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Guide to Pan Flutes

Pan Flute : What is it?

Pan Flutes

The pan flute, also referred to as the syrinx, is an ancient musical instrument that consists of 10 or more pipes in increasing lengths bound together as one wind instrument. It is played vertically but blown horizontally across the open inner edges of the pipes. The air blown through the instrument creates a series of pulses that generate sound waves within the tubes.  Each pipe is tuned to a different note for producing a wide range of sound.        

The pan flute has long been a popular folk instrument. It is considered the ancestor of the harmonica and the pipe organ. 

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Types of Pan Flutes

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Kinds of Pan Flutes include the following:

Nai pan flute

  • The nai is the Romanian pan flute.
  • Its pipes are arranged in a curved array.
  • The notes can all be played by swiveling the head.
  • It can play sharps and flats by using a special technique involving jaw movements and pipe tilting.

Siku pan flute

  • The siku is a zampoña panpipe used for playing folk music in the high Andes.
  • It is also widely used in Bolivia.

Antara pan flute

  • The antara is a pan flute made of bamboo.
  • It has 13 pipes that produce 13 notes.
  • It is also commonly used in the Andes.

So pan flute

  • The so or “cho” is the Korean version of the pan flute.
  • It is the term used for non-reed instruments in the woodwind section.

P’ai Hsiao (Paixiao) pan flute

  • The p’ai hsiao was invented by the Chinese before they found out that different tones can be played in just one pipe.
  • It is made up of tubes in different lengths bound together in the form of Pandean pipes.
  • The first p'ai hsiao was made up of 10 tubes bound by a silken cord.
  • The modern p'ai hsiao how has 16 tubes arranged in an ornamented frame.

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Choosing Pan Flutes (Buying tips)

Tuner:  Look for a pan flute with a tuner such as corks and rubber stoppers for quickly tuning each pipes.  

Harmonics:  Choose a pan flute that can produce harmonics (notes with frequencies that are multiples of the fundamentals) for a wider range of sound.  

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