The first flutes are known to be invented before farming, metalworking, and domestication. Studies show that flutes have existed since 40,000 BC, and back then, they were made with bones of different animals. Aside from that, these flutes not only have mouthpieces, they also have holes to govern airflow throughout the instrument. Most of the oldest flutes originate in Europe. However, several recent examples of flutes date back around 9,000 BC, and they have been found in China. That is why some archeologists say that the flutes are crucial evidence that helped them separate modern humans from Neanderthals.
Most of these pre-historic flutes were always made out of bone because the space left after the marrow is gone leaves a perfect air channel. As years passed, other materials were used to make the flute, specifically bamboo and other trees. The universal use and endless rhythms of the flute made it famous throughout the ancient world and in different cultures around the globe.
Different Types of Flutes Around the World
Flutes can be made easily from several materials that can be found in nature. This factor made the flute one of the most popular musical instruments worldwide, which is why from China to South America, flutes were created to express most local music.
- Bansuri – This type of flute is popular in Northern India. Like several other flutes, the bansuri is a transverse flute, which means that it is played by blowing over its mouthpiece while being held horizontally.
- Dizi – The dizi is actually a general name for Chinese bamboo flutes, which are almost always played transversely. Dizi flutes come in different sizes and a diverse range of sounds that are commonly heard in Chinese music. The dizi flutes are also known to be a prime example of a flute that requires advanced playing techniques, from the rhythm of breathing to the musician’s skills to give off perfect melodies.
- Zampoña – This is a fipple flute where the musician plays by blowing air into the instrument rather than in a mouthpiece. The zampoña is commonly found in South America, particularly in the Andes Mountains.
The Western Flute
While flutes comes in different constructions and shapes, probably the most popular flutes in history is the modern concert flute, which is also called as a western concert flute. This is typically used in bands and orchestras today. This concert flute is often made of brass as well as other metal. It has several levers that allow the player to control the airflow in the instrument while performing efficiently. The western concert flute is an essential part of modern music, specifically in classical music and jazz.
Members of the Western Flute Family
- Alto Flute:This flute is considered to be the second-highest member of the western flute family below the standard C flute. The alto flute is distinguished by its rich and mellow tone in the lower portion of its range.
- Bass Flute:This is considered to be the tenor of the western flute family. It is typically used in flute choirs, and its sound is similar to the clarinet.
- Contra-alto Flute:This is considered to be one of the largest members of the flute family. Its sound is pitched between the contrabass flute and bass flute. It has a body that is held vertically and an adjustable floor, just like the bass clarinet has.
- Subcontrabass Flute:The subcontrabass flute is also one of the biggest members of the western flute family. It is over 15 feet long, and it is rarely used outside flute ensembles.
- Double Contrabass Flute:This is once again one of the largest western flute family members. It stands about 18 feet tall, and its tubing is the largest but lowest-pitched metal flute in the world.
- Hyperbass Flute:This member of the western flute family is considered to be a rare type. It is the biggest and lowest-pitched flute in the world. It stands about 15 meters high, and it is commonly made with wood and PVC.