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Flute Sizes

Since the Middle Ages, flutes have been built in different sizes, from quite small to as large as possible. During a period that lasted roughly a hundred years from the early sixteenth century, flutes were most commonly made in sets to play four-part consort music. The most usual consort consisted of three alto/tenor flutes and a bass, which was sometimes replaced by another wind or stringed instrument. In some pieces, a discant flute played the upper part.

Since the mid-18th century, large flutes have been made with keywork that extends the reach of the fingers. Since the mid-19th century, modern mechanism has allowed flutes to be made in much larger sizes than was possible with simpler keywork.

Flutes of smaller sizes, not including military flutes or fifes, seem to have been introduced in the 18th century, when the piccolo first appeared. The piccolo became popular as a solo instrument in the 19th century, and appears frequently on recordings at the beginning of the 20th century when recording technology captured its sound better than that of the flute.

Just as renaissance consort flutes came in a set, for playing four-part consort music, flute bands and flute choirs have adopted a similar idea in the 20th century for playing in parts..

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