The flute is one of the oldest musical instruments in history. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is a reedless instrument that produces sound due to the vibration and air escaping across the openings.
Interestingly the oldest flute ever discovered was a fragment of femur bone of a cave bear with around two to four holes around 400,000 years ago.
However, currently, there are various types of flutes, each with its features and specialty. These flutes differ worldwide due to the cultural difference and the uniqueness that enable the variation of sound production.
For instance, in some cultures, the flute is played using the nose while others by mouth.
Therefore, in this article, we will share information regarding different types of flutes instrument with their unique features and qualities.
There are different types of flutes, each having different numbers of holes requiring different cross-fingering techniques.
These flutes are of wood, plastic, metal, bone, and even clay material. Among them, wooden ones are the most common, popular in Irish, Native American, Celtic music, and many other indigenous groups’ culture.
All types of flutes differ in their structure and the material used to make them.
Table of Content
- How Many Types of Flutes Are There
- Frequently Ask Questions
How Many Types of Flutes Are There?
There are three main types of flutes; Standard, piccolo, and Plastic flute. Here, I’ll be discussing these three types of flutes and their names.
Types of Flutes Instrument
Below are types of flute lists with their qualities and best features.
1. Standard Flute
This type of flute primarily plays the melody in the orchestra. It’s about two feet long and is available for all levels and abilities. Also, it’s one of the easiest flutes for beginners to learn and take their hands on.
It’s available in different materials, including gold, silver, and platinum, with similar key structures and designs.
However, the semi-solid silver head joint’s better quality and efficiency as the metal makes it more precious with a deeper tone.
Piccolo means small in Latin. As the name suggests, it is pretty small in size compared to the concert flute, almost half its size. However, this smallest type of flute has the highest pitch in the key C and sounding an octave higher than the typical concert flute.
Piccolo is available in various metal forms, among which hardware grenadilla is the most common one. Moreover, some of the concert music also has a piccolo part. It produces a clear, brilliant, and graceful sound in its middle register while piercing and shrill when played loudly, especially at the upper register. This uniqueness makes piccolo useful in concert music, solos, and solo repertoire.
3. The Plastic Flutes
This flute is suitable at all levels, especially for beginners. It allows younger children to play smoothly and produce a melodic sound on a first try. Also, it’s easy to learn and get involved in this instrument. All this is possible due to its first piece of the mouthpiece.
Moreover, it’s adaptable, which means it has interchangeable parts that can convert into an advanced form from the beginner’s level or vice versa.
It’s light-weighted, durable, easy to clean, and is available in various colors.
Types of Native American Flutes
The below types of flute lists differ by tribe but have similar styles and shapes. The following types of Native American Flute have two chambers, one for collecting the breath and the other that creates the sound. Also, the player placed him in front of him while playing as it has finger holes.
1. Cheyenne Flute
The Cheyenne flute, also known as Tahpeno or duct flute, originated in the United States among the Cheyenne or Arapaho tribe. The medium used to make is mostly wood, which can be metal or cord as well. It has a dimension of 57.3 x 2.5 cm).
This flute has two specialized chambers; the slow chamber, also known as the mouth chamber or breath chamber through which the player breaths in. At the same time, the second one is a resonating or sound chamber that produces sound.
Also, they comprise a wide range of sizes, designs, and variations.
2. Chippewa Flute
Previously restricted to men in sacred rituals, but now it is gaining popularity among locals as well. This flute has an internal plug that divides it into two chambers. Also, a thin metal spacer directs the air from one chamber to another, thus enabling the production of tuneful, pleasant sound.
3. Dakota Flute
Dakota flute came from North and South Dakota. This flute has precise alignment and a longitudinal position specified to produce desired sound from the instrument. The longitudinal position has a great effect as it enables the regulation of air movement through the two chambers.
4. Kiowa Flute
This flute fits well in medium hand. It’s restful and great for beginners as it’s super easy to blow and create sound with. Besides, the manufacturing material is usually bamboo. There is a five-hole pentatonic scale on it to create enjoyable sound.
5. Lakota Flute
Lakota flute originated in 1870 and is popular for their unique way by which they produce sound. It has two chambers connected through a block of wood, commonly known as a saddle, which also helps produce pitch.
The materials used to make it includes wood, hide, and feathers. It is available in various. However, the standard one has dimensions of 80 x 3 x 4 cm.
6. Opata Flute
This flute came from the Opata tribe, crafted from a wide range of materials, including wood, mainly cedar, juniper, walnut, cherry, and a bamboo tree. It is because of their aromatic smell, strength, workability, and compatibility with other flutes.
7. Unami Flute
This flute is also suitable for beginners. The ability to express emotion through it is quite simple because of its simplicity. It has come from the Eastern United States around the lower Delaware and Hudson rivers in the United States by the Unami tribe.
8. Zuni Flute
It’s one of the most well-known traditional Native American flutes. The Zuni sunrise song is usually popular for this flute, especially for the tribe Zuni.
Types of Bamboo Flutes
Bamboo has a natural hollow form that makes it suitable for various musical instruments. There are numerous types of bamboo flutes made all around the world, such as Xiao Flute, Shakuhachi Flute, Hotchiku Flute, Quena Flute, and Khlui Flute.
1. Xiao Flute
The Xiao flute is a very ancient Chinese instrument used by the Qiang people of Southwest China. It’s a vertical end-blown flute made of bamboo. Besides, the poets and practitioners consider its sound pretty sound similar to Phoenix’s call, the king of birds in Chinese belief.
There are multiple types of Xiao flute available, including the standard Dong Xiao, Bei Xiao, Gin Xiao, and Nan Xiao. Each of these slightly differs in their structure and therefore produces sound with different tones.
2. Shakuhachi Flute
It’s a Japanese and ancient Chinese longitudinal end-blown flute made of bamboo. It creates a harmonic spectrum that contains the fundamental frequency and even and odd harmonics, and some blowing noise. Moreover, the Shakuhachi flute is most often popular in modern film scores. These famous films include Braveheart, The Karate Kid, Legends of the Fall, Jurassic Park, and The Last Samurai.
3. Hotchiku Flute
It’s also a Japanese aerophone or an end-blown flute, crafted using the root sections of bamboo. It has four holes on the front for fingers while one hole at the back for the thumb. Also, this instrument is capable of at least two octaves. Still, the sound produced by it is more fragile and less well-tuned to musical scales than other modern instruments.
4. Quena Flute
It’s the traditional flute in the Andes, usually made of bamboo. It has six finger holes, one thumb hole, and it is open on both ends. The play has to close the top end of the pipe using the skin between his lower lip and chin to produce the sound. Then blows a stream of air downward along the axis of the pipe to produce a harmonious melody.
5. Khlui Flute
It’s a vertical duct bamboo flute that originated in Thailand before or during the Sukhothai period. It’s a reed-less instrument and is also available in hardwood or plastic form. There are three main types of Khlui flutes, each keeping its beauty since ancient time. These types are Khlui phiang aw, Khlui lib, and Khlui u.
Besides, the Khlui are highly pricy and tuned an octave higher than the middle C, making them more popular for recreational purposes.
Types of African Flutes
There are multiple types of African flutes used for entertaining purposes. Out of which, the most commonly used is reed pipes flute and trumpets flute.
1. Reed Pipes Flute
It’s an organ pipe flute that produces sound by a vibrating brass strip reed. Air under pressure goes towards the reed, which on vibration produces sound at a specific pitch. It comprises a metal tongue that rests against a shallot where a tunnel is also present. A wooden wedge holds the reed and shallot. All these parts of reed pipes flute enable the tonal characteristics of reed pipes.
Moreover, the reed pipes may have single or double reeds; the doubles ones are usually the oldest ones.
2. Trumpets Flute
This flute is most common for classical and jazz ensembles. This trumpet-like instrument is famous among the orchestras and concert bands that play it by blowing at through nearly closed lips. Playing this instrument is quite easy and is also very common among young boys and girls for their group bands or solo plays. Besides, regular maintenance requires oiling the valves and greasing the slides as needed.
Types of Indian Flutes
The essential flute in the Indian culture is Bansuri which is usually part of Hindu religious events.
Bansuri has been an important element of Indian classical music. It has evolved differently compared to the western flute. They are simpler, made up of bamboo, and have no keys.
It is a long hollow shaft of bamboo with six to seven finger holes covering two and a half octaves of music.
Moreover, like the typical flutes, it has two holes; one the blowing hole, while the second closed end has few centimeters of space. From the second one, the air escapes, and the musical sound produces. Besides, the longer the Bansuri, the deeper the tone and lower pitch sound produce.
Types of Wood Flutes
The different types of wooden flutes, also known as spring is relatively small, end-blown flute with a nasal tone. Below are the wooden types of flutes names and their description.
1. Medieval Flutes
It’s a cylindrical tube closed at one end, with a mouth hole and six fingerholes. This flute, made up of vulture bone, is at least 33,000 years old, unknown in Europe until the Roman empire. They are now usually popular in Germany and are available in unique or custom, handmade pieces.
Besides, this instrument requires a great technique and harmony as the music is based on the concepts of modes.
2. Traverso Flute
Traverso flute, also known as cross flute, now referred to as recorder, is much common in Baroque music. It has been a principle instrument used for solos and orchestral performance.
Types of Pan Flutes
This musical instrument is on the principle of the closed tube, consisting of multiple pipes of gradually increasing length. These types of pan flutes are typical of bamboo, giant cane, or local reed material.
1. Nai (Romania)
It’s a diatonic pan flute used since the 17th century. It has at least 20 pipes made up of bamboo or red, arranged in a curved array allowing a greater speed of play. Besides, they are perfect for G for Romanian folk music or C in classical.
2. Antara (Andes)
They are also known as siku is a traditional Andean panpipe. It’s the main instrument used in a musical genre known as sikuri.
Besides, the material used to make it is bamboo shoots, often made from condor feathers, bone, and many other materials.
3. Paixiao (China)
This ancient Chinese wind instrument allows a fully chromatic diatonically. It has a series of bamboo tubes secured together by rows of bamboo strips. According to the ancient writers, the arrangement of the pipes resembles the wings of the mythical Fenghuang birds.
4. So (Korea)
It’s a light, airy Korean flute that produces a mellow, graceful sound, widely used in Korean music.
Syrinx is a flute specifically for solo music for producing a brilliant, mellow poetic sound.
This instrument is a handmade flute primarily used for producing great sound for children in plays, fundraisers, schools, scouts, camps, and churches.
This Russian variant of panpipe consists of several pipes, each of which, when blown endwise, produces one sound. This instrument allows the chromatic notes and produces a melodious sound.
Frequently Ask Questions
Q: What is the most common type of flute?
A: The most common flute is the Western concert flute or C flute, made of metal or wood. They are popular in concert bands, orchestras, and jazz bands.
Q: Which flute is easiest?
A: Open Hole flutes are the easiest and most suitable types of flutes for beginners. It’s small and compact and one of the most affordable instruments in the orchestra.
Q: What is Type C flute?
A: It’s a professional quality flute. When its three holes are covered, it produces a C natural medium scale, mostly played on Bansuri or other bamboo flutes.
Flutes are one of the oldest instruments which produce sound by a stream of air directed against the sharp edge. It is among the easiest instrument to learn and is suitable for beginners.
In this article, we have briefed the answer to what are the different types of flutes with names and also attached different types of flutes pictures.