Flute Styles

The flute is a tremendously versatile instrument that we can use to create many kinds of music. Which style speaks to your heart?

The French School of Classical Playing

With its roots in the Paris Conservatoire of the late 1800s/early 1900s, here’s what we often think of as the “standard” goal for many classical flutists. Providing a beautiful example here, Juliette Hurel is a stunning player – listen to her long phrases and silky tone!

If you like this style, here are just a few names to put in your Spotify: Juliette Hurel, Alexa Still, Emmanuel Pahud, Susan Hoeppner, Carol Wincenc,

Traditional Flute (Irish, Scottish, Breton, Swedish, etc.)

These are the folks that basically shrugged when they watched the Paris Conservatory fall in love with the silver flute. It turns out the wooden flute has some real technical advantages for certain things, especially the ornaments that give these styles of music such a distinctive flair. For just one example, check out Steph Geremia’s lovely playing here:

If you like this style, here are just a few names to put in your Spotify: Sylvain Barou, Nuala Kennedy, Chris Norman, Jean-Michel Veillon, Steph Geremia, Calum Stewart.

Jazz Flute

Especially since the flute and the saxophone share such similar fingerings, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that the flute would find a place in jazz. It was Wayman Carver who began to popularize the use of flute in jazz in about the 1930s, and by the 1950s it gained a solid foothold with players like Sam Most and Herbie Mann. For a gorgeous example of this style, check out Hubert Laws’ playing here:

If you like this style, here are just a few names to put in your Spotify: Herbie Mann, Paul Horn, Sam Rivers, Charles Lloyd, Joe Farrell, Dave Valentin, Hubert Laws.

Baroque Flute (Traverso)

When the historically informed performance movement gained steam about a generation or two ago, flutists naturally started looking back at the wooden flute of Bach’s time. While many had believed this flute was somehow inferior to today’s flute, this mistaken newer-is-better idea was mostly rooted in marketing. Today there are many many flutists making beautiful music on these flutes, sometimes called traversos – to get started, check out Lisa Beznosiuk introducing the instrument here:

If you like this style, here are just a few names to put in your Spotify: Kate Clark, Stephen Preston, Rachel Brown, Barthold Kuijken, Lisa Beznosiuk, Amanda Markwick.

Rock Flute

What would California Dreamin’ have been without the flute break in the middle? (You don’t remember it? Next you’ll tell me you don’t remember the recorders in Stairway to Heaven!) The guitar might get center stage, but there’s actually a lot of flute in the history of rock. You could check out the notable solos rounded up here – but to start off, let’s pay homage to the great Ian Anderson:

If you like this style, here are just a few names to put in your Spotify: Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Chris Wood (Traffic), Ray Thomas (Moody Blues).