The Flute is a woodwind instrument with ancient origins. Originally made from wood, modern flutes are now constructed out of silver and other metals. In medieval times there were two methods of producing sound on a flute; 1. Blowing across a round mouth hole as on the concert flutes of today, and 2. Blowing into a whistle mouthpiece as on the recorder of flageolet. The word ‘flute’ was used for both kinds of instrument in medieval times, but in the baroque period “flute” or “flauto” referred specifically to the first type.
The modern flute originated in Germany and whereas today it is cylindrical in shape, before the early 19th century flutes were typically cone shaped. Early flutes also had holes in the body which the player would cover with their fingers to get different notes. Gradually these holes were replaced by a system of ‘keys’ which allowed the player to play faster and easily sound the twelve notes of the ‘chromatic’ scale.
The flute produces its sound by the player blowing across the top of the mouth hole which sets in vibration the column of air inside the body of the flute.
The flute is a standard instrument in a classical orchestra and can also be heard in a wide variety of other music including jazz, rock, and folk music. Many world music traditions also use a flute of one kind or another, for example, the shakuhachi in traditional japanese music, and bansuri in indian classical music.
There are many different sizes of flute, the most common being the standard concert flute, the alto flute and the piccolo flute.