The traditional Irish flute, also called the session flute, is a crosswind wooden flute with six holes, in key of D, that greatly resembles the baroque flutes of the 17th and 18th centuries. This instrument is chromatic and can fully match the tuning of other instruments in a group (or session). The fingering is the same as for any other D-scale, six-hole flute; the range is over two octaves. This is a popular flute for either folk or classical music, and has a very good tone which is mellower than that of the metal concert flute. These flutes are tuned by sliding the pieces together or apart at the joins; some makes have an additional tuning button at one end.
D is the most popular key in the Irish music world, and a player of Irish music should first buy an instrument in D. However, in the world at large, the most popular key is C. For this reason, many players eventually get both C and D flutes. However, the six-hole C flute is a very large instrument.
Traditionally, the Irish play flutes with no keys; however some Irish flutes are produced with keys because it is easier to get the most-used chromatic notes on them.
Care must be taken in handling of wooden flutes; they need to be kept away from sunlight and sources of heat. In the north, where homes get very dry during the winter heating season, special care needs to be taken where buildings are not humidified; the moist Irish climate where these flutes feel at home is quite different.
In modern times we are now seeing plastic Irish flutes, and these have a surprisingly good sound. They also do not crack in dry weather (but must not be left exposed to a hot sun, because they can soften if they get too hot).
Flute lengths given below are measured with the flute pieces pushed all the way together.
Some Notes On Playing Irish Flutes
We get a certain number of these flutes returned to us because of a misunderstanding about the hand/finger positions. You do not need large hands to play these flutes when you play them correctly, and you do not curl your fingers to put the tips in the holes. An Irish flute requires a finger position more like that of playing the bagpipe chanter: the fingers are kept straight and flat. The Irish give no leeway for excuses about small hands or short fingers; they just tell you to spread your fingers out more!
Many players of concert flutes also play Irish flutes: it should be noted that there may have to be some adjustment of the playing position and the embouchure in playing an Irish flute. The fingering for the Irish flute is the same as that for playing the key of D on the concert flute (Boehm system). You play the same D fingering no matter what key the Irish flute is. (Irish flutes in different keys have different lengths, but they all are played with the same fingering.)
If you have never played the flute at all, we recommend that you get some lessons to get started. Total beginners working on their own often find that they can't get any sound out of a flute; this is most likely because they are blowing across the hole, rather than aiming the stream of air at the opposite edge of the hole to split the stream of air. (Yes, those expert flute players make it look very easy, which is small consolation.)
We recommend the Timber book listed further down on this page for all new players of Irish flute, whether you have never played any flute before, or whether you are a concert flute player who is now beginning to play an Irish flute. You all need this book; you can trust us on this.
It may even be best to begin on the low whistle, which is the same size as the Irish flute, and plays in the same range, but is much easier to get sounds out of! With a whistle, you just blow. (However, the low whistle has its own problems for beginners, in that the finger/hand/arm position has to be right. This is discussed on the low whistles page.)
Tony Dixon Plastic Flutes
These Tony Dixon Irish flutes are made from polymer material; they sound surprisingly good, believe it or not. Also, they are not bothered by climatic conditions, whether wet or dry. Professionals find these flutes to be a useful addition to their collection of flutes, because they can play them under conditions where they would rather not play their expensive wooden instruments. Beginners will find that these work quite well for learning on. These flutes weigh less than wooden ones.
Both tunable and nontunable Dixon flutes are offered below. Tunable instruments allow you to adjust the pitch slightly up or down so that you are in tune with other instruments that you are playing with. Why, then, you ask, would anyone buy a nontunable instrument? For one thing, the one-piece nontunable instruments cost less. Also, if you are playing on your own, tunability doesn't matter. And, of course, you can just get your band to tune to you.
If you want a case for carrying your Tony Dixon flute, we offer some cloth cases below, as well as the long practice chanter cases, which work just as well for a flute as a practice chanter.
Our Tony Dixon flutes now arrive in a sort of square plastic tube, which can serve as a case. However, beware: if you play your instrument and then put it into a closed plastic tube, germs can multiply. Always leave the end off the plastic tube to let the instrument dry out thoroughly before closing the tube. For this reason, cloth cases work better, as they allow your instrument to dry out.
We keep all Tony Dixon items shown below in stock unless otherwise noted.
Dixon is changing over his plastic flutes from a straight body to a tapered bore. We indicate below what we have in these. Dixon assures us that these new tapered-bore bodies fit the previous flute heads.
Two-piece black plastic Irish flute
in key of D. Lightweight, tunable by moving the pieces
at the join, with embouchure plate (this is a piece that fits over the
blowhole). Some flute players like to turn the flute
head so that the
blowhole is not in line with the finger holes, because they find it easier to
reach the holes that way. 23 inches long. $63
TDF1A. Same D flute, but with new tapered bore. $77
TDF1B. Two-piece black plastic Irish flute in key of C, same style as the flute shown above. 25 3/4" long. $89. Our note: this is a very large flute. It requires stretching of your fingers to reach the holes; anyone with a smaller-than-normal hand will have difficulty playing this instrument. We offer it because there is a demand for it, but we sell it with this warning about the size!
For whistle only, see our page of low whistles.
TDF2. One-piece black plastic D Irish flute with tapered-bore body. Has embouchure plate, although this does not show well in the photo. 23 1/2 inches long. $45.
TDF3. Tapered-bore flute/whistle combo. (Not shown) This is a combination set of plastic flute and whistle. You get three pieces: a main body piece with six holes (as in TDF1 above), a flute head (as above) and a whistle head as well. The flute and whistle heads are interchangeable, which means that you get both a flute and a tenor whistle in this set. Key of D. $120
want a different combination, such as a flute head and a D and C body, you can
buy a flute plus and extra head (see separate pieces below).
For whistle only, see our page of low whistles.
Separate Pieces for Plastic Flute and Whistle
Separate pieces: Individual pieces of the above Tony Dixon instruments can be bought separately (e.g., if you bought a flute and want to add the whistle head). Over the years, Dixon has made some minor design changes, and it is possible that the current pieces may not fit or be in tune with older ones. We check with you on this if you order additional pieces for the instrument you have.
TDFH. Flute head. $41
TDWH. Whistle head. $53
TDBD. Tapered-bore low D body.
TDBC. Low C body only. $49. This is a straight body.
Tony Dixon Aluminum D Flute and Flute/Whistle Combo
TDF5. Flute with aluminum D body and black plastic head. Tunable. 23" long. $125
TDF5A. Flute/whistle combo. This consists of three pieces, the aluminum D body, a plastic flute head and a plastic whistle head. $155
For whistle only, see our page of low whistles.
Tony Dixon Alto G and F Flutes
TDF10A. Tunable (two-piece) alto
flute in key of G. All black plastic. 17" long. $44
TDF10B. Aluminum tunable alto flute in key of G. $85
TDF11. Tunable (two-piece) alto flute in key of F, high-density black plastic. 20" long. $49
Tony Dixon Flutes in Bb, A, low E and Low Eb
We now have these. Please inquire.
The Tony Dixon High D Piccolo and Piccolo/Whistle Combo (plastic)
TDF20A. Two-piece black plastic piccolo in D. Embouchure plate. $27.
piccolo/whistle duo. You get both polymer piccolo and whistle heads plus high D body. Whistle is 11 1/2"
long, piccolo slightly longer. The piccolo head has an embouchure plate. $43 set
Other pieces that match this set: whistle only, separate high C body, and separate piccolo or whistle heads. These are on the Irish Penny Whistles page.
Sale! High C Piccolos
TDF20C. Piccolo in C: We have two plastic C piccolos that we found in a drawer; they are an older style (current piccolo heads don't fit these). We are selling them at $25.
Tony Dixon Aluminum Piccolo and Piccolo/Whistle Duo
High D aluminum piccolo with black plastic head. 12 1/2" long. $60
TDF21B. High C aluminum piccolo with black plastic head. Just under 14" long. $64
TDF21C. High D aluminum whistle/piccolo duo. This three-piece set has an aluminum body, and black plastic piccolo and whistle heads. $75 We show the whistle at left; the piccolo head also comes with this set.
TDF21D. High C aluminum whistle/piccolo duo. This three-piece set has an aluminum body, and plastic piccolo and whistle heads, both of which have brass slides. $78
Tony Dixon Solid Brass Piccolo
TDF22. High D solid brass piccolo with black plastic head. 12 1/2" long. $81
Solid Polymer Irish Flute and Flute/Whistle Combo
by Tony Dixon
TDF30: The Tony Dixon solid black polymer flute. This is a fine, three-piece flute that is carved from solid blocks of black polymer. It is heavy in weight, with a conical bore, and bears no resemblance to the inexpensive plastic ones above. Cork joints. This flute has a nice, heavy feel to it; professional musicians have found this flute to be especially useful for performing under difficult weather conditions. About 23 1/2" long. Comes with a black cloth case that resembles the one shown below. New low price $210.
TDF30A. Four-piece combo: flute head, whistle head, and two-piece body. This is the same flute as the TD10 above, plus a whistle head. You get both a good flute and low whistle out of this. New low price $260.
The four-piece set comes in a cloth case like the one at left, and has four sections.
The three-piece set comes in a cloth case like the one at left; it has three sections.
TDF. Flute head only. For those who bought the solid polymer whistle but would now like the whistle head. $57
TDW. Whistle head only. For those who bought the solid polymer flute but would now like the whistle head. $57
From a customer who bought the above Tony Dixon solid polymer flute: "It surpassed my expectations. I have one of about every one of Tony's flutes, and this is the best. All of his stuff is good..."
From a band director: ...what a delightful little instrument. Nice tone, good intonation. I'm impressed with the quality...
Roosebeck (Mid-East) Rosewood Irish Flute
MIF1. Rosewood Irish flute. Key of D, four pieces (no keys), with metal slide, matte finish, cork fittings. In addition to tuning by moving the pieces together or apart, there is a tuning rod at the bottom end (for sharpening the pitch). 26 inches long. It comes in a handsome black hard box lined with black plush and satin (not red lining as shown). The rosewood in this flute is a nice quality. Made by Mid-East. This is a very decent flute for $195. Free shipping in the lower 48 states.
Roosebeck (Mid-East) Ebony Irish Flute
MIF2. Ebony wood four-piece Irish flute, key of D, silver-colored rings. The upper two sections have brass slides for additional tuning. Matte finish, cork fittings. Length is 26" when at shortest adjustment. Comes in a 16" natural rosewood box lined with plush (box lining may be a different color than that shown), that fits into the black padded bag with a shoulder strap and long side pocket (shown below). Our price is $238. Free shipping in the lower 48 states.
Books for Irish Flute
Timber: The Flute Tutor by Fintan Vallely. A self-teaching
book for beginners and learners on the wooden, simple-system six-hole flutes,
such as the Irish flute above; which have the same fingering as tin whistles.
Includes basic instruction for total beginners, tips on Irish-style
ornamentation of tunes, how to get chromatic notes, tunes to play, care of the
instrument, and history. An interesting book to read! $17
The Turoe Stone. A collection of traditional tunes composed by the renowned Galway flute player, Vincent Broderick. Includes 68 tunes, photos, and notes on Broderick. $17
Special: Buy both the Timber and Turoe Stone books for $32.
books etc. for all Irish instruments
Irish Flute Case
This case also fits Irish whistles.
FC3. This padded case will hold both a D flute and a piccolo or whistle head. We show it folded over (the piccolo or whistle head goes in the short section); a piece of velcro holds this folded part in place. When opened up completely, the whole thing is 38" long overall. $15
For other cases that fit D flutes, see our page of practice chanter cases.
Ordering information and Order form
If you do not receive a reply from us within a day or
so after sending in an order on the order form, or after emailing a question, please
contact us again, as our reply may have been thrown in your
spam bin or may have returned to us. Exceptions: weekends
or when we note on our front page that we are
closed for any reason.
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The Harp and Dragon
25 Madison St, Cortland, NY 13045 USA
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