1) Begin by placing your fingers over the 6 holes as shown in the diagram above. By relaxing your fingers, you will be able to cover the holes using the flat soft pads of the end joint of your fingers, rather than your finger tips. Cover all holes and blow SOFTLY, moving your fingers around until you get a clear sound, free of buzzing, cracking, or jumping to a higher octave. Do not give up...this can be one of the most challenging times in learning to play the flute.
2) Once you get a clear sound with all holes covered, make the next higher note by removing the finger from hole #6, the hole farthest from your mouthpiece, then place it back over the hole. Continue practicing this until you can clearly change from one note to the next.
3) Next, while covering all holes, lift finger #6, then finger #5, so that holes #5 and #6 are uncovered. The result will be a higher note up the scale. Now replace finger #5 while leaving #6 open, then cover #6 so you are back at the beginning. Practice this 3-note scale until you can repeat it fairly consistently with all the notes being played clearly.
4) Now, uncover #6, then #5, then #4...then go back down the scale. Practice.
5) Next, skip #3 and lift finger #2 so that only fingers #1 and #3 are left covering holes. You will find that you are using both thumbs and fingers #1 and #3 to hold the flute to your mouth. Here is where it begins to get a little trickier. Finally, lift finger #1 so that all holes are open except hole #3. At this point, the note you are playing is the same as the lowest note, only an octave higher. You have now played all 6 notes in the pentatonic minor scale. You still have not lifted finger #3. This is not necessary to play the scale, but it is necessary to balance the flute and keep control of it while playing all the notes in the scale. Many flutes do not even have this 6th. hole, so practice by keeping it closed at all times. You can experiment with this note later.
6) Practice this scale until you feel comfortable placing your fingers back over the holes in proper alignment so that the notes play crisp and clear.
CONGRATULATIONS!!! You are on your way.
How to Play
Align the Fetish:
Each time you pick up your flute to play, the first thing you should do is align the fetish, or "bird," to the proper playing position. If it is not in alignment, the flute will not play properly. The sound will be garbled, or jump an octave, or break, or otherwise sound poor, and you will become frustrated and not enjoy playing.
On top of your flute is a fetish. It is called the "bird," regardless of the image portrayed by this little statue. It is not just decoration, but it is important to the flute making a pleasing sound. As the air from your mouth enters the first chamber, it is forced through a square hole atop the flute, beneath the base of the bird. The "bird" channels the air and greatly increases its speed across the top of the second square sound hole (the one you can see in front of the bird). If the bird is not properly positioned, the air will not be directed properly to be split, the action needed to make the flute sound. First, the "bird" must be securely tied in place. The leather strapping should hold the "bird" tightly in place so it does not move easily. If it is loose, you should untie it and re-tie it more tightly. See the picture below for proper placement. The front of the "bird" should align just even with, or just slightly behind, the square sounding hole, and centered atop the flat portion of the flute:
Next, place your hands on the flute so that the top three holes (the ones closest to your mouthpiece) are covered by your index finger and the next two fingers of your left hand, with your thumb beneath the bottom of the flute barrel. Place the same three fingers of your right hand on the lower three holes, with your right thumb below the barrel of the flute. Your thumbs provide balance to hold the flute, plus downward force from your fingers to cover the holes. See the diagram below.
Cover all six holes using the pads of your fingers, not the tips, to COMPLETELY COVER THE HOLES. With all the holes covered, blow softly into the mouthpiece. If no sound, blow slightly harder. As you blow, adjust the position of your fingers until the sound is a clear, solid deep tone. If you are not getting a clear tone, it is because you have one or more holes slightly uncovered, or are blowing too hard or too softly. Even if you think you have all the holes covered, you probably don't if you are not getting a clean, clear tone. Keep adjusting your fingers until you achieve the proper sound.
Be sure you are achieving a good, clear tone and are comfortable duplicating this position before moving on to the next step.