The flute is a family of musical instrument of the woodwind group. 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.
A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.
Flutes are the earliest extant musical instruments. A number of flutes dating to about 43,000 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. Flutes, including the famous Bansuri, have been an integral part of Indian classical music since 1500 BC. A major deity of Hinduism, Krishna, has been associated with the flute.
The flute is the smallest and highest pitched beginning band instrument. It is a member of the woodwind family even though it is made of metal and doesn’t use a reed to create the sound. In order to produce a tone on the flute, the player blows across the tone hole of the mouthpiece, allowing the air to split at the far edge of the hole. That creates a whistle sound. It uses the same principle as a whistle or blowing across a soda bottle. In all cases the air splits to create a sound. Aiming a thin air stream at the edge of the hole to make a sound can be a bit challenging at first but it gets much easier with time and practice.
Since the flute is so small, it’s easy to carry around and easy to lose. As with all instruments, the flute requires a minute of assembly time and a couple of minutes to clean and put it away.
The flute is played parallel to the ground on the right side of the musician. The arms must be long enough to reach the keys comfortably. Most ten year old students have enough arm length to reach the keys. If reaching the keys is a problem, flute players have the option of purchasing a curved head joint. The curved head joint makes the overall length of the flute a bit shorter and allows students with shorter arms to reach the keys.
There are several types of flutes but the beginning (soprano) flute is by far the most popular. Other versions of flutes include “open hole” flutes which are much more expensive and not suitable for beginners. Serious high school students and virtually all professional flautists use open hole flutes.