The Irish flute has two different variations which are prevalent in Ireland: the simple-system flute and the Boehm-system flute.
Irish people are pretty divided on their preferences with regard to the flute to be used or played for various occasions. By default, most Irish prefer the simple-system flute, especially a wooden flute type. However, recently, others have developed a liking for flutes of Boehm-system type, which is somehow reminiscent of a contemporary metal flute.
There is a need to delineate the major differences between the two types and appreciate the advantages of each.
While they are dominantly metal in material, Boehm-system flutes may also be of a wooden type. They present a typically complicated key system with their distinct cylindrical holes. During the mid-19th century, Theobald Boehm, a German flutist and instrument maker, was the proponent of this flute type. According to him, this relatively innovative flute type has a refined tune and a louder pitch, particularly when played at the 3rd octave. With these features, Boehm-system flutes are applicable in orchestras or other musical ensembles with a classical and refined theme. Such was the popularity of this flute type at that time that orchestra conductors highly recommend it for most flute players. Its relatively more complicated features are attributed to its intricate playing techniques. With its intricacy, traditional music pieces of Ireland seldom appreciate it. A flutist may also be challenged in channeling his creativity through this instrument since the latter’s cylindrical bores may find it hard for him to do a transition between notes.
Way before Boehm proposed his contemporary type of flute, the simple-system one was already prevalent in Irish music. The main physical difference between the two is that the simple-system one has conical bores instead of cylinders. This flute is generally a wooden type, usually coming from timber such as rosewood, ebony, cocus, grenadilla, and boxwood. It normally has six bores, but its keys may vary, with a maximum of 13. For a traditional Irish music, a flute may be played without using any keys; in all other ensemble, around 6-8 keys are employed. A simple-system flute with 6 keys is comparable to that of a tin whistle, especially in the finger techniques.
A flute of this type has a pitch that most resembles that of a concert. A concert pitch is made by having 6 six of your fingers down the holes to produce a somewhat whistle sound. This is why simple-system flutes are usually also referred to as D flutes or concert flutes, although they may also be termed as a C-sharp or C-flute depending on the use of keys.
Indeed, flutes are available depending on their keys that you need. While the D flute is common, C, B, Bb, A, G, F, and Eb are also available. The latter types are contemporary ones which may be used to portray a certain song, tune, or feel. They also vary in size. In contrast to the common D, a Bb flute is larger and longer. All flutes may also come in smaller counterparts. A smaller version of the D flute is typically known as a piccolo, while a smaller Bb flute is called a fife.
The Internet is a rich source for manuals and tips on how to select and use the right kind of simple-system flute. Such manuals and tips also contain instructions on the appropriate keys and tuning depending on the applicable factors.