Behind the scenes: Jason Mraz I'm Yours

There are a number of songs that I just absolutely love and I’m Yours by Jason Mraz is one of those. A few months ago, I was asked if I could play this song on my Native American flute at a friend's wedding. Before I committed full-heartedly, I wanted to make sure that it was something that I could do on the Native American flute. 

You see, the Native American flute has a limited range of 1-1/3 octaves. You can play quite a bit within that range, but when you are trying to do a cover song of a lyrical song, many times the singer’s range takes the melody beyond that 1-1/3 octave limitation. This is where some imagination and resourcefulness usually come in. 

When I’m looking to cover a popular lyrical song I check a couple of sources. One of those resources is called TuneBat–a website that shows the key and bpm for almost every song you can imagine. Now, it can be a little tricky as sometimes it will show that a particular song is in a certain key, but again, the range of the flute won’t allow it because the vocalist’s melody goes below that particular note. In some cases, I’ve had to record a song using a flute that was a 4th or 5th above or below the key that I’m aiming for and play it either in Mode 4 or substitute some notes with cross fingering notes to make it work. 

 

 

For “I’m Yours,” I was able to scour through my collection and find the right key almost instantly! A major, or F# minor as we Native flute players call it. It didn’t take me long to get the majority of the song down, but I’m not going to lie, it was pretty tricky playing all those notes repetitively. As you listen to the song below, you’ll be able to hear the repetitive notes. I felt as though I was getting tongue-tied and rapping on my flute! 

 


Side note: There are a number of embellishments one can do to separate repetitive notes on Native American flutes–by tonguing notes, adding a “pop” or finger tap between them. These are some of the techniques that I work on with students who take Native American flute lessons with me via Skype and Facetime, in workshops and will be featured in my upcoming tutorials. 


The flute that I used on this song and video was made by Randy Stenzel of Feather Ridge Flutes based in Lisbon, Iowa. It’s in the key of F# minor and is made from Alaskan Yellow Cedar.  Randy passed away a couple of years ago and is sorely missed in the flute community. 

A native american flute lying next to a fedora had in a planter box

One of the interesting things about this particular flute is the fact that, at one point, it had been completely smashed in my luggage but Randy was able to repair it. If you look closely at the body of the flute, you can see where the cracks have been repaired and the holes filled with turquoise.  

It kind of got me thinking. We all have stuff in our lives that break us down, flatten us, sometimes completely crush us, but it doesn’t have to be the end. Somehow we pick ourselves up and put ourselves back together, piece by piece. Sometimes we need some help to do that, and that’s okay and there’s no shame in asking for help. At some point, I’ll share my story of rock bottom and the beauty that came from it. 

A large part of that beauty, for me, was meeting Maria. She is my wife, best friend and the awesome person behind the camera for all these videos we’ve published on YouTube!

Jonny Lipford and Maria Lipford standing in front of a train in Marion Iowa after filming Jason Mraz I'm Yours

The video for Jason Mraz I'm Yours is a bit serendipitous because our scheduled filming days had been filled with other obligations and we were up against the wall with this one. 

On one of the hottest and most humid days we’ve had so far, we decided to film…outside. Ugh. This was going to be an experiment! Maria does a great job with capturing what we call “B-Roll” which are shots from around the area that aren't focused on the subject. For example, we found this eagle on the sidewalk made from chalk and decided to have a little fun with it.

Eagle made from chalk carrying a native american flute

 

While it wasn’t the most comfortable weather, we did end up with a rather cool video. We celebrated by grabbing some ice cream on the way home. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our special guest in this video, Duke. He is the newest member of our family and rivals for the most trouble caused. Duke is a French Bulldog and is about 13-weeks-old in this video. We’ll see if we can get him to agree to be in more videos with us in the future. 

Jonny Lipford holding Duke the French Bulldog

Speaking of which, check out all the videos that we have on YouTube featuring cover songs, original songs, tutorials, tips and flute reviews!  Subscribe so you don’t miss out!  


Peace, 

Jonny Lipford