The transverse (or horizontal) flute common in the West was used in China as early as 900 BC. It reached Europe by 1100 AD and was used as a military fife in Germanic areas. The flute unseated the recorder as the most common orchestral flute during the late 1700s.
As the flute developed, more keys were added to improve intonation. By 1800, a four-keyed flute was most typical, followed soon by the development of the eight-keyed flute. German flute maker Theobald Boehm created the cylindrical-bore flute used today in 1847. Made of metal or wood, the Boehm flute has thirteen or more tone holes, modulated by a system of padded keys.
The flute comes in various octaves and sizes, including the piccolo (an octave higher than the standard flute), the alto flute, and the bass flute. Though used mainly in concert bands and orchestras, the flute has had a role in popular music through bands of the 1970’s like Jethro Tull and War.