That is an interesting question and one that may surprise you. There are actually two different types of flute. So, when asking the question, “How many notes can you play on a flute?”, it will depend on which flute you’re referring to. As I said, there are two types of concert flute.
The standard student concert flute in the key of C with a C-foot joint. If you have an intermediate to a professional level instrument, you will possibly have a B-foot joint. Before we take a very quick look at both, let’s just explain what the foot joint is.
The Foot Joint
There are three sections of a flute. The foot joint is the last of these sections. It is the section where the sound of the instrument actually comes from. As you can see, it is a very short section that only has a limited number of keys. The C-foot student flute has two keys, whereas the more advanced B-foot flute has three keys.
Let’s have a quick look at both types of flute…
Two Types of Flute
The C-Foot flute, as you may have already guessed, is pitched in the Key of C. It has the lowest note of middle C. The B-Foot Flute will go down to a B. This additional key allows the player a different set of options for playing the notes.
Because of the extra note and key, the B-Foot Flute is usually about one inch longer than the C-Foot. Hardly anything to worry about in terms of playability.
How Easy Is The Flute To Play?
While we are on the subject of playability, let’s consider how hard the flute is to play. Some instruments are considerably harder than others to master. The flute might look very difficult because of its unique blowing and breathing action.
Instead of blowing in through a mouthpiece like a Saxophone or Clarinet or most other brass and woodwind instruments, you blow across it. That is an alien concept when you first start learning.
There Could Be Problems At First
And that process is fraught with problems. Even the angle you hold the flute could mean you won’t even get a bad sound, let alone a good one. However, it is still only considered a medium level on the difficulty scale and certainly not as hard as the French Horn.
Some may need some assistance in the early days. However, once you have been shown by someone that knows what they are doing, your abilities will leap forward very quickly.
How Many Notes on a Flute?
So let’s talk about how many notes you can play. We have seen there are two different types of Flute. Each has a slightly different arrangement.
The C-Foot Joint Flute
The student concert flute with its C-Foot joint using a chromatic scale will play three full octaves. Or, in other words, 36 notes. This applies in ascending and descending order.
So for the C-Foot joint starter flute, the lowest note will be a middle C on the piano.
The B-Foot Joint Flute
As we have already seen. This has one extra note lower than middle C, a B. However, it can also go higher. Playing a B-Foot joint flute with a few different fingerings, you can get to the 4th octave of C. But some players go higher than that.
Advanced flutists can play pretty high and make some really squeaky noises. So, the number of notes on a B-Foot joint flute can vary but will be much more than on a C-Foot instrument.
The notes that are playable on a flute will depend on what sort of flute you are using.
- C-Foot Joint, three octaves from middle C on the piano – 36 notes.
- B-Foot Joint, up to four octaves from the B below middle C and possibly higher – 38 plus notes
If you are thinking of buying a Flute, then here are some options. The first from a good manufacturer for those on a budget is this Eastar C Flutes Closed Hole C Flute Package.
The next is this Signature Music 17 Open Hole Silver Low B Flute. Again a budget price, but still a decent, sturdy instrument with quality mechanics and good value for money.
For those who might want to spend a bit more, then you won’t find much better than this Yamaha 381 Series Intermediate Flute YFL-381H – B Foot.
Interested in the Flute or Similar Woodwinds?
We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Flute, the Best Student Flute, the Best Ocarinas, the Best Tin Whistles, the Best Melodica, the Best Blues Harmonicas, and the Best Bagpipes you can buy in 2023.
You may also enjoy our expert articles on How to Learn Flute Notes for Beginners, The Baroque Music Period, The Difference Between Brass and Woodwind Instruments, and The Romantic Period of Music for more great musical information.
How Many Notes Can You Play On A Flute – Final Thoughts
The Flute is a great instrument, and if you are considering learning, it gives you a wide range of genres in which to use it. From classical and orchestral, to rock and pop bands, brass and woodwind bands, and Folk music. It is an instrument with a great range of options.
Until next time, let the music play.