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Sunreed Instruments

Zacciah Blackburn
220 Hidden Glen Rd.
P.O. Box 389
Ascutney, VT  05030  USA

Phone:  (802) 674-9585
Fax:  (802) 674-9586
e-mail us at:
 About Our Instruments

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Sunreed Instruments takes great pride in the bamboo flutes, bamboo saxophones, bamboo clarinets, didgeridoo, shakuhachi, and Native American style flutes which we produce, as well as the many fine quality instruments of the world we offer. 

Our instruments are hand produced with the aesthetic quality of over 30 years of experience, are well tuned with electronic quartz tuners, come with complete instructions, and are fully warrantied. If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with any instrument we produce, you may return it for exchange or refund (see our current return policies on our How to Order page.)

We offer some common question and answer FAQ's below, and shall add to it as time permits.  We hope to soon have a greater wealth of information available to help you better understand our instruments and make appropriate selections.   In the meantime, please ask us for any help you might wish.  A few simple questions can often clarify your choices.  Our years of experience can help you find the appropriate instrument for your musical needs, gifts, etc.

You will find among our pages our many instruments which you may order by phone, fax, mail, or on our secure server. You may use Mastercard, Visa,  personal or bank checks, or wire transfer for payment.
Shipping costs and information are on our How to Order page.  International orders may also be placed.  Some important information is there regarding international shipments and customs.  You will need to contact us for specific costs of international shipments.

Further specific information on the nature of each instrument we offer accompanies the pages for each of those selections, indexed on our home page.

Through the years, our principal flutemaker, Zacciah Blackburn, has also learned a great deal about the history of instruments and music of other cultures. 
He has designed and presented over 300 multi-cultural workshops & programs on this topic in public and private schools and institutions.  You may view information regarding these programs in our Music Education pages.  Zacciah has also learned about the healing nature of sound and music.  He has become a highly respected leader in the field of sound healing.  You can learn about the nature of sound and healing, and how sound affects human consciousness and transformation, through his many workshops, offered at
If you are looking for tools to assist you in sound healing, he & his assistants have keen insight on the nature and use of these instruments, and can guide you in your practice and selection.
Zacciah also offers at least once a year, a flutemaking workshop, currently focusing on the Native American flute.
He is available for this in your school or area, as well.

Owner, Sunreed Instruments

Transverse Flutes:  What is the best key for me?  (applies to many of our wind instruments)
This is perhaps the most frequent question, and the most simple and complicated to answer.  It depends on what you want to use the flute for and how large your hands and finger stretch are.
Most styles of music are played most often in common major keys.  Thus, if you wish to play folk music, G is a good choice, perhaps followed by D or A; Irish music, D, A, G, F; Jazz, you might like an Eb or Bb flute; Blues, an E or A flute; Rock or Reggae, a G or A or D flute; classical, and often Christian music can be many keys, G, F, D, C often work well.
Our most popular flute overall is the D alto, used more by classical musicians, it is the predecessor to the modern flute, often referred to in the wooden version as an Irish or Celtic flute, Baroque or Renaissance flute.  It has a deep rich tone, suitable to most styles, and pleasing to most adult ears.

However, the G midrange is a good popular alternative, and possibly the best for all around use (many styles use the key of G in their music.  F being another good choice.)
The D is a large flute for many hands to play, the finger stretch is fairly large.
(Because you or your child play a silver alto C flute, does not mean they can play this flute, as the finger keys on the modern flute allow for the stretching you must do on your own on these more simple style of flutes.)
The G fits most adult hands fairly easily.
The student quality flute will suffice for those just beginning to see if they can play the flute well enough to continue to a higher quality instrument.  But, overall, it will not have the range to provide a large range of musical ability.
In general, we would recommend at least the Intermediate if not Professional quality flute to get the best voicing/tuning overall of the instrument.

We can provide measurements for the alto D or other flutes to see if they can easily fit your hands.

What is the Difference in Bamboo and Wooden/Irish/Celtic Flutes?  Which do you recommend?

The bamboo flute will give you all you need to learn flute and build a credible repertoire.    You can do pretty much anything on the bamboo flute you can do on a more traditional (European) wooden flute.  In some cultures, much more intonation and voicing is provided on the bamboo flute than on modern classical or wooden flutes.
It has a slightly warmer voice than hardwood (more refined), and tends toward larger holes and a different finger stretch, at least as we design them.
For Celtic music, we tend to recommend the D alto, standard to Irish or Celtic music, with the G, A, and F following behind that in popularity.
The primary plus of the wooden flute is a greater likelihood of longevity, as the bamboo is considerably more prone to cracking.  We find a well made and cared for flute will give you years of use, but bamboo has an unpredictable nature inherent to the "wood" (actually, a grass....)
In general, I (Zacciah, the flutemaker,) prefer the bamboo, but have a bias toward it, it being my first flute.
If you wish to invest in long term tradional playing, I would recommend the hardwood.

We can provide templates of some of our bamboo flute fingerings.  The instructions will show you how to map out the fingering to see if you can fit the larger flutes (most adult hands have no problem with the A or G, few have problem with the F except smaller hands).  The D can be problematic for anyone not used to flute, except larger hands.

What is the Difference in Grades of Flutes, Native American Style Flutes, Sax, and Clarinets
We have a slightly different definition for this question fully listed for our transverse flutes, here.
While most beginning students will be perfectly content with our student model flutes and instruments, experienced musicians and practicing professionals will want to consider our  professional (concert) quality instruments.  Our concert quality instruments, and Delux cedar flutes, are our highest quality instruments, and are made individually from beginning to end.   Extra care is placed in every aspect of creating these finest quality instruments, from preparation, to tuning, to sanded and oiled bore, and finish. 
Our refined techniques used in making these instruments guarantee a full range of true pitch and pure tone**, guaranteed to satisfy the needs of the purest professional, whether for personal use, concert performance, or recording, (**within the range of that particular instrument.) 

Student model flutes are excellent beginner instruments.  However, they will likely have inconsistencies in true pitch, which the trained ear will notice.    If you are unable to decide which instrument best fits your needs, please consult us.  We are happy to help, to clarify your choices, and have helped numerous individuals find the flutes that best suit their needs.

What  type of flute do you recommend that can produce a fluctuating sound for my son.
(For  a  beginner)
If I understand your question correctly, any flute can produce a fluctuating or vibratto sound.  It is up to the player to learn the techniques for producing this, but it is not necessarily a "beginner" trait.  Other means of defining "fluctuating" probably suggest player methodology, but you may assist by better defining what you mean by this type of question.
The Native American flute overall is the easiest flute to learn on.
The age/size of student can determine appropriate size for any flute.
The transverse flute is more of what we consider a "standard" flute in western culture.

Can I play any of the instruments?  What about hand stretch?
The flute is a rarely easy instrument to play, but does take some practice for a new player to learn.  The shakuhachi is especially difficult to learn.  The Native American flute is one of the easiest of all flutes to play, as is the penny whistle.  The sax and clarinet are fairly easy, also, though some have trouble learning the placement of the reed in their mouth...once they get the right placement, and blow hard enough, most people find these fairly easy to play.  The clarinet is a little more awkward, requiring all ten fingers to play.
 Once you get a sound out of any instrument, the next biggest problem is placing the fingers accurately over the holes.  You want to find an instrument that fits your hand.

The tenor and bass are large instruments.  Most players cannot play these.  The alto is good for most players, unless the person has very small hands.  You can precheck with measurements we offer, which show where the finger holes are placed, on average, to give a sense of how large the stretch is.  The midsize, traditional, or soprano sizes fit most grown hands.  Children will usually want to play the smaller sizes, especially the soprano.  Some adults will find the soprano Cor D too small for a comfortable fit.  The pentatonic scale instruments (some alto/bass flutes as listed, Native American flutes, shakuhachi, and baritone sax,) have only 4 or 5 holes, and are much easier to play a larger instrument.

What is difference in your "traditional" key Native American style flutes, G and F?
What is the difference in the 5 and 6 hole Native American Flutes?

G is the most popular key, our favorite, and one we most often recommend.  The F is a little deeper if you prefer that.

The 5 hole pentatonic is the most traditional method of playing, though the 6 hole pentatonic has gained immensely in popularity.  While players claim the 6 hole pentatonic has "more notes" available, that is a misunderstanding of the methodology of playing.
Our 6 hole, however, is a major diatonic scale (do, re mi) and more adept for those wishing to play contemporary/western style music.

Bamboo and Wooden Saxophones and clarinets:

Can I play this like a standard sax or clarinet?
This type of 7 hole sax instrument, the bamboo or wooden saxophone, only plays one octave, then skips to 1 and a half octaves, like a clarinet, in the upper register....the only way to have continuity between registers is to have more holes, which we do offer in a ten hole design, like the bamboo/wooden clarinet, with an alto sax is more awkward to play with the ten holes, every finger needing to cover a hole... but it provides a full range of 2-3 octaves, depending on your blowing abilities.

These saxes also play the pitches they state...there is no transposition...a Bb is a Bb (Bb "soprano" begins at Bb below middle C....Eb alto begins at a half octave below that....)
Some makers have saxes one pitch apart and claim they are a soprano, alto, and tenor sax.  This is incorrect terminology. 
The soprano, alto, and tenor saxes are pitched a half octave apart, as ours are.

Can I use my own mouthpiece?
Our saxophone mouthpieces are removable.
The fittings we use are so close to standard alto mouthpiece size, there is not room for actual corking...what we do is actually wrap the fitting with a few turns of tape, either scotch tape or plumbers teflon tape, to make an airtight fitting....most alto mouthpieces will fit this...but the reality is some are smaller or larger than others...some will need a little more of this tape/corking material, a few styles need to be bored out to fit my fitting....if you had an older mouthpiece which was too small and you didn't mind boring it out, this could work...again, most mouthpieces do fit, but some few do not...
You may request a clarinet with removable mouthpieces.
We make them with or without removable mouthpieces.  If you use your own mouthpiece, it nulls our warranty, as the clarinet mouthpieces also have slightly different diameters.  If you try to insert a mouthpiece which is even slightly wider than our own, there is a great risk of cracking the bamboo or wooden instrument.  We recommend great care when inserting a new mouthpiece into this type of clarinet fitting.  The wooden clarinets are less delicate in this regard than bamboo, with greater tensile strength.

Native American Flute:

The sound on my Native American flute is weak:  How do I adjust my whistle block?
It is rare there are any actual problems with the flutes that require any special work.  Most often, the whistle block, or fetish, on top of the flute, which makes the sound of the flute, has slid away from it's optimum location, and this is producing a weak, or no sound.  This can happen when carrying (or shipping) the flute from location to location, or by mishandling.  It is not a problem, and common to even the most expensive flutes, as they all are played in a similar manner.
On the Cedar flutes, there often is a small ink mark at the back of the whistle block that denotes the best location to play it.  Moving it back and forth, and side to side while adjusting it, and tightening it there, takes care of most of these problems...occasionally, re-adjusting after tightening is required if it is not held steady while tightening.  For the bamboo N. Am. style flutes, there is no mark, but it is positioned similarly.  Simply move the block back and forth, and side to side, holding it down tightly, while blowing.  Be sure you fingers do not restrict the air flow in the front of the whistle block.   There are two holes under the whistle block.  The hole closest to the blowing end of the flute is entirely covered, and the second hole, closer to the finger holes, may be just touched, or almost touched, by the part of the whistle block cut out in a U shaped cut, but it is mostly open, enclosed within this "U" shaped part of the block.
If adjusting the whistle block does not fix the problem, you may try removing the wood block completely, and rub the underside of it, and the area of the flute it fits upon with a light cloth, in case any foreign material or moisture have collected in that area.  Occasionally, though rarely, this can be a problem.  It usually only takes appropriate positioning for good tone.
If you still cannot get the flute to sound, you may send it back to us and we will insure it is playing correctly, though usually an adjustment of the whistle block is all that is needed.  If all it requires is adjustment, we will charge you return shipping.
If there is something wrong with the flute we will gladly repair or replace it, within its warranty period.

Native American Drum:
What is the best type of drum for sweat lodges?

A sweat lodge is a tough place for any drum to last long, as the hot moisture feeds into the skin of the drum head and lacing, making it eventually soften, and not play well.
Your best choices are
1) Our double sided sweatlodge drum, which also uses buffalo skin.
The double side, and the buffalo skin are two contributing factors to make this work well.
And, our maker says it is guaranteed to make it through a sweat.

2) The second best choice is the 16" Remo drum.
It has a great voice, and will never fail in humid conditions.
It is made of a plastic head, and of course, many, especially of Native traditions, will feel that is not appropriate.  But for pureness of voice, and lasting in sweat conditions, nothing beats it.  It never changes its voice.  You can soak it in water, and it will keep its voice.

Any natural skin head drum will lose its voice if exposed to enough moisture over time.
For a single headed drum, an elkskin drum is as good as any.  Steer, moose, or buffalo skin may last a little longer in sweat conditions than elk, but the elk do about as well as any other skin in moist conditions, in my own experience.
Most any single headed drum other than the Remo will have difficulty making through a full round of sweats.
You can always dry the skin between rounds at the fire.

I hope you find this helpful.
See information on our drums page:


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