Did you recently stumble on the flute and started wondering what all the fuss is about? Perhaps you’re a music enthusiast trying to decide whether or not to settle with the flute? Whichever the case may be, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ll share exciting facts about the flute with you.
There is no doubt that the flute is easily one of the most popular musical instruments out there. But, how much do you really know about the flute? If your answer is along the lines of ‘not much,’ this article is for you. Also, if you already know some tidbits about the instrument, this is a chance for you to find out more.
In a few moments, you’ll discover a ton of interesting facts about the flute. But first, let’s take things slow and examine exactly what type of instrument the flute is.
What Is A Flute?
Many people have a general notion about what the flute is — an instrument that produces sounds when you blow into it. But how would the experts describe it?
The flute is a musical instrument that falls into the woodwind classification. However, there is a twist. Unlike other woodwind instruments, the flute does not need a reed to produce sounds. Instead, it makes sounds when air flows across an opening. The experts call such an instrument an aerophone.
It looks like you just discovered your first fact, and we’ve not even started yet! Well, here’s another for you. With respect to aerophones, the flute falls in the edge-blown category. Let us take a quick look at the history of the flute.
A Little Unknown History Of The Flute
Do you know the flute is possibly the oldest musical instrument?
There is little doubt that the flute is the earliest musical instrument that remains in use till today. Of course, technological advancements have refined the look, feel, and quality of sounds of flutes today. But the fact remains – there is ample evidence that proves hand-bored flutes existed in the stone age!
Indeed, modern archeologists have discovered several flutes dating as far back as 43,000 years ago. They unearthed this in the Swabian Jura region in Germany as we know it today. In other words, the earliest settlers in Europe may truly have established a fundamental music tradition amongst themselves.
That said, let us dive right into the facts about the flute.
Some Facts About The Flute
In the next few paragraphs, we reveal some exciting details about the flute as an instrument. So, sit back and enjoy the ride into an all-you-can-read flute buffet.
- There are many ways you can call the person who plays the flute, and you’d still be correct. Of course, you can simply call them flute players, but there’s more. There is — flutist, flautist, and even fluter are of the other names for people who wield the flute. However, that last part is archaic English, and nobody really uses it anymore.
- There are five types of flutes in general. So, you have a wide range of options from which you can make your choice. We have the piccolo and alto on one side of the spectrum. Then, from the other side, there is the contrabass, bass, and tenor flutes.
- The piccolo produces the very high-pitched sounds, the highest in the flute family. Conversely, the contrabass generates sounds in the lowest pitches.
- In terms of pitches, the most common concert flute plays on the universal Key C. Also, it is worth adding that the flute has approximately three octaves.
- The flute is undoubtedly one of the most popular musical instruments in history. Many will argue that it is, in fact, the top historical instrument.
- Throughout history, many materials have formed the body of the flute. From bones, wood, and brass to ivory, rocks, and resin — we’ve seen it all. However, today, silver has secured its place as the popular choice for making the flute.
- From historical times till present-day, many famous people have enjoyed playing the flute. An example is Leonard Da Vinci. In his case, he was convinced that learning and playing music made humans smarter. President George Washington and President James Madison also took up the flute at some points in their lives.
- The flute has inspired many cultures that some have decided to make it their ‘signature’ instrument. An example is the Shakuhachi that is from Japan.
- There are different ways to control the sound a flute makes when you play. As air flows over the flute edges, you can use your fingers to alternatively close and open different holes. This changes the various sounds the flute produces.
- Another way is to vary the amount of air you blow into the flute. Depending on the volume of air you blow, you can change your instrument’s fundamental harmonics without closing or opening any holes. Indeed, learning to control the air you blow into your flute is training on discipline in itself.
- Some archaeologists believe that the early flutes helped to separate humans from neanderthals.
- There are different types of flutes originating from various cultures around the world. There is the bansuri, which hails from Northern India. There is also the dizi, which represents a whole family of Chinese flutes. The Zampoña is another type of flute that seems to have its roots in South America’s Andes Mountains.
- Playing the flute can cause problems with your makeup. A lot of players in the flute circle call this the humorously accurate ‘flute beard.’ You see, the metals in the flute do not react well with the chemicals in makeup. So, they may turn your chin a curious greenish-blue (alien x smurf) color while you play.
- However, there’s no need to panic. The color itself is harmless. All you need to do is bring along some makeup wipes, and you’ll be fine.
- You will need to work on your breathing. If you are going to take up the flute, you will need to take breathing exercises. After all, you don’t want to run out of breath in the middle of a flute solo. There are two breathing techniques experts use — the diaphragmatic and the circular breathing techniques.
- Diaphragmatic breathing exercises teach you to optimize your air intake. This way, you keep your number of breaths to a minimum while you play. Conversely, with circular breathing, you breathe in through your nose and breathe out with your mouth into your flute while playing. As such, you can maintain a continuous output of sounds.
- Every flute has a unique sound. The materials of its body (either metal or otherwise) will change the sound it makes. The thickness of the flute also influences the sound it produces.
- With some flutes, you produce sounds by blowing air directly against the edge of a hole, such as with the concert flute. In other cases, you blow into a mouthpiece, which then directs the air against the edge of a different hole. This happens while playing a recorder or ocarina.
- Some flutes require you hold them in a vertical position while you play, such as the pan-pine and the Japanese bamboo flute. However, the more popular variation is the horizontal or transverse flutes. All concert flutes are transverse.
- In the 1600s, the flute’s design changed to include a head joint (or mouthpiece), a body, and a foot joint. The credit for this redesign goes to Jacques Hotteterre. Till today, modern flutes still break down into these three parts.
- The western or concert flute that we have today is due to the creative and technical efforts of Theobald Böhm, a German instrument maker. He improved the fingering system and design of the flute in the 1800s. Some of the upgrades he made are changes in the hole sizes and new mechanisms to cover and open the holes.
- Today, the flute is a popular part of music production and sees frequent applications in orchestras, films, classical music, jazz, rock, and more.
- Here is another fun fact for you. The flute is the only woodwind instrument that does not use a reed.
- Now, here comes our final fact about the flute (heads-up, this one may knock your socks off). The flute requires the largest amounts of air amongst the wind instruments, including the gigantic tuba!
That will be all for today on ‘interesting facts about the flute.’ Hopefully, you picked up some new information, as that was our goal. There is no doubt that the flute is an exciting instrument that countless people have enjoyed playing and still do. So, if you’re looking to pick up a new instrument, we daresay you’ve found the perfect one. Have fun playing the flute!