About the Flute

Through it doesn't use a reed, the flute is part of the woodwind family. Instead, its sound comes from the flow of air against an edge. For this reason, the Hornbostel–Sachs style of classification puts the flute in the family of edge-blown aerophones.

The flute is one of the oldest instruments known to man, and because of this (along with its relatively easy method of construction), there are many different forms of flutes all over the world.

History

The oldest flute is said to be over 40,000 years old, though many other flutes from around that time have been found across Europe. These early flutes were mostly made from bone. Lacquered bamboo flutes from China are dated as far back as 433 BC, and you can find many references to the flute in ancient religious texts, including the Bible.

Flutes have been a part of musical ensembles since their creation. From court music in the medieval and Renaissance eras, to 19th-century orchestras, they've been there. Flutes were most popular in the latter half of the 18th century and early in the 19th. Recorders rose in popularity during the 20th century, especially with the creation of plastic, which made them easy to manufacture. Many children today learn the recorder as their first instrument in music class.

Classifications

On its most basic level, a flute is a tube that you bow into. Different cultures have created different ways of adjusting for pitch and tune. There are two subcategories of flutes: side-blown and end-blown. The Western-style concert flute is an example of side-blown and the pan flute an example of end-blown. There are also fipple flutes, which have a special duct that directs air to the edge of the instrument to create sound. The whistle is a good example.

All flutes produce sound by vibrating air against the edge of a hole. This creates a resonant sound throughout the body of the instrument. Elongating and shortening the air flow produces different pitches. Flutes can be very difficult to play because they depend so much on the breath. Volume and tone are both dependent on breath. However, many flutists develop very strong lungs and a method of circular breathing to compensate. Because of its relative lack of components and intricacies, children are often taught the flute (like the elementary school tradition of recorders). Of course, being a talented flutist takes a considerable amount of skill equal to that of any musician.