The warble, in it's simplest terms, is a 'natural vibrato' or oscillation effect occurring in some flutes when the fundamental note is played. (all finger holes covered). Some have called this a 'bubble' effect or sound wave oscillation. In my experience with making these warbling flutes, some produce the warble much easier than others. Some of my flutes warble without even trying to produce it, but, for the most part, the warble is produced by over blowing slightly. Some flutes need a bit more forceful over blow than other flutes. I have found that the pitch of the flute is not a barometer as to a better warbler. The extremely high pitched flutes are the rarest in my shop to produce this warble, however, I have done them. I have actually made some flutes that warble on the 2nd note. (first hole being uncovered). The warble is a unique phenomenon on it's own, but this latter warble with a hole uncovered is even more rare.

There are a small number of flute makers that produce flutes that warble, and an even smaller number that produce the warble intentionally. I have been honored to meet several of these flute makers that do this on a consistent basis and have played some of their flutes with one unique comparison. None of these flutes jump the octave when played with relative forcefulness. Interesting. I have always noted that my flutes do not octave jump easily either. Maybe this is the point of the warble, where most flutes jump. I believe this is something which needs to be studied further....

I have heard and read several peoples explanations of the warble - how it is produced, why it is produced, etc., with one thing for sure. All are interesting personal concepts, but, I do not believe anyone understands this phenomenon completely. Many of these explanations are in Tim Crawford's Flute Magic: An Introduction to the Native American Flute book. (see my accessories page - $24.95). I have discussed with Mr. Crawford that it sounds as if the flute wants to octave jump but is forced back to the lower fundamental. A back and forth wave if you will. Some flutes are a quick wave while others are a very impressive slow oscillation.

A prominent flute player described it as, "...merely an indicator that the sound-producing mechanism is well made and is correctly positioned for optimum air flow from the air chamber over the block and directed by the saddle/bird mechanism against the distal edge of the body tube hole. The oscillation of air movement coincidence with the Coreolis effect and the standing sine wave in the body tube helps to make this effect possible. That's all."

If you understand the physics behind this, that explains it all I suppose. If you don't, join the club.

A very good friend of mine, Dock Green Silverhawk, mentioned the warble in the Comanche tribe was meant to imitate the soul wretching cry of a man in pain. This was told to him by our friend Sonny Nevaquaya. A deep emotional & spiritual cry no doubt, but possibly a physical one as well.

I have recently listened to some very old wax cylinder flute recordings and found that it was imperative that the very old flutes warbled. Their phrases often ended on the fundamental warble as well as starting with it. This was an intricate part of the songs. If the flute did not warble it was fire wood, I have been told. I find this very interesting and something we are truly missing in our Native flute music today. Regardless if one appreciates this unique flavor or not, we are very lucky to still have some makers out in flute world that do create these wonderful warbling instruments. I am including a warble sound clip on this page as well as on my sound clips page. Click the link below to hear this warble.

Natural Warble

There are still those in flute world that have never heard this unique sound. When heard they attempt to explain it as an effect produced by the tongue or a vibrato one makes themselves. Possibly a flaw in the flute. I believe this is a simple lack of knowledge and/or understanding about this ancient instrument. We must only open our hearts and minds, humble ourselves and accept that there are things out there that we may not know. The flute has many secrets we do not understand, even though it is sharing them with us every time we play.

Because the warble for me is a blessing and a gift from U ne tla nv hi (Creator), I do not guarantee a flute that will warble. Many have asked, all I can continue to say is, "the odds are in your favor." About 90% of all my flutes warble....

a li he li s di
hi a
a da ne di

- Enjoy the gift -

"Bach gave us God's word,
Mozart gave us God's laughter,
Beethoven gave us God's fire,
God gave us music that we might pray without words."

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Last updated: 1/1/17
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