A Kaval flute for you

What is it?

The kaval is an instrument designed in 3,000B.C by mountain shepherds until it reached eastern Europe thanks to folk music. 

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

You may hear about it with other names like Kavali or cevara. Pronounced “k-uh-v-uh-l”, meaning hollow, and called kaval in Spanish, French, and Portuguese. A person that plays the kaval is just called a kaval player.

Category

The instrument is from the Wind family meaning the sound comes by blowing air in a mouthpiece into a tube(resonator). 

Variants

The types of kaval are determined by origin meaning they come from different countries:

  • Bulgaria: in the key of D.
  • Greece: with 7 holes in front and 1 extra hole for the thumb. 
  • North Macedonia: comes in 5 sizes najmal kaval (630 mm), mal kaval (672 mm), kaval koj (700 mm), sreden kaval (752 mm), golem kaval (785 mm).
  • Moldova: 6 holes version.
  • Romania: 5 holes version. 
  • Serbia: to get the correct tone it must be played at 45 degrees.

There’s also turkey where the term kaval is used for all the shepherd flutes. This can be confusing, just know that the most common variant is the Bulgarian kaval in D and its range is  D4 to C#7.

In terms of materials, the options are usually wood or plastic. This particular one is commonly made of plum tree wood or ebony. The material has no effect on the sound (our article here) but it does in price and durability.

Before you buy 

Getting a kaval for sale? as a gift? If you do, here’s all you need to know.

The price of the instrument is around $33 USD – $175 USD, the cheapest we found was a Moldova 6 hole handmade kaval and the most expensive was a C kaval made of ash wood. In the middle, we also found another C kaval made of ash wood for $100 USD.

You won’t find big brands selling the instrument, instead, you can find handmade flutes on online stores, just make sure they have a guarantee and shipping to your country, good reviews and if they don’t you can get them other ways

The size goes around 22 x 0.5 x 0.5 In (57 x 1 x 1 Cm) – 32 x 1 x 1 In (82 x 2 x 2 Cm) and has a weight from 1 Lbs (0.5 Kgs) to 2 Lbs (1 Kgs).

Now that you know, you can check on eBay here.

Accessories

There are a lot of accessories but you only need the basics like a bag and cleaning kit, that is if your instrument doesn’t come with one already, make sure the cleaning kit has a product specifically for wood.

Start playing   

To learn to play each note you need a finger chart (or position chart).

We recommend learning to read sheet music to get the basics. We review resources to help you choose how you want to learn. Now that you know how to read them, you need to get some. 
Sheets come in different notations so we recommend checking various versions of the same sheets, searching for “scores” to get all instruments, and even the “song name for kaval to save on translations.

Don’t forget all the details that combined make a big difference like the way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions, and techniques.

Remember, the kaval is tricky to learn because it’s rare and has many variations, but it should be easy and fast if you focus on 1 at a time, it’s also similar to the ney and dizi, venu and xiao so you can combine those resources to help you learn.

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