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Understanding Pan Flutes From Around the World

If you are looking for an instrument to add to your repertoire of folk instruments, then consider browsing the wide selection of pan flutes on eBay, often called panpipes. These end-blown flutes are played in many Middle Eastern and African countries where they go by a variety of different names. While most pan flutes consist of a series of pipes connected in a straight line, some have a more semicircular design.

A note regarding tuning for pan flutes

There are a variety of tunings found in pan flutes across the world. A few pan flutes have adjustments so that they can be tuned to different keys. Many of these instruments are tuned to one specific key, including the following:

  • Key of C: These flutes are often called panpipes when they are used in folk songs from Peru. Chinese pan flutes are often tuned to C as well.
  • Key of G Major: These pipes are also often played in Peruvian music along with being played in traditional Romanian music
  • Key of E Minor: These pan flutes are usually based on original models found in the Andes.
What difference does the diameter of the tubes make?

The diameter of the tubes makes a large difference in how panpipes sound. Those with a smaller diameter tend to have a windier sound with a softer main tone. They are often used in South American music. Those with larger diameters pack more of a punch on the main tone, and they are often used in Peruvian music. Pan flutes where the top note tubes have a smaller diameter sound windy.

How does the number of pipe rows affect pan flutes?

Panpipes that have more than one row of pipes have special pipes for flat and sharp notes similar to the keys on a piano. When the instrument has only one row of pipes, the player must place their lower lip over part of the note to create sharps and flats.

What are some types of pan flutes?

There are many different types of pan flutes from around the world. These include the following:

  • Siku: These musical instruments originated in the Andes where they are usually made from Songo, or shallow-walled bamboo, and this option gives very strong main tones. They are traditionally tied together with cane.
  • Paixiao: While most pan flutes have flat pipe holes, these have angled pipe holes, and they are often used in traditional Chinese music. They are usually made of bamboo with a wide strap holding from 12 to 24 pipes together.
  • Rondador: Considered the national instrument of Ecuador, these panpipes are made from cane. They can have from 10 to 50 pipes and are usually held together with wool or thread. Each main pipe is followed by a shorter pipe that is tuned a third lower with both pipes being played at the same time.
  • Xirula: Originally from the Pyrenees Mountain range, this pan flute containing only three pipes is carved of wood or made of plastic, and it sounds like birds chirping.
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