Flute Information

flute | varieties of flute | piccolo | recorder | flageolet |

flute. (Italian Flauto, French Flûte, German Flöte). Wind instrument of ancient origin formerly made of wood but now of silver and other metals. From medieval times two methods of producing sound were used: (a) blowing across a round mouth-hole as on the panpipes or transverse (side-blown) flute; (b) blowing into a whistle mouthpiece (end-blown) as on the recorder or flageolet. The word flute was used indiscriminately to denote both types during medieval times, but in the baroque period flute or flauto specifically meant the end-blown recorder. The modern flute is descended from the German (transverse) flute. Whereas today it is cylindrical in bore, stopped at one end, until the early 19th century it was conical. The player's breath sets in vibration the column of air inside the tube. Acoustically, the tube acts as an open one; the mouth-hole serves to prevent its acting as stopped and thus sounding an octave lower. The body orginally had one thumb-hole and from four to eight finger-holes. The first key was added in 1677, the second in 1726 by Quantz, flute teacher of Frederick the Great. The great flute virtuoso of the Bavarian Court Orchestra, Theobald Boehm, used an eight key flute, but revolutionized the instrument in 1832 with his 'ring key' system. In 1847, he produced a fifteen hole metal instrument with 23 keys and levers.

varieties of flute include:
(a) Alto flute - The flute in G, transposing instrument notated a 4th above actual sound.
(b) Bass flute - Flute in C, pitched one octave below the ordinary flute (not, as sometimes miscalled, the alto flute in G).
(c) Bassettflöte - (German). Not a flute, but a 17th and 18th century name for a recorder of low pitch. Sometimes called Bassflöte

piccolo. (from Italian flauto piccolo, little flute; also known as octave flute, Italian ottavino). Small flute pitched octave higher than concert flute, used in orchestra and military band. Famous piccolo parts occur in Beethoven's Egmont overture and in Sousa's march The Stars and Stripes Forever.

recorder. (French flûte ā bec; German Blockflöte; Italian flauto diretto; Spanish flauta de pico). Woodwind instrument of ancient lineage, made without reed. Forerunner of the flute, but end-blown through a whistle-mouthpiece. In medieval times, the recorder was known under the Latin name fistula, hence 'fipple-flute'. It had seven finger-holes in front and a thumb-hole behind, and a beak-shaped mouthpiece. The antiquity of the instrument is hard to determine because its playing position is so like that of similar instrument (other whistle types), that contemporary illustrations are of little help. But it has been estimated as being in existence in the 12th century, although the word 'recorder' first appeared in a document in 1388. A recorder tutor was published in Venice, 1535. By the 15th century, there were several sizes of recorder. Praetorius lists 8, i.e. great bass, quint bass, bass, tenor, alto, two soprano, sopranino. Thus, recorder consorts were a common feature of Renaissance music life. The instrument has been widely revived in the 20th century both as an easy instrument for children and as a part of the revival in performing early music on authentic instruments. Modern composers have written for it, e.g. Britten, Arnold Cooke, and Rubbra. The most common size today is the descant (soprano), but there are also sopranino, treble (alto), tenor, and bass.

flageolet. Late 16th century instrument of end-blown flute type, with four finger-holes and two thumb-holes, 'invented' by Sieur de Juvigny of Paris, c. 1581. The name has also been applied to earlier instruments of the end-blown fipple type of pipe. Handel wrote for the true flageolet in Rinaldo.
Also note ... Flageolet notes is a term applied to harmonics on a string instrument, produced by light stopping of the string at natural vibration points, and so called because the resultant high thin sound is said to resemble that of the flageolet.