The Flute is one of the oldest and most popular wind instruments. Known as Murali or Venu in Sanskrit and Kuzhal in Tamil, it is one of the three instruments mentioned in ancient Indian literature. It has long been associated with Krishna, the Hindu God. It was used as an accompanying instrument for music and dance. The bamboo flute, which is the most commonly used flute in Indian classical music is the best example of a natural instrument without detachable parts and a complicated mechanism. However flutes can also be made of ivory, sandalwood, ebony, iron, silver or gold.


Construction: The flute is usually a simple cylindrical tube of uniform bore, closed at one end. Flutes vary in length from eight inches to two and a half feet. The longer flutes have a deep, bass tone whereas the shorter ones are high pitched. The Carnatic flute, which is about 14 inches long and 3/4 inches in diameter is infinitely suitable for playing all the finer nuances and ornamentations unique to the system. The closed end may be naturally so (i.e., closed by the node of the stem), or may have been artificially sealed with a cork or a stopper. At about three-quarters of an inch from the sealed end is bored the mouth-hole known as the "mukha randara". 


Besides the mouth-hole, there are eight finger-holes of uniform size in a straight line. The finger-holes are slightly smaller than the mouth-hole. The finger-hole closest to the mouth-hole is called the "tara randara", i.e., the hole which produces the highest pitch of all the holes. This is considered to be the first hole and the rest are numbered in progression.

Tuning: The flute cannot be tuned like other string instruments.

Playing technique: The flute is held horizontally, normally to the player's right, slightly inclined downward. It rests on the two thumbs. The first three fingers of the left hand and the four fingers of the right hand are used to close finger-holes 1 to 7 respectively. The eighth finger-hole is left open. Sound is produced by blowing air through the mouth-hole. Variations in pitch are caused by altering the effective length of the air column, which is the result of opening and closing the air-holes. Semi-tones and quarter-tones can be produced by partially opening or closing the finger-holes. The flute has a range of two and half octaves.

Musical Expressions