Manual for Playing Skin FlutebyAndiAnders©
Instrument selected: Skin Flute
Instructor: Andi Anders
Correct Playing Positions
Being the adaptable instrument that it is famous for, the skin flute allows for a variety of playing positions. Though many variations have been tried over the centuries that the illustrious instrument has been in use, three positions are most common. For the beginner just starting their instruction in their playing, we suggest using one of these three standard positions - standing, sitting, or reclining.
Standing. One of the traditional postures for playing the skin flute is standing. The legs attached to the flute can be positioned close together or spread apart to varying degrees. A skilled player will indicate their intentions and cause the amount of spread desired. This can be done either before the piece is begun, while the player is doing her initial setup, or, if the level of her skills allow it, done in increasing degrees as the performance progresses.
Instruments with legs responsive to the slightest touch, presenting the greatest amount of control to the performer, are valuable finds. As such, they are in high demand.
Sitting. Sitting is the most difficult of the three standard positions for skin flute performing. It is recommended that both standing and reclining positions be well practiced before attempting the sitting position.
The skin flute must be readily accessible to the performer's mouth and hands. For this reason, the chair cannot be allowed to prevent any access. The buttocks of the legs must be at the very front edge of the chair, leaving the skin flute itself exposed to all performing ministrations. Because this can lead to a sense of unbalance, it is suggested that the flute be supported by its upper limbs on the arm rests of the chair. Skin flutes vary in their preferences at this point, some responding better in an upright posture and others almost reclining in the chair. As long as the flute itself is unencumbered by the chair seat, either position for the appendages is satisfactory.
Reclining. Though the most expensive "seats" in any concert hall, the reclining position is often offered in an instructional venue. Allowing the most comfort and ease of access, this position is well favored. Lessons can be offered in longer time spans when the reclining position is chosen. There is occasionally an added fee for reclining lessons, to cover the cost of laundry.
This position is by far the easiest to achieve. No balancing of appendages is needed. The back board is simply laid flat on the surface provided, leaving the skin flute accessible to any movements the performer might feel inspired to make for the performance.
Parts of the Skin Flute
Each component of the skin flute is named. Knowing these terms will make your instruction more easily retained by you. Learn them well. It is suggested that handling each part as you read about it, will make a more lasting impression on your mind, facilitating memorization.
Sacks. Beginning at the bottom of the skin flute, you will notice two sacks. Touch them gently. Imagining caresses is the best way to achieve the appropriate amount of tenderness for the sacks. Some skin flutes have two distinct sacks; some have what looks like one larger sack. This is an unimportant variation in skin flute manufacture. The delicate equipment within the sacks allows the skin flute its functioning. With very gentle squeezes, you can feel the globes held within the sacks. Handle them carefully at all times.
Besides containing crucial, yet fragile, equipment, the sacks are nonetheless employed during performance. Methods of touch will be covered in the section on performance. For now, become acquainted with the softness of the sacks' covering, its looseness and flexibility, by gently manipulating them with your fingers. Because the sacks are waterproof, you can feel free to use your mouth, lips, and tongue on them, also. It is recommended that you become acquainted with the exact feel of your skin flute by trying all of these methods.
Base. You will notice a distinct change from the sacks to the base of the shaft. The place of joining can be delicate and sensitive. Feel it with your fingertips, running them all around the base. Additional experimentation with your mouth, and especially with the extensive reach of your tongue, is recommended here, too.
Shaft. The shaft of the skin flute is the largest component. It is also the most variable. If your skin flute currently is in a relaxed state, you'll note its softness and pliability. Its length is of no consequence, as outstanding performances have been achieved by skin flutes of only 2 inches in length. Any additional length is merely at the manufacturer's discretion.
If you have completed the exercises recommended above, getting thoroughly acquainted with the characteristics of your skin flute's sacks and base, it is highly likely that the shaft is no longer in a relaxed state. This is to be expected and is no cause for concern. The aroused shaft will vary from barely being aroused to extreme, complete arousal. The degree of stiffness and angle of rising will vary proportionally. As a performer, you will be developing the skills to attain the fullest arousal possible, including methods of perpetuating the arousal or culminating it on command. Thus the need for practice, practice, practice.
Head. At the end of the shaft, you'll notice a demarcation line, a ridge encircling the shaft. This area, exquisite in its sensitivities, is called the head. Skin flutes come in at least two varieties - without or without a second covering of skin over the head. Both models offer advantages and disadvantages, and a competent performer can extract a fine performance from either one. Take a moment to explore which model you have and become thoroughly accustomed to its texture and level of sensitivity.
Because of the head's sensitivity, even if your skin flute has not caused sounds yet, this may be the point where you will begin to hear the sounds that will become the basis for your performances. Listen closely to these sounds. Note their relation to the touches you're applying to the head. Learn these relationships. See if you can recreate certain touches and get an equal recreation in sound.
Remembering how to get the desired sounds brings us to the next section of this manual.
Warming up for playing the skin flute involves both the player and the flute. Each must be properly warmed up for a performance to be shared.
Warming up the Player
Consider for a moment what dexterity you will need during your performance. Keeping these requirements in mind, you will easily remember the benefits of properly warming up beforehand.
Hands. Your hands will be doing various manipulations. A range of touches from the most gentle of caresses to the firmness of encircling strokes requires adept hands. And warm ones. The same methods you use in other aspects of life can be used here. Briskly rubbing your hands together. Wearing gloves until time to begin touching. Check the temperature of the room and assure that it is sufficient for both your warmth and that of your skin flute.
Test your hands' warmth on the appendages of the flute first. Run your hands up and down the length of the back board, the upper and lower appendages, and any other area you can reach. Try various strengths of rubbing and stroking. Note the reaction. If more heat seems desirable, ensure its attainment.
Lips. Fortunately, being on the face, lips usually have good circulation and are generally warm in temperature. The warm up of the lips, then, concentrates more on dexterity and strength.
1) Run your tongue around your lips, moistening them well. Repeat this procedure at any time during warm ups or performances. The lubricant provided by moist lips is crucial to a successful performance.
2) Stretch all the muscles in your lips and tongue, increasing their flexibility.
3) Test the lips. Start at some distance from the flute part of your skin flute. Begin placing kisses in a series. You can vary the point at which you start on any given practice. The beginning point is not the concern. The important point is to have your lips well warmed up by the time you start playing on the flute itself.
As your practices accumulate, you will notice some areas on your instrument that cause responses in your skin flute. The neck and ears are common places to practice placing many kisses and noting the strength of the reactions caused. Some of the more adventuresome performers can actually use these places in addition to the skin flute itself to get the sounds for the music! Keep such experiments in sound in mind as you warm up your flute each day. You never know when you might want to use a warm up technique as a performing technique.
4) Test the tongue. A traditional place to test your tongue's adaptability is on the nipples. You are not limited to these as testing points, by any means. Feel free to test your tongue touches and movements on any area of the skin flute's supports. But, as a beginner, these are the instructions for tongue warm ups on nipples.
Continue your kisses, gradually causing them to approach more and more closely to a nipple. (No, it makes no difference whether you start on the right or the left. It is generally recommended, however, that you treat each one in an equal manner.) Once taking a nipple into your mouth, and kissing it, you can choose the amount of suction based on your inclination at the time. Holding the nipple within your mouth, touch its tip with your tongue. Because this is part of your practice, choose different speeds and strengths for your touches. You can try out these variations on different days, or try several in one day. Creativity is a large part of a good skin flute performance. Let your talents create as they will!
Touching the nipple with just your tongue, and no lip involvement is also possible. Licking it, tickling it, even just blowing gently across its raised tip, all these and many more are possibilities. Let your creative forces out for some exercise.