Last month I wrote a blog post with facts about the trombone because my son has started to learn to play this instrument. This month I am going to write about my own instrument, the flute.
- The flute belongs to the family of orchestral instruments called the wind family, so called because it is played by blowing into it, using your breath to make sounds with your instrument.
- The flute is, essentially, a long metal tube with a set of keys on it. To play the flute you blow across a mouthpiece and the air goes down into the flute, vibrates along the metal tube and comes out the other end making a sound.
- To change the pitch of the sound made by the flute, flautists (or flutists) can do two things: firstly they can press down keys on the instrument, changing the shape of the tube that the air travels down; secondly they can change the amount of air that is blown across the mouthpiece and down into the flute.
- In 1995 Archeologists working in Slovenia found a piece of what was thought to be a bear’s bone with holes carved in it. This piece of bone was an instrument, a flute, dating back around 50,000 years and was probably one of the first, if not the first, instruments made by Neanderthal man.
- The first flutes were made from either bone or wood, with holes made in the tubing to form the keys and mouthpiece rather than the solid keys that modern instruments have today. Much like the recorder.
- Talking of the recorder, while there are differences in the two instruments – the recorder is played holding the instrument vertically downwards in front of the body, the flute is played holding it horizontally across the body – the term flute was used interchangeably for these two instruments until the 17th century.
- Today flutes will be made out of precious metals like nickel, silver-plating or even platinum.
- Flutes come in a range of sizes. The main ones are: the usual concert flute, which most flautists play; the piccolo, a very high pitched and small instrument; the alto flute, a larger, more mellow sounding instrument; the bass flute, a much larger, lower pitched instrument as the name suggests. There are many more flute playing options to these as well!
- The flute is played in many cultures across the world, often in slightly different forms. For example, pan pipes can be thought of as a type of flute as they are played by blowing air across the holes at the top of the instrument. In this case, pan pipes are made using different lengths of tubing to produce different notes rather than using keys on the tube, or holes in the tube.
- The Hindu God Krishna was often pictured playing the flute, and it was believed that the sounds of his flute playing drew young ladies out to dance with him.
- Probably the most famous flautist is James Galway, who is known as The Man With the Golden Flute, as he played a golden flute. These were very rare at the height of Mr Galway’s fame.
- While you can buy relatively inexpensive flutes in your local music shop, even on websites like Amazon, there are some flutes that are definitely financially out of reach for most people. The world’s most expensive flute was sold in 1986 for $187,000. It was owned by flautist William Kincaid at one point and was made by flute makers Verne Q Powell flutes in Boston, so is known as the William Kincaid Verne Q Powell flute.
- The Guiness World Record for the largest flute in the world, that you can actually play, is held by Jay Bhayani, Charunsudan Atri, Bharat Sinh Parmar in India. Their flute measures an enormous 3.63 metres long.
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