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How to Make a Native American Flute

Native Americans, and others, have used the branches of the elderberry tree to make musical instruments since ancient times.


  • : Live elderberry tree branches are poisonous. Never put green elderberry branches in your mouth.
  • Step 1: Cut a dead elderberry branch Cut a dead branch from an elderberry tree with pruning shears or a saw. The branch should be 9 to 12 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.
  • TIP: Try to locate a branch whose pith has been removed by an Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, an important member of the tree's ecosystem.
  • Step 2: Cut the ends flat Cut both ends of the branch so they are flat.
  • Step 3: Hollow out the branch Gouge out the pithy center of the branch using a screwdriver or a long stick if you are not starting with a hollow branch, then smooth and polish the inside.
  • Step 4: Drill four holes Drill four small holes along the top of the flute, equidistant from the center. Make the holes thumb-width apart.
  • Step 5: Play the flute Play the flute as though you were blowing into a bottle, or blow across the open end at an angle.
  • FACT: The genus name for the elderberry tree, Sambucus, derives from the name of an ancient Greek musical instrument.

You Will Need

  • Elderberry branch
  • Pruning shears or saw
  • Screwdriver or long stick
  • Drill

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