The Early Flute

The Early Flute

The Early Flute

The Early Flute


With the growth of interest in recent years in the use of period instruments in recordings and professional and amateur performances, the early flute has experienced a remarkable revival. This is the first book in modern times to deal exclusively with the transverse flute in the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras, following it from 1500 until the early nineteenth century. Advice is given on acquiring instruments and their care and maintenance. Additional chapters guide the reader to relevant sources about techniques and style, recommend repertoire, and give general advice to the modern player. The text is enhanced by numerous illustrations of important historic flutes.


This book is conceived primarily as a guide for modern flautists who are interested in entering the realm of early-music performance on period instruments, or for those who have already acquired a taste for early flutes and who wish to further their enquiry with some guidance. It is also written for players of other early-music instruments and directors of early-music ensembles who wish to find out more about the early flute.

It is not a tutor (which would deal extensively with basic tone production, breathing, posture, embouchure, articulation, and fingering). However, it is meant to encourage the playing of the early flute, or at least the development of a sympathetic understanding of the instrument. For those who wish to play, it is not a substitute for a good teacher. This book examines the early-music revival as it relates to the transverse flute and gives a history of the early flute, including a chapter on the Renaissance flute by Anne Smith covering that instrument in a nutshell. Additional chapters discuss how to acquire instruments, their care and maintenance, sources for learning about technique and style, and recommendations regarding repertoire and editions of flute music. A final chapter contains advice to the modern player and attempts to relate the early flute to the modern flute.

The scope of this book encompasses the Renaissance, baroque, and classical flute, but not the Romantic flute. The latter would certainly require a separate volume, so varied are its manifestations as an instrument, so numerous are the treatises which deal with it.

In the initial stages of planning this book, a decision was made to cite only material which was originally written in English or has been translated into English. (Several foreign-language sources are mentioned in Chapter 7, however.) English-language treatises are discussed only if they have been made available to the general reader in modern reprints or facsimile editions. Of course, readers are strongly encouraged to study foreign-language sources and, if they can be found, English-language treatises which have not yet been reprinted.

Terminology regarding the flute is sometimes confusing. Before proceeding further, some clarification must be made regarding common names which apply to the flute. Until the middle of the eighteenth century, the term 'flute' or 'flauto' meant recorder. To distinguish the recorder from the transverse flute, the latter was usually called 'flauto traverso', 'flûte traversière', 'traversa', or . . .

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