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Fujara and other Slovak flutes

The Slovak fujara is an awesome overtone flute of four to seven feet in length. Fujara is absolutely unique hand made overtone fipple flute and one cannot find similar anywhere but in Slovakia.
Fujara is a typical Slovak folk instrument whose native home is a small region in central Slovakia called Podpoľanie.
Fujara flute has 3 holes (vents) but the height of the tone is decided mainly by the strength of in-blown air creating thus various overtones. Fujara flute is designed to play high up into the overtone series as well as in the lowest bass series with a soft haunting voice. That involves shriller tones by playing “scatter” on the beginning of the song and “whoosh” by overblowing the instrument.

Fujara is an outstanding flute for solo meditation playing:
Fascinating compass of 2 and half octaves in 11 overtone series (“levels”),
awesome dynamic range, natural playing technique, overtone-rich, soft haunting voice.

Fujara’s beautiful overtones sounding in perfect harmony with the player’s breath can give very satisfactory meditative feeling even for the very beginner and make the learning process fun, interesting and thus easy.
It means that fujara overtones just won’t let you play bad. Fujara’s unique breathing-like playing technique will lead you in improvisation and its natural harmonics will just “fit” and make the melody sound good. EVERYBODY can play Fujara nicely!
At the same time, every “Fujara” is a unique creative work of art – an original. Traditionally, it’s made completely by hand from deciduous trees (elder, maple, locust tree), and it takes up to one month to build a good Fujara from a seasoned piece of wood.

Fujara names in Slovakia: fujara, fujera, fujarka, fujarocka…
(“Loose” translation: “fuu” – adverb imitating the blowing wind, “jar” means spring)
Fujara is pronounced [“FUYARA”]

Ambient fujara:

Traditional regions of Slovakia – region of Podpoľanie:

Fujara flute history

The Fujara flute is basically a gothic bass 3 hole flute. Such 3 hole bass flutes have been known, and used in Europe in 12th-13th centuries (this is verified from paintings, and by archaeology).
Because these flutes had just 3 holes, the player often played them with just one hand (it was shorter), and accompanied himself by playing a drum with the other hand.

In Brussels museum there is a similar 3 hole bass flute approximately 93-102 cm long, with 2 holes in the front side and 1 hole in the back side and with side air pipe, origin – Northern Italy. This instrument is very
similar to archaic type of Fujara flute found at Slovakia in the past around a village Priechod (“Priechod’s Fujara flute”).
In this context the place of origin of current Fujara bass flute is now considered north of Banská Bystrica,
brought there probably by a division of foreign soldiers stationed there during Turkish wars.
This 3 hole bass flute was “conserved” there, and later, after movement to Detva region, was the design changed to the current Fujara bass flute design with all 3 side holes in the front side. Also the length of bass flute’s main pipe was almost doubled and thus achieved even lower deep bass tunings.
Even today the Slovakian style of enhancing the melody of the Fujara flute by ornaments resembles baroque playing style…
Fujara is a part of UNESCO World Cultural heritage.

Fujara flute – an instrument of shepherds & sheep

Fujara flute is an instrument of Slovak shepherds. Formerly, the Fujara flute was mostly played by the shepherding.

Martin Sanitár (old Slovak Fujara flute maker and player) says:
“when I was 10-12 years old, I did shepherding. I did not milk, this my father did, but I had to tend the sheep. We paid a lease to community for an area where cows could not go and there we went with sheep. I was going one way and Jožo Výboch the other side of the hill. And Jožo has already played at that time and he played Fujara flute rather beautifully.”

A walachian style of Fujara flute play

If we imagine the life in a shed in the past, we will find out that in the summer there was no time for playing. In the morning shepherds had to wake up to milk the sheep, sour the milk, prepare the cheese and žinčica (special drink made by Slovakian shepherd’s) and by the time the cheese was smoked, the noon was there and everything had to be repeated.
Therefore, the best was to play by shepherding. Allegedly, the Fujara flute sounded most beautifully when it had been played behind the sheep, just step by step. The Fujara flute’s soft voice and its slow melody calmed the sheep and they could better and peacefully nibble. Today, the experts for ecological (alternative) farming would say that a “welfare effect” was achieved, which means that an additional comfort for animals was reached manifested in their vitality and better utility.

K. A. Medvecký in his famous monograph states that the shepherd by playing his Fujara flute tended the herd, the sheep were more gentle, more quiet, and better sticked together. This was later confirmed also by the older Fujarists stating that the shepherds played the Fujara flute heading their herd. Juraj Kubinec (famous fujarists) added to this “Fujara flute is with the sheep very useful, when Fujara is played, the sheep stretch to the side and go in line, one after another”. Today I personally know, that this is very important while the grass is nibbled evenly and the pasture is thus better utilized.

The melodies played by shepherding were mostly slow and draggy, without trills and decorations, utilizing simple blowing only, over-blowing to overtones and vibrato. Some suggest, that walachians hands were worked out and hard and therefore their fingers were less flexible.

A rural style of Fujara flute play

However, Fujara flute was also played in a rural environment. Usually, Fujara flute has been played “in the evenings”, resp. “at the evening parties”. Just then youths accompanied each other and often one of them has played under the window of his girlfriend. Often, the lover revealed himself to his dear by a specific cipher.

Martin Sanitár (famous Slovak fujarists) also states, that the Fujara flute used to be played by recruitment.
In one fujara song from I. Weiss it is singed:
” I would not , I would not, join the army, would my father, begged the lords. But my father didn’t want to beg the lords, so I must go and carry a sword. ”

But also in the village the Fujara flute has been played in seclusion (all alone) in the evening time, when the interpreter played just for himself, respectively only for a close ring of listeners.

Generally, in the rural fujara play (mostly Fujara flute has been played in stiller seclusions) were more of melody variations and flute’s fingering techniques used.

Decoration techniques

Every folk flute maker in Slovakia develops over years his own ornamentation style to carve or stain onto the outside of the instrument that identifies his instruments. All the ornaments are created solely by hand which makes every instrument a work of art – an original.
Fujara flutes are traditionally decorated in rich plant-flower ornamentation. Traditional ornaments are carved, stained or inlaid into the instrument’s wood by various methods.
Perhaps the most traditional Fujara decoration techniques are carving and acid pickling.
By all ornamentation techniques, the ornament is first pre-drawn by hand onto the instrument’s wood.
The most expensive Fujara flutes cost about 1 000 €.

Personal plant-flower ornaments are marked into the instruments wood by various methods:

Ornaments are hand carved by sharp knife into the wood creating thus a v-shaped groove. Then the wood is stained and finished in natural varnish.

Acid Etching:
Special acid lotion is drop after drop applied onto the pre-carved ornaments using a simple wooden stick. After some rest, as the acid stains the wood to nice light-brown color, the instrument is finished in natural varnish.

Deep Cut:
Ornaments are deep cut into the instrument surface solely by hand creating an original woodcarving piece of work. Instrument is then finished in natural varnish. Optional brown stain can be applied as well.

Copper Inlaying:
Ornaments are created by beating of specially bent pieces of copper wire into the instrument’s wood. Instrument is then finished in a dark pigmented varnish to achieve superior final effect.

Decoration of various folk woodwind instruments has in Slovakia very long tradition.

Woodwinds, and especially the Fujara, were the instruments of Slovak shepherds. At long meanders with their sheep, Slovak shepherds usually played their beloved woodwind instrument. Its voice calmed the sheep and they could better and peacefully nimble. In between, they carved into their instrument’s wood various ornaments figuring their sheep, shepherd’s life closely connected with nature, plants and flowers. This over years developed into decoration styles and for Fujara, the plant-flower ornament developed into tradition. It was the nature of Slovak shepherd’s to decorate their most beloved instruments and give them thus a personal mark and look.

Original shepherd’s Fujara was bit shorter, reaching just to the armpit to serve as a walking stick and prop while standing too.


Woodwinds in Slovakia,
Slovak Folk Flutes

Woodwind instruments play in Slovak folklore central role already for centuries. Especially popular were the woodwind instruments among Slovak shepherds. Various kinds of “shepherd pipes” were produced to accompany the shepherds by herding their sheep.
Popularity of folk woodwinds closely corresponds with Slovak nature: Slovak forests provided the flute makers with ideal, quality upland wood – the elder tree from which most of folk woodwinds are being made. Even today the forests take over 40% of Slovakia territory.


In Slovakia preserved and developed also very unique woodwind instruments designs, as is for example KONCOVKA, DVOJAČKA or unique FUJARA.

KONCOVKA [kontsovka] is an overtone fipple flute, has no finger holes and is two to three feet in length. The player opens and closes the far end of the tube while playing in the upper harmonics to create melodies. The tones are from the so called natural harmonic scale.
While such instruments are almost extinct in almost all other cultures, in Slovakia is koncovka (overtone flute) still widely popular.

Another “special” Slovak folk instrument is DVOJAČKA [dvoyatschka].
It is a intricate combination of familiar 6-hole shepherd pipe and koncovka (overtone flute). The dvojačka combines the playing techniques of overtone flute (koncovka) and shepherd pipe (píšťaľka). The dvojačka (double shepherd pipe) sounds especially beautiful, because the player can play a drone or harmony at the same time as the melody. A performance commonly begins using only the tube with holes to state the melody. The harmony or drone side is then added for effect on every other performance of the melody.

PÍŠŤAĽKA [pishtalka] is an end blown fipple flute about one feet in length with six holes bored along the side held upwards. The player blows through the fipple on the top end and covers the finger holes with the first three fingers of each hand.

FUJARA [fuyara] is basically a very large overtone flute in bass position, with additional 3 side holes, has the same basic overtone scale as koncovka, and additional tones are gained by opening the side holes. Fujara is capable to overblow easily to over 11 overtone levels. Each fujara maker creates his own design to carve or stain onto the outside of the instrument.
The instrument itself consists of two carved wooden tubes connected at the top by a short air tunnel. The smaller tube does not produce tone but serves to carry the air up and across to the longer main tube that has the fipple and three finger holes.

The player holds the fujara upright and blows into the shorter tube, often assisted by a small, carved mouthpiece.

Playing technique of the Slovak folk woodwind instruments:

The Koncovka (overtone flute), a holeless flute, produces it’s scale by overblowing to overtones and shading them with a finger on the end to produce it’s scale. The familiar Shepherd pipe (six hole flute) also overblows, but just to the 1st overtone and uses its 6 holes to produce it’s scale. The Fujara (bass overtone flute) is the most dynamic flute and easily overblows to over 11 overtone levels. Fujara simply extends this phenomenon with its three holes to play also more intricate melodies.

Till 1:40

FUJARISTI 2010 zostrih.mpg

Other types of Slovak flutes:


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