pan flute

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Two Romanian pan flutes

The pan flute consists of a number of tubes with which different high notes can be produced. Panpipes belong to the group of longitudinal flutes , which in turn belong to the group of woodwind instruments , although they can be made from different materials (wood, bamboo , metal, bone, clay, glass, reeds).

Origin and Distribution

Ottoman female musicians with shawm , panpipes, bell drum and long neck lute (miniature by Abdulcelil Levni, 1720)

The name comes from the Greek shepherd god Pan . According to the legend, Pan wanted to take the nymph Syrinx as his wife. When she refused him, she was enchanted by a protective deity in a reed. Out of sorrow, Pan cut a panpipe out of this, with which he later competed in the music competition against Apollo . Old names for the pan flute are shepherd's flute , syrinx , named after the nymph transformed into reed in the Greek story, or parrot whistle . The latter name refers to Mozart's opera The Magic Flute .

Pan flutes originated from around the 4th millennium BC. In many regions of the world. In Europe, the noisy panpipes from South America are known, especially the siku (Indian languages, from the Spanish word zampoña ) from the Andes , the tubes of which are arranged in one or more straight rows, and the clearer sounding nai , which originally comes from Romania and whose tubes are arranged in an arch. The larchemi (also soinari ) in western Georgia has six tubes in a row and is considered a shepherd's instrument. In the case of special forms of panpipes, the tubes are also arranged in a bundle, with the inner tubes protruding higher. Kugikly is the most widely used name for Russian pan flutes that are always played in an ensemble.

The siku and nai are available in different pitches from the piccolo panpipe in soprano register to the head-high double bass panpipe. The most common are the alto panpipes, which are approx. 30 cm wide and 23 cm high as nai . For most beginners, the tenor pitch should be easier to play.

In the northeast region of Thailand , the Isan , the wot (in Thai โหวด , pronounced: [ wòːt ]) is played, a version of the pan flute that consists of six to nine bamboo tubes . It can be used as a solo instrument for all entertainment occasions. One of the oldest Chinese musical instruments is the paixiao , a panpipe made from a straight or curved row of end-blown bird bones. It is first mentioned in the Chinese sources of the 3rd / 2nd Century BC Chr. Mentioned as xiao , a name that later passed over to longitudinal flutes with finger holes. There are some short panpipes with four or five pipes on the northern Philippines island of Luzon . They are rare in the rest of Southeast Asia, except in the music of New Guinea , where they have been described several times. Of the few pan flutes in Polynesia , those from Tonga (eight to ten pipes) and Samoa are now museums.

The reed flute ensembles in some Khoisan groups in southern Africa, which have been described again and again since Vasco da Gama was first mentioned in 1497, represent an older development stage of the pan flute, which is significant in music history . Each musician in the ensemble who accompanied the dances blew into one or more unconnected single- tone reed flutes held in the hand . A single Khoisan musician never played connected reed flutes in pre-colonial times. Another single-tone flute that is still used today is the hindewhu of the Central African Ba-Benzele pygmies.

The pan flutes, which are rare in Africa, include the nyanga , also ngororombe , which are played in the pan flute dances of the same name regionally in southern Africa ( Malawi , Mozambique and Zimbabwe ). The nyanga or nanga ("small horn") of the South African Venda consist mainly of four bamboo tubes. less often two or five bamboo tubes are connected to each other.

Photo planer

Around 1800, a special symmetrical panpipe made from native reeds was very common in the Alpine region. It was called Fozhobel , Fotzhobel , Pfozhobel . Johann Andreas Schmeller wrote in the Bavarian Dictionary (1827) under the heading “Fozhobel”: that is the panpipe . In the middle of the 19th century, the photo planer was quickly replaced by the more modern harmonica , which not only took over its name, but also its tuning ( judge's tuning ).

Sound generation

pan flute

A tone is produced at these instruments , by an air flow directed onto a sharp edge and is supported by this cut (cutting edge). The pitch is determined by the length of the vibrating column of air. With the pan flute this is done by tubes of different lengths that are bundled into rows.

With a range of mostly two to three octaves, but also up to almost four octaves, almost all pan flutes are tuned diatonic , mostly in C major or G major . Halftones are then created by a special blowing technique, e.g. B. by tilting the panpipe 45 degrees and pushing the lower lip a little further over the opening of the tube. A panpipe can be tuned by moving appropriately inserted cork discs or (better) pressed beeswax . With loosely sitting wax balls, a panpipe can also be quickly retuned between different keys . Some pan flutes are also tuned pentatonic .

Well-known pan flutists


  • Tiberiu Alexandru: The Romanian panpipe. In: Gustav Hilleström (Ed.): Studia instrumentorum musicae popularis III. Festschrift to Ernst Emsheimer on the occasion of his 70th birthday January 15th 1974. (Musikhistoriska museets skrifter 5) Nordiska Musikförlaget, Stockholm 1975, pp. 13-21
  • Sibyl Marcuse : A Survey of Musical Instruments. Harper & Row Inc., New York 1975, pp. 589-596

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Olga V. Velichidna: Playing Panpipes in Southern Russia: History, Ethnography, and Performance Practices. (Dissertation) Ohio State University, 1998
  2. ^ Percival R. Kirby: The Reed-Flute Ensembles of South Africa: A Study in South African Native Music. In: The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 63, July – December 1933, pp. 313–388, here p. 384
  3. ^ Andrew Tracey: The Nyanga Panpipe Dance. In: African Music , Vol. 5, No. 1, 1971, pp. 73-89
  4. Moya Aliya Malamusi: The Nyanga / Ngororombe Panpipe Dance: 1. Thunga la Ngororombe - the panpipe Dance Group of Sakha Bulaundi. In: African Music, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1992, pp. 85-107
  5. Instruments of the Garching Pfeifer (Bavaria)