Musical Instruments / Flute


A Brief History

Flute is a reedless woodwind instrument which produces sound from the air flow through the opening. It is one of the oldest known music instruments with the oldest examples dating back as far as 40,000 to 35,000 years. The Divje Babe flute, a fragment of a femur that was found in north west Slovenia is claimed to be the world’s oldest known flute (estimated to be about 43,000 years old) but the purpose of the femur fragment has been disputed. This, however, is not the case with a sculpture of flutes from a cave in Southern Germany which have also been estimated to be 43,000-42,000 old and are currently the oldest known musical instruments in the world.


The word flute is thought to enter English from the Old French “flaute” or Old Provencal “flaĆ¼t” during the Middle English Period but the earliest known use dates to the 14th century. The origin of the word remains unknown, while the suggestions that it may be of Latin origin have been rejected.

Types and Usage

There are several types of flutes, most of which are played by blowing air directly to the mouthpiece. Some types, however, have a duct directing the air to the edge. This type of flutes are known as fipple flutes; the examples include gemhorn, flageolet, tin whistle and fujara, to mention only a few.

Another category are side-blown flutes which are held horizontally and the so-called end-blown flutes which are played by blowing air into the sharp edge of the upper end. The most notable examples of side-blown flutes include the Western concert flute, piccolo and bansuri, while some of the most commonly used end-blown flutes include the kaval, shakuhachi, danso and quena.

Flutes are used in a variety of music genres, most notably in classical music.

Prominent Flautists