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  • Writer's pictureRonald

10 things nobody told you about learning to play the pan flute

So you recently bought a pan flute, and you are super excited about playing your favorite songs and show your family and friends how good you are at it. Well, some years ago, I was in the same situation, and there are some things that I learned that I will share with you that probably no one had told you yet:

1. You won't be a master pan flute player immediately

Well, when I bought my first pan flute, I had the hope that this was the hidden talent that I had been looking for so long, and that I was going to master it immediately, or I would be some kind of a music prodigy. After trying to blow the pipes for three hours with no success, I realized I was not. If you have decided that you want to learn how to play the pan flute, you have to know that it is going to cost you some time and effort.

2. You are going to get frustrated

Yes, as I told you before, blowing the pipes for three hours with not a sound or a whistle IS FRUSTRATING. I didn't learn how to blow the pan flute (or at least producing a whistle from it) until the fourth day of trying. Properly blowing each pipe took me about one month. I am not a patient person, so by the end of the first week, I was frustrated and upset. But, I already had the pan flute, and I was on vacations, so I kept trying and slowly (really slowly) I started to see results.

3. Everyone will expect fast results

I started to get annoyed each time my sister saw me trying to play my pan flute and always asked, "Can you play a song already?" or my girlfriend telling me "That doesn't sound right...are you sure it's not defective?". Sometimes I went to the park to practice, and people came to me and asked me, "Oh that is awesome! Can you play "The lonely Shepperd"?, and I was like, "I am still learning...". You just have to get used to it; everyone will expect you to play as Zamfir from the first day.

4. You will have to learn a lot of stuff

Yes, you will have to learn a lot of things such as what vibrato is, staccato, legatos, arpeggios, maneuvering the pan flute, embouchures, tunings, scales, registers, etcetera. The pan flute (as other instruments) is a sophisticated musical instrument that requires you to learn techniques, terms, and at least basic knowledge of music to master it.

5. In the beginning, everything will sound fatal

When I started getting the first sound of the pipes of my pan flute, I thought to myself, "damn, this thing sounds bad!...maybe it is defective as my girlfriend said". It was a strident high pitched sound that was not as near as relaxing or divine as Zamfir's "Ave Maria." It will take some time until you can produce clear sounds from the pipes, don't get frustrated or assume that you have been scammed after the first 15 minutes of trying it.

6. You will run out of air

After some time, I learned to blow the pipes properly. I was working on my first song, "The Lonely Shepherd," and it happened. By the end of the song, I had no more air, and I felt exhausted. Playing the pan flute will require that you develop some endurance in your lungs for blowing the pipes. You might feel dizzy or lightheaded at times. Developing lung potency will be a journey toward pan flute mastery.

7. You will be annoying to some people

Frequently, when I was practicing at my house, my sister got annoyed by the loud noises and started yelling at me. She demanded that I find a place to practice where I didn't bother other people. So, I went to a bench in the middle of my apartment building and started practicing there, but a neighbor came to me and told me that it was prohibited to make loud noises there because it bothered other persons. I decided to go to a park, and there I find my perfect place to practice. You might find that some people will get annoyed at first, especially since the sounds are not going to be beautiful (yet). Just try to find a perfect spot where you can play without bothering anyone.

8. Other people will be happy to listen to your music

The first time that I went to the park, I sat on a bench and started playing "My heart will go on" still making a lot of mistakes, after a while, a woman that was on another bench came to me and told me that my music was incredibly beautiful and relaxing. She lived near the park, so she usually came to hear me when she heard that I was practicing. There was also a nice old lady that came to me once when I was practicing how to play "Ave Maria" and told me I was playing beautifully, after that she asked me to play it every time she saw me in the park. Also, many people were surprised at someone playing a rare instrument, and sometimes they asked me to take a picture with them. Some people will find the music you are playing beautiful, and you will feel rewarded.

9. You will learn to love your instrument

If you truly work hard for learning how to play the pan flute; if you can overcome the frustration; if you dedicate time and effort for learning the techniques; if you are patient with people that expect you to play like Zamfir in one week; if you find your perfect place to practice and you do it everyday; if you learn how to deal with the failure and work on becoming a better pan flute player each day, one day you will realize that you love your pan flute, that you and your pan flute have a story and that your pan flute is a part of you.

10. You will learn how to appreciate the power of music

I remember that when I practiced a song for a while, I could actually feel the power of music in me. The beautiful sound of the bamboo contributed a lot to this. Music can make you feel powerful emotions. You will learn how to feel the music and express it through your pan flute. This is not only beautiful but also very relaxing.

When you start getting results from your practice, people will love your music. It will be worth the effort for you and for your friends and family when you play for them. I hope you enjoyed this post, where I shared some of my experiences in learning how to play the pan flute years ago. I sincerely hope that you succeed in your path of becoming a pan flute player.

If you have any question that I can help you with, please feel free to contact me at

Ronald G.

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