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The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike other woodwind instruments, a flute produces its sound from the flow of air against an edge, instead of using a reed.

Flute tones are sweet in character and blend well with other instruments. The flute's pitch, and various aspects of its timbre are flexible, allowing a very high degree of instantaneous expressive control.


The flute has appeared in many different forms in many different locations around the world. A flute made from a mammoth tusk, found in the Swabian Alb and dated to 30,000 to 37,000 years ago; one seven-hole flute made from a swan's bone in the Geissenklosterle Cave in Germany to circa 36,000 years ago; and another made from the bone of a juvenile cave bear found in Slovenia and dated to about 50,000 years ago, are among the oldest known musical instruments.

Flute acoustics

A flute produces sound when a stream of air directed across the top of a hole bounces in and out of the hole.Wolfe Some engineers have called this a fluidic multivibrator, because it forms a mechanical analogy to an electronic circuit called a multivibrator.

The stream beats against the air in a resonator, usually a tube. The player changes the pitch of the flute by changing the effective length of the resonator. This is done either by closing holes, or more rarely, with a slide similar to a trombone's slide.

Because the air-stream has a lower mass than most resonators used in musical instruments, it can beat faster, but with less momentum. As a result, flutes tend to be softer, but higher-pitched, than other sound generators of the same size.

To be louder, a flute must use a larger resonator and a wider air-stream. A flute can generally be made louder by making its resonator and tone-holes larger. This is why police whistles, a form of flute, are very wide for their pitch, and why organs can be far louder than concert flutes: an organ pipe's tone-hole may be several inches wide, while a concert flute's is a fraction of an inch.

The air-stream must be flat, and precisely aimed at the correct angle and velocity, or else it will not vibrate. In fippled flutes, a precisely machined slot extrudes the air. In organs, the air is supplied by a regulated blower.

In non-fipple flutes, especially the concert flute and piccolo, the player must form and direct the stream with his or her lips, which is called an embouchure. This allows the player a wide range of expressions in pitch, volume, and timbre, especially in comparison to fipple flutes. However, it also makes the transverse flute immensely more difficult for a beginner to get a full sound out of than fipple flutes such as the recorder. Transverse flutes also take more air to play, which requires deeper breathing and makes circular breathing trickier, but still not impossible.

Generally, the quality called "tone colour" or "timbre" varies because the flute produces harmonics in different intensities. A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple of a lower register, or "fundamental" tone of the flute. Generally the air-stream is thinner (to vibrate in more modes), faster (providing more energy to vibrate), and aimed across the hole more shallowly (permitting a more shallow deflection of the airstream to resonate).

The Indian flutes
The Indian flute, one of the oldest instruments of Indian classical music, appears to have developed independently of the western flute. The Hindu god Krishna is said to be a master of the instrument. The Indian flutes are very simple instruments when compared with their western counterparts; they are made of bamboo and are keyless. The pitch of Indian flutes is not standardized, and is largely left to the personal preference of the artist.

Two main varieties of Indian flutes are currently used. The first is the "Bansuri", which has six finger holes and one blowing hole, is used predominantly in Hindustani music, the music of north India. The second is the "Pullanguzhal", which has eight finger holes, is predominantly used in Carnatic music, the music of south India. The south Indian flute had only seven finger holes till the 1970s when the legendary T. R. Mahalingam introduced the eight holed variety.

Source: Wikipedia

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