What is the difference between a “Western-tuned flute” and a “traditional flute?

At the Kassa Flute Co, all of our custom flutes are available in either a “Western” scale or a “traditional/equidistant” scale. As you might expect, the Western scale is the same scale used on instruments like guitar, piano, bass, etc. The traditional scale is similar, but instead of using a series of whole and half steps, it uses a seven-note scale in which all notes are equally spaced. This results in the intervals being approximately 3/4 of a step. (For a more precise explanation, please see this blog post.)

But just how different are these two scales?

Today, I’m going to answer that question with side-by-side audio examples of each type of flute. Listen to the short clip below to hear the difference so you can decide on your next flute!

Fula flute: Western vs equidistant scale demo

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An audio demonstration of the difference between a Western-tuned Fula flute and a traditional, equidistant scale flute. The flutes used in the demo are by Kassa Flute Co.

So which flute is right for you?

The answer to this depends on what you intend to play on your flute, and with what other instruments. If you plan on playing traditional music along with instruments like the balafon, ngoni, or percussion, a traditional flute might be right for you. On the other hand, if you’re playing along with other Western instruments like guitar, bass, keyboards, etc, you’ll have an easier time with the Western tuned flute.

That said, many African musicians play traditional flutes with Western instruments, and it adds color and tension. Depending on what you’re going for, or how precise you need to be, this may or may not work for you. Personally, I like to have both varieties of flutes on hand to be ready for any situation.

As always, if you have any further questions, feel free to contact me here.

Happy playing!