These flutes are based on the mid-19th century English concert flutes which later became popular for Irish and Scottish traditional music and which are also being picked up in other traditional musical styles in more recent times. The flutes themselves have come to be commonly known as “Irish flutes”, a term which though historically incorrect, is understandable by the fact that their use from the late 19th century to the present time became closely associated with Irish traditional music.
The more recent interest in these instruments is due largely to their tonal qualities which are different to the modern silver flute. Played in the traditional style, they produce what is often described as a dark, reedy tone, in some respects similar to the oboe and clarinet – as compared to the modern flute with its larger, more rectangular embouchure hole and larger bore, a combination which produces a brighter, more open tone.
The original flutes are known as “simple system” flutes and since the ones I make don’t have the metal keys of the originals, they are known as “simple system, keyless flutes” – or more often just ”keyless flutes”. They are made like this because the keys are not necessary for most Irish traditional music.
Note that the fingering for these flutes is the same as for the whistles used in Irish music, so the main difference between them is how they are blown. The flutes are tenor in pitch, the same as a low D whistle – that is they sound the note D when all six toneholes are covered.