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Musical Instruments - Flute


The flute (palwei) is a wind instrument which consists of a hollow tube played by blowing through a hole at one end. There are two kinds of Myanmar flutes, the khin palwei and the kyaw palwei. The khin palwei is the more commonly played and it has a vintage and a reed at the blowing end. The kyaw palwei has no reed. Murals at Ananda and Mingda Zedi in Bagan show the kyaw palwei being played.

Earlier flutes were made of cane, bamboo or brass, while present day flutes are made of wood or plastic. The vintage holes are made according to the diameter of the bamboo. Altogether there are 10 perforated holes: seven finger holes, a thumb-hole, the membrane hole, and the pinleku or vent hole. However with the modern day flute no longer has a membrane hole because it tends to produce a shrill sound. Flutes come in two sizes - big and small, and flutes can cover the chromatic scale.

In preparing the tube for a flute the lowest hole is perforated two-thirds of the way up the instrument. The six other holes are perforated at distances according to the diameter of the bamboo. The thumb-hole is perforated on the lower side of the flute at the point half- way between the upper sixth and seventh hole. The vent hole is perforated between the topmost ringer hole and the tube end. The membrane hole is between the vent hole and the seventh hole.

Myanmar used to have 37 kinds of musical instruments: 13 percussion, 10 brass, 8 wind and 6 melodious instruments. The flute and shawm belong to the wind group, and are played together in pot-drum troupes, dobat troupes, classical music troupes, and modern music troupes.