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.
The flute is a transverse (or side-blown) woodwind instrument that is closed at the blown end. The instrument is played by blowing a stream of air over the embouchure hole. The flute has 16 circular finger holes closed by keys, which can be used to produce high and low sounds depending on which finger holes are opened or closed as well as the direction and intensity of the air stream.
The standard concert flute is pitched in C and has a range of about three and a half octaves starting from the musical note C4 (corresponding to middle C on the piano), however, some experienced flautists are able to reach C8. Modern professional flutes may have a longer B-foot joint, which can reach B3.
The piccolo is also commonly used in Western orchestras. Alto and bass flutes, pitched a fourth and an octave below the concert flute, are also used occasionally.
Some jazz and rock ensembles include flutes. Since Boehm’s fingering is used in saxophones as well as in concert flutes, many flute players “double” on saxophone for jazz and small ensembles and vice versa. Jethro Tull is probably the best-known rock group to make regular use of the flute (played by Ian Anderson).
The modern professional concert flute is generally made of silver, gold or combinations of the two; a few of the most expensive flutes are fabricated from platinum. Student instruments are usually made of nickel-silver alloy, composed of nickel, copper, and zinc, (also known as “German silver”) or nickel- or silver-plated brass. Headjoints are generally of the same metals, but may be made of wood. Wooden flutes were far more common before the early 20th century. The silver flute was introduced by Theobald Boehm in 1847 but did not become common until later in the twentieth century. Wm. S. Haynes, a flute manufacturer in Boston, told Georges Barrere, an eminent flutist, that in 1905 he made one silver flute to every 100 wooden flutes but in the 1930s, he made one wooden flute to every 100 silver flutes. Today the silver flute is still far more popular than the wooden flute and is accepted as the standard in most symphony orchestras.
The modern concert flute comes with various options. The Bb thumb key (invented and pioneered by Briccialdi) is practically standard. The B foot joint, however, is an option available on middle-to-upper end models. Other, more recent additions include a C#-trill key, and an increasingly popular roller between the Eb-key and the C#-key.read more