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Woodwind instrument in which the sound is produced by blowing against a sharp edge. In its broad sense, a flute may be end-blown, like the recorder, or may have a globular shape, like the ocarina. In its narrow sense, discussed below, flute refers to the transverse flute of Western music. The transverse flute, a tubular instrument held sideways to the right, appeared in Greece and Etruria by the 2nd century BC. By the 16th century a family of boxwood flutes, with fingerholes but no keys, was in use in Europe. Keys began to be added in the late 17th century. Theobald Boehm's 19th-century innovations resulted in the modern flute, which permits thorough expressive control and great agility. The cylindrical tube may be made of wood or, more often, a precious metal or alloy. Its range is from about middle C to the C three octaves higher. The flute family includes the piccolo (pitched an octave higher), the alto flute, and the rare bass flute. See alsoshakuhachi.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on flute, visit Britannica.com.