Category Archives: Flutes



Name: Sao.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: Vietnam.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The Sáo also called [sáo trúc or “sow trook” pronounced, in IPA: ʂǎːw ʈʂǔkp] it is a small flute that is found in Vietnam. It is thought to contain the culture and spirit of Vietnam’s countryside.

The sáo is usually performed solo or in an ensemble among other instruments in orchestras of Vietnamese popular opera Chèo, Van singing genre, and Royal Small Orchestra

Playing Techniques: When played, the flutist holds the sáo transversely to the right side with his or her mouth placed at the blowing hole.

Construction: More frequently sáo are made from a single piece of bamboo, the sáo measures between 40 cm and 55 cm in length and 1.5 cm to 2 cm in diameter, with six or ten finger holes and a tuning slide. Located inside the bamboo tube, near the blowing hole. A soft piece of wood, that serves as a fine tuner, for use when necessary.

The first hole after the blowing hole is 12 cm away from the blow hole, while the other holes continue at a distance of 1 cm apart. Pitch holes are often drilled into the sao for tuning. They allow for very complex techniques in playing the instrument, such as increasing or decreasing the breath to achieve differing tonal qualities of the pitch being played.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:


Name: Nokhan.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: Japan.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The Nohkan [in Japanese 能管] is a high pitched, Japanese bamboo transverse flute or fue [笛]. It is commonly used in traditional Imperial Noh and Kabuki theatre. The nohkan flute was created by Kan’ami and his son Zeami in the 15th century, during the time when the two were transforming the Noh theatre forms Dengaku and Sarugaku.

Construction: The nohkan or fue’ [flute] is made of split and tapered strips of smoked bamboo [susudake] or burned bamboo [yakidake], glued together to form a tapering conical bore. The smoking carbonizes the bamboo and preserves it. The split strips of bamboo are reversed to place the hard bamboo surface on the inside for improved acoustics.

Some modern versions of nohkan use an interior coating of tempera paint for this. The strips are then glued together, bound with thin strips of twisted cherry bark [kabamaki] and lacquered to make the conical tube. The result is a keyless tube of 39.1 cm with an average bore width of 1.7 cm and there are 7 finger holes.

Citations: Bibliography: Ethnomusicology, Vol. 9, No. 3 Sep. 1965, pp. 221–239 ;


Name: Kagurabue.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: Japan.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The kagurabue [神楽笛] or yamatobue [和笛] is a six or seven-hole transverse flute used to support Japanese kagura performance. Kagura flute is an Japanese instrument together with Wako [Wakon] in ancient times. it is used only in Suite of Kagura Song [Kagura Uta] in Gagaku.

Although the flute naming the name Kagura flute exists in various forms throughout the country, the Kagura flute to be used in Gagaku is distinctive and is different from the one used in rural festival music and the like.

Characteristics: The range is two octaves, but it is twice lower than the dragon whistle. In addition, even with the same fingering fingers, it is possible to make a sound different by one octave due to the difference in breath. The lower range is called “sum” [fukura] and the upper range is called “responsibility” [semi].

Construction: The total length is about 45 cm, the inside diameter is about 1, 8 cm, there are 6 finger holes.

Citations: Bibliography: Malm, William P 1959. Japanese music and musical instruments [1st ed.]. p, 54. C.E. Tuttle Co, Tokyo ; Rutland ; Dr. David Petersen, March 2007 [google books] ; An Invitation to Kagura: Hidden Gem of the Traditional Japanese Performing Arts pp. 271 pp. [Kagurabue article] originally in Japanese translated by google translate ;


Name: Dizi.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Bayin: 竹 Bamboo.
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch @

Description: The dizi [in Chinese: 笛子 in pinyin: dízi, pronounced approximately “titseu”], also called Zhudi [竹笛]. It is a traditional musical instrument of the Han Chinese, it is a flute made of bamboo. Being a major Chinese musical instrument it is found in many genres of Chinese folk music, Chinese opera and modern Chinese orchestra. Traditionally, the dizi has also been popular among the Chinese common people, and it is simple to make and easy to carry.

Features: Traditionally dizi is made by using a single piece of bamboo. While simple and straightforward, it is also impossible to change the fundamental tuning once the bamboo is cut, which made it a problem when it was played with other instruments in a modern Chinese orchestra.

In the 1920s musician Zheng Jinwen [鄭覲文, 1872-1935] resolved this issue by inserting a copper joint to connect two pieces of shorter bamboo. This method allows the length of the bamboo to be modified for minute adjustment to its fundamental pitch.

The dizi has a unique feature among flutes being a membrane covering a whole with the inner membrane of a common reed, called “di-mo” [笛膜]. This material can be acquired from the common reed, or purchased in a Chinese music store. Gum or Garlic juice is used to apply as an adhesive to hold the di-mo in place. The dizi is a relatively easy instrument to learn at first, but the standard for good dizi playing is quite high.

Professional dizi players from China are stunning in their virtuosity. Traditional dizi the finger-holes are spaced approximately equidistant, which produces a temperament of mixed whole-tone and three-quarter-tone intervals. Zheng also repositioned the figure-holes to change the notes produced.

During the middle of the 20th century dizi makers further changed the finger hole placements to allow for playing in equal temperament, as demanded by new musical developments and compositions, although the traditional dizi continue to be used for purposes such as kunqu accompaniment.

Varieties: The bangdi is one the smaller sized dizi’s available, whose rapid bird-song playing is familiar to Northern China. During the 20th Century, a third category appeared having a 7th finger hole. Formerly concentrated in the city of Suzhou.

The bangdi pitched in the same range as western piccolo and qudi pitched a fourth or fifth lower than the bangdi are the most predominant, other dizi include the xiaodi / gaoyindi pitched a fourth of fifth higher than the bangdi, the dadi / diyindi (pitched a fourth or fifth lower than qudi) and the deidi / diyindadi (pitched an octave lower than qudi).

In the 1930s, an 11-hole fully chromatic version of the dizi was created, pitched in the same range as the western flute. However, the modified dizi’s extra tone holes prevent the effective use of the membrane, so this instrument lacks the inherent timbre of the traditional dizi family.

Manufacturing: The success of this relatively inexpensive instrument is so great today, that the demand for raw material has made the bamboos old enough to build high-end flutes. Many of the major instrument makers, such as the famous Zhou Linsheng, continue to use yellow or white bamboo at an ever higher cost, and reserve their instruments for collectors and maestros scholarships. Others have turned to the use of bamboo less rare, harder to work, but no less interesting acoustically, especially from the regions of Hunan and Hubei.

Citations: Bibliography: Malcolm Tattersall Feb 2007 “Does It Matter What It’s Made Of?” ; Brookhaven National Laboratory September 22, 1999 ; “Brookhaven Lab Expert Helps Date Flute Thought to be Oldest Playable Musical Instrument” Tedesco, Laura Anne October 2000 ; “Jiahu ca. 7000–5700 B.C.”. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Metropolitan Museum of Art ; “di musical instrument” Encyclopaedia Britannica ; Howard L. Goodman (2010). Xun Xu and the politics of precision in third-century AD China. Brill Publishers. p. 226. ISBN 90-04-18337-X ; Frederick Lau 20088 Kai-wing Chow ed. Beyond the May Fourth Paradigm: In Search of Chinese Modernity. Lexington Books. pp. 212–215. ISBN 978-0739111222 ; 陳正生 Chen Zhengsheng 22 October 2001 ; 談談民族管樂器聽覺訓練在演奏中的作用 Talking about the Role of National Wind Instrument Auditory Training in Performance [in Chinese] ; Frederick Lau 2008 Music in China. Oxford University Press. pp. 43–45. ISBN 978-0-19-530124-3


Name: Daegeum.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: Korea.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The daegeum [in Hangul 대금 in Hanja 大笒] is is a large transverse flute having a membrane that resonates when played. Smaller flutes in the same family include the junggeum [in hangul: 중금; hanja: 中笒] and sogeum [in hangul: 소금; hanja: 小笒], neither of which today have a buzzing membrane.

The three together are known as samjuk [in hangul: 삼죽; hanja: 三竹; literally “three bamboo”] or as the three primary flutes of the Silla period. The solo performance called daegeum sanjo was pronounced an Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Korea by the Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea in 1971.

History: According to Korean folklore, the daegeum is said to have been invented when King Sinmun of Silla was informed by Park Suk Jung, his caretaker of the ocean [海官] in 618 that a small island was floating toward a Buddhist temple in the East Sea. The king ordered his caretaker of the sun to test whether this was good luck.

The caretaker replied that a dead king who turned into a sea dragon, and two great warriors are giving a gift to protect Silla, and if the king would visit the sea, he would receive a priceless gift. The king soon sent a person to look for the gift.

Legend Of Origin: The person replied that a bamboo tree on the top of the island becomes two in the morning and one in the night. On the next day, the world shook and it rained and wind blew, and the world was thrown into darkness for a week.

When the king went to the island himself, a dragon appeared and told him that if the bamboo on the top of the island was cut down, made into a flute, and blown, the country would be peaceful. The king cut down the tree, and the flute made from the bamboo was called Man Pa Sik Juk [萬波息笛].

Use: As a solo instrument it is loved for Chongsong Chajun Hanip and also plays Suyonjang Chigok and Chungyongsan from Yongsan Hoesang. It is also central to many shaman ensembles and has its own Daegeum Sanjo style. In court ensembles it featured in Yongsan Hoesang, Yomillak and Nagyangchun.

As an accompaniment instrument it is essential for Kagok and Shijo. Today, Daegeum is considered to produce comparatively fixed pitches. Tuned in Bb [B flat] a tone produced when the top five finger holes are covered. the daegeum is used as the main tuning instrument for ensembles.

Construction: The daegeum are normally made from a length of yellow bamboo with prominent nodes. Typically, ducts rung along either side of the tube between nodes. The upper end of the instrument is sealed with wax at the first node and the lower end is open. Court instruments are about 80 cm in length and have a large blowing hole and six finger holes.

Instruments used by rural musicians in shamanistic ceremonies and for Sanjo tend to be some 10 cm to 20cm shorter and have an even larger blowing hole that enables greater vibrato and pitch shading to be produced. Folk musicians rarely use the lowest finger hole and may even avoid the bottom two holes.

The former applies in Kin Yombul; the latter in accompaniments to some mask dramas. Between two and five additional small holes near the base serve as decoration and define the sounding length of the tube. Akhak Kwebom [1493] indicates that the correct number of such holes is five. Traditionally bands of whale tendons, but now bands of nylon or silk thread, are wrapped around the body to add strength and more decoration.

The characteristic sound of Daegeum owes much to the presence of a thin tissue-like membrane taken from the inside of a piece of bamboo or made from a reed. This membrane is fixed with oxhide glue over a further oval hole above the finger holes and a metal plate laced to the instrument with leather thongs protects it. As the plate is slid away from the membrane so sympathetic vibration increases.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Korean Culture & Arts Foundation [retrieved from archived website]


Name: Bansuri.
Type: Aerophones > Flutes > Transverse.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The bansuri is a side blown flute from South Asia found in many parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It is one of the most common instruments in the North Indian or Hindustani classical music.

A similar flute is called venu is played in South Indian or Carnatic classical tradition. It is referred to as nadi or tunava in the Rigveda and other Vedic texts of Hinduism. Its importance and operation is discussed in the Sanskrit text Natya Shastra.

Etymology: The word bansuri originates in the bans [बाँस] [bamboo] + sur [सुर] [melody]. A phonetically similar same for the same instrument, in early medieval texts, is the Sanskrit word vamsi which is derived from root vamsa [Sanskrit: [वंश] meaning bamboo. A flute player in these medieval texts is called vamsika.

Other regional names of bansuri-style, six to eight play holes, bamboo flutes in India include bansi, eloo, kulal, kulalu, kukhl, lingbufeniam, murali [Rajasthan], murli, nadi, nar [Rajasthan], pawa, pullankuzhal, pillana grovi, pulangoil, vansi, vasdanda and venuvu. In central and south India, a similar flute is called nagoza or mattiyaan jodi and Buddhist stupa reliefs in central India, from about the 1st century BCE, depict the single and twinned flute designs.

In Iconography: The bansuri-like flute is depicted in ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temple paintings and reliefs, as well as is common in the iconography of the Hindu god Krishna. It is intimately linked to the love story of Krishna and Radha.

The bansuri is revered as Lord Krishna’s divine instrument and is often associated with Krishna’s Rasa lila dance. These legends sometimes use alternate names for this wind instrument, such as the murali.

However, the instrument is also common among other traditions such as Shivaism. The early medieval Indian texts also refer to it as vamshi, while in medieval Indonesian Hindu and Buddhist arts, as well as temple carvings in Java and Bali dated to be from pre-10th century period, in China this transverse flute has been called wangsi or bangsi.

Playing Techniques: The musician creates the notes while their finger pads cover the finger-hole. Circular breathing as with most aerophones played in India is required.

Construction: The bansuri is traditionally made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. Diverse materials maybe used in modern designs from bone, fibreglass and a variety of metals. The six hole instrument covers two and a half octaves of music.

The bansuri is typically between 30 centimetres [12 in] and 75 centimetres [30 in] in length, and the thickness of a human thumb. One end is closed, and few centimetres from the closed end is its blow hole. The pitch of the bansuri is defined by the length of the instrument.

Citations: Bibliography: Arthur Berriedale Keith [1995] Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 441. ISBN 978-81-208-1332-8 ; Suneera Kasliwal [2004] Classical musical instruments – Rupa. pp. 85–86. ISBN 978-81-291-0425-0 ;


Transverse flutes, or side blown flutes are those that are played on their side. Where the air stream blows directly across a horizontal plane over the the blow-hole of the flute to produce a sound. These flutes by their design are very simple to make. Hence the varieties of such flutes in this sub-category. This sub-category is quite wide and contains numerous flutes to provide an example. They include the bansuri, pfuña etc.


A duct or fipple is a constricted bevel that is carved into the mouth piece, that is common to end blown flutes, such as the tin whistle, recorder,  Catalan flabiol etc. These instruments are known as fipple or duct flutes or tubular-ducted flutes and are indicated by the code 421.2 in the Hornbostel–Sachs classification.

How the fipple / duct works: In such a construction the top [or head] of the recorder. A musician blows into the top of the recorder where the mouth piece lays. The head or top of the mouth piece which the fipple or duct is attached too. During performance the stream of air is operated by the “labium lip” producing a Bernoulli effect or siphon.

The air flowing over the voicing mouth creates a flow-controlled valve. Interaction between the air reed and the air column in the body of the instrument excites standing waves in the air column, which determines the pitch of the sound. This oscillation results in the “whistle sound” in ducted flue instruments. See wind instrument and flue pipe.

A distinct tone colour is usually determined by the dimensions of the instrument and the voicing mouth. Further more, the tone of the instrument is then slightly modified by the player’s technique or embouchure. In instruments such as the recorder, the player can vary the pitch of the resulting musical note by opening or closing finger holes along the bore of the instrument, thus changing the effective length.

The wind way consists of the wind canal or flue, the upper portion of the voicing or mouth as carved into the head joint itself, and the ducted flue wind way, as carved onto the top surface of the fipple block. The space created between the ducted flue wind-way and the labium edge is referred to as the mouth or voicing.


The flute is a musical instrument that belongs to to the aerophone category of musical instruments. Unlike wood wind instruments with reeds such as the clarinet, saxophone or oboe for example. The flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from air blown across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones. A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist.


Name: Bojita.
Type: Idiophones > Percussions > Struck.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 111.11
Country: Cuba.
Region: Caribbean, Central America.

Description: The botija [botijuela or bunga] is a Caribbean musical instrument of the aerophone type. The botija is a potbellied earthenware jug or jar with two openings and was used in the early son sextetos in Cuba as a bass instrument. The botija was used to hold kerosene brought from Spain.

Botijas were also used as a means to hide money underground. They were buried to prevent humidity from reaching the floors. Bojita were blown into producing a sound, during performance not unlike the jug as in Appalachian jug-bands. Classifying this instrument as a plosive idiophone.

Bojito in Use: Later, botijas were dug up and used as musical instruments in the late 19th century in the Caribbean island of Cuba. During the first stages of development of the Cuban Son. The music’s defining characteristic was a pulsing or anticipated bass that falls between the downbeat, leading to the creation of many bass instruments including the botija. Other instruments included a marímbula, serrucho, contrabass and bajo.

Other bass instruments were used according to the size of the musical arrangement or timbre of the bass instrument needed. The marímbula, for example, was used mainly for smaller ensembles.