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The Flute

A brief explanation of the flute

Stacie Lanham

on 11 April 2011

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Transcript of The Flute

The Flute
The History
When one imagines the ice age and Neanderthals, the thought of music probably doesn’t come to mind. Because there aren’t any records of ancient music, we don’t know exactly how the music ancient people created sounded like; however, we do know that they created instruments and in turn created music. Archaeologists have found the remains of these instruments in their excavations. Among the instruments found, is the ancient flute. As of 2008, eight ancient flutes had been uncovered, pieced together, and preserved. The oldest of the flutes dates back to over thirty-five thousand years old.
Thanks to the carbon dating process, we now know that the flute is currently oldest known instrument in the world. Other ancient flutes have been discovered in other parts of the world like the Hubei Province in China.
More History
The city of Byzantium, which later became Constantinople and is now Istanbul, plays a major part in the history of flute. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it seems that the flute disappeared. It reappears around the tenth century in Byzantium art. Byzantine paintings show that the flute was played to the left side of the body. Later in the eleventh century, Byzantium introduced the flute to Germany. It wasn’t until the fourteenth century that the flute spread to other parts of Europe. The existence of the flute in other geographical locations is known to us not because of any remaining instruments but from the manuscripts, carvings and painting the flute is mentioned or pictured in.
The Baroque Era
The Baroque era was an important time in the development of the flute. Professional musicians began to specialize in playing flute such as Johann Joachim Quantz, John Loeillet and Jacques Hotteterre. Flute lessons became a widely requested service and amateur flute playing increased dramatically. Musicians began to realize that the flute could be more expressive that the recorder could be, therefore, it began replacing the recorder with flute because of its vocal like qualities and it’s extensive range.
Flute also became widely used in opera and other public concerts.
Solo music began appearing for flute around from composers such as Vivaldi, Handel, Bach and Telemann.
Flutists began writing books of studies in all twenty-four keys, rather than the restricting modes that the flute had played in before. The flute study books became very popular in Germany and Italy especially.
The solos written for flute, however, remained in relatively easy keys such as G major and e minor. More difficult solos were reserved for professional musicians who could ensure the intonation of the instrument in more difficult keys.
Jacques Hotteterre was the first to publish a book on the principles of playing the flute, Les Principles De La Flute Tranversiere (Principles of the Transverse Flute).
The Physical Flute
The flute began as a piece of hollowed out animal bone. Most had three to six finger holes and were played by blowing air through one end of the instrument, much like a recorder. As time goes by, we begin to see wooden flutes carved similarly to the bone flutes. The first transverse flutes were found in China. During the Baroque era, musicians began to focus on the intonation and range of the flute. Flute makers took the wooden flute, and in attempt to improve its intonation, separated it into three different pieces, the head joint, the body and the foot joint. A seventh tone hole was also added to the instrument to improve the range of the instrument. Because the seventh hole was so difficult to reach, Jacques Hotteterre added the first mechanical key to the flute. Many other flute makers tried to improve the flute with little lasting success. Flutes were being made of ebony, grenadilla wood, maple and ivory during this period.
Theobald Boehm
In 1832 a man by the name of Theobald Boehm developed a completely new and different flute. He conducted acoustical experiments to figure out where the hole on the flute should be and used ring keys to cover each hole. The new flute had completely different key work and was made of metal instead of wood. Every aspect of the instrument had been modified by Boehm. In 1847, dissatisfied by his 1832 model of the flute, he created yet another model. He placed each hole in the instrument to exact calculations based on more acoustical studies. The study of Boehm new flute was done at the Paris Conservatory.

Boehm’s new flute caused a rapid spread of the flute. Composer’s were inspired to write more music for it because of it’s enhanced intonation and ease of flexible finger action. New techniques also became popular on the instrument such as flutter tonguing. Boehm’s ring key design became so popular that it was applied to other instruments such as the clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and later, the saxophone
Assembling the Flute
Holding The Flute
The flute is supported by the thumb and index finger on the right hand.
The right thumb should be placed under the F key or between the index and middle fingers of the right hand.
The right wrist should be straight and the hands should form a C shape.
The pads of the fingers should be over the keys. The fingers should not over-extend the keys.
The left wrist must be curved to allow the left index finger to help support the instrument.
Student should not be "white knuckling" it.
The flute should be held close to parallel to the floor. The angle of the flute should be the same as the angle of the students head. If they have good posture, this should be close to parallel.
Producing a Tone
Start a beginner on the head joint alone.
Have students say the word "piu" to form a basic embouchure.
About 1/4 to 1/3 of the embouchure hole should be covered by the lower lip.
Beginner flutists tend to use too much air. Remind them to focus their air flow as if they are blowing through a coffee straw.
Don't be a smiley flute! Be a frowny flute!
Use the hand trick
Have the student put a hand out in front of their face and blow as if they were blowing into the flute.
Ask the student where they feel the air hit on their hand. Generally, they will indicate feeling the air in the center of the palm.
Ask the student to keep their hand in the same place but to direct the air lower to right above the wrist.
This will properly direct their air to help produce a good tone.
Flute Method Books
-Standards of Excellence
-Rubank Books (Easy, Intermediate, and Advanced)
-Foundations to Flute Playing - Wagner
-The Flute Etudes Book - Mary Karen Clardy
-Daily Exercises for the Flute - Maquarre
-Complete Daily Exercises for Flute - Trevor Wye
-Selected Studies - Voxman
Instrument Brands
Trevor James
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