Types of Flutes Around the World

The flute is one of the oldest musical instruments made by man & different types of flutes have been in existence for approx 45,000 years.

We have listed the different flute types below, this will provide you with a greater understanding of the various kinds of flutes which exist.

Flutes can be made from wood, metal, plastic composites, bone and even clay. Wooden flutes are popular in traditional Irish music. You’ll find many types of wooden flutes played in various folk music traditions including Celtic music, Native American music and many other indigenous groups.

How to choose a flute for traditional Irish music

Plastic flutes such as polymer flutes and Delrin flutes offer an excellent wooden-style flute sound but with lower maintenance and suit more extreme climates.

Metal flutes are most commonly found in the classical music genre.

Bone and clay flutes date back over 45,000. The oldest musical instrument ever found were flutes made from bird bone and ivory located in a cave in Germany.

Below you’ll find the most common flute types in use today. The type of flute you’ll play will depend on the type of music you’re making.

Directly-Blown Flute        

types of flutes

When playing this flute, the player blows air straight across the edge of the mouthpiece. Some directly-blown flutes, have a duct which directs the air onto the edge & the air is blown into a traveling across a sharp edge. This kind of flute is known as a fipple flute, some examples are, whistles, recorders & tin whistles. The fipple provides the instrument with a distance timbre & it also makes the instrument easier to play.


Side-Blown Flute

Transverse flute - side blown flute

The side-blown flute, is also known as the transverse flute.

When playing the side blown flute, instead of blowing the end of the tube, you will use a hole on the side of the tube & this is what produces a tone. When playing this flute, its held either horizontally or sideways.

Some examples of this instrument are the Concert Flute, Fife & Piccolo. The Irish wooden flute is a transverse flute and is based on the concert flutes of the early 19th century.


End-Blown Flute

types of flute

When playing the end-blown flute the player blows into the end of a tube or pipe.

Examples of this flute includes the Xiao, Ney & Danso.


Rim-Blown Flute

types of flute

The rim-blown flute is also known as the notched flute. When playing the rim-blown flute, the player
blows across the top of a tube, the tube has a notch or a sharp edge, this causes the air to split.



Closed-Ended Flutes & Open-Ended Flutes

types of flute - Close ended flute - Xun

Examples of a closed-ended flute are pan pipes, ocarina, police whistle & xun (one of the oldest Chinese musical instruments).

Examples of an open ended flute are the concert flute & recorder.


To browse a full selection of different types of flutes used for Irish music visit our Irish flute store.

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