General information and resources for students and adult learners.

The flute


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 length of the pipe to change notes.
The flute, in various forms, has been around for many centuries. It is one of the world's ancient instruments. The oldest known flute was found in a cave in Slovenia. It dates back about 50,000 years. The flute is made from the hollow bone of a young bear and has jut two tone holes.
A 9,000 year old instrument found in China is the oldest playable flute, it is made from bird bones and has seven tone holes. There is evidence of its existence even as long ago as ancient Egyptian times, when it was a basic clay pipe with holes in it. The present day flute is known as the transverse flute. Unlike its predecessor, which was held upright, it is held at right angles to the body.
Generally speaking, the recorder was for many years, a more popular instrument than the flute. By the time of Haydn (1732-1809) however, the flute was an established member of the orchestra. The most important period for the flute was the early 19th century, when Theobald Boehm developed the key system that was later used for the clarinet, oboe and bassoon.
Older flutes were made of hard wood or ebonite, a hard substance produced by treating rubber with large amounts of sulphur. The modern flute is usually made of silver and other metals and it has a compass of around three octaves.
There are usually two flutes in the orchestra. They generally play two different parts but sometimes double each other and play the same part.
Occasionally the second flautist plays a piccolo, a tiny flute which sounds an octave higher. This is used when a bright, piercing tone is required.
The flute can hold its own against a whole string section and because of this and its variety of tone qualities, it is a favourite solo instrument. In its upper register the flute is bright and clear. But in its lower octave it has a hollow, woody, haunting sound. Many composers have written concertos and solo pieces for this instrument.
What types of music can you play on a flute?
The flute has a gentle pure sound and it is an important member of the orchestra. The flute is also played in marching bands, wind bands and flute ensembles. Some flautists play jass folk and pop music. In this kind of music, players use microphones and amplifiers to make the soft sound of the flute louder.
You can play the flute on your own or with other flautists. You can join different groups like school orchestra or wind band. Playing the flute in choir is a great way to get to know other flautists
It takes a bit of practice to learn how to blow correctly across
 the blow hole to make a beautiful sound.


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