History of the Flute

It is well-established that throughout the history of the flute that it is one of the oldest musical instruments with examples dating back as far as the Stone Age. Although the history of the flute is often associated with its traditional use in Oriental music, it is also found within a variety of people's musical history. This includes examples with as few as one hole to the Sumerian and Egyptian examples that incorporated three or four finger holes within flutes made of bamboo.

The history of the flute is prominent in ancient Greece where you will find six-finger holed examples. During these early years, flutes were end-blown, rather than the transverse flutes that are used today by famous artists, such as Michele McGovern at The Flute Room.

These early flutes were often used in rituals and as entertainment. The flute went through a variety of changes with some instruments evolving out of the intital design, such as the oboe. The history of the flute continued to evolve and become an important part of musical compositions during the Middle Ages and Renaissance Period. The flute provided a way to incorporate a softer tone to offset the introduction of the more forceful drum, which was popular during the various military exercises that were going on during this time.

Traveling minstrels played a huge role in the history of the flute because they shared their talents with individuals that might not otherwise be privy to more lavish instruments of the time. The lightness of the flute made it the perfect choice for individuals traveling the country for their living.

The flute music heard during this time was not the classical or crossover classical music that we are accustomed to from famous musicians in Chicago, such as Michele McGovern and websites like The Flute Room. In fact, it was a very simple sound with fewer finger holes. The octave range would only include about 2 1/2 octaves, which was a huge improvement over the very restrictive D4 to D6 range that is synonymous with the simple folk tunes popular with the traveling minstrels of the time.

Although the traverse flute was an integral part of orchestras all over the world, its history would evolve the flute again with the pin springs version that was patented in 1839 by Louis-Auguste Buffet. This would eventually lead to more improvements by individuals, such as a Theobald Boehm (1794-1881). The history of the flute continued to evolve from a carved bamboo structure to the meticulously crafted Nagahara flutes of today that use 24k gold, which are used by world-renowned artists, such as Michele McGovern. The flute didn't come into its own in classical musical until the late 1800's. It was during the 19th century that improvements were technologically available that gave the flute more breadth and better sound quality. Today the history of the flute in the 21st century includes much of Boehm's original style, but its used in symphonies and orchestras has evolved into the popular crossover classical genre that Michele McGovern has become famous for. Her videos and music can be heard when you visit The Flute Room.