How many notes can you play on a flute?
I get this question of how many notes a flute can play every so-often in my inbox from one of you awesome online-flute-learners.
During a student’s first few flute lessons, I like to give students a visual of what is to come. It is exciting and fun to find out there are so many notes on this beautiful instrument. I play the chromatic scale for them and use the entire range of the flute. We start low low and go way high high.
Unlike on a piano where the notes are sitting all in a row right in front of you, the notes on a flute need to be played or mapped out on staff paper if you’d like to view them in a nice neat row.
Most classical/concert flutes have the exact same number of keys. There are basically two different types of flutes (technical specs): Student Model or Intermediate/Advanced flutes.
Student model flutes have the C foot joint – which means the lowest note on the flute is a middle C on the piano. Nowadays, student flutes can also come with a B foot joint, but it hasn’t been the standard for most years. If your flute was inexpensive and does not include any real solid silver on it, you probably are playing on a student model flute.
Intermediate or Advanced (sometimes also called Professional) flutes generally always have one more key on the foot joint which allows them to play one note lower. The low B is the very lowest note this type of flute has. These flutes generally always have higher level mechanics and a higher content of real silver on them. If you’re not sure what level of instrument you have, ask me or a flute sales representative at a reputable instrument store.
How high can a flute play? Well, it ultmately depends on your skill-level. Most flutes will learn how to play up to a 4th octave C. But, there are some new funky fingerings for notes way higher than the standard C. Many advanced flutists can play some pretty high (squeaky) harmonics.
Are you ready to see the answer to the question: “How many notes can you play on a flute”?
If you have a regular (standard student classical flute) C flute with a C foot joint and you travel chromatically upward through the 3 full octaves you’ll have 36 – 37 notes.
If you have a B foot joint and learn to use a few new fingerings to go above the 4th octave C, you’ll have around 38 + notes.
Learning how to play these notes sounds easier than it is. Each note has its own personality and recipe for making sure it comes out nicely and as intended.
For example, the lowest two or three notes on the flute tend to be more difficult to learn at first. It’s all about your technique as a player and also the shape your instrument is in. If you have some leaking pads, those low notes will not speak.. at all.
The lowest note on a student model flute is the low C which is the same pitch and octave as the middle C on the piano (for reference). If your flute has an extra key on the foot joint (B-foot), then you’ll be able to play the low B without much more effort.
How often do you actually need to play the lowest notes on the flute?
How often you need to play the lowest notes on the flute will depend on what level you are studying and if you are in a band program or are studying privately (or here at Learn Flute Online).
As a general rule, band students don’t play in the lowest octave very often. The reason for this is that the sound of the flute doesn’t carry well on the stage in the lowest octaves, so it’s more rarely found in band-type sheet music.
But, if you’re a band player, you’ll definitely need your high octave skills more often than not. I’ve always been surprised at how many high C’s you can find in music written for bands. If there’s a piccolo player in the group, it’ll be best for them to take over the highest octave parts.
How many notes can you play on a flute is a fun quest to conquer though. If you’re studying with a good teacher, you’ll get there even quicker. You can make it a game and add a new set of notes each year.
I mentioned above that each note has its own personality – this is true. There are some helpful hints and tips that can make your flute-life so much easier once you know about these.
You’ll be glad to know that I teach these in the Member’s Area here at Learn Flute Online. We also learn how to make sure the notes sound clear, clean, and on tune. (kind of a big deal to a flutist!)
Regardless of how many notes you can play on the flute right now, you can have fun and play many songs, tunes, and melodies with even just a basic set of notes. Most folk tunes use the same octaves and keys, along with basic rhythms that can make your music-life fun fun.
So let’s get you going today learning how to play even more notes on the flute and enjoying the process of learning and exploring music as a fun hobby.
In the Member’s Area of Learn Flute Online there are thousands of pre-recorded video lessons just waiting for you to come and participate from the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, and on your own schedule.
I’ll take you through a sequential order of learning that makes learning music and playing flute feel easy and fun. This program is organized and available for you 24/7. You can even learn in your pajamas!
How many notes can you play on a flute? Join us and let’s find out!
20 thoughts on “How Many Notes Can You Play On A Flute?”
I like to think that I don’t have too bad a tone up to around 3rd octave E, maybe G. However the sound is pretty loud. I’ve tried getting these sounds more ‘piano’ with small hole etc, but they’re still pretty penetrating. I want to play a sort of background to guitars and vocals, with notes sounding floating and ‘etherial’ but they still dominate. I’ve heard stuff that you have played which give the sound I want but how can I do it? I can’t use a whistle as the key signature won’t let me.
Hi David, this is a good good comment. I know what you mean also. I’ve played with many bands (small and large), and there’s a lot to learn about “what to play at appropriate times”. I would love to dive into this subject further in the future (podcast possibly) and help you. One thing you can think about is that if your octave is much higher than what the other instruments are playing then you’re going to ‘stick out’. Unless you’re playing in a venue with equipment that can make sure you’re all more equal and appropriate in volume. You can also play in other keys with different whistles (if you have them). I prefer the flute if the key is wonky or has a lot of accidentals in it. I played in a professional touring Irish band for many years, and so I know exactly what you’re hoping to play along with. Fun fun! Rebecca
Is it possible to play lower than the b flat (after middle c)?
Nope. If you see notes that are lower than the C or B on your sheet music you should play up an octave. 🙂 ~Rebecca
My question would be , How many unique fingerings are there to play the 38 notes ? I remember from trumpet days some fingerings could play more then one note.
Just wondering how many I have to learn lol
There are ‘traditional’ fingerings, and then there are a few ‘fake’ fingerings, and a few ‘creative’ fingerings. I teach the traditional fingerings only for the first couple of years of a flutists life. We get a little more creative later on. Yes, it’s true that one fingering can potentially make more than one pitch. We also have overtones and undertones like a trumpet. It’s pretty cool! ~Rebecca
Hi, Rebecca! My brother is playing the flute but is struggling. How can I help him? -D.T.
Hey Daniel, thanks for the message. I think we should help your brother. Can you get him to sign up for the Gold Level? https://learnfluteonline.com/gold-lessons/
I want to qualify my first question. I would like to play songs like Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” and Kenny G’s “The One You Love”. I want to ensure that say a student flute would have the notes that I need.
Also, which is advisable, an open or closed hole flute?
Hi Rorry, thanks for the question. I really like those songs too. I’m glad you want to learn to play the flute so you can play the style you love so much. Yes, I teach the skills and notes you need to play those songs. (although those songs are not specifically taught here because of copyright laws). You will be taught the abilities you need to sound smooth and beautiful. Also, you can play either a closed hole flute or an open hole. Both will do what you want. Excited for you to learn! 🙂 ~Rebecca
umm .. hi.. how many notes does a flute play all together and yes you did give the answer for it but it has a plus sign next to it so I am assuming there is more than 38 and I am doing a speech so need info.thanks Billie. xx
Hi Billie, thanks for the question here. The reason I said “+” is because there are a few more ‘notes’ you can play that are considered ‘harmonics’ or even slightly higher depending on the finger combination and how advanced your lip technique is. “Harmonics” are basically really high and squeaky notes lol. They’re not really considered ‘notes’ because they aren’t always a ‘true pitch’ depending on the player. Hope this helps! ~Rebecca
I am 70 years old and playing a Native American flute. I want to learn Western Flute. Should I get a student or intermediate flute?
so how many can the flute play
it does not tell you how many notes a flute can play?
“If you have a regular (standard student classical flute) C flute with a C foot joint and you travel chromatically upward through the 3 full octaves you’ll have 36 notes.
If you have a B foot joint and use a few new fingerings to go above the 4th octave C, you’ll have around 38 + notes.”
Hi Rebecca, how can one find out if the foot joint is a B, a C or E!!?
Hi Jonny, this is a really great question. If you are using a C silver flute (regular sized) there are two options for foot joints. You can have a C foot or a B foot. Possibly the “E” foot you are talking about is on a different flute — perhaps a Native American, Indian Bansuri, etc etc.
i have watched all of the modules and i want to see the bonus lessons, but how?
Hi Olga, you’ve done so well! I have received your other email and I’m sending them over right now. 🙂