MUS 215


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FLUTE:  split-airstream instrument with cylindrical bore; overtone series based on the octave.


C Piccolo G Alto Flute
Db Piccolo C Bass Flute
Eb Flute C Contrabass Flute
*C Flute/Concert Flute* C Double Contrabass Flute

The C piccolo sounds an octave higher than the written pitch.  Its lowest note is a D.

The Db piccolo, used in older march music and transcriptions, sounds a minor 9th higher  than the written pitch

The Eb flute sounds a minor 3rd higher than the written pitch.

*The C flute (concert flute)--most common--sounds where written.*

The G alto flute sounds a perfect 4th lower than the written pitch.

The C bass flute sounds an octave lower than the written pitch.  

The final two flutes are not common.  The contrabass flute sounds two octaves lower than the written pitch.  The double contrabass flute sounds three octaves lower than the written pitch.



Fl. Flute(s) Flöte Flûte(s) Flauto
Pc. Piccolo Kleine Flöte Petite Flûte Flauto Piccolo

DESIRABLE PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES:  Physical attributes are not always reliable.  Large lips may be a disadvantage.  Upper lip with a pronounced "dip" in the center may be a disadvantage.  An underbite may be a disadvantage.  A student who can produce a satisfactory tone using only the head joint, following instruction in embouchure formation, will likely have success.

OPEN HOLE v. CLOSED HOLE:  While there may not be total agreement on this subject, the primary advantage to the French-model open-hole flute is alternate fingerings that allow the half-hole technique.  Alternate fingerings incorporating half-holing may improve the response and intonation of some notes.  Closed-hole models are recommended for most students, certainly for beginners.  (Open-hole flutes typically come with hole plugs that may later be removed after the player becomes more advanced.)

PARTS OF THE FLUTE:  (1) head joint, (2) middle joint (body), (3) foot joint.

HOLDING POSITION:  (1) Turn the head slightly to the left so the right arm can be in a comfortable position.  (2) The end of the instrument should be angled down slightly, with the lips remaining parallel.  (3) Contact points are:  base of the left index finger, right thumb, lower lip against the embouchure plate, right-hand little finger on the Eb key.  (4) Left-hand fingers meet keys at an angle.  (5) Right thumb should be beneath the middle of the E & F keys.  (6) Fingers should always be curved (relaxed).

EMBOUCHURE:  (1) First, hold the head joint with the embouchure hole against the lips.  Feel with the tongue that the hole is centered.  (2) Roll the joint forward until the embouchure hole is parallel with the floor, with the lower lip covering 1/4 to 1/3 of the hole.  (3) Keeping the lower lip relaxed, pull the corners of the mouth back slightly to firm the upper lip.  (4) Allow the center of the upper lip to relax so as to produce an opening no more than 1/16th of an inch high and 1/2 inch long.  Preferably, the opening should be more of a diamond shape than an oval.

TUNING WHILE PLAYING:  (1) Roll the flute outward to sharpen the pitch.  (2) Roll the flute inward to flatten the pitch.

AIR DIRECTION:  (1) The lower register requires that the airstream be directed more downward.  (2) The middle register requires that the airstream be directed more across the tone hole.  (3) The upper register requires that the airstream be directed in a more upward direction.



 BRANDS.  Good student brands:  Emerson, Armstrong, Yamaha, Gemeinhardt.  Avoid:  Artley, Bundy (re Miles Davis, ww repairman).  Professional brands:  Muramatsu, Brannen-Cooper, Powell, Haynes, Yamaha, Prima Sankyo, Jack Moore, Dana Sheridan.


The flute is the oldest of all the band and orchestra instruments, predating recorded history.

The Chinese probably contributed the first improvement to the ancient flute, made of pottery or bone, by cutting a "V" in the end of the tube.  

Early flutes were blown from the end.  It was not until the 17th century that the transverse flute came into general use.

Early flutes used no keys.  The first key was added c. 1677; a second was added in 1726.

In 1832, Theobald Boehm (1794-1881) (pron. beem) invented a mechanism for opening and closing the holes of the flute.

In 1847, Boehm dramatically improved the acoustics of the flute, and his design continues to be the foundation of the modern flute design.

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