How To Play A Peruvian Wind Instrument

Expand your musical vocabulary and learn how to play a Peruvian wind instrument. There are several types of Peruvian wind instruments like the terra cotta Ocarina or the bamboo Siku. However the most ancient and, therefore, best-known Peruvian wind instrument is the Quena. Traditionally made from a hollow tube of bone or wood, the modern Quena may even be made of plastic and will vary in size depending on the Peruvian region where it was made. Though this Peruvian wind instrument is difficult to master, its haunting sound is well-worth the effort.

Follow these steps to play the Quena Peruvian Wind Instrument:

  1. Correct Lip Placement. Like other types of flutes, the Peruvian wind instrument has a mouthpiece notch at one end, through which wind is blown into the pipe. As you lay the Quena mouthpiece over your lower lip, open your mouth a little to rest the wind instrument opening over the upper portion of your lip. In this way your lips will cradle the Quena mouthpiece firmly.
  2. Correct Mouth Posture. To correctly funnel air through the Quena Peruvian wind instrument, you must curve your lips upward in a slight smile. Blow air gently into the mouthpiece and raise or lower the Quena slightly until you achieve a constant, hoarse whistle through the wind instrument.
  3. Correct Finger Placement. The Quena Peruvian wind instrument has five or six holes on the top and another below. These will produce a range of notes as you plug or free the air passages. Begin by arranging the fingers of your left hand, followed by your right. Place your left thumb over the bottom hole, followed by your index on the first hole, middle on the second, and ring finger on the third. Continue with your right hand index finger on the fourth hole, middle on the fifth, and finally your ring finger on the sixth hole (if you’re playing a six hole Quena).   
  4. Producing Notes. Blow into the Quena with all holes plugged to produce the note G. Lift the sixth hole finger to produce the note A. Lift the fifth hole finger to produce the note B. Lift all the right hand fingers to produce the note C. Lift the third hole finger to produce the note D. Hold down only the back hole and the first to produce the note E.
  5. Producing Half Notes. To produce half notes on the Quena Peruvian wind instrument, only half-cover the appropriate holes. Such notes are called “half-hole” notes, or in Western music, sharp or flat notes. In addition, the note F is produced with a half-hole coverage on the first hole.
  6. Quena Playing Tip. Always keep your fingers close to their hole or risk losing your place. This ability to stiffen the fingers over their position while keeping them nibble enough to move up and down is the hardest technical aspect of playing the Quena Peruvian wind instrument.
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