I browse eBay for Native American flutes on a regular basis. For some time I had been noticing the flute maker Miguel Medina of Singing Tree Flutes. His flutes looked very artistic, streamlined, with all manner of elegant totems, carved animals, and abstract figures. I saw horses, lions, and once even a purple heart dragon head as the bird or totem. He also uses beautiful wood types for his instruments. The prices were a little too high for me, so it took a while before I found a flute that spoke to me.
This flute finally turned up one day, a cherry wood in F#, with a natural damage hole at the bottom end that served as the spirit hole: (click on the picture for a closer look)
I bought this flute, just because of the hole. Now, ironically, this was the only flute I’d ever seen from Singing Tree without an ornately carved totem. It just had a flat piece of wood. Unbelievable but true:
I bought the flute and asked Miguel if he could make a wolf totem for this flute. He did, and this turned out nice but not nearly as fancy as some of the other totems I’d seen:
But it was a lovely flute with a very sweet, concentrated sound. So far so good.
Then, some weeks later, the dragon head flute turned up again on eBay. The person who had bought it was reselling it, at something like half the price. OK, now that meant there was something not quite right with the flute. Nevertheless, I felt confident it would work out and I immediately bought the flute, a low Eb in fantastic light maple wood: (click on the picture for a closer look)
The flute arrived, a large and elegant monster. I put the dragon head on and played it. A breathy sound… not concentrated and sweet at all. Now the re-seller had warned me beforehand that the totem was touchy and the sweet spot hard to hit. But no matter what I adjusted the flute was fickle and the sound too breathy to enjoy.
I compared the totem from the cherry flute with this one, to see if anything was different. No difference that I could see. Then I placed the wolf totem on the maple flute as an experiment, and the flute right away sounded full and rich, all breathiness gone. I got excited. What if I put the dragon head on the cherry flute? I did, and with some minimal adjustments in position I got a thin, sweet, clear sound, without breathiness. The mysteries of flute making!
The result was a stunning cherry flute, with fire hole, and fire breathing dragon head. Definitely the flute that is the most striking and unearthly in my whole collection: (click on the picture for a closer look)
Amazing how this worked out. The maple flute now has the wolf totem, which looks a bit small on the broader flute. But it’s OK, the sound of this flute is really more essential than its looks, and it doesn’t look bad at all:
Here’s one more shot of the dragon: (click on the picture for a closer look)