General information and resources for students and adult learners.

How the flute works


The flute is a side-blown, blow hole instrument.  The flute is a member of a family of musical instruments that are played either by blowing down or across a hole at one end of a pipe. You use the fingers of both hands to cover and uncover holes along the lenght of the pipe to change notes.

The modern flute is unique in the woodwind family. It is no longer made of wood but of silver and other metals and it is the only woodwind that has no reed.
  • In common with other wind instruments it has a key system which opens and closes the length of the instrument, thus changing the pitch of the note by giving the air inside the instrument less or more space in which to resonate.
  • The flute is the only woodwind instrument that is held sideways and has a unique mouthpiece in an unusual place which is at the side of instrument.
  • Most people have at some point produced a note by blowing across the top of a bottle. This is how the sound of the flute is made. The flautist places the outside of his bottom lip on the mouthpiece and almost smiles at the instrument as he blows across the hole.
Putting the Flute Together

The flute comes in a hard case.
This helps you to carry it around safely when you are not using it.
The flute comes in a three parts. 

  • Hold each part carefully where there are no keys as you put the flute together.
  • Twist gently to connect the middle joint and footjoint . 
  • The rod to which the footjoint keys are attached should line up with the middle of the keys on the middle joint.
  • Twist gently to put the headjoint on. Line up the blow hole with the keys.
Fact File:
  • Originally the flute had one thumb-hole and from four to eight finger -holes but no keys. The first key was added in 1677.
  • The flute entered the orchestra in the mid to late 18th century.
  • Glass flutes- Flute makers have experimented with some very unusual materials. In the 1700s, some German flutes were made from porcelain.
  • In 1806, a French flute-maker called Claude Laurent made a flute from green glass. It had metal keys. Today you can still buy glass flutes. They are made from specially though Pyrex glass to prevent breakages!

How to Play the Flute: Tips and Techniques





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