So you recently had bough yourself a pan flute and you are super excited about playing your favorite songs, and show your family and friends how good you are a this. Well, some years ago I was on the same situation and there are some things that I learned that I will share with you that probably no one had tell 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 be looking for so long and I was going to master it immediately, or I would be some kind of a music prodigy . After trying for three hours two blow the pipes 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 quite a bit of effort.
2. You are going to get frustrated
Yes, as I told you before, trying three hours of blow the pipes with nothing near as a sound or a whistle as a result IS FRUSTRATING. I didn't learn how to blow the pan flute at least producing a whistle until the fourth day. Blowing each pipe of the pan flute properly 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, well 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 results fast
I started to get annoyed each time my mother saw me trying to play my pan flute and always asked "Can you already play a song?", or my girlfriend telling me "That doesn't sounds 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 vibrato (different techniques), staccato, legatos, arpeggios, maneuvering the pan flute, embouchures, tunings, scales, registers, etcetera. The pan flute (as other instruments) is a musical instrument that requires to learn techniques, terms, and at least basic knowledge of music.
5. At 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 says". It was an strident high pitched sound that was not as near as relaxing or divine as Zamfir's "Ave Maria". It will take sometime until you can produce clear sounds from the pipes, don't get frustrated or assume that you have been scammed the first 15 minutes.
6. You will run out of air
After sometime after I learned to blow the pipes properly and I was working on my first song "My heart will go on" (yeah it's cursi I know) 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 (specially if you are playing a 20 pipes or more pan flute).
7. You will be annoying for some people
Frequently, when I was practicing in my house, my sister got annoyed by the loud noises and started yelling at me to find a place to practice where I don't bother other people. So I went to a bench in the middle of my apartment building and started to practice, 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.
8. Other people will be happy to hear you
The first time that I went to the park, I sat on a bench and start playing "My heart will go on" still making a lot of mistakes, after a while, a woman that was on other bench came to me and told me that my music was incredibly beautiful and relaxing. She lived near the park so 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 on the park. Also, many people was surprised of someone playing a rare instruments and sometimes they asked me to take a photo with them.
9. You will learn to love your instrument
If you truly work 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 have patience about people wondering when you will play like Zamfir, if you find your perfect place to practice and you do it everyday, if you learn how to deal with the failures 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, that your pan flute is a part of you.
I hope you enjoyed this post where I shared some of my experience learning how to play the pan flute years ago. I sincerely hope that you succeed on your path of becoming a pan flute player.