Flutopedia - an Encyclopedia for the Native American Flute

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Steps and Leaps

When we first begin improvising or composing melodies, creating melodies that move up or down by one note of the scale are the most natural. They involve a minimum of finger movement, sound familiar to the ear, and seem to fit the Native American flute quite nicely, especially in a contemplative or meditative mood. These melodies are called stepwise melodies.

A leap involves a larger melodic jump, and can create a dramatically different feel.

Here's a track on steps and leaps by the great music educator, W. A. Mathieu, from The Listening Book:

Steps and Leaps

W. A. Mathieu. Track B12 of The Listening Book and The Musical Life.

Scott August, Ashland Oregon, November 2010

Scott August

One way to approach this in practice is to experiment with playing mostly leaps. It takes a short while to develop the finger dexterity to make the leaps cleanly. It takes a bit longer to make a leap-heavy melody sound pleasing.

Here is a track by Scott August, provided courtesy of Cedar Mesa Music, that demonstrates a leap-laden melody. It's an in-concert improvisation that Scott played in Ashland, Oregon in November 2010 on an F# minor flute by Tom Biddulph of Red Rock Flutes. (This is one of the tracks that Scott periodically offers feely to members of his email list).

Red Mountain

Scott August. Recorded November 2010. F# minor flute by Tom Biddulph.

Adding leaps to your melodies can add dramatic power and interest. So it's time to pick up a flute and let the leaps begin!


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