NAF players and makers can gain a wide perspective on their instrument by taking a look at the breadth of flutes that have developed around the world. These flutes have huge variations in design, finger layouts, tunings and scales, and sound mechanisms.
This page lists all types of musical instruments that are classified as flutes, with the exception of:
For flutes where I have first-hand information I provide as much information as I can. For other flutes, I give links to other web resources. If you know about a type of flute that I missed, please contact me! Flutes are listed alphabetically, for lack of a better system.
Antara and Rondador (So. America)
The bawu [bah-woo] (Traditional Chinese: 巴烏; Simplified Chinese: 巴乌; pinyin: bāwū; also spelled “ba wu”) is a free reed instrument (HS 41) in the same class as the harmonica, shruti box, and Chinese sheng.
... which gives you a primary scale very similar to a diatonic flute except that it has one missing note. On the bawu shown on the right, which is tuned to the key of F, the notes from bottom to top are C D E F G A C D. So, the primary intervals are root – major second - major third – fourth – fifth – major sixth – octave – major ninth. This is the diatonic scale with the major seventh missing.
However, it is traditional to use the note with the fingering of <xxxx|ooo for the root of the scale for the instrument. The fundamental note of the bawu shown is a C, but the root of the scale (with the <xxxx|ooo fingering) is F. Using F as the root of the scale, the intervals are root – major second - major third – fifth – major sixth – major seventh – octave, which is the diatonic scale with the fourth missing.
On many bawus, you can get several additional notes by cross-fingering. In particular you can get two notes with the fingerings of <xoxx|xxx and <xoxx|xxo. This gives you a full diatonic scale (scale steps 2-2-1-2-2-2-1) with the finger sequence:
The Erdklangflöte (literally “Earth sound flute”) is a duct flute developed by Alf Jetzer, a Swiss instrument maker. His term for the instrument in English is “forest flute”, because the sound quality it produces.
The forest flute has six finger holes: five on the front an a thumb hole on the back. The typical finger layout is T12-123 or T13-123. Notice in the picture on the right that the bottom finger hole is offset to help with finger reach.
Hearth Spirit - Clint Goss on a C minor Forest Flute - song composed by Alf Jetzer. Recorded and mixed by Butch Hall November 18, 2004 at the Armadillo Flute Retreat.
The primary fingering sequence on the forest flute is straight-fingered - - which gives you a primary scale very similar to a contemporary Native American flute, but with an extended range because of the thumb hole. The bottom 5 holes of the forest flute work like a five-hole Native American flute. The primary intervals are root – minor third – fourth – fifth – minor seventh – octave - major ninth. With the addition of the upper-register fingering of you can easily add the minor tenth to the primary scale.
The hulusi [hoo-loo-see] (Traditional Chinese: 葫蘆絲; Simplified Chinese: 葫芦丝; pinyin: húlúsī) is a free reed instrument (HS 41) in the same class as the harmonica, shruti box, and Chinese sheng.
I have been told that the hulusi is the most popular instrument in the world, since virtually every household in Southern China has one. The hulusi is also called the “cucurbit flute” and the “bilangdao” (Chinese: 筚朗叨).
The hulusi is a type of double flute - it has three tubes, but one is typically decorative. The center tube is used for the main melody and one of the side tubes provides an optional drone note.
The main tube of the hulusi has seven finger holes with a finger layout like the bawu: six finger holes on the front an a thumb hole on the back. The typical finger layout is T123-123.
... which gives you a primary scale very similar to a diatonic flute except that it has one missing note. On the hulusi shown on the right, which is tuned to the key of C, the notes from bottom to top are G A B C D E G A. So, the primary intervals are root – major second - major third – fourth – fifth – major sixth – octave – major ninth. This is the diatonic scale with the major seventh missing.
However, it is traditional to use the note with the fingering of <xxxx|ooo for the root of the scale for the instrument. The fundamental note of the hulusi shown is a G, but the root of the scale (with the <xxxx|ooo fingering) is C. Using C as the root of the scale, the intervals are root – major second - major third – fifth – major sixth - major seventh – octave, which is the diatonic scale with the fourth missing.
The drone note provided by the side tube is optional: the drone note only sounds if the finger hole on the side tube is open. The drone note on the hulusi shown on the right is an E, which matches the fingering of <xxoo|ooo on the main tube.
Note that the thumb hole on the back is actually further down the flute than the top hole on the front of the flute, so the finger layout is 1T23... rather than T123...
Also note that the Background of the Khlui web site says that the typical player uses their right hand for the upper holes and the left hand for the lower holes, which is opposite from the typical Native American flute player.
It has a sound hole that is on the bottom/back of the instrument when it is held normally (vertically) by the player.
It can be made of bamboo or, in modern versions, wood.
The image at the right shows the back of an early 20th century khlui, from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (click the image for a larger view). It shows the true sound hole, a thumb hole for the upper hand, and one of the tuning holes at the bottom.
khlui lib (Thai: ขลุ่ยหลิบ) the smallest - 14½" long
khlui phiang aw (or “khlui phiang o”; Thai: ขลุ่ยเพียงออ) the middle size - 18" long (the khlui phiang o shown in the photo on the right is 16 9/16" long)
khlui u (Thai: ขลุ่ยอู้) the largest - 24" long
The khlui shares an interesting feature that are present on many Native American flutes: direction holes. Here is a description of the four direction holes near the bottom of the khlui, from the
At the lower end of the body there are four more holes made in pairs at right angles to each other, i.e., one pair is made from front to back and the other from left to right.
The pairs overlap each other slightly, the pair going from front to back being a little higher than the pair going from right to left. A cord or ribbon is put through the holes going from right to left by which the instrument may be hung up or carried by the hand. These holes are then naturally called “the holes through which a cord is put.” The other pair of holes seems to have neither a special name nor a specific function. Perhaps they are merely for decoration, to balance the other set of holes.
This is a traditional melody of the Karen (or “Kayin”; Thai: กะเหรี่ยง) people of Southeastern Myanmar (Burma) and Western Thailand. This track is also an excellent example of an ostinato with the string instrument setting up a steady repeating pattern before the melody on the khlui.
The primary material is bamboo, but the nohkan is not made of an culm of bamboo like the hocchiku or the shakuhachi. The bamboo is cut into strips, reversed so that the outside of the bamboo culm becomes the inside of the nohkan, and then the strips are glued together.
The bore of the instrument is conical - tapering down near the foot of the flute to a smaller bore than at the head end. The head end of the instrument also has a bore restriction near the head end. The unusual bore shape gives the nohkan a strong high pitch.