Pan flutes, also known as panpipes, are believed to be one of the oldest instruments in the world. Different cultures around the world have created their own version of them; like the siku, antara and zampoña of South America, the jorvik of the Vikings and the nai of the Romanians. The number of pipes in a pan flute can vary from 5 to 15 and each one has a different and beautiful sound.
Method 1 of 4: Get Your Body in the Right Position
Step 1. Sit or stand in an upright, relaxed position
Keep your body stretched out and stand up straight. If you choose to sit, make sure your back is straight so that you can comfortably hold the pan flute in front of your body. Keep it relaxed.
Step 2. Hold the pan flute with both hands
Grab the long tube at the end as if you were going to shake your right hand. Position the instrument so that the tubes are vertical to your body. Use your left hand to gently hold the end with the short tubes.
- The pan flute is generally curved. Position the curvature towards your body.
- Keep the instrument aligned horizontally with your head. So if you tilt it to one side, the pan flute will have to do that as well to stay aligned with it.
Step 3. Relax your arms
Keep them relaxed when holding the instrument. This will make it easier for you to move it back and forth so that you can blow into different tubes.
Step 4. Form the correct embouchure
This consists of the position and shape of your mouth and your lips to control the passage of air when playing the pan flute. To form it, first smile slightly and purse your lips a little. Make a small opening between them. Place the pan flute against your lower lip and direct air into the tube, as you would if you were blowing into a bottle.
- Move the bottom of the instrument a little towards the front or towards you to adjust the direction of the air in the tubes.
- Modify the position of the top of the tubes higher or lower depending on your mouth and lips to produce good quality sound.
- Tighten your lips or embouchure when you play the highest notes (the shorter tubes). Relax the embouchure when you play the lowest notes (the longest tubes).
Method 2 of 4: Try Basic Playing Techniques
Step 1. Blow into the pan flute
Once your body is in the correct position, you are ready to touch it. Take a regular, powerful blow through the mouthpiece and into the tubes.
Make minor adjustments to your embouchure and pan flute position to get the sound you want
Step 2. Pronounce different letters to make different sounds
When you blow into the pan flute, you can alter the result by moving your tongue to pronounce the sounds of different consonants. The main letter sound used when playing is the "T". You can also do the one with the “B”, “P” or “D” to subtly modify its sound.
Step 3. Play altered sounding notes on your pan flute
A musical scale is made up of natural sounding notes (such as C, B, A) and altered sounding notes (such as C sharp, E flat, among others). The tubes of this instrument produce natural notes, but you can use different techniques in order to reach the altered notes and, thus, expand the repertoire of music that you will be able to interpret. To play these notes, try one of these techniques:
- Bow the pan flute- Tilt the bottom of the instrument forward so that your lower lip covers part of the opening of the tube. At the same time, bring the flute down slightly, against your lips.
- Retract your jaw: You can also retract the jaw to play the altered notes. Bring your chin back and direct the air into one of the tubes.
Step 4. Make a note bending with the pan flute
This technique is a way to add musicality and depth to the way you play. This is a sound that begins on a flat note and moves upward to end on the correct note; or a sharp note that moves down to the correct one. To do it:
Tilt the flute forward to make a downward bending. Keep the blowing regular
Step 5. Play notes with staccato
These are short notes that almost sound like a sustain. They are especially useful when you play fast music. To interpret them, make a cutting T sound, bringing your tongue until it touches the back of your teeth quickly.
Step 6. Create a vibrato
This is a wavering sound that adds dimension to your playing. Change the force of the blow inside the tube from strong to weak over and over again to add a vibrato or wavering sound.,
You can also play it by moving the pan flute towards your mouth and in the opposite direction, just a short distance. Do it quickly, keeping the airflow consistent and powerful
Step 7. Wave your tongue while playing
Doing so will create sounds similar to trills. To do this, vibrate your tongue like a purr or the sound of the "rr." Maintain a strong air stream through the tube of the instrument.
Method 3 of 4: Practice Your Skills
Step 1. Practice the scales
A musical scale is a set of notes in ascending order. These can vary depending on the key in which you play. A common scale starts with C and goes up to the next C (D, E, F, G, A, B, C). Play each note individually and precisely.
- Practice different techniques as you go up and down the musical scale, working on the stacattos and vibratos.
- Practice a scale with sound-altered notes. In each tube, play the natural note and then the altered note by tilting the pan flute towards you or forward.
Step 2. Practice playing simple songs
Simple songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” will help you move from note to note and rehearse different techniques. If you play an 8-tube instrument, imagine that each tube has a number from 1 to 8. When the tube is against your mouth, imagine the numbers on each. The longest tube will be number 1, the next ones 2, 3, and so on. The shortest tube will be numbered 8.
Play "Mary Had a Lamb" by blowing into the tubes that correspond to the following numbers: 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 3, 5, 5, 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 1
Step 3. Practice frequently
The surest way to improve your technique is to practice the pan flute often. Playing for 30 to 60 minutes every day will help you get used to forming your embouchure.
Step 4. Practice in front of a mirror
Use one to observe your technique when you play. Pay attention to the shape of your mouth. Practice modifying your embouchure to test the different tones this produces.
Step 5. Play with a group of flute players
One way to improve your playing of the pan flute is to play with a group of people who do as well. You can learn techniques from others and they can also comment on yours.
Method 4 of 4: Caring for Your Pan Flute
Step 1. Clean your pan flute after playing it
When you touch it, a little moisture can collect inside the tubes. After finishing with the instrument, wipe the inside of each one with a soft, wet cloth. Let the pan flute dry before storing it.
Step 2. Store your instrument in a padded case
Once the pan flute has dried, store it in a padded fabric case. This material will allow enough respiration for any moisture to escape. Storing the pan flute in a case will prevent it from being exposed to dust and any possible damage.
Step 3. Protect your pan flute from sudden temperature changes
Wooden instruments are very susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Try to keep it in a regular temperature environment. For example, don't leave it in a hot car.
Step 4. Soften the nozzles
From time to time, the mouthpieces of a pan flute may get rough from playing so much. Use a cleaning stick to smooth them out. Rub the rod along the edges of the tubes. This will help even out any fibers that are starting to lift.
Step 5. Repair any cracks in the tubes
Any fine crack or fracture can alter or compromise the sound of a pan flute. Check it regularly to see if you have any of these problems. To fix it quickly, cover the tubes with duct tape. Use beeswax to seal the cracks for a long-lasting repair.
Another alternative is to take the instrument to a repair shop to have it done professionally
- Some pan flutes come with slide tuners that allow you to tune the notes more precisely.
- Try making your own pan flute by following the instructions in the wikiHow article "How to Make a Pan Flute."