The transverse flute is one of the most recognizable types of flutes in the world, and the silver, orchestral flute is the icon most people imagine when you say the word “flute”. However, transverse wooden and bamboo “folk” flutes come in all shapes and sizes and they have their own wonderful character. Using wood allows for a wide variety of visual styles as well as the ability to bring more control and consistency to the design, when compared to a material such as bamboo.
I’ve spent many years doing a lot of intensive research and development to perfect a deceptively simple looking one-piece flute that has the performance characteristics of a much more expensive instrument (I suggest reading my blog “The Flute That Changed Everything”). It has been quite a journey and I’ve made many dozens of prototypes in my quest for the perfect one-piece transverse flute, but at last I succeeded. These flutes have a cylindrical body but the head of the flute has a parabolic taper of the type used for silver flutes. This taper in the bore increases power and projection as well as balancing the tuning of the two octaves, turning this unassuming flute into something more. NOTE: On some of the keys an optional tuning slide can be added.
UPDATE: As of June of 2020, I have released an enhanced design of the Essential Flute. This new version of the Essential Flute has been improved yet again by the addition of a choke point in the flute bore. This bore manipulation has created a delightful feel of compression in the flute, very much akin to the conical bore flutes favored by many players in the “trad” (Irish Traditional Music) world. An added bonus is that it allows for the widening of the lowest finger hole (always the weakest note on any open hole flute), bringing greater strength of tone to match the rest of the scale.
Why do I call them the Essential Flute? They are the archetype image of that instrument, and I’m speaking of the image we had of the flute before the advent of modern keyed instruments. Additionally, they embody characteristics that make them suitable for many different styles of music. They play the classic diatonic major (do-re-mi) scale which is so ubiquitous throughout the world, and they have intonation accurate enough to rival the most sophisticated conical bore instruments, all with a sweet and powerful voice. A good player will find these flutes to be something that they can explore without running up against limitations.
Transverse flutes are embouchure flutes, requiring the player to create the airstream with their lips and direct it over the tone hole to create a sound. If you are new to this kind of flute, you will need to be patient with the learning process. If you already play other embouchure flutes (Silver flute, Quena, Shakuhachi, Xiao, etc.) you will find these flutes very accessible.
The most common tuning that I use for these flutes is the diatonic major scale in the key of D which makes them an excellent choice for all types of World music, including traditional Irish music–a nice option for players who want a high performance flute without spending a lot. I also make them in the keys of Bflat, C (middle C), Eflat and F (for players with smaller hands).
NOTE: These flutes are ergonomically set up for right-handed players (meaning players who play with the foot of the flute pointing to the right). The embouchure hole is rotated six degrees toward the player, a common position chosen by most transverse flute players. Left-handed versions can be custom made upon request.
Listen to Blayne Chastain (owner of the Irish Flute Store and ITM player extraordinaire) demonstrate both the D and Eflat tunings in the sound samples below.
Blayne gives a guided video tour of the entire range of Essential Flutes!
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