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Guide to Flutes

Flute : What is it?

Flutes

Flutes have three main parts: the head joint, the body joint, and the foot joint. The head joint contains the blowhole, mouth hole, lip plate, and a tuning cork, which is used to adjust intonation. The body joint features a set of keys, used to set the pitch, a tuning slide, and tenons, which are used to tune the instrument. The foot joint contains additional keys and may be rotated to align the keys with those on the body joint. Flutes are traditionally made of wood, but modern flutes are can be made of brass, plastic, or nickel.

Flutes may be end-blown or side-blown. End-blown flutes are blown through protruding mouthpieces at the tip of the head joint. Some end-blown flutes have fipples (ducts that push the air onto the edge of the instrument). Side-blown flutes, also called transverse flutes, are held sideways and have holes on the side (in place of the mouthpiece).

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Types of Flutes

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Kinds of Flutes include the following:

Types of end-blown flutes

Recorders (Recorder flutes)

Recorders have a block of wood just below the mouthpiece, which constricts the air as it is blown into the tube. They are usually slightly tapered and have seven finger holes, as well as a thumb hole on the upper part. They have a range of two octaves, although with some skill they can be extended up to one fifth of an octave higher.



Neys (Ney flutes)

Neys are made of hollow reeds or canes, although modern neys may be made of metal. They have five to six finger holes and one thumb hole. They are usually held obliquely from the mouth when played.



Kavals (Kaval flutes)


Kavals are made of wood and measure 60 to 80 centimeters. They have eight finger holes, seven of which are in front and one at the back. They have a capacity of two and one-fifth octaves.



Quenas (Quena flutes)


Quenas are made of hard bamboo and have notched mouthpieces. They have six finger holes and one thumb hole. They are held straight down and blown (the mouth closed over the mouthpiece).



Shakuhachis (Skakuchahi flutes)

Shakuhachis measure 1.8 foot and may be made of bamboo, wood, or plastic. They are played vertically and have five finger holes – four at the front and one at the back. They have a fipple mouthpiece, which gives users limited control over pitch.



Tonettes (Tonette flutes)

Tonettes are made of plastic and are smaller than other end-blown flutes. Their notes range from the middle C to d4.



Types of side-blown flutes

Western concert flutes

Western concert flutes, also called C-flutes, are made of brass, gold, or silver. They are closed at the top and have round finger holes. They have a range of three octaves, beginning at the middle C.



Piccolos (Piccolo flutes)

Piccolos are the smallest and highest-pitched type of flute. They are one octave higher than most flutes, and are usually written one octave lower on music sheets to avoid excessive ledger lines. They are commonly used as secondary instruments, since they are too high-pitched for regular playing.



Fifes (Fife flutes)

Fifes have blocked mouthpieces, which constrains and intensifies the sound. They are usually made of wood and have six to eleven finger holes. They are thinner than piccolos, which gives them a shriller sound.



Dizis


Dizis are made of bamboo, wood, and sometimes stone. They contain a thin membrane over the finger holes, which vibrates when blown and gives the instrument a distinct buzzing sound. Their range covers about two and one-fourth octaves.



Bansuris (Bansuri flutes)


Bansuris are made from a single piece of bamboo with six to seven finger holes. They measure 12 to 40 inches, although 20 inches is the most common length. They may be side-blown or end-blown with a fipple.

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Choosing Flutes (Buying tips)

Keys: Choose a fully chromatic flute with about eight keys for easier playing. This is ideal for beginners because major keys and accidentals are fairly easy to reach. If you want something lighter, look for a keyless flute with six to eight finger holes to maintain pitch and tone control.

Tuning slide:
Choose a flute with a tuning slide if you will be playing with a band or orchestra. This will allow you to adjust your blowing angle without falling out of tune with the other instruments.

Material: Choose a wooden flute for a warm, classical sound, and a metal flute if you want something deeper and louder. Metal flutes tend to be heavier, however. Some wooden flutes have metal linings, which will give you the sound of metal flutes without the extra weight.

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