A flutist is an individual who plays the flute, a cylindrical woodwind instrument that produces sound when air is blown over an opening. A flutist may also be referred to as a flautist, flute player, or a fluter—though fluter is a fairly uncommon term. A flute player is more often referred to as a flautist in British English, but flutist is a more popular choice in American English. There is some degree of controversy as to which term is more appropriate, but both can be used interchangeably and are understood to have exactly the same meaning.
The flute is used in many different forms of music, ranging from orchestral music to jazz to marching band arrangements. Flutes have been used to produce music throughout history; they are the oldest known musical instruments and have been around for thousands of years. Flutists, then, have been producing music for thousands of years and have established a significant number of styles and traditions of flute playing. Many individuals choose to play the flute because of the massive variety of styles that make use of the flute. A flutist can find a role in almost any style of instrumental music.
Just as a flutist may play a wide variety of musical styles, a flutist may also play a wide variety flute styles; flutes can be made from many types of material and can be shaped in a variety of ways. Many modern flutists favor the western concert flute, which is typically made of metal and has many tone holes and key mechanisms to play many different notes. A smaller flute, similar to the western concert flute, is the piccolo, which plays an octave higher than the concert flute. Other cultures have developed additional types of flutes made out of different materials, such as wood or bamboo.
A flutist often begins learning to play the flute while in middle school or high school. There they learn the basics of music theory, practice, and performance. Those who wish to make a career out of playing the flute tend to apply to music programs in college. While in college, they learn at a much deeper level; they often take full classes intended to instruct them on various important aspects of music theory and performance. A flutist can find work in many types of musical groups, such as major orchestras, jazz bands, or musical theater groups.