The flute is the most basic instrument in the woodwind family. It is a reedless wind instrument, otherwise known as an aerophone, which creates sound from the flow of air from an opening. Flutes are often made of wood in Europe while silver is the main flute construction material in the United States.

Theobald Boehm invented the modern flute. He created a bowl-shaped head connected to a cylindrical center with large finger holes and open-standing keys. Minor developments have been made after that.

Flute Construction

Modern flutes are often around twenty-six inches long and 0.75 inches wide. There are two open ends which makes it an open cylinder. It has sixteen openings – eleven are closed by seven fingers, one is closed by the left thumb, and four can be opened or blocked by arranged keys.

Flute Categories

The flute player blows directly across from the edge of the mouthpiece for most flutes. These are called end-blown. Another basic type is the side-blown flute. The hole in which the player blows is at the side of the tube. One more is the fipple flute which has a duct that maneuvers the air onto the edge. Fipple flutes are easier to play and has a distinct timbre compared to other flutes. Here are the categories of flutes based on origin:

1. Western concert flutes

The western concert flute is a descendant of the German flute. It is closed at the top and the embouchure hole is placed near the top. The regular concert flute can play three octaves beginning from middle C which gives it one of the highest pitches in the orchestra besides the piccolo.

2. Chinese flute
The Chinese flute, also referred to as di, have many varieties with diverse sizes, number of holes, intonations, and structures. The majority of di are made of bamboo. The distinct characteristic of Chinese flutes is the membrane on one of the holes that vibrates with the air inside. This causes the flute to have an intense and bright sound.

3. Indian bamboo flute

This instrument is significant in Indian classical music. Compared to western flutes, the Indian bamboo flute is simpler because they do not have any keys and are made of bamboo. There are two basic kinds of Indian flutes: the Bansuri and the Venu. The Bansuri is an eight-holed flute and has one embouchure hole near the top while the Venu has eight finger holes and requires the cross-fingering technique.

4. Japanese flute

Japanese flutes are called fue and these come in varied kinds. Most are made of bamboo and high-pitched. Fue have two varieties. One is the end-blown flute which has a hole on both ends. The other is the transverse flute which is held horizontally with the embouchure hole only near one end.

How does the flute work?

A rapid jet of air blown by the flute player from the mouthpiece is the source of power for playing the instrument. Inside the flute, the blown air together with the resonances in the air inside causes oscillation and thus vibration. As the air in the flute is vibrating, the energy from the jet of air is converted to sound which comes out of the end and the open holes.

Different areas in the flute’s cylindrical body cause the air to vibrate more easily in certain areas. This determines the pitch of the sound produced when certain holes are covered.