Many players of the modern flute are unaware of the incredible number of native ethnic and world flutes. To hear the ney or bansuri can change your notion of what a flute is capable of—particularly in terms of taking a simple phrase or even a single note and turning it inside out. This level of getting inside the sound is often missing from the general approach to modern flute playing. Following are some of our favorite world flutes…
A classic turn on the block flute. A guide, called a bird, strapped to the outside of the instrument directs air through the fipple to produce this flute's distinctive sound.
Turkish or Bulgarian kaval is typical. Generally made in wood, they are end blown and made in three sections. A kaval is similar to the ney.
An Indian bamboo flute. This simple flute with 6 oval holes produces an amazing sound. Considered until modern times to be a folk instrument, it is now often found in the classical and film music of India.
A notched end blown flutes, usually made of bone or wood. This unique resonant sound is often found accompanying pan pipes in the music of the Andes. Traditionally, this instrument was carved from the femur bones of human beings or llamas, condor wing bones, clay, stone, cane or wood.
Also known as the bottle flute. Works from pressure in the vessel rather than tube length and therefore has no overblown harmonic. The sound ranges from soft and owl-like to shrill and bright. This instrument design is found worldwide and comes in a variety of sizes and materials.
Tabor pipe is an odd fipple flute with only 3 holes for the right hand. Since it operates in the higher harmonic registers, a full scale can be played even while using the left hand to beat a drum. Originally from France and northern Spain.
A rather bizarre free-reed flute instrument. It has a small harmonica-like reed in the embouchure hole. When blown just right the reed couples to the resonance of the flute and to the mouth cavity. Traditional to China.
This is the more well known Chinese flute. The dizi has a membrane similar to a kazoo. This flute has a very loud nasal tone.
Another end blown flute originating in Japan. Notoriously difficult to play. The flute has a dark and covered sound. It lends itself to the extremely microtonal music that is associated with it.
The original block flute, the recorder is both a whistle and a flute. Whether as a solo or consort instrument, the potential of the recorder is often overlooked in modern times. A staple of early European and classical music, there is still a die-hard group of insiders keeping this instrument alive. Sizes range from the tiny to large.
Like an organ, this flute has a separate tube for each note. It comes in single or double rows, treble and bass sizes. Tubes of different lengths are arranged in a row and one plays the instrument like a harmonica by moving back and forth across it. The ethereal sound of the pan flute is common to South American music.
A long end blown flute cane flute of the Near East, used from Egypt to Persia. Blowing across the sharp edge with pursed lips produces the sound. Lovely haunting sound.