Chapter 1 : Introduction to flute
[ Chapter 1 : Introduction to flute ]
According the history, the flute is the most ancient form of musical instrument, that is still popularly played today. Historians suggest, instruments as old as 65,000 were found that are very similar to the flutes of modern day. With endless versions all over the world, tubular instruments with control on the pitch driven by wind, is considered a flute. Wind instruments as such are also called “aerophones”. The first form of flute have been documented in Europe. These aerophones were mostly made from different bones with drilled holes of 2-4.
Even though, different versions of these similar wind instruments and documents of its music were found all over the world throughout a very long time, it wasn’t before the renaissance of the till the flute started to become a prominent instrument. The flute started to evolve and develop as a prominent musical instrumental globally, from the 16th century.
Even though there are countless names of countless categories of flutes found all over the world, there is a generic name for flutes in every language. For instance, Bansuri in hindi, Bashi in Bangla and flute in English. The hindi term “bansuri” is also used in English, but is used specifically for the bamboo flute of the Indian Subcontinent. Bansuri gurukul’s lessons, are based on this very version of flute.
The flute of this region is called classified as a “transverse” or side blown flute. It is not confirmed on when exactly this kind of flute originated however, there are noteworthy mentions found in the most important ancient scriptures and books. Modern flutes are made in all sorts using materials ranging from metals to carbon fiber. The bansuri, is traditionally made from a special kind of bamboo that grow on mountains under heavy rainfall conditions. Besides being specially seasoned due to the extreme weather conditions, the distance between every joint occurring naturally is ideal for bansuri making.
This kind of bamboo can be found in several parts of the subcontinent, the most prized bamboo among them however can only be found at the base of the Himalayas. All instruments originated from this region were influenced by the human voice. Thus, all bansuris have a maximum range of 3 octaves that can be reached through combinations of 6-7 holes. These days, modern bansuris have also started to adapt to an 8th hole which provides further advantages in playing.
In the Indian subcontinent, vocal music was awarded the highest status. The human voice, was the most powerful music instrument from God and creating any instrument that could surpass the abilities of the voice might be an insult to the superior powers, it was believed. As a result, instruments truly originating from the subcontinent, do not have the ability to play chords and are usually limited to 2.5 to 3 octaves in range, mimicking the human voice. Almost all instruments in the region, were created to be a supporting instrument to different types of vocal music and other scenarios.
Over generations, Artistes and their instruments have evolved alongside, to become the subject of solo recitals. The Bansuri was no exception. In fact, the flute is one of the newest instruments in Indian classical music, to be recognized as a solo instrument. Pt. Pannalal Ghosh is crowned to be the pioneer leading and developing the bansuri as an instrument of North Indian classical music. Pt. Pannalal Ghosh was originally a student of Baba Allauddin khan and had prominent reflections of the “Maihar Gharana” in his playing.
Even though “gharana” is a serious topic of consideration in Indian classical, the Bansuri being a very newly accepted instrument fused itself into styles of existing gharanas, as it simply did not get enough time to build one. Stalwarts of flute such as Nittyanand Haldipur, Hariprasad Chawrasia and Pannalal Ghosh have all created their distinctive styles even though they are formally trained in Maihar.
Bansuri being one of the most popular instruments in the world, is almost surely available in any musical instrument store. A typical Bansuri if bought from India and its surroundings, will range from $1 basic, to a $400 top quality model. Even though there are potentially hundreds of bansuri makers worldwide, brands like Punam, Kanha, Sarfuddin, Harshvardan etc are popular brands who are known to create the finest bansuris in the world.
All of them sell online and ship globally. Usually, these brands will have their own signature design in the forms of special “bindings” in shiny threads of different colors on the exterior of the Bansuri. There are flute of virtually every scale and key known. The recommended scale of bansuri for beginner students are G/G#/A#, since the flutes in these scales are of a standard easy to handle size.
Bansuri gurukul’s youtube channel and facebook page have a detailed video tutorial on the topic which will surely give you further insight on the “introduction to Bansuri. We welcome readers to watch it.