If you’ve mastered the Peruvian ocarina (if not, see my tutorial), and you wish to learn how to play a Peruvian Quena, prepare your fingers for a challenge. The Quena is the most famous Peruvian wind instrument and the more challenging to play. Whether made from bone, wood or plastic, the Quena looks more like a flute than the round ocarina, and its sound is more haunting and beautiful. Learning how to play a Peruvian Quena is well worth the effort, and as you learn know that you are carrying on a tradition thousands of years in the making.
Step #1: Position the Quena in Your Mouth
Open you mouth slightly and rest the mouthpiece of the Quena flute on your lower lip. Close your lips together and mold them around the Quena to prevent air from slipping between cracks. As you learn how to play a Peruvian Quena the position of your mouth will become second nature. For now, curve your lips up in a mild smile, then blow into the Quena mouthpiece as if you are whistling. The Quena will produce its distinctive hoarse fluty sound.
Step #2: Position Your Fingers on the Quena
Learning how to play the Peruvian Quena is reminiscent of other flutes. To arrange your fingers correctly, black the bottom hole with the thumb of your left hand. Position your index finger on the first top hole and continue down the line until you run out of fingers on this hand. Then use the fingers of your right hand to block the remaining holes on the Quena.
Step #3: How to Play the Quena
As you lift one finger at a time while blowing air through the Quena you’ll produce a note. But what makes learning how to play the Quena more difficult than other Peruvian wind instruments is the half-coverage of holes to produce half notes (called half-holes). Here are instructions for producing the different notes as you learn how to play the Quena.
G Note: Plug all the Quena holes.
A Note: Unplug the last top hole (the sixth)
B Note: Unplug the penultimate hole (the fifth)
C Note: Lift all the fingers of the right hand
D Note: Lift the left hand finger blocking the 3rd hole.
E Note: Hold the left thumb in place and the top first hole only.
F Note: Cover half the first hole with the left index finger
To produce sharp or flat notes, cover only half the hole each time.
Step #4: How to Develop Agility in Playing the Quena
The greatest asset you will acquire with practice is the tactical memory of hole positions. Your fingers will effectively play the Quena for you by coming down to block each hole precisely. It’s important to keep each finger hovering over its hole once lifted so you don’t lose your place.
As with other musical instruments, learning how to play the Quena is a matter of patience and practice. Take your Quena outdoors and learn how to play on a mountain tip or deep in a snowy glen. Small musical instruments like Peruvian flutes permit you to sit in nature and weave a song, as music lovers have done for thousands of years.
Made Manual: “How to Play A Peruvian Wind Instrument”