I want to start this post by saying that the pan flute is not a particularly difficult instrument to play. I personally believe that every instrument is unique, have its particular challenges, and it requires effort and dedication to master. If you have decided to learn to play the pan flute, you will have to develop certain skills such as coordination to move between pipes, lungs potency to blow the pipes, and dexterity to achieve certain techniques. Also, it is important to learn at least the basics of music. Your reward will be that the pan flute is an instrument that produces a truly unique, very deep and touching sound.
If you are thinking about buying a pan flute to start with, I will be sincere with you: Don't spend hundreds of dollars buying a professional instrument unless you are planning to take classes with a pan flute or woodwinds professor, or if you are an experienced musician of another instrument who wants to learn how to play the pan flute. If you are thinking about learning how to play the pan flute by yourself and you don't have much music background, I suggest to acquire an inexpensive pan flute first that can get you familiar with the instrument, explore it, and develop the core abilities needed to play at a basic level.
Let me give you some quick but useful tips about choosing a beginners pan flute:
- Start with a small size pan flute. One of the most important things about playing the pan flute is to have the correct angle at the moment of playing. It is also important to learn how to tilt it to achieve half notes. A small pan flute will offer light weight and maneuverability to a beginner
- Buy a pan flute with no more than 2 octaves (13 - 15 pipes). You need to develop dexterity moving between pipes, become skillful, and get to know which note each pipe plays. A pan flute with many pipes will make this process more complex for a beginner.
- The tunable feature can be truly useful for a beginner. You can change the tuning depending on the song or sheet you are working on. With the tunable feature, you may change the tuning wrong and then fixing it can be challenging at first, but you can do it yourself. However, if you have a non-tunable pan flute and it gets out of tune for any reason (weather changes for example), you will need an experienced pan flute player or a luthier to fix it.
- There are two most used tunings for the pan flutes. The G major tuning has been always the classic Romanian pan flute tuning. However, the C major is also a popular one. You will find music sheets for both tunings if you look over the internet or on instructional books.
- Start with a curved pan flute because it is ergonomic for the natural turn of the head. You will find that there are some straight variations but I don't suggest them for beginners.
- Be sure that you buy a pan flute made by a professional luthier, this way you can be sure it is a well tuned and a good product. There are lots of artisans made pan flutes for sale that are not tuned and will not be useful for playing.
My personal recommendations are,
If you want to start playing the pan flute to become an intermediate to professional musician, I suggest the 15 pipes C major tuned pan flute beginners set by luthier Ruben Q'awary:
If you want to begin playing the pan flute as a hobby go for the 13 pipes South American style C major pan flute by luthier Fortunato Ramos: