The transverse (or horizontal) flute common in the West was used in China as early as 900 BC. It reached Europe by 1100 AD and was used as a military fife in Germanic areas. The flute unseated the recorder as the most common orchestral flute during the late 1700s.
As the flute developed, more keys were added to improve intonation. By 1800, a four-keyed flute was most typical, followed soon by the development of the eight-keyed flute. German flute maker Theobald Boehm created the cylindrical-bore flute used today in 1847. Made of metal or wood, the Boehm flute has thirteen or more tone holes, modulated by a system of padded keys.
The flute comes in various octaves and sizes, including the piccolo (an octave higher than the standard flute), the alto flute, and the bass flute. Though used mainly in concert bands and orchestras, the flute has had a role in popular music through bands of the 1970's like Jethro Tull and War.
Based on information found on-line in the Encarta Encyclopedia.
Care and Maintenance
When assembling and disassembling the flute, hold the flute in an area without keys if possible, as the keys are delicate and easily damaged. Connect the joint head to the middle joint by twisting them gently together. Align the embouchure hole with the middle of the tone holes. Finally, carefully twist on the foot joint, making sure the rod is aligned with the center of the tone holes.
The most important step in caring for the flute is to clean the instrument with a swab by pulling it through the inside. Twist a small piece of soft cloth around the cleaning rod included in the flute case, and push it through the inside of the flute. This should be done every time you play, immediately after use. The swab is vital for removing moisture and aiding the drying of the pads, which decay if not properly dried after playing.
The silver surface of the flute can be shined with a silver-polishing cloth.
Portions of the assembly instructions were written based on information found in Standard of Excellence Comprehensive Band Method by Bruce Pearson; Neil A. Kjos Music Co., Publisher