Description and Parts of the Western Concert Flute

The Western concert flute was developed over the centuries from a simple end-blown flute to the current transverse flute. Transverse flutes are flutes that are held parallel to the floor. To play a transverse, the flutist directs the airstream across the mouth or blow hole and not directly into the instrument. The flute constitutes one of the most important instruments of the orchestra because of its high range, ability to blend in with other instruments and play the melody.

Head Joint

The head joint of the Western concert flute contains the mouthpiece, lip-plate and the blow hole. There are no keys on the joint of the flute. The mouthpiece consists of the lip-plate and an oval hole in the center of the plate. Lip-plates are also commonly referred to as embouchure plates. Larger blow holes will produce deeper, richer tones, while small blow holes produce sharper, more brilliant tones. The flutist must weigh her options carefully and pick a flute that feels comfortable for her.

Body Joint

The body joint fits between the head joint and the foot joint of the Western concert flute. This part constitutes the largest section of the flute and includes the tuning slide, tenons and the majority of the keys. When all of the keys are open, the flute plays the highest pitches available on the instrument. Depressing keys from top to bottom lowers the pitch as the instrument extends, forcing the air to travel farther. The tuning slide and tenons adjust to make minor intonation changes in the flute. Intonation deals with the actual pitch and whether or not the instrument plays in tune.

Foot Joint

The foot joint connects to the end of the body joint and constitutes the smallest part of the flute. The rod on the foot joint must properly line up with the rest of the keys on the flute. Student model flutes have a foot joint that plays down to middle C, which is the C directly below the treble clef staff. Professional model flutes have a B joint which makes it possible to extend the range of the flute by a major second down to B, just below middle C. There are only a few keys on this part of the flute.

Additional Characteristics

The Western concert flute has a range that extends three full octaves and a fourth up to the F two octaves above the treble clef staff. The flute has several capabilities for advanced techniques, including flutter-tongue, in which the tone rapidly flutters to create a vibrating sound. Flutists can also clack the keys and blow to create a crackling sound. Some flute players have mastered the art of multi-phonics, in which two notes play at the same time. One note sounds by the flutist humming while the other note sounds through actually playing the flute.


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