History of the Flute

The flute is one of the oldest instruments known, with some examples dating back thousands of years. Early flutes were often made of wood, stone, and even human and animal bone. More recent flutes have been constructed of glass, ceramic, and brass and other metals. The earliest known example of the transverse flute (held and played sideways) is believed to be the “tsche,” originating in China about 2637 BC. Over time, improvements were made to the flute including the materials used, the addition of keys, and the shaping of the instrument, culminating in what is considered to be the modern flute developed by Theobald Boehm in 1846.


The flute, part of the woodwind family, includes the piccolo, E flat, concert, alto, and bass flutes. The concert, or C flute, is the best-known member of the flute family and is often recommended for beginners.


School band programs typically introduce the flute in the fourth and fifth grades since the student must be large enough to reach the keys. Curved headjoints are available for smaller or younger students who are unable to reach the length of the instrument, and are sometimes included with models designed for beginning students. As the student grows, the curved headjoint can be replaced with the straight headjoint.


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