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Flute (Bansuri) is an instrument very well known all over the world, being used in different ways in different countries. The flute is classified as an aerophone or wind instrument. Shape like a thin pipe. The sound is produced by blowing a column of air and splitting it against an edge, with part going into the flute and forming a vibrating column of air. Closing or opening tone or finger holes on a flute lengthens or shortens the vibrating air column, thus making low or high tones. The flute is the oldest melody instrument made by man. Flutes throughout history, have been made of many materials including bones, reeds, stone, bamboo, hard wood such as maple, baked clay, porcelain, ivory, glass, metals such as silver, hard rubber and modern plastics.

As it seems, the transverse flute was the last of all flutes to be invented. Probably it was first build by Nomads in Central Asia. It traveled to Europe together with goats and sheep’s.

The first appearance occurred at the end of the Stone Age. It might also been developed in different regions at the same time independently.

“One of the world’s oldest known musical instruments has been discovered by German Archeologist. The 18.7 – centimeter – long flute (Fig No. 1), which is carved from Mammoth ivory. It has three finger holes and would have been capable of playing relatively complex melodies.

The flute was found in 31 pieces in the cave in mountains near ULM in Southern Germany. Two other flutes made of swan bones were also discovered at the site more than a decade ago. The three are much older than any other musical instrument yet discovered.



Fig No. 1

A 30,000 year old flute made of Mammoth Ivory

18.7 centimeter long has three holes.

(Internet Information)


In 1995 an extraordinary find was discovered in Divje Babe a bone flute. The flute was unearthed in the 45,000 year old remains of a Neanderthal fire place. It is made from a piece of hollow cave bear cub bone and contains drilled holes, the arrangement of which corresponds to the distances between the fingers (Internet information). In fig no. 2 you can see the first written evidence is found in Chinese poetry (Schi-djing).


Figure No. 2

Neandertal Cave Bear Bone Flute

(Internet Information)


The 9,000 year old flutes (Figure No. 3) are made from hollowed bird wing bones of the red crowned crane, and have between 5, 6.5 and 8 holes. Remarkably one of the flutes is still playable. These were found in Neolithic site of Jiahu, located in Henan Province, China.

It may be one of the oldest musical instruments ever played, although scientists do know of a 45,000 year old, so called Neanderthal flute made of a hollow bear bone that was dung up in Slovenia in 1995.



Figure No. 3

9,000 years old flute

Made of hollowed bird wing bones of the Red Crowned Crane

Have 5, 6, 7 and 8 holes

(Internet information)


The first written evidence is found in Chinese poetry (schi-djing).The sing tschi is said to mean the flute. At the beginning of the 3rd century and this is clearly assigned to the flute in an encyclopedia.

An Indian tomb (Stupa Sanchi) of the first millennium A.D shows relief’s of flutes. Relief’s on a temple on Java (Southeast Asia) figure no. 4, show the first known picture of flutes played to the right.



(Internet information)

Relief on a temple on java Southeast Asia

8th Century B.C

Panel of pedestal altar showing a cham ascetic playing a flute




The earliest picture on which a flute is clearly to be seen is an Etruscian Relief (Figure No. 5) from near Perusa. It was made in the second or first century B.C.



Figure No. 5

Etruscian Relief

Dimension250 X 272

(Internet information)


There are also some coins showing pictures of flutists. One of them coming from the city of Baniyas (formerly Caesarea Panias) and being mint in 169 after Christ.

Byzantine findings show flutists made of ivory, painted Frescos. Those are the earliest illustrations of the middle ages. The flute is still being held to the left side. On eleventh century there is to be found a flute played on the right side.


Figure No. 6

Miniature of the 11th century:
David, playing the flute.
Drawing from a Greek Psalter, copied 1066 by Theodore von Caesarea in Constantinople

(Internet information)


The occidental findings are of the 12th to 14th century. The oldest illustration is from a Monastic writing called Hortur deliciarium from Landsberg, showing a flute playing siren.


Figure No. 7

Flute playing siren from Hortus deliciarum, Germany, 12th century

(Internet information)


Other pictures are found in other hand writings Figure no.8. As there is only one illustration of a flute played to be left, one has to think, that the flute played to the left was still dominant. As the early flutes in Europe were played to the left side and only Asian pictures show those played to the right.



Figure No.8

 Detail of miniature No. 240 from Cantigas (14th century)

(Internet information)


The Renaissance flutes figure no.9 was made of one piece with a cylindrical drilling. Altogether there were 6 holes. The holes were small. The mouth hole was drilled circular.


Figure No. 9

Typical renaissance flute

(Internet information)


There are many types of flutes. A flute is divided into two main categories

1-Side-blow (Transverse)

2-  End-blow

1-A transverse (side-blow) (figure No. 10) flute is a tube with one end stopped up and has a blow hole that you blow across to split the air



Figure No. 10

Transverse (Side- Blow) Flute

(Internet information)


2-End blown flutes are divided into two major or sub-categories

(a)Notched or rim-blown flutes and

(b) Ductor fipple flutes.

(a) Notched or rim blown flutes involve splitting the air by blowing across the top of a tube that has either a sharp edge or notch such as panpipes (Zampoghas)or the Japanese Shakuhachi. (Figure No. 11)



Notched flute

(Internet Information)



Rim-blown flute

(Internet Information)

Figure No 11


(b) Fipple or duct flutes involved blowing air into a duct or channel which guides the air across a sharp edge known as a fipple. Can be subdivided into several duct flutes more sub-categories such as Vessel or Globular flutes called Ocarinas, flutes with 6 finger holes called Flageolets and flutes with 8 finger holes called Recorders ( Figure No. 12)



Duct or fipple flute



Ocarina, globular duct flute



Flageolet-type fipple flute

Figure No 12

(Internet Information)


Transverse and end-blow flutes have co-existed side by side through history and have been found in all cultures around the world in some form or other.


Examples of some Asian flutes in detailed



The north Indian bamboo flute has six to eight finger holes can play up to three octaves. This ancient flute has been around for thousand of years as a folk instrument. (Figure No. 13)




Figure No. 13

(Internet information)


2- Bawu:

This is a folk Clarinet from the mountain people of YuNam in Southwest China. It is made from bamboo with the sound being produced by a single brass reed. (Figure No.14)




Figure No. 14

(Internet information)


3- Chinese Shun (Xun):

The Shun is a clay ocarina shaped like a pear with the embouchure hole at the top. The sound is produced like a transverse flute by blowing across the embouchure hole. It has seven holes on the front and two thumb holes on the back. (Figure No.15)



Chinese Shun (Xun):

Figure No. 15

(Internet information)



The Chinese transverse bamboo flute dates as back as far back as 1122 B.C. the sound produced by a thin membrane vibrating between the mouthpiece and the first finger-hole. (Figure No. 16)



Figure No. 16

(Internet information)


5- Hulusi:

The hulusi or gourd woodwind is a reed instrument from China with six holes in the front and one thumb hole. (Figure No.17)



Figure No. 17

(Internet information)


6- Kloy:

The Kloy is one of the most popular woodwinds in Cambodia. It has eight holes and is made form a piece of bamboo with a fipple mouth piece made of hardwood. (Figure NO.18)



Figure No. 18

(Internet information)


7- Nohkan:

It is made from smoked bamboo called Susudake. The bamboo is cut and reversed inside out in order for the hard external bamboo to be on the inside of the flute. This gives the sound more volume and clarity. (Figure No .19)



Figure No. 19

(Internet information)


8- Pie Pook:

This Cambodian instrument is folk clarinet like the Bawu. It is made form a single piece of bamboo with a metal reed fastened by wax. It has eight holes and can achieve one Octave. (Figure No.20)



Pie Pook

Figure No. 20

(Internet information)


9- Ryuteki:

The ryuteki or dragon flute is of Chinese origin. It was said that its tone was like the cry of the dragon. (Figure No.21)




Figure No. 21

(Internet information)


10- Shakuhachi:

The Japanese shakuhachi is a flute open at both ends with four fingers holes on the front and one thumb hole. It is made from a single piece of bamboo taken below the roots. The mouth piece is cut on a diagonal and the sound is created by blowing against this sharpened edge. (Figure No. 22)




Figure No. 22

(Internet information)


11- Sneng:

The Cambodian sneng is made from ox or water buffalo horn. There is a rectangular cutout on the side where a wooden reed is held in place by wax. A hole is drilled on the pointy end of the horn where the player controls the pitch. (Figure No. 23)



Fig Sneng ure No. 23

(Internet information)



This thin bamboo transverse flute is often used in Japanese. This instrument is available in twelve different sizes.

(Figure No.24)



Figure No. 24

(Internet information)


13- Suling:

The suling is a bamboo flute found throughout Indonesia. The design and sound of this instrument varies from region to region. (Figure No.25)




Figure No.25

(Internet information)


While there are now many new, larger flutes being made, such as contralto, contrabass and double contrabass flutes, the medium to smaller members the flute family are the one in more common usage. They are usually made of silver or gold, but can also be made of platinum, nickel, brass, wood or even plastic. They are according to size from larger to smallest.


bass flute

alto flute

tenor flute

concert flute

soprano flute



Figure No. 26

(Internet information)


Examples of European Flutes in Detailed


  1-Bass Flute:

The bass flute plays an octave below the standard silver flute. It has 135 cm of tubing with a bore of 3 cm. the bass flute requires a curved head joint to make it possible for the flutist to reach the keys easily. (Figure No.27)



Bass Flute

Figure No. 27

(Internet information)


2-Fipple Flute (Moroccan):

A popular folk instrument widely distributed in the Mediterranean, this flute is made from a single piece of cane. The decoration and the finger holes are burnt into the wood. (Figure No.28)



Fipple Flute (Moroccan):

Figure No. 28

(Internet information)


          3-Irish Porcelain Flute:

In the 18th century this style of keyless flute was very popular among the Europe. These flutes were made of dark tropical woods. (Figure No.29)



Irish Porcelain Flute

Figure No. 29

(Internet information)


4-Penny Whistle:

The penny whistle or tin whistle is a six holed flageolets. Whistles had been made in Europe for centuries. (Figure No.30)



Penny Whistle

Figure No. 30

(Internet information)


5-Pan Pipes:

This flute takes its name form pan, the Greek God of Herds and flocks. It is made up of several pipes bound together and arranged in order to size. (Figure No.31)




Pan Pipes

Figure No. 31

(Internet information)



The recorder is a European woodwind instrument with a beak-shaped mouth piece, seven holes and one thumb hole. (Figure No. 32)





Figure No. 32

(Internet information)


               7- Seljefloyte (Willow Flute):

This Scandinavian folk instrument was originally made by wriggling the bark off a willow twig in the spring. It has no finger holes, but by stopping the end of the flute one gets another set of notes and together they form a complete set of harmonic notes. (Figure No. 33)



Seljefloyte (Willow Flute):

Figure No. 33

(Internet information)


8-Silver Flute:

This flute developed out of the simple six holed folk flute brought from East to Europe. (Figure No.34)



Silver Flute

Figure No. 34

(Internet information)


Bansuri- A Bamboo Flute


The bansuri is named after the combination of two words: Bans which means bamboo and Sur which means musical notes. The bansuri is made of a single length of bamboo and has six to eight open fingers holes. Bansuri or flute (literally bamboo flute is a cylindrical tube made of bamboo with unformed bore and closed at one end. Bansuri or flutes are of different kinds and lengths and number of holes varies. The length can vary from eight inches to two and half feet that is 30 inch. There are mouth hole in every flute. In addition to it there are 6 to 8 holes arranged in a straight line. The range of the bansuri or flute is about two and half octaves. Long bansuris or flutes have a rich, deep and mellow tones whereas in small bansuris or flutes the tone is high pitched.

The bansuri is held in a horizontal position with a slight downwards inclination. The two thumbs are used to hold the bansuri or flute in position. The three fingers of the left hand, excluding the little finger and the four fingers of the right hand are used to manipulate the finger holes.

The player blows in to the mouth hole, thus setting in vibration, the column of air inside the tube. The lowest octave of the scale is produced by altering the effective length of the tube by covering the holes with the finger. The player can produce any interval opening or closing the available holes with his fingers. Parts of the Bansuri: Figure No 35


1-Dandi (Main Body)

The dandi is the main body of the bansuri may be constructed from a variety of materials, but reeds, canes and bamboo are the most common. Ideally the parts of the bansuri constructed so that they taper towards the embouchure mukha randhra (the chockie) in Urdu. They are therefore larger at the opened.


2- Mukha Randhra (Chocki):

This is the embouchure is placed, or the blowing hole. The professional quality bansuri are in variably of the transverse variety. However there are also a number of fipple flutes which are also available. The transverse variety yields much better control by allowing techniques to bend the notes to the desire pitch.


3- Swor Randhra (Suragh):

These are the finger holes. They are the holes that are used to play the melodies. The numbers of holes in bansuri may vary six holes to up to eight holes. The diameter of the holes may be different.


4- Garbha Randhra (Akrisiran):

This is the other end of the bansuri. It should remain un occluded at all times.


5- Rassi:

The body of the bansuri tends to crack. This is simply one of the undesirable qualities of bamboo and reed. This cracking may be reduced or eliminated by tightly binding the body with twine. This is known as Rassi.




Figure No 35

(Internet Information)


Main techniques

There are three main techniques


How to Play Bansuri


1-The first thing is the breathing exercises.

2- Take a deep breath. Your stomach rise when you inhale. If not, practice breathing in while is expanding your stomach muscles. Your will breath more   efficiently this way because every time your stomach rises, your diaphragm moves downward, giving your lungs more room to fill with air.

3- Always breathe in through your nose and out from your mouth.

4- For new flute player take a breath after every one note.

5- The embouchure for playing the flute is as follows:

- Put your lips together slightly.

- Tighten the corners of your mouth.

- Leave just enough space between the centers of your lips to allow air to pass through.




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