I'm a hobby guitarist and I'm looking to switch things up by playing another instrument for a little bit. So I'm looking into buying a Native American style flute ('NASF') because of the timbre and apparent playability.

But these flutes are pentatonic instruments, are they not?

Considering guitars are chromatic instruments, any guitar should theoretically be able to hit the same notes as a NASF and will be able to 'play along' just fine. But what key makes playing along easiest?

I've seen one manufacturer reference that the key of G is most popular. Should I 'just' get my instrument in that?

Note: A local store sells NASFs in A (shortest), G (middle size) and F# (longest).


2 Answers 2


The quick answer is yes you are right. Guitars are chromatic and thus would have all the same pitch classes as any flute would have. However, guitars being Western music instruments, and Native American flutes being Native American instruments, might not be using the same size of intervals so some notes might not match exactly. But then again it is quite likely that Native American flutes are now manufactured to match Western scales. Even if they are not, small changes in your playing could probably change the intonation of either the guitar or the flute thus giving you the same notes.

So then the question is which key is best. They are all good but if you are playing chords on the guitar, then either G or A covers more of the open-string chords and thus easier, whereas F# would force you to play barre chords on the guitar which would tire your hands out quicker and would also not ring out as sharply.

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    The F# actually wouldn’t be that bad since you could capo on the second fret and play in E. Nov 26, 2020 at 4:01

The keys refer to pentatonic minors. So the A flute will play A C D E and G.Those notes also match up with C major pent.

The G gives G B♭ C D and F, also usable as B♭ maj. pent.

And the F♯ will work with A maj. pent.

So, it will depend largely on which keys you and your accompanists want to use. There's also the propensity to use minor pents over major accompaniments, so the A would give a blues feel over key A major.

How we could direct you to a particular key, I really don't know...

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