ¾ closed
t Trill - Rapidly open and close this finger
! High register. This is added at the end of
the finger notation to indicate
overblowing into the upper register.

... and some examples with these characters:

    <xxx|xto = Trill between two notes on the second hole from the foot.

    <oxx|xxx! = Only top hole open, and overblown into second register.

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To cite this page on Wikipedia: <ref name="Goss_2022_snaft"> {{cite web |last=Goss |first=Clint |title=SNAFT - Simplified Native American Flute Tablature |url=http://www.Flutopedia.com/snaft.htm |date=7 June 2022 |website=Flutopedia |access-date=<YOUR RETRIEVAL DATE> }}</ref>