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How to Play the Zampona Pan Flute

The Zampona has a smaller array of pipes than a typical pan flute.
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The Zampona pan flute, or pan pipes, as the instrument is also called, is a South American wind instrument. There are various types of pan flutes, but the Zampona is distinctive because of its limited array of pipes. Typically, the Zampona has 10 pipes, consisting of two rows of five. The instrument creates a unique, “woody” sound. It is relatively straight-forward to get a nice sound from the Zampona, but perfecting your sound on the instrument takes years of practice.

Hold the pan flute so the longer pipes are in your right hand. This is the bass end of the flute, where the low notes are located. Grasp the shorter tubes with your left hand.

Modify your grip so your hand only touches the side of the pipes and doesn’t obscure the openings at the top or bottom.

Relax your shoulders and adjust your arms so the top of the Zampona pipes are approximately one inch below your mouth. If you are using another instrument, such as guitar, you can utilize a neck-holster that supports the panpipes and frees up your hands. Adjust the angle of the neck-holster to modify the height of the pan pipes relative to your mouth.

Purse your lips and blow a quick blast of air across the top of the pipe opening. The power of the breath should come from your diaphragm. You don’t blow into the pipe, nor do you emit a sustained breath. A short, snappy burst of air is called for to tease out the distinctive resonance of the Zampona pan pipes. Extended breaths will create a “muddy” sound as the air resonates in the pipes for too long.

Move your head to the right to access the longer tubes to create lower notes. Move your head to the left to make higher notes. The notes on a Zampona row are typically arranged in the first, second, third, fifth and sixth degrees of a major scale. So, if your Zampona is tuned to C major, the notes will be C, D, E, G and A. The second row, farthest away from your mouth complete the major scale. There are typically insufficient pipes for chromatic intervals, such as those used for jazz. Because the notes are arranged in harmony, you can blow into any hole you like and not hit an off-key note.

Alternate between rows. To play a full major scale in the “do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do” fashion, start on the right pan on the row nearest to your mouth. Play it, move to the row farthest away, play the right pan. Move back to the row nearest to you, but across to the next pan. Repeat this process up and down the Zampona to play an ascending and descending major scale.

Adjust the power with which you blow into the pipes. Less power creates a softer sound, and more power creates a louder sound. Mix up the volume for a more dynamically varied and interesting sound.

Blow across the opening to two adjacent holes simultaneously to create a harmony.

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