Duke Addicks plays a Stephen De Ruby A-minor trail flute at the Stevens House front porch in Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This is his best flute for playing outdoors in any weather: always a good strong sound that carries a long way, always in tune.

Duke also carries a DeRuby A-minor cedar flute which produces a fuller, softer tone.

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The Sacred Flute

Duke's Storyteller Page

Last updated on 8/28/09

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Modal Tunes

Métis Tunes

Mdewakanton Indian Tunes

Buying a Flute

Learning to Play

Conch shell trumpet


Duke Addicks’ Powerful Presentations have fascinated hundreds of audiences of adults and older children.

More about Duke

Duke Addicks Storyteller

About Duke Addicks

Eagle Watching

Bagpipes used by Scottish fur traders and Native American Indian drums and flutes are often played by Duke as part of his storytelling.

Invite Duke to tell his stories at your group’s next meeting, special event, festival, campfire or outing.

Contact him at
(651) 643-0622
or by email at


Buying a Native American Flute

If you want to buy a Native American flute that plays well check out the Oregon Flute Store at www.oregonflutestore.com. They provide excellent advice as to what you should have.

Also, the web site of the International Native American Flute Association lists makers of flutes and their websites.

I play Butch Hall, Coyote Oldman, David Nighteagle and Stepen de Ruby flutes myself and am very satisfied with them.

Buy flutes made in North America. Flutes made in other countries are generally unsatisfactory and cost about the same as good flutes made by well respected North Americans.

Excellent flutes can be had for less than $150. Stephen de Ruby makes excellent "trail flutes" with wide mouthpieces that play a fuller, bolder tone than most flutes. I use his A and G flutes in my programs outdoors and in all kinds of weather and their cost is about a hundred dollars.

Coyote Oldman's excellent "little flutes" sell for less than a hundred dollars and his "backpacking flutes," which sell for less than a hundred and fifty dollars, are also a good value, are very sturdy and play very well.

I play several of his "little flutes" and also a backpacking flute in F#, which is one of the best flutes I own. Their response is quick, their tone is full and distinctive, and their sound carries a long way across lakes and valleys, as well as filling a room or an auditorium. I will be buying more of his flutes!

Learning to Play the Flute

Learning to play the American Indian flute is not difficult. The best book about learning to play this type of flute is The Art of the Native American Flute by R. Carlos Nakai and James Demars, published by Canyon Records Productions, Phoenix Arizona, in 1996. Buy this book before you buy your flute as it contains valuable instructions on how to select a flute. The first chapter on Native American Musical Tradition is an excellent introduction to this music. Just about any music store can order it for you, or you can order it directly from www.canyonrecords.com.

There are many recordings by Nakai (his best is The Best of Nakai) and others playing the American Indian flute. Listen to them to get an idea of how this music is to be played. Nakai recordings can be ordered from Canyon Records as well as the book.

The best CD I am aware of by a non-Indian is Slough Music by Brother Michael Peterson OSB of Blue Cloud Abbey in Marvin, South Dakota. Email them for the latest price. See their web page at www.bluecloud.org.

History of the American Indian Flute

There are many stories about how the American Indian Flute came to be. One of the best books is Paul Goble's Love Flute, published by Simon and Schuster in 1992 and available as an Aladdin Paperback edition. Not only is the traditional Santee Dakota story of the origin of the courting flute well presented, but he has a listing of sources for numerous other stories that tell of different origins of the flute. (Love Flute at Amazon.com



Duke Addicks pauses before bringing forth the Voice of Thunderdrum.

Metis, Modal and Mdewakanton Music

What Music do I play on the Native American Flute?

I play Modal tunes, Métis tunes, and Mdewakanton tunes on six-holed, Native American Flutes tuned to a variety of minor keys. Whenever I use the word "flute" below I mean Native American flute.

Much is available on the web about Native American Flutes. See the website of the International Native American Flute Association.

Modal Tunes

Appalachian modal tunes work very well on the flute. They are the oldest and most distinctive of all Appalachian Mountain tune types.

These tunes are based on ancient Scottish songs and bagpipe music brought to the Indian Country in the Southern Mountains from the Highlands of Scotland in the mid 1700s by people like my ancestor Jarrett Stewart. To understand these tunes it helps to understand how and when they came to North America.

A warrior for Bonnie Prince Charlie, my great, great, great, great grandfather Jarrett Stewart immigrated to the Colonies suddenly and illegally after Charlie's army was defeated in 1746, bringing little more than his bagpipes, his tunes and stories, and his kilt. In the mountains of Georgia's Cherokee Country he met and married my great, great, great, great grandmother. Many Scotsmen who supported Charlie fled for their lives to the Southeastern Mountains at this time.

Much of the music that Jarrett and other bagpipe playing Scottish immigrants brought to the mountains in the mid 1700s was based on a scale which had a flattened seventh. That is the scale which is played on the bagpipe chanter and the scale that many ancient Scottish songs were sung in.

The scale in which most Appalachian modal tunes are played is similar to bagpipe scale, but with a flattened third, making a "minor bagpipe scale". And, that is the scale most easily played on some traditional types of woodland Native American flute including what we called "Cherokee flutes" which I made as a kid with a pocketknife out of lengths of river cane.

This raises the question, how were the bagpipe tunes (with the flattened seventh) transformed into modal tunes (which have a flattened third as well as seventh). Adding the flattened third to the ancient Scottish tunes has the effect of making the bagpipe tunes into a much more "Indian" sounding tune. Many think that this was the result of the American Indian influence. Certainly these modal tunes are played quite easily on the modern style Native American flutes which are keyed in minor scales with the flattened third, fifth, and seventh.

Thus, I would argue that over the years, the playing and singing of these ancient Scottish tunes was deeply influenced by traditional American Indian musical concepts, especially by adding the "Indian" sound by flattening the third as well as the seventh note of the scale. This resulted in the type of music fiddle players now call Appalachian modal tunes, bagpipers call double tonic tunes, and which I call Scottish/Indian tunes.

I've traced some of these modal tunes back to Scotland and can see how the people of the mountains modified them to fit their ideas of how they should sound. Many of the same tunes were brought over by the Scotts in the 1700s to Cape Breton Nova Scotia, but the versions that developed there lack the American Indian influence and the minor third is seldom used these tunes. These Cape Breton tunes do not play well on the American Indian flute.

If you're interested in playing modal tunes on an American Indian Flute read this -- if not, skip to Métis Tunes below.

Books of fiddle tunes may contain a few good modal tunes that can be played on the flute (if you read music).

Here's a list of modal fiddle tunes. I play them on a variety of flutes, and can be played on any Native American Flute. I play them on an A minor flute. Even though some of the key signatures of these tunes are in C (no sharps), G (one sharp), or D (two sharps), they are all A minor tunes. Confused? Just play the tunes on a minor- scale flute ignoring the sharps, and they will sound right. See my discussion of Wayne Erbsen's collection below.

The following modal tunes, at least parts of which can be played on the flute, can be found in "old time" or "mountain music" style fiddle tune books:

28th of January

Loch Lavan Castle

Betty Likens

Lonesome John (this tune is perhaps the best to start with)

Bunch of Keys

Cluck Old Hen

Red Rocking Chair

Cold Frosty Morning

Salt River

Ducks on the Pone

Shady Grove

Hog Eye Man

State of Arkansas

June Apple

West Virginia Girls

Kitchen Girl

Yew Piney Mountain

To get started, buy Wayne Erbsen's Southern Mountain Fiddle (1995: Mel Bay Publications) which contains the following modal tunes: Cluck Old Hen, Red Rocking Chair, Shady Grove, and State of Arkansas. Make sure you get the CD that is also available with this book. The modal tunes are noted in the key signature of C but are in a scale similar to A minor, that is the tunes are in a scale which begins on A but has no sharps or flats, and can be played on the flute with some simple modifications or re-arrangements. To play them on any flute tuned to a minor scale, simply assume that the low A on the music is the note played on the flute with all holes closed, and the high A is the octave above the low A, however that high A is fingered on your flute. Confused? Call or email me.

Duke with a Nighteagle Effigy Flute.

Métis Tunes

I also play the jigs, reels, waltzes and similar tunes from that blend of French-Canadian / Scottish / Dakota / Ojibwe / Cree music some call Métis music. This music was played and danced to by many American Indians, French-Canadians and everybody else in the fur trade era in my region along the Minnesota and Upper Mississippi Rivers, and the Red River of the North and elsewhere in the interior of Canada.

Métis music is still played by Gabriel Du Pre and musicians from the Métis Nations of Canada and from Turtle Mountain and other reservations in the United States. Many Métis tunes have become part of the traditional music of Quebec and can be found in collections of traditional Quebec dance tunes. For Métis music, one of the best CDs is Plains Chippewa/ Métis Music from Turtle Mountain: Drums, Fiddles and Rock and Roll; a 1992 Smithsonian Folkways production. Many Métis tunes are played in Quebec and can be found along with their history and playing styles in Laurie Hart & Greg Sandell’s Dance Ce Soir! (2001: Mel Bay Publications).

Mdewakanton Indian Tunes

Some traditional flute tunes of the Mdewakanton Indians (a division of the Dakota/Sioux) who lived and still live along the Minnesota River were preserved by the Dakota/French fur trader Joseph Renville who used the melodies for the hymns he wrote in the 1830s (the tune Lac qui Parle, or the Dakota Hymn for example). These "Renville" tunes play well on the modern minor keyed flutes as well as on more traditional "Sioux" flutes. I know of only one place where these tunes have been gathered, and the collection has been out of print for over a century. One of my projects will be to develop a book of these tunes. My discussion of the Dakota Hymn appears in Voice of the Wind, Volume 2, 2006, page 12.

Play American Indian tunes from the heart, whether or not you are playing them from what is noted in a book.

Duke plays a ceremonial conch shell trumpet he received from internationally famous Mexican musician Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. Fragments of Gulf of Mexico conch shells have been found associated with burials over a ten thousand year period in the Upper Mississippi region. Tribes along the Gulf coast and in Southeastern United States traditionally played conch shell trumpets. The Indians associated with the Mississippian Culture and their descendents used conch shells in a similar fashion, Duke's Echota Cherokee ancestors used conch trumpets to communicate from mountain to mountain in the Southern Appalachians as well as for ceremonial purposes.

Click here for Duke's Storyteller Page