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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A selection of flutes from around the world

The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel-Sachs, flutes are categorized as Edge-blown aerophones.

A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, a flautist, a flutist, or less commonly a fluter.

Flutes are the earliest known musical instruments. A number of flutes dating to about 40,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.[1]



The oldest flute ever discovered may be a fragment of the femur of a juvenile cave bear, with two to four holes, found at Divje Babe in Slovenia and dated to about 43,000 years ago. The authenticity of this fact, however, is often disputed. [2][3] In 2008 another flute dated back to at least 35,000 years ago was discovered in Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany.[4] The five-holed flute has a V-shaped mouthpiece and is made from a vulture wing bone. The researchers involved in the discovery officially published their findings in the journal Nature, in August 2009.[5] The discovery is also the oldest confirmed find of any musical instrument in history.[6] The flute, one of several found, was found in the Hohle Fels cavern next to the Venus of Hohle Fels and a short distance from the oldest known human carving.[7] On announcing the discovery, scientists suggested that the "finds demonstrate the presence of a well-established musical tradition at the time when modern humans colonized Europe".[8] Scientists have also suggested that the discovery of the flute may help to explain "the probable behavioural and cognitive gulf between" Neanderthals and early modern human.[6]

A three-holed flute, 18.7 cm long, made from a mammoth tusk (from the Geißenklösterle cave, near Ulm, in the southern German Swabian Alb and dated to 30,000 to 37,000 years ago)[9] was discovered in 2004, and two flutes made from swan bones excavated a decade earlier (from the same cave in Germany, dated to circa 36,000 years ago) are among the oldest known musical instruments.

Playable 9000-year-old Gudi (literally, "bone flute"), made from the wing bones of red-crowned cranes, with five to eight holes each, were excavated from a tomb in Jiahu[10] in the Central Chinese province of Henan.[11]

Chinese women playing flutes, from the 12th-century Song Dynasty remake of the Night Revels of Han Xizai, originally by Gu Hongzhong (10th century)

The earliest extant transverse flute is a chi () flute discovered in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng at the Suizhou site, Hubei province, China. It dates from 433 BC, of the later Zhou Dynasty. It is fashioned of lacquered bamboo with closed ends and has five stops that are at the flute's side instead of the top. Chi flutes are mentioned in Shi Jing, compiled and edited by Confucius, according to tradition.

The Bible, in Genesis 4:21, cites Jubal as being the "father of all those who play the ugab and the kinnor". The former Hebrew term refers to some wind instrument, or wind instruments in general, the latter to a stringed instrument, or stringed instruments in general. As such, Jubal is regarded in the Judeo-Christian tradition as the inventor of the flute (a word used in some translations of this biblical passage). Some early flutes were made out of tibias (shin bones). The flute has also always been an essential part of Indian culture and mythology,[12] and the cross flute believed by several accounts to originate in India[13][14] as Indian literature from 1500 BCE has made vague references to the cross flute.[15]

Flute acoustics

A flute produces sound when a stream of air directed across a hole in the instrument creates a vibration of air at the hole.[16][17]

The air stream across this hole creates a Bernoulli, or siphon, effect leading to a von Karman vortex street. This excites the air contained in the usually cylindrical resonant cavity within the flute. The player changes the pitch of the sound produced by opening and closing holes in the body of the instrument, thus changing the effective length of the resonator and its corresponding resonant frequency. By varying the air pressure, a flute player can also change the pitch of a note by causing the air in the flute to resonate at a harmonic other than the fundamental frequency without opening or closing any holes.

To be louder, a flute must use a larger resonator, a larger air stream, or increased air stream velocity. A flute's volume can generally be increased by making its resonator and tone holes larger. This is why a police whistle, a form of flute, is very wide for its pitch, and why a pipe organ can be far louder than a concert flute: a large organ pipe can contain several cubic feet of air, and its tone hole may be several inches wide, while a concert flute's air stream measures a fraction of an inch across.

The air stream must be directed at the correct angle and velocity, or else the air in the flute will not vibrate. In fippled or ducted flutes, a precisely formed and placed windway will compress and channel the air to the labium ramp edge across the open window. In the pipe organ, this air is supplied by a regulated blower.

In non-fipple flutes, the air stream is shaped and directed by the player's lips, called the embouchure. This allows the player a wide range of expression in pitch, volume, and timbre, especially in comparison to fipple/ducted flutes. However, it also makes an end blown flute or transverse flute considerably more difficult for a beginner to produce a full sound on than a ducted flute, such as the recorder. Transverse and end-blown flutes also take more air to play, which requires deeper breathing and makes circular breathing a considerably trickier proposition.

Generally, the quality called timbre or "tone colour" varies because the flute can produce harmonics in different proportions or intensities. The tone color can be modified by changing the internal shape of the bore, such as the conical taper, or the diameter-to-length ratio. A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple of a lower register, or "fundamental" note of the flute. Generally the air stream is thinner (vibrating in more modes), faster (providing more energy to excite the air's resonance), and aimed across the hole less deeply (permitting a more shallow deflection of the air stream) in the production of higher harmonics or upper partials.

Head joint geometry appears particularly critical to acoustic performance and tone,[18] but there is no clear consensus on a particular shape amongst manufacturers. Acoustic impedance of the embouchure hole appears the most critical parameter.[19] Critical variables affecting this acoustic impedance include: chimney length (hole between lip-plate and head tube), chimney diameter, and radii or curvature of the ends of the chimney and any designed restriction in the "throat" of the instrument, such as that in the Japanese Nohkan Flute.

A study in which professional players were blindfolded could find no significant differences between instruments made from a variety of different metals.[20] In two different sets of blind listening, no instrument was correctly identified in a first listening, and in a second, only the silver instrument was identified. The study concluded that there was "no evidence that the wall material has any appreciable effect on the sound color or dynamic range of the instrument". Unfortunately, this study did not control for headjoint design, which is generally known to affect tone (see above). Controlled tone tests show that the tube mass does make a difference and therefore tube density and wall thickness will make a difference.[21] One must also consider the inefficiency of the human ear to detect sound, versus electronic sensors.

Categories of flute

Playing the zampoña, a Pre-Inca instrument and type of pan flute.

In its most basic form, a flute can be an open tube which is blown like a bottle. There are several broad classes of flutes. With most flutes, the musician blows directly across the edge of the mouthpiece. However, some flutes, such as the whistle, gemshorn, flageolet, recorder, tin whistle, tonette, fujara, and ocarina have a duct that directs the air onto the edge (an arrangement that is termed a "fipple"). These are known as fipple flutes. The fipple gives the instrument a distinct timbre which is different from non-fipple flutes and makes the instrument easier to play, but takes a degree of control away from the musician.

Another division is between side-blown (or transverse) flutes, such as the Western concert flute, piccolo, fife, dizi, and bansuri; and end-blown flutes, such as the ney, xiao, kaval, danso, shakuhachi, Anasazi flute, and quena. The player of a side-blown flute uses a hole on the side of the tube to produce a tone, instead of blowing on an end of the tube. End-blown flutes should not be confused with fipple flutes such as the recorder, which are also played vertically but have an internal duct to direct the air flow across the edge of the tone hole.

Flutes may be open at one or both ends. The ocarina, xun, pan pipes, police whistle, and bosun's whistle are closed-ended. Open-ended flutes such as the concert flute and the recorder have more harmonics, and thus more flexibility for the player, and brighter timbres. An organ pipe may be either open or closed, depending on the sound desired.

Flutes can be played with several different air sources. Conventional flutes are blown with the mouth, although some cultures use nose flutes. The flue pipes of organs, which are acoustically similar to duct flutes, are blown by bellows or fans.


The Western concert flutes

An illustration of a Western concert flute

The Western concert flute, a descendant of the 19th-century German flute, is a transverse flute that is closed at the top. An embouchure hole is positioned near the top, across and into which the player blows. The flute has circular tone holes, larger than the finger holes of its baroque predecessors. The size and placement of tone holes, the key mechanism, and the fingering system used to produce the notes in the flute's range were evolved from 1832 to 1847 by Theobald Boehm, and greatly improved the instrument's dynamic range and intonation over those of its predecessors.[22] With some refinements (and the rare exception of the Kingma system and other custom adapted fingering systems), Western concert flutes typically conform to Boehm's design, known as the Boehm system.

The standard concert flute is pitched in the key of C and has a range of three octaves starting from middle C (or one half-step lower, when a B foot is attached to the instrument). This means that the concert flute is one of the highest common orchestral instruments, with the exception of the piccolo, which plays an octave higher. G alto and C bass flutes are used occasionally, and are pitched a perfect fourth and an octave below the concert flute, respectively. Parts are written for alto flute more frequently than for bass. The contrabass, double contrabass, and hyperbass are other rare forms of the flute pitched two, three, and four octaves below middle C respectively.

Other sizes of flutes and piccolos are used from time to time. A rarer instrument of the modern pitching system is the treble G flute. Instruments made according to an older pitch standard, used principally in wind-band music, include Db piccolo, Eb soprano flute (the primary instrument, equivalent to today's concert C flute), F alto flute, and Bb bass flute.

The Indian bamboo flute

A Carnatic eight-holed bamboo flute
A bansuri being played by an Indian classical music artist.

The bamboo flute is an important instrument in Indian classical music, and developed independently of the Western flute. The Hindu god Krishna is traditionally considered a master of the Bansuri (see below). The Indian flutes are very simple compared to the Western counterparts; they are made of bamboo and are keyless.[23]

Pannalal Ghosh, a legendary Indian flutist, was the first to transform a tiny folk instrument to a bamboo flute (32 inches long with seven finger holes) suitable for playing traditional Indian classical music, and also to bring to it the stature of other classical music instruments. The extra hole permitted madhyam to be played, which facilitates the meends (like M N, P M and M D) in several traditional ragas.[citation needed]

Indian concert flutes are available in standard pitches. In Carnatic music, the pitches are referred by numbers such as (assuming C as the tonic) 1 (for C), 1-1/2 (C#), 2 (D), 2-1/2 (D#), 3 (E), 4 (F), 4-1/2 (F#), 5 (G), 5-1/2 (G#), 6 (A), 6-1/2 (A#) and 7 (B). However, the pitch of a composition is itself not fixed and hence any of the flutes may be used for the concert (as long as the accompanying instruments, if any, are tuned appropriately) and is largely left to the personal preference of the artist.[citation needed]

Two main varieties of Indian flutes are currently used. The first, the Bansuri, has six finger holes and one embouchure hole, and is used predominantly in the Hindustani music of Northern India. The second, the Venu or Pullanguzhal, has eight finger holes, and is played predominantly in the Carnatic music of Southern India. Presently, the eight-holed flute with cross-fingering technique is common among many Carnatic flutists. This technique was introduced by T. R. Mahalingam in the mid-20th century. It was then developed by BN Suresh and Dr. N Ramani[citation needed]. Prior to this, the South Indian flute had only seven finger holes, with the fingering standard developed by Sharaba Shastri, of the Palladam school, at the beginning of the 20th century.[24] In 1998, based on his research on Bharata Natya Shastra's Sarana Chatushtai, Avinash Balkrishna Patwardhan developed a methodology to produce perfectly tuned flutes for the ten thatas currently present in Indian classical music.

The quality of the flute's sound depends somewhat on the specific bamboo used to make it, and it is generally agreed that the best bamboo grows in the Nagercoil area in South India.[25]

Chinese flute

Chinese flute are called “di” (笛). There are many varieties of di with different sizes, structures (with or without resonance membrane) and number of holes (from 6 to 11) and intonations (playing in different keys) in China. Most are made of bamboo. One peculiar feature about Chinese flute is the use of a resonance membrane mounting on one of the holes which vibrates with the air column inside the tube. It gives the flute a bright sound. Commonly seen flutes in modern Chinese orchestra are bangdi (梆笛), qudi (曲笛) , xindi (新笛) , dadi (大笛). The bamboo flute playing vertically is called “xiao”(簫) which is a different category of wind instrument in China.

Japanese flute

The Japanese flute, called the fue, encompasses a large number of musical flutes from Japan.


The sring (also called blul) is a relatively small, end-blown flute with a nasal tone quality[26] and the pitch of a piccolo,[citation needed] found in the Caucasus region of Eastern Armenia. It is made of wood or cane, usually with seven finger holes and one thumb hole,[26] producing a diatonic scale. The sring is used by shepherds to play various signals and tunes connected with their work, and also lyrical love songs called chaban bayaty, as well as programmatic pieces.[citation needed] The sring is also used in combination with the def and the dohl to provide music for dancing.[citation needed] One Armenian musicologist believes the sring to be the most characteristic of national Armenian instruments.[27]

See also



  1. ^ Wilford, John N. (June 24, 2009). "Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music". The New York Times 459: 248. doi:10.1038/nature07995. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/science/25flute.html. Retrieved June 29, 2009. 
  2. ^ Tenenbaum, David (June 2000). "Neanderthal jam". The Why Files. University of Wisconsin, Board of Regents. http://whyfiles.org/114music/4.html. Retrieved 14 March 2006. 
  3. ^ Flute History, UCLA. Retrieved June 2007.
  4. ^ BBC: 'Oldest musical instrument' found
  5. ^ Nicholas J. Conard, Maria Malina, and Susanne C. Münzel (August 2009). "New Flutes Document the Earliest Musical Tradition in Southwestern Germany". Nature 460 (7256): 737–40. doi:10.1038/nature08169. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 19553935. 
  6. ^ a b "'Oldest musical instrument' found". BBC news. 2009-06-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8117915.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  7. ^ "Music for cavemen". MSNBC. 2009-06-24. http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/06/24/1976108.aspx. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  8. ^ "Flutes Offer Clues to Stone-Age Music". The New York Times. 2009-06-24. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/science/25flute.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  9. ^ "Archeologists discover ice age dwellers' flute". CBC Arts (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 2004-12-30. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/story/2004/12/30/flute-prehistoric041230.html. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  10. ^ The bone age flute. BBC. Retrieved July 2007.
  11. ^ Zhang, Juzhong; Xiao, Xinghua, Lee, Yun Kuen (December 2004). "The early development of music. Analysis of the Jiahu bone flutes". Antiquity 78 (302): 769–778. http://antiquity.ac.uk/ant/078/Ant0780769.htm. 
  12. ^ Hoiberg, Dale; Ramchandani, Indu (2000). Students' Britannica India. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan. p. 125. ISBN 0852297602. http://books.google.com/books?id=AE_LIg9G5CgC. 
  13. ^ Chaturvedi, Mamta (2001). How to Play Flute & Shehnai. New Delhi: Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. p. 7. ISBN 8128814761. http://books.google.com/books?id=0rz8rvUOmSwC. 
  14. ^ Morse, Constance (1968). Music and Music-makers. New Hampshire: Ayer Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 0836907248. http://books.google.com/books?id=XEXWVhtcuJ4C. 
  15. ^ Arvey, Verna (2007). Choreographic Music for the Dance. London: Read Country Books. p. 36. ISBN 1406758477. http://books.google.com/books?id=GOwFSQkpfNsC. 
  16. ^ Flute acoustics, UNSW. Retrieved June 2007.
  17. ^ Wolfe, Joe. "Introduction to flute acoustics". UNSW Music Acoustics. http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/music/flute/. Retrieved 16 January 2006. 
  18. ^ Spell, Eldred (1983). "Anatomy of a Headjoint". The Flute Worker. ISSN 0737-8459. http://eldredspellflutes.com/Articles.htm. 
  19. ^ Wolfe, Joe. "Acoustic impedance of the flute". Flute acoustics: an introduction. http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~jw/fluteacoustics.html#acousticimpedance. 
  20. ^ Widholm, G.; Linortner, R., Kausel, W. and Bertsch, M. (2001). "Silver, gold, platinum—and the sound of the flute". Proc. International Symposium on Musical Acoustics: 277–280. http://iwk.mdw.ac.at/Forschung/english/linortner/linortner_e.htm. 
  21. ^ [1]
  22. ^ Boehm 1964, 8–12.
  23. ^ Arnold, Alison (2000). The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. London: Taylor & Francis. p. 354. ISBN 0824049462. http://books.google.com/books?id=ZOlNv8MAXIEC. 
  24. ^ Caudhurī, Vimalakānta Rôya; Roychaudhuri, Bimalakanta (2000). The Dictionary of Hindustani Classical Music. Kolkata: Motilal Banarsidass Publication. ISBN 8120817087. http://books.google.com/books?id=gQWLa--IHjIC. 
  25. ^ Abram, David; Guides, Rough; Edwards, Nick; Ford, Mike; Sen, Devdan; Wooldridge, Beth (2004). The Rough Guide to South India 3. London: Rough Guides. pp. 670,671. ISBN 1843531038. http://books.google.com/books?id=sEhJBfbhTAAC. 
  26. ^ a b Pahlevanian 2001
  27. ^ Komitas 1994


  • Boehm, Theobald. 1964. The Flute and Flute-Playing in Acoustical, Technical, and Artistic Aspects, translated by Dayton C. Miller, with a new introduction by Samuel Baron. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-21259-9
  • Buchanan, Donna A. 2001. “Bulgaria §II: Traditional Music, 2: Characteristics of Pre-Socialist Musical Culture, 1800–1944, (iii): Instruments”. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Crane, Frederick. 1972. Extant Medieval Musical Instruments: A Provisional Catalogue by Types. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0-87745-022-6
  • Galway, James. 1982. Flute. Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides. London: Macdonald. ISBN 0356047113 (cloth); ISBN 0356047121 (pbk.) New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 002871380X Reprinted 1990, London: Kahn & Averill London: Khan & Averill ISBN 1871082137
  • Komitas, Vardapet. 1994. Grakan nshkhark' Komitas Vardapeti beghun grch'ēn: npast mē Komitas Vardapeti srbadasman harts'in, edited by Abel Oghlukian. Montreal: Ganatahayots' Aṛajnordarani "K'ristonēakan Usman ew Astuatsabanut'ean Kedron".
  • Pahlevanian, Alina. 2001. “Armenia §I: Folk Music, 3: Epics”. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Phelan, James, The Complete Guide to the [Flute and Piccolo] (Burkart-Phelan, Inc., 2004)
  • Putnik, Edwin. 1970. The Art of Flute Playing. Evanston, Illinois: Summy-Birchard Inc. Revised edition 1973, Princeton, New Jersey and Evanston, Illinois. ISBN 0874870771
  • Toff, Nancy. 1985. The Flute Book: A Complete Guide for Students and Performers. New York: Charles's Scribners Sons. ISBN 0684182416 Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0715387715 Second Edition 1996, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195105028
  • Wye, Trevor. 1988. Proper Flute Playing: A Companion to the Practice Books. London: Novello. ISBN 0711984654

External links

A selection of historic flutes from around the world at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

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The Flute

The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike other woodwind instruments, a flute produces its sound from the flow of air against an edge, instead of using a reed. The most common type is the Western concert flute or C flute (most flutes are tuned to to the key of C). A musician who plays the flute is generally called a flautist or flutist. Thousands of works have been composed for flute. Flutes are used in many ensembles including concert bands, orchestras, flute ensebles, ocasionally jazz bands and big bands.

Playing a Western concert flute

Good flute technique requires that the flute be pressed against the lower lip in such a way that it is possible to efficiently blow directly at the far wall of the lip plate (embouchure) at any angle.

A maladjusted flute is much more difficult to play, and beginning flute-players should invest in a professional adjustment if their instrument is not new. The most common problem as a flute ages is that its pads rot and leak. In addition, rough handling can bend the pads and make them leak. The return springs can also weaken, causing slow or unsynchronized opening of the holes. In addition, the pad-closure mechanisms can become misaligned or misadjusted. Occasionally the alignment pins can fall out.

Beginning flute-players frequently find themselves unable to produce a sound. The most common reasons are that the hole produced by the player's mouth is not aligned with the tone-hole or/and the player is blowing lots of air past the tone hole instead of angling a smaller air stream into the hole. The standard beginning technique is to feel for the tone hole with one's tongue, and then roll the flute away to the correct angle. It is important to blow less air than most beginners want to, but angle it into the hole.

Beginning flute-players also often have improper embouchures: The correct embouchure is a small elliptical or slot-like hole formed by the lips and directed at the edge of the tone-hole opposite the player. The aim should be outward, with faster air for higher, or more brilliant sounds (more high-frequency overtones), and lower, more into the hole, with slower air for lower notes. One reliable way to aim is to move one's chin in and out, but it is best to develop the flexibility to change the relationship between one's lips and tongue and the lip plate, as needed for changes in air direction.

Correct breath control requires a player to emit large amounts of air at times, especially in softer and higher passages, but also requires a player to emit very small streams of air directly into the hole for loud notes in the lower register, which often do not speak if forced. All things being equal, a breathy sound is preferable to a pinched sound, but an efficient approach to air stream direction is best.

Flutes often have some of the most rapidly changing parts in orchestral music. To become able to play these parts, one should practice complex scales and arpeggios in different modes and keys.

More advanced flute-players can also employ vibrato. When playing with vibrato, a player varies the amount of air blown through the instrument at a rapid rate to create a wobble in the pitch and amplitude of the tone. Most classical and some jazz flute players tend to play with a continuous vibrato, though the amount and speed of vibrato can be altered for expressive purposes. Many purists contend that Baroque music should be played without vibrato, or with vibrato only on certain notes. More specifically, most flute methods from that period call for vibrati - a finger vibrato - rather than a vibrato of breath pulsations. The most common way to learn vibrato is to practice breath attacks (short bursts of increased air within a constant tone) as half notes, then quarter notes, then eighth notes, then triplets, then sixteenth notes. Eventually, when the breath attacks are too fast to be counted as separate notes, they become an instant though not yet subtle vibrato.

In outdoor playing, wind can "blow out" players' embouchures, causing the air stream to become misplaced. It is normal practice for the piccolo and flute players of a marching band to face away from the wind in heavy weather. The section-leader of the flutes in the marching band normally makes this decision.


See Also

1911 encyclopedia

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Basic Flute Method



Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

a musical instrument, probably composed of a number of pipes, mentioned Dan 3:5, 7, 10, 15.

In Mt 9:23, 24, notice is taken of players on the flute, here called "minstrels" (but in R.V. "flute-players").

Flutes were in common use among the ancient Egyptians.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

This article needs to be merged with FLUTE (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Simple English

The flute is a woodwind instrument. A person who plays the flute is called a "flautist" (pronounce: "floor-tist") in British English, or "flutist" in American English. It is played by blowing across a hole in the instrument, rather like blowing over the top of an empty bottle. Flutes overblow at the octave. That means that once you have used up all your fingers for the first octave you can get the notes an octave higher by using the same fingering again but blowing a little harder.

Flutes were traditionally made of wood, which is why they are called woodwind instruments. Nowadays they are mostly made of metal which makes them much easier to mass-produce. Most wood-wind instruments require a reed but the technical definition would be any instrument made from wood.


Classical flute

[[File:|thumb|500px|A flute.]] The form of flute used in western classical music is blown from the side and has keys which are pressed with the fingers to cover the holes. This key system was invented in the 19th century by Theobald Boehm. In the Renaissance, keyless cylindrical flutes made in several sizes were often played in groups, or consorts, and sounded best played specific modes. Baroque flutes, which developed in the third quarter of the seventeenth century, had a single key, which makes it necessary for players to learn to play all the sharps and flats using cross fingerings. By the early eighteenth century skilled players were able to play in tune in as many as eighteen to nineteen keys. By the late eighteenth century several keys were added, but the basic design and technique still derived from that of the one-keyed model. Early flutes were designed to make enharmonic distinctions between notes (i.e. a sharp is slightly lower in pitch than its corresponding flat) in order to play in non-equal-tempered tunings. Modern flute players often find the technique of renaissance, baroque, and classical period ("simple system") flutes to be especially difficult if they come to these instruments from Boehm flute.

There is a very large repertoire of music for the flute. Baroque composers used them in their orchestras, usually in pairs, and composed concertos, chamber music and solo music for them. This has continued to the present day. Orchestras have at least 2 flutes, sometimes three or four. Sometimes there is a piccolo which plays an octave higher, or an alto flute which plays a fifth lower than the flute.

The flute can sound very bright and cheerful when playing high notes. Listen, for example, to the Badinerie from Bach's Orchestral Suite no 2. It can also sound very thoughtful or sad when playing in its lowest register. A good example is the opening of Debussy's Prélude à l'après midi d'un faune.Go flutes!

Flutes of India and China

The oldest kind of side-blown flute was made in India. In India, a flute called bansuri is used. It has no keys and is often made of bamboo or cane.

In China, a simple flute is used, which has no keys. The Chinese flute sometimes has a thin piece of paper over one hole, which adds a bright raspiness to the sound. It is the best!

Other flutes

There are other kinds of flute that are played by blowing into the end, like a recorder. Some of these are tin whistle, flageolet, tabor pipe, and ocarina.

In Japan there is a kind of flute called a shakuhachi, made from the bottom of a bamboo plant. It is blown at the end, but is not like the recorder because it does not have an opening that guides the air across a hole that makes the sound.

In South America, there is a flute called a quena that makes its sound the same way as the shakuhachi.

The Pan pipes are a form of flute with no holes. It has more than one pipe connected together, with the bottom closed. The player blows across the top of one of the pipes to make a note. The pipes are in different sizes, so that each one makes a different note. They are named after Pan, who played this instrument in Greek myth.

Famous Flutists

The band Jethro Tull features a flute player in many songs. One of which is the hit Locomotive Breath.


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