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The ancient flute of northern India has simple construction - bamboo with 6-7 holes burned in - but great cultural significance as the divine instrument of Lord Krishna, who is often depicted playing one. Only in the last century has the bansuri's repertoire and use expanded from folk music to Indian classical music and beyond.
This popular transverse flute is sometimes referred to as simply a "Chinese bamboo flute". Its unique tone color comes from an extra hole ("mokong") placed between the mouthpiece and tone holes. The mokong is covered by a thin membrane ("dimo"), which vibrates when air flows through the instrument. Professionals carry several sizes of the dizi to cover all keys.
This towering overtone fipple flute originated as a shepherd's instrument in central Slovakia. Most are between 5 and 6 feet long and have three tone holes, which allow for a full diatonic scale to be played as well as its rich variety of overtones.
NATIVE AMERICAN-STYLE FLUTE
Native American flutes are unique in their construction - they have two chambers. A wall divides the flute, and air is directed into one end, up through a flue under a "totem" or "block", and split in the second chamber where the tone holes are. A sweet and pleasing tone can be produced without any special embouchure. There are many stories of the Native American flute's use throughout time, from ceremonies to courting rituals.
Meaning "little goose", the ocarina has existed in cultures all over the globe, dating as far back as 12,000 years. It is most often made of clay or ceramic, and has 4 to 12 (sometimes more in the case of multi-chambered instruments) holes. The modern ocarina as we know it was developed in the 18th century by Giuseppe Donati. Today, it has seen a dramatic increase in popularity due to the signature instrument (left, blue) of the "Legend of Zelda" game series.
Also known as the pan flute, panpipes are another instrument without a single origin point. Many countries around the world developed their own panflutes independently, starting with one or two notes and adding as time went on. Romanian panflutes are organized by pitch from low to high, and a seasoned player can play in any key by adjusting embouchure and angle.
Fipple flutes have existed since the very first wind instruments were created. The modern pennywhistle, often referred to as "tin whistle", "Irish whistle", or plain "whistle", comes to us from the British Isles, where at one point one could purchase a whistle for a penny. Today, they run from a few dollars to several hundred. Because they are not chromatic, whistles are produced in every key, though D is the most popular. Bernard Overton is credited with the reintroduction of the "low whistle", pitched an octave below "high" whistles.
QUENA / QUENACHO
A vertical flute with six holes and a thumbhole, this is a traditional instrument of the Andes region. The u-shaped notch allows sound to be produced similarly to how one would play a shakuhachi. Quenas are made from wood, bamboo, and sometimes bone. They are pitched in the key of G, while the quenacho, a larger flute, is typically in D below it.
Though many may recognize it as an elementary music teaching tool, the recorder was a popular instrument in Europe up through the Baroque era, and eventually disappeared due to the development of modern orchestral instruments. Though few have keys, cross-fingerings can be easily utilized to play in any key. The range of the recorder spans two octaves and they are made in sizes from garklein to great bass, alternating between the keys of C and F.
In gagaku, or traditional Japanese court music, the ryuteki (dragon flute) is the bridge between heaven (sho) and earth (hichiriki). It is crafted of bamboo (though less expensive flutes come in resin) and has seven holes. True to its name, the expressive tone of the ryuteki is said to embody the cry of a dragon.
The name "shakuhachi" means "1.8 shaku", or approximately 1.8 feet, describing the length of the standard shakuhachi in D. This end-blown flute is made of bamboo and has a blowing edge ("utaguchi") as opposed to a fipple, allowing for incredible control over pitch, volume and tone. Its expressive nature has given it a long and rich history as a spiritual tool. It is also said that, centuries ago, when priests called komuso were forbidden to carry their weapons, they began to craft shakuhachi out of bamboo root so that it may double as a club.
A smaller, higher-pitched bamboo flute that is often used in Japanese theater. "Uta" style flutes are properly tuned to a Western scale, while "Hayashi" are not tuned to any and mostly used for festival music. Shinobue have a range of about 2.5 octaves.
The suling is a bamboo flute found throughout southeast Asia, and is prominent in Javanese gamelan. A thin ring of bamboo at one end helps form the mouthpiece, guiding air over the notch which produces sound. Suling can have four, five, or six holes, depending on region and musical context.
An ancestor of the shakuhachi, the Chinese xiao is an end-blown flute also made of bamboo. The blowing end of the flute is mostly closed and a hole is cut into it. The xiao is generally longer and narrower than its Japanese counterpart, and its sound is mellow and quiet by comparison.
This egg-shaped flute is one of China's oldest instruments. It can be categorized as an ocarina; however, sound is produced by blowing across the top rather than into it. Its range is approximately one octave.