Although originally made from wood, the flute is one of the few instruments in the woodwind family that is made from metal. The world's oldest flute was made using the bone of a bear about 45,000 years ago! Today, flutes are primarily made out of silver-plated nickel, gold or platinum. The flute has had cultural significance throughout history and examples can be found in Egyptian hieroglyphics and ancient Greece. It started to become popular in Europe in the 1500s became an important instrument in chamber orchestras. Theobald Boehm introduced a key system for the flute in 1847. The Boehm flute gave the player a greater range and allowed them to play easier. This is the same type of flute that is used in bands and orchestras today. A popular cousin of the flute is the piccolo, which is smaller and plays an octave above the flute range.
As the highest voice in the woodwind section, the flute is often in charge of carrying the melody and is featured in solos. Flute is also a versatile instrument that can play a broad range of styles and moods.
How does Flute contribute to a band or orchestra?
Just as the violin acts as the leader of the string section, the flute leads the woodwind section. They are the soprano voice in many orchestral and concert band pieces. Modern orchestras often use the flute to convey different cheerful or sad emotions.
The parts of a flute:
- When a flutist plays, they rest their lower lip on the lip-plate blow air across the blowhole.
- The flute has three main parts: the head joint, the body and the foot joint.
- The rod system works with the keys to make sure the right keys go up or down.
How to pick a good Flute:
Getting your first flute is a big deal; here are some things to consider. Open hole or closed hole? Even though most of the pros play an open hole flute (that means some of the keys have holes that are covered by the players fingers), students generally start on a closed hole flute. It's easier to get the basics without having to worry about air leaking out and some young hands are too small to cover the open holes. New or used? Your local music retailer will be able to advise you on pre-loved instruments that they have in stock. This can be a worthy alternative. Unless you know specifically what you want, beware of the internet! You will not get the support, advice and service you will get from your local retailer. If you are going to buy a used flute, be sure to check the keys to make sure they aren't leaking or noisy. Also, check the body of the flute for dents and scratches. Make sure the pads and the sliding joint are still in good shape, too. If you decide to get a used flute, make sure a professional looks at it to make sure it's a good instrument. You will have it for a while.
- Use a swab to clean your flute from excess moisture after each time you play.
- If you're sitting when you play, try to sit up straight. If you slouch, you won't have the breath support you need.
- The rod system on your flute is very delicate. Be careful putting your instrument together and never force the pieces to fit.
- It is important to make sure the pads under the keys don't get wet. It can damage the pads and ruin your sound.
Did you know?
Even though the "concert flute" is most popular, some players have alto and even bass flutes to get a deeper, richer flute-like sound.