Whether you’re an experienced flautist, or a beginner just starting out, there is always more you can learn about your instrument.Did you know, for example, that the flute is probably the oldest instrument in the world?
This article will take you through some fantastic fun facts all about the flute family. This could be a great starting point for further reading, or simply a chance to learn a few interesting facts. Either way, you will certainly know a lot more about our favourite instrument after reading this article.
Table of Contents
1. The Flute is ‘Probably’ the Oldest Instrument in the World!
What a statement, but as far as historians can tell, this is actually true, the Flute is probably the oldest instrument in the world.
An artefact was found at the Divje babe archaeological site in Slovenia in 1995 that experts believe is a flute played by neanderthal man.
It’s believed it was the femur bone from a cave bear that the player has carved tone holes into.
This means it is probably around 50,000 to 60,000 years old!
Read more about the history of the flute here.
2. It’s Not a ‘Great Look!’
The flute is mentioned in many Greek myths, including one that tells the story of the flute’s ‘invention’ by the goddess Athena.
When Athena ‘played the flute with all her might’ her face apparently contorted and her beauty was marred, so she threw away the flute she had made.
A drastic solution for sure!
3. It was Good Enough for the Gods
In contrast to the views of the Ancient Greeks, Hindus believed that the flute had spiritual powers and compared it to the deity.
Their God, Krishna, is frequently depicted playing a flute and it is believed that the sound of his flutes brought young ladies out to dance with him!
4. It Hasn’t Always Been This Way
The modern Concert Flute has an intricate mechanism of keys, pads and springs but in ancient times, the flute was made of bone or wood and consisted merely of a ‘tube with holes in’.
It has certainly come a long way since then!
Look at the changes below!
5. Not Just Any Old Shiny Metal
Many of the changes made to the design of the flute can be attributed to the great nineteenth century flute maker, Theobald Boehm.
He laid the foundations for the modern key mechanism and made a lot of improvements to ensure the instrument would be in tune.
Boehm used only the best German silver for his flutes, as he believed it to have the best acoustic properties.
Nowadays flutes are usually made from precious metals such as nickel, silver-plating, solid silver, gold and even platinum and their prices reflect this.
Back in history though, our ancestors used bone and wood and now there are even plastic versions available to help young players get started.
6. Flute or Recorder?
The flute is closely related to the recorder but, the instrument we usually call a ‘flute’ is in fact a transverse flute, held across the body.
The instrument we think of as a recorder is also a flute but is held in front of the body and blown using a mouthpiece.
They seem worlds apart, yet their origins are common and the term flute was used to mean both types of instrument right up until around the 17th century.
7. A Family of Instruments
Did you know that the Concert Flute is not the only type of flute but is part of a family of instruments.
Throughout history, flutes have been made in a range of sizes so that they can play in different keys.
Now that the instrument is fully chromatic, there is no longer any need for this, but flutes of different sizes still exist so that a wider range of pitch can be covered.
The main ones are the bass flute; alto flute and piccolo although a contra-bass flute and even a subcontrabass flute also exist.
The piccolo and concert flute are regular members of the modern symphony orchestra with occasional guest appearances by the alto flute.
Bass and contra-bass flutes are usually found in flute groups (known as flute choirs) which make an amazingly rich and diverse sound.
8. Lots of Famous Flute Players
People who play the flute are also called ‘flautists’; ‘flutists’; ‘flutenists’ and even ‘flutterers’.
The famous flute player, James Galway, also became widely known as ‘the man with the golden flute’ because, back in the 1970s, gold flutes were rare and his instrument was rumoured to be worth over four thousand pounds, a small fortune in those days.
Other famous ‘flutterers’ you might have heard of are Henry VIII, Halle Verry, Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stefani, Tina Fey, Leonardi Da Vinci, President George Washington and President James Madison.
9. Around the World In Eighty Flutes!
The flute is an instrument that is played across the world, from Canada to Argentina and from Australia to northern Siberia.
It was even once played on Antarctica back in the 1970s!
These flutes vary considerably across the world and include transverse flutes like the Irish flute; front held flutes like the Japanese Shakuhachi and the Native American Flute; pan flutes (popular in Greece, North and South America, Africa, Thailand and the Pacific) and bamboo flutes such as the Chinese dizi and theBansuri found in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal to name just afew!
10. A Truly Unique Instrument
The flute is a unique instrument for a number of reasons.
It is the only member of the woodwind family which is not usually wooden, and it does not have a reed.
It is also the only instrument that is held sideways and blown without a mouthpiece that goes inside the mouth.
The sound on a flute is created by blowing across the hole, not down it, requiring considerable skill by the performer.
For this reason, many flautists claim that it is more difficult to play than the other wind instruments, but this is most definitely a matter for debate!
There are also some very unusual flutes played in some unusual ways, some of which are pictured below.
11. A Master of All Trades
Western classical music is just the tip of the iceberg where the flute is concerned, it also features in jazz, pop, folk and world music and in films as both a solo instrument and as part of small and large groups.
It is truly versatile, equally at home soaring above the orchestra in a romantic symphony, in a marching band or soloing at Ronnie Scott’s.
Unlike many instruments, it can also be packed into a compact case and easily transported, making it the ideal choice for the travelling musician.
12. A True Record Breaker
There have been a couple of truly amazing world records involving the flute in recent years.
In December 2014, Jay Bhayani, Charunsudan Atri and Bharat Sinh Parmar created the largest ever flute.
The instrument is 3.63m long and was used to play the Indian National Anthem at a public event.
In 2017, it was the turn of Katherine Brookes to set a record, she played the flute without stopping for a staggering 27 hours, 32 minutes and 32 seconds, beating her own previous record by nearly two hours and that of her rival, Indian Murali Narayunan by just over half an hour.
Apparently the pads of her flute became so waterlogged that the instrument was almost unplayable and Katherine herself required medical treatment to relieve muscle cramps.
Summing up Flute Facts
There are so many amazing facts about the flute but the above are definitely my favourites.
What other instrument can claim to be the oldest in the world, truly international, versatile, portable, beautiful, unique and even a record breaker?
To all of you ‘flutterers’ out there, I hope you have enjoyed reading these fascinating facts and let us know if you have any others.
George Washington, James Madison and Leonardo da Vinci all played the flute. Flutes are considered one of the earliest instruments and date back to Germany over 35,000 years ago. Many cultures have their own version of the flute. For example, one of the most popular traditional Japanese flutes is the the Shakuhachi.How old is the first flute? ›
The oldest musical instrument in the world, a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal flute is a treasure of global significance. It was discovered in Divje babe cave near Cerkno and has been declared by experts to have been made by Neanderthals.How did the flute get its name? ›
The first flutes were more like recorders
The term "flute" was originally applied both to pipe instruments held sideways and pipe instruments held vertically.
The first likely flute was called the "ch-ie" and emerged in China. Early flutes were played in two different positions: vertically, like a recorder, or horizontally, in what was called the transverse position.What is the rarest flute? ›
Laurent made flutes in crystal between 1806-1840. These flutes are some of the rarest and most beautiful (and most expensive) flutes found anywhere.What is the oldest flute called? ›
The Neanderthal Flute, found in the cave of Divje Babe in Slovenia, is thought to date back at least 50,000 years, making it the oldest known musical instrument in the world. It was discovered by archaeologists in a cave near the Idrijca River in 1995.Who invented flutes? ›
Theobald Boehm, a Bavarian goldsmith, flutist, composer, and industrialist, invented the type of flute that became the basis for the modern instrument a little more than a century and a half ago.Where was flute born? ›
Flutes are the earliest known identifiable musical instruments, as paleolithic examples with hand-bored holes have been found. A number of flutes dating to about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Jura region of present-day Germany.What is a flute player called? ›
/ˈflaʊtɪst/ (British English) (North American English flutist) a person who plays the fluteTopics Musicc2. Word Origin.What is flute made of? ›
Flutes are made of substances such as copper-nickel, silver, gold, and grenadilla (a type of wood). Each of these materials produce different sound characteristics. Even among flutes made of the same material, sound quality and timbre vary according to the thickness of the material.
Beginner flutes usually range in cost from $500 to $1000. Intermediate, or step-up flutes usually cost $1,400 to $2,500 and entry level pro flutes (still largely played by advanced students) around $2500 and up.What are the 4 parts of the flute? ›
1) Slow air chamber. 2) Sound chamber. 3) Breathe hole. 4) Plug.Who is the God of flutes? ›
The art of flute-playing, invented by Marsyas, was supposed to have been perfected by Olympus. A Phrygian family, in which the art of flute-playing was hereditary, traced their descent from him.Why was flute invented? ›
In the early part of the 1600s, flautists found they couldn't compete with the newly popular violin in playing the expressive music of the period. The changes made to tone holes to allow for cross fingerings allowed the flute to produce more of the chromatic pitches found more and more often in its repertoire.Is there a flute Emoji? ›
Despite the FLUTE's historical importance, though, there is no emoji that successfully captures this woodwind.Who is No 1 flute player? ›
#1 - Sir James Galway
James Galway is an Irish flutist known for his ability to bridge together and blend classical, folk, and other musical traditions together. He is also known for his showmanship as he boots a golden flute and huge stage presence.
The Traditional North Indian flute called the Bansuri has 6 holes while the traditional South indian flute called the Pulil/Veenu had 7 holes.How old is the bone flute? ›
Flute fragments found earlier at the nearby site of Geissenklösterle have been dated to around 35,000 years ago. The newfound flutes, though, "date to the very period of settlement in the region by modern humans ... about 40,000 years ago," Conard said.What flute was played in Titanic? ›
The Tin Whistle is beautifully featured in the international sensation “My Heart Will Go On” in the movie Titanic. From Wikipedia, James Horner (composer of many famous movies including Braveheart) composed the music.Are flutes ever made of gold? ›
Solid silver (also known as sterling silver) is silver with a purity of 92.5%, and this is used for both the tube and the key system. Golden flutes are made of gold of various different purities, such as nine-carat, 14-carat, and 18-carat gold. The higher the number, the higher the percentage of gold content.
The flute family comprises Piccolo, Alto Flute, Bass Flute, Wooden flute, Eb Soprano Flute, c Flute, and Plastic Flute. These types of flutes share the same note fingerings.What is the most famous flute made from? ›
shakuhachi, a Japanese end-blown bamboo flute that was originally derived from the Chinese xiao in the 8th century.What is a wooden flute called? ›
A bansuri is an ancient side blown flute originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is an aerophone produced from bamboo, used in Hindustani classical music.What are the 3 main members of the flute family? ›
It is not unusual for a performer who plays the flute to switch to other members of the flute family: the piccolo, alto flute and bass flute.What is flute used for? ›
Flutes are used in many ensembles including concert bands, orchestras, flute ensebles, ocasionally jazz bands and big bands.What is the best flute in the world? ›
- Editor's Choice: Yamaha YFL261. ...
- Best Professional Flute: Altus Azumi AZ3. ...
- Best Piccolo Flute: Pearl PFP105E. ...
- Best Student Flute: Yamaha YFL-222. ...
- Best Beginner Flute: Selmer Prelude FL711. ...
- Budget Pick: Kaizer FLT-1500NK. ...
- Best Value Flute: Jean Paul USA FL-220.
Haha, well in short, we flutists get really, really good at learning to use the muscles in our faces – especially the lips and mouth. The higher level of a flute player, and the longer we've played – the better!What is the small flute called? ›
A shorter version of the flute is called the piccolo, which means small in Italian. At half the size of a standard flute, piccolos play the highest notes of all the woodwinds; in the orchestra one of the flute players will also play piccolo if that instrument is required.How big is a flute? ›
The modern flute is about 26 inches in length with and inside diameter of about 3/4", open at one end . The embouchure at which the edgetone is produced is near one end and constitutes a second open end, making the flute an open cylinder in harmonic content.Is flute good for brain? ›
Studies done by an elite group of scientists have shown that “regularly playing a musical instrument increases the size and power of the brain and can be used to improve cognitive skills”.
Among many health benefits, it notably promotes good posture, proper and healthy breathing, core strengthand control, and finger dexterity. Flute requires a high degree of patience and discipline, which happen to be necessary attributes for academic excellence and good work ethic.How long does a flute last? ›
What will you do, how long will it take and how much will it cost? I have seen flutes last anywhere from four to thirteen years with consistent playing before needing overhauls. Piccolos tend to last longer between overhauls.Which flute is easiest to play? ›
- Editor's Choice: Yamaha YFL-221. "Silver elegant beginner flute with closed holes and an offset G key delivers harmonic sound."
- Best Open Hole Beginner Flute: Gemeinhardt 3. ...
- Best Close Hole Beginner Flute: Selmer Prelude FL711. ...
- Budget Pick: Kaizer FLT-1500NK.
Bansuri is a flute of India made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. An ancient musical instrument associated with cowherds and the pastoral tradition, it is intimately linked to the love story of Krishna and Radha. There are two varieties of bansuri: transverse, and fipple.Does a flute have 6 holes? ›
The Hindu God Krishna is traditionally considered a master of the Bansuri or Flute. The bansuri is made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. The Indian flutes are very simple compared to the western counterparts, they are made of bamboo and are keyless.What is the end of a flute called? ›
WHAT IS THE CROWN? The crown caps the end of the flute near the embouchure hole, directing sound down the flute past the key holes. The flute's crown is a small cap that screws into one end of the flute's head joint.Are flutes in the Bible? ›
Flutes. Flutes are another woodwind instrument, similar to the reed-pipe, that are mentioned in the Bible. Their emotive sound means they were often used at funerals.Who found Athena's flute? ›
The goddess Athena invented the flute, but threw it away because it distorted her face to play it. Marsyas, a satyr, picked it up and having taught himself to play, rashly challenged Apollo to a musical contest.Why did Athena create the flute? ›
In order to imitate the wailing of the Gorgons, Athena had invented the double flute. She took pleasure in the sound of her instrument, but the gods made fun of her because her cheeks puffed out when she played it, disfiguring her face. Disgusted, she cast the instrument aside.Why are flutes made of gold? ›
Gold is by far the most aesthetically pleasing material however a flute needs to be a lot more than just looks. These flutes are typically described as having a warm and sweet sound which gets warmer as the pure gold ratio increases. But it also drastically increase the instruments price.
The flute is unique in that it's music blends extremely well with other instruments in the orchestra while having an identity of its own. It works by having a mouthpiece at one end with the musician blowing into it. There are keys on the flute that lets the musician shorten the distance his or her breath has to travel.How many holes does a flute have? ›
The modern standard C flute (with C foot joint) for students has 15 holes, whereas a professional flute with a B foot joint has 16 to 17 holes, not including the embouchure and end holes. A standard piccolo has 13 holes, but you may count the end-hole as the 14th hole for certain fingerings.What does 😮 💨 mean from? ›
What does 😮💨 Face Exhaling emoji mean? The Face Exhaling emoji 😮💨 depicts a face blowing a puff of air. The emoji is used to represent feelings of exhaustion, smoking, and exhaling a big sigh.Does this emoji mean 😮 💨? ›
😮💨 Face Exhaling
A face showing a visible breath of air being dispelled. Used to represent relief, exhaustion, or as a sigh of disappointment or displeasure. May also be used to indicate the exhaling of smoke.
What does 💦 Sweat Droplets emoji mean? In sexual contexts, the sweat droplets emoji is used to depict sexual fluids. Sometimes, this emoji also represents actual sweat or water and is completely unrelated to sex.Why are flutes good kissers? ›
The longer an individual plays the flute and continues to practice moving their lips and mouths just right, the better they become at moving all the tiny muscles in and surrounding their lips.What is the hardest piece to play on the flute? ›
- Flute Concerto by Jacques Ibert.
- Etude No. 21 in D by Marcel Moyse.
- Quartet by Sofia Gubaidulina.
- A Pierre by Luigi Nono.
- Density 21.5 by Edgard Varèse.
- Flute Sonata by Sergei Prokofiev.
- Voice by Tōru Takemitsu.
- Couleurs du vent by Kaija Saariaho.
Flute, violin, clarinet and cello are considered feminine, and drums, saxophone, trumpet and trombone are classified as male.Can a flute attract animals? ›
The experiment revealed that dolphins are attracted to high-pitched frequencies of several musical instruments including the flute, piccolo, the Indian wooden recorder, and a high-pitch singing voice.Why do girls play flute? ›
It's a glamour instrument. It's the same reason that so many popular girls go in for cheerleading in other schools. In musical schools, the violin and the flute are glamour instruments and all the most popular girls vie for playing them.
- Hot Cross Buns. This piece might be one of the very first songs you learn to play on flute. ...
- Yankee Doodle. Another easy song for flute is Yankee Doodle. ...
- Jingle Bells. ...
- Ode to Joy. ...
- My Heart Will Go On. ...
- Over the Rainbow. ...
- Canon in D.
One of the most famous orchestral flute solos, Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune opens with an evocative exposed flute line, which meanders up and down the scale in a an improvisatory style. The opening line is performed with an element of rubato and freeness in tempo, before the woodwind and harp joins.Where do lips go on a flute? ›
The corners of the lips should be a bit firm with the lower lip squishing out over the embouchure hole. The bottom lip should look relaxed and not tight. The air should be directed at the outer edge of the hole with approximately 60% of the air going into the flute to achieve a full, beautiful sound.Do teeth affect flute playing? ›
For musicians of wind instruments, the teeth contribute to the sound produced by their instrument. Teeth give support to the lips, cheeks and tongue, and therefore partly determine the tone production.What is a female flute player called? ›
flautist in American English
(ˈflɔtɪst, ˈflau-) noun. a flute player.
The smallest of the flute family, the piccolo measures approximately half the length of the concert flute. It's the highest pitched flute (in the key of C) sounding an octave higher than the concert flute when played.