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A Boehm flute

A flute is a woodwind instrument. The flutes represent the highest-pitched (soprano) family of the woodwind choir. They can be described as cylindrical bore instrument. Traditionally, flutes were made out of wood, however modern flutes are usually made out of metal. The flute family consists of:

  • Flute (or concert flute) in C
  • Piccolo in C
  • Alto flute in G
  • Eb flute
  • Bass flute in C

Generally, the flute family extends a range of around three octaves (from middle C to three octaves above middle C). The lower ranges of the flute carry a warm and dark quality, giving these notes a round and uncrisp tone. All flutes require a great amount of air, and opportunities to breathe are usually notated in the music. For the larger and lower register flutes, it is quite hard for even advanced performers to create a standard volume for a concert performance. For this reason, bass flutes are usually heard with electronic amplifiers. The high range of the flutes carry a sense of brilliance, with crisp and defined tones.

The most common modern flute is the silver Boehm flute, or "concert flute". Other flutes include:


Pan Pipes


Tin Whistle

Alto flute


The flute in its many forms is an extremely ancient instrument that lost popularity in late Roman times, but reappeared in Western art in the 10th/11th centuries. The transverse flute first appeared in the late 17th century and began appearing in orchestras at the French court at the time of Lully. The family reached its height of popularity in the high Baroque period (early to mid 18th century) with Bach, Handel, Telemann, Vivaldi; Rameau using it as a solo instrument, or scoring it prominently in many works. Mozart hated it, but wrote chamber and concerto works for it. Its popularity declined during the 19th century, however it enjoyed a great revival in popularity starting just before the turn of the 20th century with many works by French composers such as Debussy, Honegger, Milhaud and Ibert using it. It is an integral part of the modern symphony orchestra.

Flutes and piccolos are used in marching bands. According to Meredith Wilson in his 1948 book And There I Stood With My Piccolo, most band instruments are held in front and can have a "lyre" or music holder attached to them, but nobody has ever devised a workable music holder for a marching flautist.

Flutes have been occasionally been used in rock music, most famously by the band Jethro Tull.