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How Learning the Flute Improved my Guitar Skills


Did you know that learning one instrument can improve your skills in another instrument? This is what I experienced when I learnt how to play the andean flute, specifically the pan flute, and I was really pleased by the unexpected benefits it had on my guitar playing. Now I'm going to show you exactly how playing this flute helped my guitar playing!

Welcome to 'Fingerstyle For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help guitarists around the world become better musicians. Let's delve right in!


Before You Begin:

Download my free resources to guide you along!


What is a panflute?

Very briefly, a panflute is an instrument with a number of pipes of varying lengths attached in rows of ascending pitch. Panflutes are very common in the andean region, and the one I have been learning is called the siku or zampona, perhaps one of the most popular types of panflute along with romani panflutes.

Now before we go further, I want to clarify that you can use ANY WIND INSTRUMENT to reap the same benefits. Essentially, as long as your instrument can only play one note at any one time, it will reap you the same benefits that the panflute has for me as a guitar player.

So with that said, how does the panflute help you as a guitar player?

IT forces you to hear the notes before you play them

When playing a wind instrument, you need to hear the notes in your head before you play them. Not only that, you need to know exactly where in the scale each note is in order to play it. This is as wind instruments do not rely on tablature or mechanical fingering positions to create music.

This is the key difference between the flute and the guitar:


You first play notes from memorised fingering positions - THEN hear the notes after they are played


You first hear the notes in your head as a melody - THEN play the notes on your instrument

Playing the flute develops your musicianship

Now I'm not saying that you can't develop musicianship from playing the guitar, but the flute, in many ways, forces you to listen to conceptualise the notes in your head because you simply can't do it any other way. You can't rely on a series of mechanical movements to create the music as you would on the guitar. You NEED to HEAR THE NOTES in your head.

Music Example: 'Lakitas de la Tirana'

Now we're going to look at an example of some panflute music, and I'll show you how playing this piece helps my guitar playing. This piece is titled Lakitas de la Tirana, a traditional piece originally recorded in 2002 by my friend Leonardo Garcia in Northern Chile.

Watch the lesson video as I demonstrate how conceptualising the pan flute melody enables me to immediately play it back on guitar without any tabs!

Music Application: How can you apply these concepts yourself?

If you have a wind instrument

Now if you have a wind instrument you are keen to learn, that is great! You can immediately start playing melodies on it and then transfer it onto the guitar using scale positions you already know.

If you don't have a wind instrument

On the other hand if you think you don't have a wind instrument, believe it or not you actually do - YOUR VOICE!

However, it's important to note that your voice is a little different. You don't need to know the notes you are singing in order to sing them. Everyone can sing back their favourite melodies with no knowledge of music whatsoever.

In order to make this method effective using your voice, you need to sing melodies in SOLFEGE. Yes, I've done a ton of videos on solfege singing but essentially it's to sing out melodies using the syllables 'do re mi fa so la ti' as I did in the music example earlier. This will force you to conceptualise the music in your head before playing them.

Musicianship Tips

Remember that being a musician is not just about mechanically going through the motions to play notes, but having a keen understanding of the music you play. Only then can you artistically articulate music to your listeners, communicating meaningful messages and evoking powerful emotions.

Do leave a comment with any questions you might have and I'll do my best to answer them. Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website as I share new music videos and lessons on those very music videos, each and every week, to help you along your own musical journey.

Until next time, I'll see you again!

By Neil Chan


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