20 Interesting Facts About The Flute
The flute is likely one of the most iconic and recognisable instruments in history. And it also has a certain allure, shall we speak: every time you see a flautist playing, you’re put into some sort of trance. It’s like the flute’s music itself is calling to you, beckoning you to come closer. That’s why it seems like the instrument of choice for fantasy characters such as elves! At the end of the day though, the flute’s status as an icon is only overshadowed only by its rich history. So sit back and learn some interesting facts about this wonderful instrument!
1. The flute is among the oldest of all musical instruments.
And by “old,” we mean old. The very first flutes were originally made from stone, wood, or clay, and the oldest ones date back to at least 30,000 years ago! That’s way older than the oldest civilisations in history. Even before the Ancient Egyptians started talking about gods, the flute has already been invented!
2. The earliest written script referring to the flute was made between 2700-2600 BC.
Now, we know numbers and dates aren’t that interesting to most people. So here’s a quick primer: the dates 2600-2700 BC mean that the oldest scripts referring to the flute were written at least 2,700 years before the common era, which starts literally at Year 1 CE, or Common Era. If you do the math, that’s almost 5,000 years!
3. Leonardo Da Vinci played the flute.
If you’re looking for inspiration during your flute lessons to keep you interested, how about this: Leonardo Da Vinci played the flute! Yes, the ultimate Renaissance Man most people only knew as a painter because of the Mona Lisa was an accomplished flautist. He even wrote original music for it, though copies of these never survived.
4. You can consider almost anything as a flute
If you don’t understand, here’s an explanation. The classification of the flute is so simple, that literally any hollow tube you blow air into to produce sound is a flute. Bottle of Coke? Flute. A PVC pipe? Flute. An empty Pringles can? Also a flute.
5. The word “flute” was first used in Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem, The Hous (House of Fame), in 1380.
This poem might not seem like it’s interesting, but as a well-known poet of his time, Chaucer had the option to write it in French (the dominant literary language of the time). But he chose to write in Middle English. So you can say that you owe this 14th Century poet for what you call your beloved flute.
6. Hindus believe that music from a flute created the world.
Flute music is already pleasant to the ears. But to the Hindus, that music was good enough to create the world! In Hindu scripture, the god Krishna used a bamboo flute to bring the world to life, while also using its beautiful music to preach love and harmony.
7. The sound a flute makes is from vibrating air.
“Vibrating air” sounds a bit unbelievable, but that’s exactly how the instrument works! When you blow air across the hole, the air inside the flute’s hollow body vibrates and produces a sound. And you know that in science, anything that vibrates produces sound.
8. The flute’s “supernatural” reputation has roots in history.
In popular media, supernatural beings such as fairies and whatnot tend to use flutes. That’s because wind instruments have always been considered supernatural and otherworldly! In the case of the flute, here’s an example: the Kamayura Indians of the Amazon keep giant, 4-foot (1.2-metre) long flutes in places where they believe spirits dwell. These flutes are considered sacred by the tribe.
9. Flutes can be categorised by how they’re held by a player.
The flutes that a lot of people normally see are played sideways, such as the concert flute. This is called a transverse flute. On the other hand, the flutes which are played upright (i.e. pan pipe or Japanese bamboo flute) are a different type altogether.
10. The flute may have helped separate modern humans from Neanderthals.
Modern humans (us) and our Neanderthal cousins have the same common ancestor, but we diverged for a lot of unknown reasons. The discovery of prehistoric bone flutes dating back to 9000 BC might suggest otherwise, however, as archaeologists believe that this (i.e. the ability to play and make music) could’ve helped separate us from our prehistoric cousins!
11. The earliest flutes are older than farming, animal domestication, and metalworking.
What this means is that our ancestors were already playing the flute before they started growing their own crops, having pets and livestock, and working metals. They were playing those tunes during the Stone Age, as evidenced by bone flutes which suggest a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
12. The standard concert flute’s range is about 3 octaves.
The flute is among the highest-pitched instruments in the world. In comparison, a 3-octave range is among the most impressive a human singer could have. A lot of those who have a 3-octave range are elite singers, such as Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, and Bruno Mars.
13. Every flute has a unique sound.
It’s almost like a fingerprint at times. That means that you can’t compare how your flute sounds to another player’s because that’s technically impossible. This is due to the material used in manufacturing the flute. For instance, wood or metal will produce a different sound, as well as the thickness of the metal itself. This will make it easy to hear whether your flute is starting to sound bad.
14. There is one flute which can play a note so low, you can barely hear it.
This is called the hyperbass flute, which is the biggest in the family. It’s an astounding 26 feet (8 metres) long and can play a C note lower than a piano’s lowest C note. It’s so low, that you can barely hear it. This is because the note is out of range of normal human hearing capacity.
15. The design of modern flutes can be credited to a German musician and inventor.
Flute players will know of Theobald Boehm one way or another. Modern flute fingering techniques were named after him (Boehm System), and he also redesigned the flute into the modern instrument we know today, with all its mechanics and functions.
16. A flute has a rather confusing official classification.
By confusing, we mean it’s a bit crazy. First off, the flute is classified as a woodwind instrument, despite modern flutes being almost always made of metal. Second, it’s the only woodwind instrument that doesn’t use a reed, despite that instrument family requiring such. Maybe this is enough to consider the flute a class of its own?
17. There are flutes that you can play by blowing your nose.
In countries in Asia and Oceania, several flute designs are made specifically for playing with your nose. This is because, in these cultures, they believe that the breath contained in the nose is closer to the soul. As for the breath in your mouth, that’s reserved for the less sacred things such as eating and speaking.
18. One historic European king loved it so much, he composed 121 flute sonatas.
The flute is already a lovable instrument, but it was so beloved by the Prussian king Frederick the Great that he composed music for it and played it in his court by himself. He even commissioned Johann Sebastian Bach to write solos for him so he could play them!
19. For Such a small instrument, it requires so much power to play it right.
It’s normal for beginners and the uninitiated to struggle to play the flute because it needs a lot of physical strength to play it! You have to have a strong core and solid lung capacity to even make it produce sound, let alone make it sound musical.
20. The flute can work in a wide variety of genres.
For all its iconic reputation, the flute doesn’t always get recognition for its versatility! You can actually play the flute in a lot of different genres, including jazz and even rock music! If you have a certain level of mastery in the instrument, you can play the flute in most modern contemporary pieces without a problem.
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