HOW TO PLAY THE QUENA FLUTE (BASICS)
1. ACQUIRE A PROFESSIONAL QUALITY WOODEN QUENA FLUTE:
- Good Quenas are often difficult to find, because most Quena flutes sold at art fairs and online are "Tourist Quality" and not tuned in the "Key of G". However, if you opt to spend a little more and get a professional wooden Quena flute, you'll find that they sound better and are easier to play.
- Once you select a professional quality Quena flute, it's important to get accustomed to the new flute. Make it a point to limit yourself to only that Quena flute. Concentrate on playing just this flute and no other flute. This will help eliminate body and mind confusion that results from playing different flutes.
2. PARTS OF THE QUENA:
The Quena (sometimes written as "Kena") is the traditional flute of the Andes.
- It is an end blown flute that has 6 finger holes and one thumb hole. It is open on both ends.
- It has a mouth piece / embouchure where you direct air pressure to make sound.
- There is the back part thumbhole #1 that produces the note G.
- and the upper body where you will find the holes #2 through #6. These holes are A, B, C, D, E, and F#.
3. TO PRODUCE SOUND:
- Hold the quena with your right hand covering the bottom three holes. Your left hand should cover the top three with your thumb covering the hole on the back.
- Hold the quena to your mouth and close the top end of the pipe with the flesh between your chin and lower lip.
- The u-notch / embouchure indentation should rest against your bottom lip.
- The first thing that is required is to shape your lips properly. Smile a narrow grin as if you are spitting out a watermelon seed. This pulls the lips against your teeth.
- Blow a stream of air downward along the axis of the pipe into the mouthpiece end. Think of blowing a tiny pinpoint air steam.
- In order to find that precise location, slowly rock the flute back and forth to direct the air at slightly different angles. Tilt the angle of the u-notch up and down until it makes a tone.
- Get accustomed to holding the quena in this manner and find the exact point where air must be blown to produce sound.
- Practice until you are able to consistently blow into the mouthpiece and produce sound.
4. THE NOTES:
When you can make a sound consistently, make the note last as long as possible. If you can hold the tone for more than 5 seconds, you are doing very well. Time yourself with a watch and see how much you improve. See if you can get up to 10 seconds.
- Once you have mastered how to produce the initial tone, it is time to learn the notes, or pitches. All music is produced using a scale or a series of notes that are close to one another in pitch.
- When you are able to do this almost instantly, then start identifying the seven holes of the Quena. Each hole should be covered by the following fingers. The Quena produces the pitches G, G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, and F#.
- These pitches are made by covering specific holes with your fingers.
- When you cover a hole, make sure you cover the hole completely. Any gap between your finger and the hole will throw off the tone.
5. MAJOR SCALE:
Professional Quena Flutes are normally in the "Key of G", with G being the lowest note (all holes covered). It produces a very breathy or airy tone and has a very nice sound. In this tutorial, we will start off by showing you the notes of the scale in "G Major". We will start with the first note G on the first octave and end with G on second octave. To play songs on the scale of "G Major" and its relative "G Minor", we only have to completely cover or uncover holes on the quena.
6. KEY OF G:
- We are going to start with the lowest note that the Quena flute produces. To do this, we must cover all the holes, including the one on the back. With all holes covered, blow into the quena. This is the first note "G".
- The air pressure directed to the mouthpiece needs to be constant and relaxed.
- To produce a G#, hold the previous position, but slide your finger slightly off of Hole #6. This is called a "half-hole" and is used by many instruments to produce half tones, or sharps or flats. We are going to be using two different air pressures for each note.
7. KEY OF A:
- We are going to continue with the second note on the scale which is "A". To do this, we are going to cover six holes and the air pressure needs to be constant and relaxed. To produce the next note "A", lift your finger completely off of Hole #6. As you lift your fingers, keep them hovering close to the instrument so that they can be used easily later. Many beginners flail their fingers around and lose their position, making it difficult to play quick pieces of music. The sooner you learn what proper position feels like, the easier your progress will be.
- For an A#, keep your finger off of Hole #6 and "Half-Hole" on #5.
8. KEY OF B:
- Now for the third note on the scale, which is "B", we are going to cover five holes on the Quena. You will use the same constant and relaxed air pressure as before. Lift finger 5 in order to produce the note "B".
9. KEY OF C:
- Next note on the scale is "C". For this note, we are going to cover 4 holes. For this note, the air pressure you give needs to be increased little by little. Uncover all holes held by the right hand, but leave the right hand in place to help support the flute.
- For C#, keep all fingers from right hand off, except to "Half-Hole" on #3.
10. KEY OF D:
- For the next note "D", we are going to cover 3 holes. Now cover 3 holes entirely to produce a "D".
- For D#, do a "Half-Hole" on #2.
11. KEY OF E:
- For note "E", we are going to cover 2 holes. Cover Hole #2 and just hold Hole #1 with your thumb in place.
12. KEY OF F:
- For the note "F#", you will just cover the back hole of the Quena flute.
13. KEY OF G - 2ND OCTAVE:
Finally, for the final note, no holes will be covered. To get the 2nd Octave "G", you need to increase your air pressure. You do this by reducing the gap by pressing the lips closer together. We will also be using the tongue as an aid to increase the air pressure. Now play all the notes with different air pressures.
14. KEY OF G - 3RD OCTAVE:
- To finishe the scale and the third octave, you need to increase the air pressure.
- Now play all the notes with different air pressures. We are gong to use numbers.
15. DAILY PRACTICE:
It takes patience to learn to play any instrument, but the rewards are worth it. It is another form of communication, one which you can enjoy alone or by playing music with other people.
Practice playing each note, and get used to ascending and descending the notes in order. Once you can comfortably move chromatically through the notes, practice playing them out of order and at varying speeds. This will further familiarize you with the notes and will prepare you for playing songs.
Itís good to play at the same time everyday. It doesnít matter when that time is. Just keeping a daily schedule helps you get into that frame of mind.
The most important thing is to have fun with it and not to get frustrated. It takes a bit of work to get started. If it was easy, everyone would do it!