This type of flute is used in many ensembles including concert bands, military bands, marching bands, orchestras, flute ensembles, and occasionally jazz bands and big bands. Other flutes in this family include the piccolo, alto flute, and the bass flute. A large repertory of works has been composed for flute.
The flute is one of the oldest and most widely used wind instruments. The precursors of the modern concert flute were keyless wooden transverse flutes similar to modern fifes. These were later modified to include between one and eight keys for chromatic notes.
The most common pitch for keyless wooden traverse flutes is "six-finger" D. Keyless traverse flutes continue to be used in folk music, particularly Irish traditional music, and historically informed performances of Baroque (and earlier) music.
Throughout the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries, transverse flutes were very uncommon in Europe, with the recorder being more prominent. The transverse flute arrived in Europe from Asia via the Byzantine Empire, where it migrated to Germany and France. These flutes became known as "German flutes" to distinguish them from others, such as the recorder. The flute became used in court music, along with the viol, and was used in secular music, although only in France and Germany. It would not spread to the rest of Europe for nearly a century. The first literary appearance of the transverse flute was made in 1285 by Adenet le Roi in a list of instruments he played. After this, a period of 70 years ensues, where there are few references to the flute.
Beginning in the 1470s, a military revival in Europe led to a revival in the flute. The Swiss army used flutes for signaling, and this helped the flute spread to all of Europe. In the late 16th century, flutes began to appear in court and theatre music (predecessors of the orchestra), and the first flute solos.