Bamboo Flutes

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The bamboo flute is one of the oldest known musical instruments in the world. Musical instruments of the woodwind family, they are made by cutting a bamboo stem between two nodes. Musical sounds are produced by the flow of air against their edges.


[edit] Why should I be aware of it?

The sound of the bamboo flute is arguably one of the sweetest in the world. Relatively easy to learn, light to carry and inexpensive, bamboo flutes are one of the best instruments to introduce to children at the onset of their musical education.

[edit] All about bamboo flutes

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The bamboo suitable to make flutes must be carefully chosen. For making Indian flutes, for instance, the flute bamboo should not have a node. This is not easy to find. In India, such bamboo species are found in Kerala and Assam.

[edit] How they are made

Flutes are made in many diverse world cultures. Most follow the same principles which are as follows --

  • Seasoning the bamboo so that the natural resins strengthen it. It is then blocked with a piece of cork or rubber stopper from one end.
  • Holes are then burned into it as drilling holes often breaks the bamboo. The proportions between bamboo length, bore, diameter of each hole and the location of stopper cork are critical for tuning it correctly. This requires extreme skill on the part of the flutemaker.
  • Some flutes are then embellished with strings for both decoration and protection.

[edit] Types

Flutes made of bamboo are found in the musical traditions of many cultures.

  • The bansuri, or Indian flute, is a side blown flute made of bamboo and generally has six or seven holes. There are two varieties of bansuri: the traverse, and the fipple. The fipple variety is usually played in folk music. It is somewhat similar to the western recorder. The transverse variety is preferred in classical music as it offers more control and flexibility.
  • China has several variants -- Chi, Koudi, Xiao, Xindi, Dongdi and Paixiao .
  • The Korean bamboo flutes are Daegeum, Dangjeok, Danso to name a few.
  • Bamboo flutes like the Quena and Siku also form an important component of the musical traditions of the Americas.
  • Other than these cultures, variants of bamboo flutes are found in Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Polynesia, Ghana, Indonesia and Vietnam.

[edit] The bamboo flute and culture

The flute is one of the three original forms of rendering Indian Classical music according to ancient scriptures - Vaani (Vocal), Veena (String) and Venu (Flute).

According to Hindu mythology, the flute is the instrument of Lord Krishna and is thus very popular for playing folk music. It has always been known as the instrument of the shepherds and has been widely used in folk music. The status of the bansuri as a concert instrument was established much recently, solely by the efforts of a legendary Indian musician by the name of Pt Pannalal Ghosh.

In China, bamboo flutes have many symbolic and religious meanings associated with them. They were traditionally used to communicate peace and glad tidings and hence, this is what their sound is associated with.

In Feng Shui, a bamboo flute symbolically lifts house ch'i (energy), section by section through its hollow, segmented interior. If two flutes with red ribbons tied around them are hung on an exposed beam, it is believed that they can moderate the oppressive effect of the beam on the energy of the house.

[edit] What can I do about it?

  • Learn to play the flute (see additional information below)
  • Learn to appreciate flute music (see additional information below)

[edit] Did you know?

  • The earliest extant flute is the Chi -- discovered in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng at the Suizhou site, Hubei province, China. It dates from 433 BC, of the later Zhou Dynasty.

[edit] View it!

  • Raga Shivranjani on Bansuri or the Indian Bamboo Flute
  • Handmade Wooden/ Bamboo Flute Demonstration
  • How a flute is made

[edit] Additional Information

  • To locating flute instructors in the US, see Learning to play the Flute and Take Lessons
  • See a woodwind fingering guide here -- Online fingering guide
  • Learn to play the flute under the tutelage of Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia

[edit] References

  • To buy and sell flutes
  • Learn about flutes from Eric the flutemaker
  • Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia's website