Flute & Piccolo

History Of Instrument
The early Latin word for flute was "tibia", the same word for a shinbone. The early flute was made of bone, rather than wood which could split or break. It was associated with the recorder about 5,000 years ago. A flute held sideways existed in China 3,000 years ago, and may have existed in ancient Egypt. It kept changing until it was used in an orchestra in France in the 1600’s. It has been popular in modern times as well, with many solos written for it.
Flutes descended from the recorder, and were once made of wood (most piccolos today are still made of wood). They can be made of all types of metal, including silver, gold or platinum, or a combination. A favorite flute of the Chicago Symphony’s principal flutist some years ago had the head and main body of platinum, the chimney (hole into which the air goes) of gold, and the foot joint (small third section) of silver.

Have you ever blown over an empty Coke bottle? It’s the same principle with the flute. But the flute’s much prettier to look at. And it’s more complicated to play, too! It’s the highest of the woodwinds (with the exception of the piccolo, which is not always included in the orchestra). The flute is the soprano of the woodwinds, and is 27 inches long. It is held sideways, and tones are made when air is blown across the sharp edge of a hole near one side. The fingers of a flutist are placed on pads which open or close other holes, hopefully creating the sound you want. The flute it thought of as being sharply pitched, but at the high end of its range it is soft and mellow.

A piccolo is a small flute, the word "piccolo" being the Italian word for "little". It’s half the size of a flute, and its notes are one octave higher. The sound is quite brilliant and can be heard over the sound of the entire orchestra. It is the highest pitched of all orchestral instruments, and is still often made of wood.

Guess who was the first major composer to use the piccolo in his orchestral music? It was Beethoven!


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