Honestly, it’s not the first instrument that came to mind when I mentally went through a list of instruments I might be interested in. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere on my list!
I wanted an instrument that wouldn’t be too loud, that would sound reasonably good from the beginning, something that would be relaxing and enjoyable to learn to play. That eliminated most instruments. (When I was in fourth and part of fifth grade, I played the clarinet – I still remember the well-justified jokes in my family about it sounding like a lovesick moose. :))
I love the mellow music of a saxophone but felt it would be a long, long time until I could play the kind of music I’d want to listen to. Plus it’s loud and sounds horrible until you get decent. I live in an apartment building and the thinking of my very sound-sensitive neighbors made this a stressful thought.
I then learned about the harp. Just the solution I was looking for! Soothing, relaxing, and not too loud. Yes, the harp would be just right! I even found a used midsized harp for a reasonable sum of money – in the US. Here in Israel, I found one used full-sized harp for 5500 shekels (over $1500). Not what I want or need to start off before I know if I’ll enjoy it or not. Someone told me she knew someone who gives lessons and would bring a harp for the lesson, but I don’t want to be limited to playing an instrument only during lessons.
I mentioned my dilemma to dh, and he suggested I learn the native American flute. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind, but I didn’t want to wait months or longer until a harp at the right price came into my life to begin to play an instrument. My mother has a couple of flutes so I called to ask her if I could borrow one. Not only did she agree to let me borrow one, she gifted it to me!
I went online to search for tips for beginners. I started practicing fingering right away, and within a few minutes, I loved it! I love the resonant, meditative, soulful sound.
Something that has struck me is that this is an organic instrument and the approach to playing this is similarly organic (ie not linear/Western). Online video instructors have said things like, “Let the music play through you, let your soul speak”. “It’s about expressing who you are, what you do and how you do it, you’re not performing, you’re just enjoying it. It’s just fun. Allow it to flow.” Of course you can use this flute to play standard music but they encourage you to find the voice of your soul before starting sheet music.
I’m just starting out and I’m finding this advice helpful. When I close my eyes and drop any expectations of what it should sound like, I really enjoy playing. When I don’t, I feel impatient with myself, that I need some sheet music, something to follow by the book so that there’s some guarantee that what I’m playing will sound ‘right’. (I’m also beginning with sheet music which is a different way of playing and also nice.)
Rabbi Lazer Brody writes that the native American flute seems to be the same as the flute played in the Holy Temple. It was described in the Talmud as a simple five or six hole flute made of bamboo, bone or wood – strikingly similar to the native American flute.
I don’t have ambitious goals – I’m picking it up when the mood strikes me and playing for as long or as little as I like. Of course I love the idea of being able to play anything and sound amazing but I don’t need to put that kind of pressure on myself for an activity that is intended to be relaxing and enjoyable!