If there was one word that I could use to describe the Flute, it would be – Zen. The sound of the flute is widely adored and cherished for its mesmerizing and hypnotic effect.
Though often seen or heard in Indie Folk music (bands like Raghu Dixit et al.), flutes have always stayed loyal to the sphere of Classical Music in India, be it Northern Hindustani or Southern Carnatic.
Flutes are one of the oldest, easily recognizable, and widely sought-after wind instruments. Today, the finest artisans from across the country make some of the Best Flutes for Beginners in India in various shapes, materials, and sizes. It is not just an instrument today – but has transcended to a key cultural symbol.
Without further ado, here is a comprehensive discussion on some of the Best Flutes in India and how a beginner-level flutist can make the most out of them.
If you want to dive straight into the reviews, have a look at the 5 Best Bansuris for Beginners in India.
Types of Indian Flute
On the world stage, there exist different versions of the flute in almost every culture. The Europeans have their Western Transverse flute; the Japanese have the Shakuhachim, while the Chinese have Dizi.
Believe it or not, there are two types of Indian flutes.
- The one that you and I are most familiar with is the Bansuri or the Northern Hindustani Classical Flute.
- The second type is the Southern Carnatic Music Flute called Venu or the Carnatic flute.
How does the Indian Flute differ from its other counterparts?
Indian flutes are essentially made out of Bamboo. These days, you might also find them in other materials. However, the traditional form is that of a simple bamboo stick. This makes the Bansuri/Indian flute easily identifiable, affordable, and easy to handle as well as practice.
Compared to the flutes from around the world, the Indian flute (Carnatic Flute or the Bansuri) does not contain keys or buttons. This makes mastering Indian flutes slightly tougher and demanding.
The tonal variations that can be achieved on an Indian flute are endless.
Bansuri Vs. Venu: The Difference?
Holes: The Venu consists of eight holes out of which 7 are used for playing and the eighth is used for supporting the flute. The Bansuri, on the other hand, has six or seven holes. The seventh hole is optional and may or may not be used while playing.
Tonal Quality: Both flutes have distinctly different sounds. The Venu has a sweeter tonality with more highs. The Bansuri is much more mid-ranged focused and soothing.
Playing Technique: There are a number of different holding styles for both type of flutes. In general, the Bansuri is held with the index, middle and ring fingers of both hands and rests on the thumb. In contrast, the Venu rests on the index finger while the pinkie or the little finger of the other hand is positioned on the eight hole for support.
How Difficult is it to Play the Flute?
Like all acquired skills, learning how to play the flute comes with its own set of challenges and as a beginner, you would have to learn how to work your way around them.
The first challenge you would face while learning the flute is finding the right teacher. Get a teacher who makes you feel good about yourself, is encouraging, and helps you leave your practice session with a smile.
The second challenge you are likely to face is forming a proper embouchure or practicing lip curling for precise blowing. You can practice blowing into a bottle or even the cap of a pen in order to develop the right embouchure.
The third challenge is learning how to maintain the right posture while playing. Since the flute is played leaning downwards, it might stress your back, shoulders, and neck. Warming-up before playing can help you avoid wrist and finger injuries.
The last challenge is learning how to control your breath. This is done by learning certain breathing techniques that will help you sustain notes and produce a more fluid sound. You can also benefit from doing some breathing yoga, like Pranayam.
Can the Flute be Self-Taught?
Learning how to play the flute by yourself is definitely an option. You just need to make sure that you are good at self-motivation and are driven enough to ensure that you keep learning.
Plan a well-structured learning road- map and stick to it no matter what happens. You would also need to surround yourself with instructional eBooks/books, instructional videos from video sharing platforms like YouTube, etc.
Can Smokers or People with Lung Diseases like Asthma Play Flute?
The answer to the above question is Yes.
Although if you want to become a good flutist then you should quit smoking as it decreases your lung capacity and you will have to pause for breath after every bar or so. This will make things even more difficult.
People with lung diseases can also expect to face some trouble sustaining a note or playing longer runs.
However, with consistent practice and breathing exercises, these challenges can be overcome. Also, playing the flute helps exercise the lungs and increase its capacity.
How to Check Tuning and Intonation on a Bansuri?
While playing the flute, if the holes are not closed properly by the fingers, the notes may sound off-pitch. Using a Tanpura in the background can provide a reference so you may correct yourself. Tanpura is a string instrument played in the background in Classical music and is used as a tuner to check whether your vocals or your instrument are in tune with the surs.
In case you don’t have a Tanpura, you can use any free smartphone app that simulates the sound of a Tanpura.
Check your pitch corresponding to every hole. Play the notes with different intensities, and track how long you can hold a note consistently.
Can a Flute be Tuned?
As the flute’s bamboo body can contract or expand due to temperature changes in the environment, its holes might require some physical tuning. You can check the intonation of your Bansuri using a Tuner app on your smartphone.
If one or more holes of your Bansuri are out-of-tune then you would need to get it tuned. Here is a step-by-step process breakdown:
You will need a cylindrical hot iron rod (see Dremel tool) or soldering tool to rearrange the size of its holes.
- Heat up the rod and insert it in the holes that need tuning.
- Continue to slightly widen the hole on your flute with this cylindrical hot rod.
- Make sure to not expand the holes too much. Be gentle.
- Once you have widened the hole, smoothen the burnt circumference with sandpaper.
- Proceed to play and check whether your Bansuri is in tune by using the tuner app.
If it is not hitting the right tune, continue making adjustments to the hole size on your flute until the perfect tune is achieved.
Disclaimer: The process described above could easily ruin your flute if not done correctly. In case your flute is expensive and you’re afraid of causing permanent damage, you can contact a professional flute maker to tune an out-of-tune Bansuri for you.
What to Look For…
Avoid flutes that look like they have been made out of cheap wood/bamboo, as they tend to bend in the monsoons because they absorb too much moisture. They can crack or split, which will change their tone and pitch.
Look for a well finished bamboo flute that comes with a storage bag.
You can also go for PVC fiber flutes that are more durable and long-lasting.
Make sure the flute is of the right size. The smaller the flute, the closer the holes will be. This will allow you to stretch easily with less stress on your fingers and wrists.
Absolute beginners can go for smaller sized flutes that are less than 21 inches.
As you scale up your practice, you should gradually move to larger, more professional-sized flutes that can be as long as 30 inches.
Scales & holes: Thinner flutes or flutes with holes wide apart are said to be better for producing higher pitch sounds. Pitch is also proportionate to length – higher pitch/frequency, lower length.
Traditionally manufactured with 6 holes, an ideal flute should also have a 7th hole for achieving Tivra ma and bending your other notes.
Which Scale Flute is Best for Beginners?
As far as different scales of Bansuri are concerned, the C Medium scale is considered ideal for beginners because the notes are neither too high nor too low.
Therefore, the amount of air required for playing is manageable for beginners. However, flutes of all scales have their advantages and disadvantages.
Lip plates: Nowadays, modern Bansuris have a lip plate, a plastic plating on the blow hole, that prevents the flute from soaking in moisture from your breath.
Lip plates can also help reduce the air pressure required by a flutist and make it more sensitive. Consequently, it provides more dynamic control.
There is no disadvantage in choosing any one of the Indian Flute types over the other. It is simply a matter of personal preference. However, the Bansuri being a widely popular option has better availability and variety in choice.
Below is a curated list of Best Bansuri in India.
5 Best Bansuris from the Best Flute Brands in India
|Size||21 inches (also available in 17-inch variant)|
|Material||Bamboo / Fine Reeds Luxury Thread Decor|
|Additional info||Carry bag available|
A great choice for beginners of any age, young kids, or adolescents, this 21-inch Bansuri from HISCIN is a premium quality Flute available at a super affordable price tag. The manufacturers have used the reeds luxury thread for the décor of this bamboo flute.
Playing the flute becomes a lot simpler when you are able to hold it easily. With an overall length of 21-inches, the spacing between the holes is just right for beginners.
Children and people with smaller hands can also consider the 17-inch variant of this flute. However, if you have a larger than average hand size, things could get a little congested.
What makes this flute special is that the artisans at HISCIN have carefully handcrafted this product giving it an appealing look. These flutes are manufactured in Assam.
|Material||PVC Fibre with Bamboo finish|
|Additional info||Lip Plate increases blowing sensitivity|
This PVC F sharp Bansuri by Radhe Flutes is a reinvented version of the Indian Flute.
The makers of this flute have shifted from the traditional Bamboo design to a more modern PVC-based design.
For comfortable finger positioning, air holes have been added in a repositioned manner that makes it easier for beginners to stretch their fingers compared to other 26-inch flutes. Tuning accuracy has not been compromised to achieve this.
If you find the length of this flute to be too long, then you could go for this C Natural variant on Amazon.
The added Lip plate on the blowhole of this flute allows flutists to blow with 30% lesser blowing pressure. Greater sensitivity makes it easier for beginners to get used to the instrument.
It is made from PVC fiber which ensures protection from extreme temperature and humidity conditions, be it winters or summers. It is quite durable compared to traditional bamboo flutes.
|Additional info||Comes with a hard case|
This C Natural Bansuri by Punam Flutes is recommended for most beginners who are serious about learning the instrument. The shorter length provides ideal hole spacing. At the same time, greater airflow required for higher notes helps in building lung capacity.
This is an ideal choice for playing light folk and pop music. However, if you are specifically looking for a flute to play Classical Hindustani then you should opt for longer flutes.
The reason for this is that some ragas require notes in the lower registers that are not in range of this flute due to its limited length.
This flute has a premium build quality with a sweet and melodious tone. It is extremely durable and comes with a hard case for protection.
|Scale||G Natural Base|
|Additional info||Intermediate Frequency|
A better choice for flutists who are slightly experienced and looking to venture into the realms of Hindustani Classical. You can also play folk and orchestral music with this flute, and also use it for quality studio recordings.
G Natural Base is great for producing effortless, beautiful sounds, and high octaves.
The amount of airflow required for producing high notes is considerably less as compared to C-natural and other shorter flutes.
Beginners should proceed with buying this flute if they are used to holding a flute of this length and scale it would require a relatively larger stretching of the fingers.
|Scale||E Natural base|
|Additional info||Nylon bag with PVC pipe for protection|
If you feel some level of confidence in your flute playing skills and are ready to invest in yourself by getting a better flute, then this could be your next flute. The brand is a testimony in itself as the maker Mr. Sarfuddin is highly regarded by the flute community as a master artisan.
E Natural Base flutes are best suited for Hindustani Classical due to their heavy low-end tone.
Professionally tuned to perfection, this flute is a great choice for those who are looking to up their skill level.
However, do remember that a flute of this size will have a considerable diameter and hole spacing. This would not only make it difficult for absolute beginners to hold it but also will require a certain degree of finger stretching.
For those who are keen on learning the art of playing a flute while staying reasonable on cost, Radhe Flutes might offer a good start as they have been thoughtfully designed and aptly sized for absolute beginners.
If you are serious about learning the instrument and are looking for a quality flute, then you may consider the Punam C-Natural. This is by far one of the Best Flute/Bansuri in India. C-Natural is considered to be the best scale for starters due to its length. Also, it will help build lung capacity while playing higher notes which will benefit you in the long run.
Some Words of Advice…
Some Maintenance Tips:
Take proper care of storing your flute, especially Bamboo Bansuri, as they are susceptible to mold or fungus if kept uncared for in moist environments.
- Dry out your Bansuri with a dry cloth after every use.
- Oil your Bansuri with natural oil (Walnut oil is preferred). Only oil it once it is completely dry and has no moisture.
- Make sure you always place your flute in a basket-like a pen, in a vertical position.
- Practice gentle, rhythmic breathing to play with ease.
- Practice your lip curling, the right grip on the flute, and correct posture.
- Pay close attention to your sound and get some guidance from an experienced teacher. You cannot expect results within a fortnight.
- It takes time, courage, and patience to get things right so keep at it, and stay optimistic about it.