One of the earliest musical inventions by man, the flute has a rich cultural significance in every country of the world, where it is used as a major music organ. While it is strongly believed that the flute originated in the east, with cultures in Asia having a history of making wood, reed and bamboo flutes even today, it has been adapted into a number of settings. Today, any classical orchestra will have its own flutist specialising in a particular type of flute. From its primitive model having only holes of varying sizes, today, the flute has been upgraded to a be a complex musical instrument with different octave specifications.
Here, we shall talk about the most common types of flutes seen in concerts and orchestras.
- Standard flute.
The easiest to learn flute for an aspiring musician, the standard flute is mostly used by trainees to learn from. It is extremely easy to operate and is used to play the melody in an orchestra. They are quite diverse, since they can be used by all people with varying abilities and skills. These are usually made of silver, gold or platinum, and are 2 feet long.
- Alto flute.
The low timbre of this type of flute adds in a sense of mellowness to the higher notes in an orchestra. It is extremely popular among recitalists. Since it has large keys, it is not suitable for a lot of fingering, but it can create deep and powerful tones with ease.
- Bass flute.
This is one of the more challenging cousins of the alto flute. It is quite big and heavy to carry, and is used in flute choirs to draw out sounds of other instruments like the clarinet. Playing this flute requires a lot of skill and expertise, and not to mention- upper body strength!
- Piccolo flute.
This is smaller than your usual flute, and is also known as the soprano flute, since it can be used to play the highest notes in the woodwind family. The positions of the fingers are similar to that of the standard flute, but with a higher octave. They can be made from wood, silver or plastic. Usually they are manufactured differently for different uses- wooden ones are used for orchestras while silver and plastic ones are used in marching bands or outdoor performances.
The other common types of flutes are made of wood, bamboo and reed, and they include:
- Irish flute: this is a wooden flute used in Irish and Scottish traditional music.
- Dizi: this is transverse and keyless bamboo flute, popularly used in Chinese opera, folk music and orchestra. The xiao is another kind of Chinese flute, mainly used in folk music.
- Bansuri: this is a bamboo flute found in South East Asia, mainly India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is an integral part of the classical music cultures of these countries.
- Native American flute: this is mainly made of wood and includes a whole variety of flutes from different Native American tribes. These are front-blown, open holed with two chambers.