Flute facts


Find out more about the flute, a member of the 'woodwind' instrument family, which makes a sound when air is blown through a mouthpiece.


Flute history

Aside from the human voice, flutes are the earliest recorded musical instruments. Most modern concert flutes are made of silver, but this wasn't always the case: instruments dating back around 40,000 years were made of bone or hollowed wood. Technically speaking, a range of instruments are members of the flute family, thanks to the way they are played, including whistles, recorders, and ocarinas - they all involve blowing air across an opening to create a sound.


Range of notes played on a flute

flute range notes

A standard flute (otherwise known as a treble flute) has a range starting on middle C, and can play around three octaves. Still, some more experienced players can play up to an octave higher than that!



How to play the flute

The sound is made by blowing a stream of air over the mouthpiece (known as an embouchure hole), and pressing down on the instrument's keys. This changes the pitch by opening and closing holes on the instrument, creating higher or lower notes. Varying the air flow into the instrument can affect the pitch, volume, and type of sound created.

Did you know?

While the most famous size is the 'treble' flute, this instrument also comes in alto and bass sizes - which are much bigger, and produce a lower sound. The flute's smaller cousin, the piccolo, plays an octave higher, making it one of the highest instruments in the orchestra.

How to play the flute