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One of the most popular instruments in the world,
the flute is played by people of all ages and skill levels. Flute
repertoire is extensive: the instrument is used in school band
programs, symphony orchestras, flute choirs, jazz ensembles, and
as a solo instrument. Popular, classical, jazz, and even rock music
has been either written or transcribed for the instrument.
Many people are unaware that the concert, or C flute
is the best-known member of a family of related instruments played
in the same manner. The flute family consists of the piccolo, E flat,
concert, alto, and bass flutes. The concert flute is the instrument
of choice for beginners.
Beginner school bands usually introduce the flute in
the fourth or fifth grade. It is important for young players to be
large enough to reach the keys without straining the neck or hands.
For an eager student whose reach is not sufficient, flutes with curved
headjoints are available; many flute manufacturers offer a beginner
model instrument featuring both a standard and a curved-style headjoint.
The curved headjoint makes it possible for a young flutist to hold
the instrument without having to reach beyond his or her capabilities
at first. As the student grows, it is a simple matter to change over
to the traditional, straight headjoint. Be sure to check with your
local music dealer, band director, or flute teacher when deciding
whether to purchase the extra headjoint option; the initial cost
is nominal. Purchasing a regular flute and discovering later that
the student really needs the curved head necessitates the purchase
of the curved headjoint and another case as well.
An ancient Chinese
flute, the "tsche," played
in about 2637 BC, is believed to be the earliest transverse flute
(an instrument held horizontally). Made of bamboo, both sides
were closed, with a mouth-hole in the middle. Flutes have been
made of glass, wood, ceramic, brass, and even human and animal
bones. Gradually, improvements over the crude designs were made,
keys were added, and attempts were made to improve the pitch and
sound of the instrument. It is to the genius of Theobald Boehm
of Munich (1794-1881), a flutist, composer, and inventor, that
we owe credit for the modern flute used today.The flute as we now
know it was conceived in 1846. After many experiments with the
tube itself, and the size and position of the toneholes in relation
to it, Boehm produced the modern flute. It had a parabolic, or
tapered headjoint, a cylindrical body, and large toneholes covered
by keys. He experimented with almost every material available.
In 1847, he introduced his first flutes made of silver and German
silver (a white alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel.) At this time,
the wooden flute was still preferred by players over metal instruments,
and remained so until the early 20th century. It is interesting
to note that, although the flute is thousands of years old, the
instrument we know today was developed within a period of approximately
50 years, and was chiefly the work of one person, Theobald Boehm.IS THE FLUTE
DIFFICULT TO LEARN?
with practice, can learn to play the flute: the instrument described
as being most closely related to the human voice. It is important
to learn proper breathing techniques and breath support at the
onset of playing so that a proper embouchure (lip formation) can
be developed. Most teachers suggest that only the flute headjoint
be used at first when attempting to make initial sounds. The headjoint
must vibrate in order for the sound to be produced; if a student
is unable to make a sound with the headjoint, putting the instrument
together will not help. Some dizziness is common during the early
stages of playing: this happens because beginner players have to
learn the proper combination of embouchure [mouth] opening and
air stream. This will go away as breath control is learned and
is nothing to worry about. Keeping a chair handy and reminding
the student to place his head between his knees until the feeling
goes away is all that is necessary.
Since the flute is held across the body and not in
front, it is difficult to see where the fingers are to be placed.
It is recommended that one hold the flute in front so the new player
can see correct finger placement without having to blow at the same
time. Practicing finger combinations without worrying about sound
production can help a student to develop the proper "feel" for
Reprinted with permission of School Band and Orchestra
magazinePlease visit them at www.sbomagazine.com
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