The flute is a family of musical instruments in the woodwind group. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones.A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, flautist, flutist or, less commonly, fluter or flutenist.

Flutes are the earliest extant musical instruments, as paleolithic instruments with hand-bored holes have been found. A number of flutes dating to about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Jura region of present-day Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.

The bamboo flute is an important instrument in Indian classical music, and developed independently of the Western flute. The Hindu God Lord Krishna is traditionally considered a master of the bamboo flute. The Indian flutes are very simple compared to the Western counterparts; they are made of bamboo and are keyless.

Two main varieties of Indian flutes are currently used. The first, the Bansuri (बांसुरी), has six finger holes and one embouchure hole, and is used predominantly in the Hindustani music of Northern India. The second, the Venu or Pullanguzhal, has eight finger holes, and is played predominantly in the Carnatic music of Southern India. Presently, the eight-holed flute with cross-fingering technique is common among many Carnatic flutists. Prior to this, the South Indian flute had only seven finger holes, with the fingering standard developed by Sharaba Shastri, of the Palladam school, at the beginning of the 20th century.

The quality of the flute's sound depends somewhat on the specific bamboo used to make it, and it is generally agreed that the best bamboo grows in the Nagercoil area of South India.

Based on Bharata Natya Shastra Sarana Chatushtai, Avinash Balkrishna Patwardhan in 1998 developed a methodology to produce perfectly tuned flutes for the ten 'thatas' currently present in Indian Classical Music.