Laura Lee Perkins and Ken GreenWhite Owl Products

Native American-style Flutes, Drums, Turtleshell Rattles, Balsam Sachets, Learn to Play Classes, Concerts, Recordings, Books


KokopelliKokopelli, the mysterious humpbacked flute player often associated with the Southwest, has been a sacred figure to Native Americans since prehistoric times. From the time of the ancient Anasazi through the 1700s, we find Kokopelli images painted and carved into rock walls. Known in various tribal cultures as a fertility symbol, rain priest, roving minstrel and trader, a hunting magician and a trickster, Kokopelli evokes widespread interest and popular appeal. It is thought that the humpbacked flute player Kokopelli and the God of Fire could very well be the oldest in concept among Southwestern archaeological supernaturals. [Marjorie Lambert / 1967]



The flute has been used in past centuries to accompany religious ceremonies, including asking for rain, and to stimulate romantic interest. Thus, it is often referred to as a love flute or a courting flute. Used throughout all North American indigenous tribal cultures, it connects us to Mother Earth and Father Sky with a hauntingly meditative and plaintive sound.

Whether we use the flute to summon energy into our lives or to express emotion, the heart connection is undeniable. Taking a dead piece of wood and bringing it to life with the warmth of one’s own breath can be a mystical experience. For those who are enamored with the hauntingly beautiful sound of the Native American flute, we offer classes and educational concerts to share the beauty of this sacred instrument.



For those who would like a quarterly magazine with articles, music, advertising, calendar of upcoming classes and concerts, and information about all aspects of the Native American flute, we highly recommend World Flutes. This organization will keep you connected to Native American flute activities and it is not for just professional musicians. The publication educates and informs at all levels of interest. Your membership offers a discount on merchandise from participating vendors. You can join on-line or by mail:



A quality flute will last for hundreds of years. It is important that your flute be stored in a protective breathable bag so the flute can dry out. The flute’s finish can be protected with a high quality paste-type furniture wax [we use carnauba] and we use beeswax on the mouthpiece. Some wood can be toxic, causing severe allergic reactions. Please check a wood toxicity chart before choosing a wood; cedar and maple are safe and mouthpieces can be added onto other woods. A quality flute will last for hundreds of years.

Selection of Woods, Finishing,and Maintaining the Native American Flute
Kenneth L. Green and Laura Lee Perkins
For centuries the Native American flute has been used as a spiritual messenger. The act of bringing a “dead” piece of wood to life with the warmth of one’s own breath can feel magical. Choosing wood for a flute can be a lengthy process, because each variety of wood has a unique feel and an individual sound in response to being filled with human breath. Playing a variety of flutes made from different woods expresses and facilitates contrasting moods, musical responses and tonal qualities. Learning about the properties of wood helps one to make an informed flute choice.


Each Flute’s Unique Voice

When choosing a flute, it is important to consider what type of music you will be playing on the instrument. Each type of wood has its own personal characteristics and so much depends upon the intent of the song and the individual player. For instance, a sweet love song works well with a lightweight wood such as cedar. A lonesome and yearning melody is often more suited to a dark, heavier wood such as black cherry. And maple’s quick responsiveness fits a tune that has rapid fingering and tonguing passages.

The individual personality of each flute and the resulting musical interpretation is only partially determined by the choice of wood. The key of each flute is another important consideration. Even the distance of just one whole step [f to g] can create very different aural impressions for both the performer and the listeners. This is why many performers own a variety of flutes. The more sensitive a player becomes to tone and pitch the more variety one often desires. The subtle combinations of the key and the wood’s responsiveness create a wide choice of options for the aurally sensitive player.

The white cedar flute has a very sweet sound which lends itself to very simple musical lines. The white cedar’s voice is pure, particularly in the higher keys, yet it can sing clearly with a haunting quality. Cedar is the traditional wood for native flutes because it is easy to work with and was/is readily available. White cedar is prevalent in the eastern United States, whereas red cedar is common in the western states. The two varieties produce very similar sounds. Because cedar is a soft wood, a cedar flute can be damaged easily. Just a slight bump into hard objects will dent a cedar flute.

The yellow birch flute has a throaty quality imitative of a gentle wind blowing through a small canyon. The yellow birch’s gentle, throaty sound lends itself particularly well to lower pitched flutes. The response to the breath is quite slow and its uniquely haunting sound is very suitable for unhurried, meditative melodies. When highly polished, the flaming yellow birch flute really glows.

The tiger maple flute produces a crisp, clear sound that responds quickly to technically demanding passages. The rays and figures in this wood create patterns that are lovely to watch under stage spotlights. When made by an experienced flute-maker, the pitch is very accurate and the voice of the tiger maple projects a long distance. Tiger maple flutes expedite fast fingering, rapid tonguing and the bright sound helps to create musical excitement.

Quilted maple is another variety of maple that is very responsive to the breath, while possessing a slightly heavier tone quality. Highly figured, and therefore reflecting of light in luminous patterning, the quilted maple flutes each have a very unique appearance. Like the tiger maple flutes, the pitch is very consistent. Both varieties of maple flutes are very versatile and durable. Maple retains a luster and visual appeal over centuries of time with little maintenance required.

Flutes made from black cherry have a dark, earthy tone possessing a deep resonance. Because of this resonant quality and consistent pitch, this wood works nicely for flutes in f minor or lower keys. Black cherry darkens, acquiring a lovely patina, as it ages. For tonal quality that is often described as a drawing down sound, the black cherry flutes are wonderful! This wood helps to center the root chakra energy with its dense, broad quality. Black cherry can amplify yearning qualities like no other wood; the sound of cherry flutes is often used by energy workers to create balance within the human body!

The spruce flutes vibrate freely with a hearty sound that works very well in the low registers. The spruce trees’ strong, lengthy fibers produce a sound that lingers within the listeners after the tone has actually ceased to speak. Spruce is a lightly colored wood that acquires a golden sheen as it is polished and it works up easily because it is a soft wood. The sound is not as pure as the maples, and is often described as a bit raspy, but it can spice up one’s flute collection.

Cottonwood often appears in flute legends and lore. It polishes into a beautiful sheen with a simple wood wax and oil, and the sound is extremely pure and focused. Cottonwood is hard and it can be very brittle, requiring extra care when cutting the wood. The results are well worth the extra time; a cottonwood flute has an almost childlike purity in sound.

There are indigenous woods that do not work well for flute makers because they are just too porous. These include oak, ash, beech and elm. Purpleheart wood works up so beautifully for flute makers! This exotic wood, while not indigenous to the United States, creates dark, lovely and mysterious sounds. The purpleheart wood is very dense, expensive and requires additional hours of production time. It also can be quite toxic so a ton-toxic mouthpiece must be made for the purpleheart flute body. All of the toxic woods must be treated with extra care.

Ebony is another wood that creates a beautiful but very heavy flute to hold and play. Beautiful fetishes are often made from ebony, and all of the visually attractive exotic woods make nice flute inlays into our traditional North American wood choices.

Native American Flutes
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