Flutes Jam
  -  scale charts to help you improvise on flute or pennywhistle

Have you ever wanted to improvise with your pennywhistle or bamboo flute and didn’t know where to start?

What are some of the more popular Western scales and how do they compare with Asian scales, for the flavor of music from Japan, India or the Middle East?

Is there a handy reference chart for transposing from one key to another, or to find which notes to play when switching modes in jazz?

Flutes Jam aims to help you answer these questions with a series of scale charts for quick reference whether playing the flute, pennywhistle, or 6-hole Shakuhachi flute. They can also serve as handy reference charts for playing scales and modes on the silver flute or, for that matter, any melodic instrument.


The charts are especially designed to give you options for playing interesting modes and changes with a six-hole flute such as the Irish pennywhistle or Indian bamboo flute. These flutes are set up to play the root (or tonic) major scale (beginning with all holes covered) easily, but to play another major scale is more difficult because of odd fingering or the need to cover half-holes.

First let’s look at the C flute with the C major scale. The mouthpiece is at the far right; the final 7th note of the major scale (*) is played with all holes open. Also we can compare the notes of the D major scale played on a D flute.

holes numbered from bottom:
1
#
2
#
3
4
#
5
#
6
#
(7)*
C Major (C flute)
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
D Major (D flute)
D
E
F#
G
A
B
C#

A popular scale for Irish pennywhistle music is the E Dorian mode - that is, a scale based on D Major (above), but with the tonic at the second note, the E. We can play the E Dorian mode on a flute in any key, but the easiest and most natural for the six-hole flute is to play it from the second hole on a D flute. We'll call this the Modal Method.

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