Native American style flute is only one type of flute among many others. To help you discover more types of world flutes, I made this small list. But be vary, many of these flutes are a lot more difficult to play than a NAF. Basically, any type of “recorder” such as Native American flute, Irish whistles and classical school recorder, will be easy to learn and play. But rim-blown flutes, side-blown flutes and reed instruments are more difficult to learn and play. Keep this in mind when deciding the next instrument to pick up.
Still so many cool stuff to discover! That’s what is cool with flutes, every civilization made one… playing the flute is playing the history of mankind! – Tommy Soulier
10 World Flutes to Discover
Let’s start with something from the Old World. A recorder is often used in schools to teach kids about music, and for this reason, it is often disliked by students. But in most cases, people learn the soprano recorder, which is a high pitch instrument, and many people dislike high pitches (I’m one of those people). Personally, I prefer alto and tenor pitches, and I’m here to inform you that recorders are also available in alto and tenor versions.
Check out this rendition of Bach on a tenor recorder:
Recorders and fun and popular instruments, they’re easy to learn when we compare them to rim or side blown flutes (or reed instruments). They can produce many musical scales and thus you can play a lot of popular, traditional, and folk songs.
Recorders are fairly reasonable priced and are widely available.
Sarah Jeffery has a lot of great videos on classic recorders, check her out on her YouTube Channel: Sarah Jeffery Music.
For many people this instrument’s sound is very peaceful and even mystical. Some people associate it with The Lord of the Rings and one of its themes, “The Shire” or “Concerning Hobbits” (although the piece wasn’t always played on a whistle).
Basically, we call this the Irish whistle, which is a very general term. The main two examples of this instrument are the tin whistle and the low whistle – the former is high in pitch, the latter low in pitch. It is a rather a simple instrument to learn, similar to NAF or recorded, since all three are a type of whistle. As with Native American flute, Irish whistles are easy to learn but difficult to master.
By the way, you can learn how to play The Shire on Native American flute from my notation.
A concert flute, also known as western concert flute, is what you hear in almost every movie score these days. It’s part of the modern orchestra and other ensembles, but it’s also a beautiful solo instrument. It’s not really an ethnic instrument, but it’s still a side-blown flute that has these “valves” that you use to close and open the note holes. A concert flute comes in various forms, from the smallest piccolo to the large bass versions. It’s a difficult instrument to learn and even more difficult to master, but if you’re more into orchestral music, this is a flute to go.
Traditionally, it is a woodwind instrument and was made of wood, but these days, most western concert flutes are made of metal.
Now we’re heading to Asia.
Shakuhachi is one of the most popular “world flutes” these days. It originates from Japan, and it was primary used by Buddhist monks in their meditative practices. It is a difficult instrument to learn and even more difficult to master, but if you’re into oriental mediative sounds, this is the instrument for you. The typical Shakuhachi is tuned to the key of D. Traditionally it is made of a specific species of bamboo.
This is a rim-blown flute and you produce the sound by blowing across the rim at the front of the instrument. Shakuhachi can produce multiple octaves, although many of the sounds are difficult to produce by beginners.
For absolute beginners, I recommend starting with the flutes offered by Fluteshop here (not an affiliate link).
Bansuri is a Hindu instrument that produces a beautiful, meditative sound, especially when you hear the bass version of this particular flute. This is a side-blown flute. Many people prefer the low-key, bass versions, although they are quite difficult to play due to the wide spread of the finger holes. Some people simply have too small hands to play the bass versions of Bansuri. This flute is also made of bamboo.
But this flute comes in smaller and easier-to-use versions, too.
It’s not easy to play and master, but it’s quite popular these days.
This is a side-blown flute from China, once again made of bamboo and has a beautiful sound. It is used in folk music and modern Chinese orchestra and it’s one of the most popular Chinese instruments today. It too comes in various sizes.
This is a end-blown flute from China, usually made of bamboo. Like with all end-blown, rim-blown and side-blown flutes, Xiao is not an easy instrument to learn and play, but has a beautiful “Asian” sound.
Quena is a rim-blown flute from South America, and is considered to be one of the oldest instruments in the world. It comes in few versions, from bass to soprano, and it can be tuned either to minor pentatonic or chromatic scale. It’s made of bamboo.
Another instrument from the New World. This is a rim-blown flute associated with the Anasazi people of America. Similar to other rim-blown flutes, the Anasazi flute is rather difficult to play and master.
Out of this list, Anasazi flute is probably the most difficult to find and buy, since not many people are making this type of instrument. Most of Anasazi flutes are bass instruments, and the finger hole spread makes them very difficult to play by most people, although smaller versions are available and can be easier to play. It is tuned to unique anasazi scale.
Finally, something from the Middle Easty.
Ney is a end-blown flute originating from the Middle East (there are couple versions, such as Persian Ney or Turkish Ney), and it has this “desert”, oriental feel to it. It is a difficult instrument to learn due to the way it is played, as it is not a typical rim-blow flute. It’s probably the most difficult instrument to learn on this list.
The world is full of wonderful flute-like instruments, and here in this article I’ve mentioned only 10 of them. Do you know other wind instruments that are worth mentioning? Mention them in the comments below!