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A flute , Middle High German Floite, Vloite, Flaute (from the old French flaute or the Latin flatuare and flatare : "repeatedly blow", "continuously blow", Frequentativa from flare : "blow") is a distraction aerophone in which a stream of air is guided over an edge (cutting edge) where it starts to vibrate (compare the articles woodwind instrument and whistle ). In the Hornbostel-Sachs system , flutes are therefore referred to as cutting instruments.

In everyday parlance, "flute" usually stands for the flute or the recorder . Pan flutes consist of several single-tone flutes connected to one another .


There are flutes with and without a core gap, an air duct that guides the air jet to the blowing edge. In flutes without a core gap, the air jet is formed by the player's lips and / or tongue.

Further classifications and references can be seen therefrom, where one blows into the flute as the pitch is affected by whether closed lower end ( Gedackt or is) not, whether it is single flute tubes or instruments with multiple flutes and how these be played (blown directly or with valves controlled by a mechanism or keyboard , as on the organ ). The cultural area from which a flute comes is also used for classification.

Flutes without core gap (edge-blown)

The blowing edge is formed by the upper edge of the flute tube.

Longitudinal flutes

Flutes The blowing edge of a flute is formed by the edge of a hole in the side of the flute tube.

Flutes with core gap

The air flow is formed by a wind tunnel and directed to the edge of the labium . With the exception of the organ pipes , these belong to the core gap flutes .

Open flutes

Muffled flutes

Special forms

An air vortex flute is similar in shape to a combination of vessel flute and length flute, but forms the tone in a special way. The breathing air blown in at the upper end of a tube must first pass through a small opening before it gets into the play tube and at the same time generates an overpressure corresponding to the blowing pressure in a lateral oscillation space. The air flow that subsequently sweeps past the opening draws air out of the vibration chamber and creates a negative pressure there. The periodic change in pressure creates an oscillating column of air which is propagated in the play tube. Clay air vortex flutes are known from the Mayans (around 500 AD).

Double flutes are flutes with two music tubes that are blown at the same time. The Norwegian overtone flute Seljefløyte is a laterally blown flute with a core gap . A rare, centrally blown transverse flute is the Indian Surpava . The Slovakian fujara is a long beaked flute held vertically, which is supplied with air via a blow pipe.

The pigeon flute, blown by air, was developed in China .


Flutes in the Pleistocene

The demonstrably oldest flutes were made from animal bones, especially birds, and from mammoth ivory. Flutes made of less durable material (e.g. wood) could not be detected, but are quite conceivable.

One of the oldest musical instruments known to man, a flute made from griffon vulture bones, Vogelherd cave (approx. 40,000 years old, Aurignacia), UNESCO World Heritage " Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura ", Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT

The oldest surviving wind instruments in the world are around 43,000 to 40,000 years old Stone Age bone and mammoth ivory flutes that were found in the Swabian Alb . A flute made from the bone of a griffon vulture ( Gyps fulvus ) was found in the summer of 2008 in the Hohle Fels cave near Schelklingen . The V-shaped upper end of the griffon vulture flute represents a preliminary stage in the development of the notched flute and is still found in the fingerhole-free Igemfe in South Africa, which was only obsolete since the end of the 20th century .

Relatively well-preserved or reconstructable flutes with finger holes were discovered in the Geißenklösterle cave. The finds show that people made music as early as the Stone Age , more precisely in the Upper Palaeolithic. Two of the flutes from the Geißenklösterle are made in one piece from swan bones. The third consists of two joined half-tubes carved from mammoth ivory; it was provided with at least three finger holes, tuned roughly at a third interval (a fourth could have broken off) and decorated with notches on the side. The repeatedly suspected attribution of the flute to the Neanderthal ( Homo neanderthalensis ) contradicts the scientific reality, as it was clearly introduced in the layers of modern humans ( Homo sapiens ) from the Aurignacia period . Between the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Palaeolithic layers below are culturally sterile strata that deny any contact between the two epochs and thus between the two human forms.

Fragments of two other flutes come from the Vogelherd cave. Flute 1 was made from bird bones. Flute 2 from Vogelherd is made of mammoth ivory and has been preserved in three unconnected fragments. Only recently a third flute was discovered in the overburden of the Vogelherd cave. It consists of a fragment with two cut handle holes and is made from griffon vulture bones. The flute is part of the UNESCO World Heritage " Caves and Ice Age Art in the Swabian Jura ". Like 15 other art and music artefacts, it is exhibited in the Museum of Ancient Cultures in Hohentübingen Castle .

A possibly even older flute from the Divje babe  I cave in Slovenia consists of a fragment of a bear thigh bone found in 1995, which is dated to 43,100 BP in the Moustérien . While for some of the researchers the find object belonged to a flute with four finger holes and one thumb hole, others reject this view and consider the two holes in the piece of bone to be the result of animal damage. A recent article provides arguments for the authenticity of Divje Babe's bone flute. Other suspected bone flute finds are also in doubt.

Flutes in the Holocene

The Hebrew Jubal , whose great grandfather was Cain , is referred to in the Bible as the forefather of all zither and flute players.

In 1986, in the lakeside settlement of Hagnau- Burg, the oldest surviving wooden flute in Europe from the late Bronze Age (1040 BC) came to light. It has a blow hole and a fine decoration of incised lines.

The earliest known clear picture of a transverse flute was found on an Etruscan relief in Perusa . It dates from the second or first century BC. The instrument was held to the left at the time; it was only in an illustration of a poem from the eleventh century that a representation of a flute played to the right was discovered.

Flutes (in addition to drums ) were used in religious cults as early as prehistory. This is still common today among primitive peoples. In literature, flutes often have the character of the otherworldly, of death and transience: Grimms Märchen Nos.  28 , 91 , 96 , 116 , 126 , 181 ; Mozart's Die Zauberflöte ; Andreas Gryphius ' It's all vain .

See also


  • Gerd Albrecht, C. Stephan Holdermann, Tim Kerig, Jutta Lechterbeck, Jordi Serangeli : "Flutes" made from bear bones - the earliest musical instruments? In: Archaeological correspondence sheet. Volume 28, 1998, pp. 1-19.
  • Christine Brade: The medieval core gap flutes of Central and Northern Europe. Neumünster 1975.
  • Tim Kerig: Swan-wing bone flute: 350,000 years ago ice age hunters invented music. Stuttgart 2004.
  • Bone sound. Communications from the Prehistoric Commission. Austrian Academy of Sciences 36, Vienna 2000, CD and booklet.
  • Raymond Meylan: The Flute. Basics of their development from prehistory to the present. Mainz 2000.
  • Stefanie Osimitz: The Carolingian bone flutes from the St. Johann monastery in Müstair. In: Annual report of the Archaeological Service and the Preservation of Monuments. Graubünden 2006, Chur 2007, pp. 68–73.
  • Günter S. Schöbel: A flute fragment from the late Bronze Age settlement of Hagnau-Burg, Lake Constance district. In: Archaeological News from Baden. Issue 38/39, 1987, pp. 84-87.
  • M. Turk, I. Turk, L. Dimkaroski, B. Blackwell, F. Horusitzky, M. Otte, G. Batiani, L. Korat: The Mousterian Musical Instrument from the Divje babe I cave (Slovenia): Arguments on the Material Evidence for Neanderthal Musical Behavior. Opera Instituti Archaeologici Sloveniae, 13, ZRC Publishing, Ljubljana 2018, pp. 105–121.

Web links

Wiktionary: Flute  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Flute  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Samuel Martí: Music history in pictures . Volume II: Ancient Music. Delivery 7: Old America. Music of the Indians in pre-Columbian times. Deutscher Verlag für Musik, Leipzig 1970, p. 126.
  2. Earliest music instruments found . BBC website (accessed May 25, 2012). Original scientific publication : Thomas Higham , Laura Basell, Roger Jacobic, Rachel Wood, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Nicholas J. Conard: Τesting models for the beginnings of the Aurignacian and the advent of figurative art and music: The radiocarbon chronology of Geißenklösterle . In: Journal of Human Evolution . May 8, 2012, doi : 10.1016 / j.jhevol.2012.03.003 (English, online [accessed on May 25, 2012] subject to a charge).
  3. Researchers discover the oldest musical instrument in the world. In: Spiegel Online. 2009, accessed June 24, 2009 . Original scientific publication : Nicholas J. Conard, Maria Malina, Susanne C. Münzel: New flutes document the earliest musical tradition in southwestern Germany . In: Nature Online . June 24, 2009, doi : 10.1038 / nature08169 (English, online [accessed June 25, 2009] subject to a charge).
  4. ^ Percival R. Kirby : The Musical Instruments of the Native Races of South Africa. 2nd Edition. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg 1965, p. 274.
  5. The oldest flutes in the world. (PDF) windkanal.de, 2005, accessed on February 1, 2009 .
  6. Picture of a flute made from a swan bone ( Memento from January 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ Marcel Otte: On the Suggested Bone Flute from Slovenia. In: Current Anthropology. Vol. 41, No. 2, April 2000, pp. 271f.
  8. ^ Ian Cross: The Origins of Music: Some Stipulations on Theory. In: Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Vol. 24, No. 1, September 2006, pp. 79-82.
  9. Jump up M. Turk, I. Turk, L. Dimkaroski, B. Blackwell, F. Horusitzky, M. Otte, G. Batiani, L. Korat: The Mousterian Musical Instrument from the Divje babe I cave (Slovenia): Arguments on the Material Evidence for Neanderthal Musical Behavior. Opera Instituti Archaeologici Sloveniae, 13, ZRC Publishing, Ljubljana 2018, pp. 105–121.
  10. ^ Cajus G. Diedrich: "Neanderthal bone flutes": simply products of Ice Age spotted hyena scavenging activities on cave bear cubs in European cave bear dens. In: Royal Society. Open Science. April 1, 2015.
  11. Depiction of a flute on an Etruscan relief. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on November 18, 2008 ; Retrieved June 25, 2009 .