Pipes are the most widespread traditional instruments in Romania with seventeen different types. Many of these designs of pipe are common throughout the Balkans, with Romania having the greatest variety. Instruments are made by the players and by peasant makers. The wandering “Vlach” shepherds are known to have sold pipes across Hungary.
The pipes could be sub-divided to some extent by their design. Some pipes are known as “end blown flutes” where the air stream is directed at the sharp rim of the upper end of the pipe; others have a simple block in the top with a hole cut just below (similar to an upside-down “recorder”). As similar pipes can be found in both end blown and block flutes it is likely this is more regional and historical. Here, the various types of pipes are categorised by construction similarities, not including the blowing technique. The major types have separate pages, and the others are summarised later on this page.
The older style of playing uses a guttural singing into the pipe to increase the strength of the sound. This is combined with sharp dynamics and tonguing, to provide a strong rhythm for dancing. Older players play sections of melodic phrases, apparently not to a continuous rhythm, but which are perfectly danceable. Nowadays the preferred sound is a clear melody with clean tonguing of the notes.
The most common are the many variations of the six holed fluier pipe and the five holed caval pipe. With the exception of the nai, the various pipes are generally played by Romanians and are not part of the gypsy taraf.
A Tilincă is a 60 to 80 cm long metal or wooden tube, open at each end, without finger holes. This is an end blown flute which is held at a slant to the mouth and produces some 20 harmonics by either opening or closing the end of the tube with the forefinger. Despite its simplicity, it is used to play music from the slow doina to fast dances. It is found only in north Transylvania and Bucovina (both the Romanian and Ukrainian parts).
The only recordings of professional musicians from Bucovina playing the tilincă are Mihai Lăcătuşu, Silvestru Lungoci, and Constantin Sofian. Pipe players elsewhere in Romania have also learnt the instrument.
Block flute and transverse flute versions of the tilincă can be seen being played in folk groups outside its native region. This type is seen in some Hungarian bands playing csango music of Moldavia.
A similar instrument known as the seljfløote used to be made by young boys in some areas of Norway.
A short end blown pipe found in Oltenia. It has a closed tube producing only one note and is used mostly by women with a vocal melody.
Although folk instruments can be found around the world, the Romanian instrument is based on a terracotta invention dating from the late 19th century in Italy. These were adopted by Romanian instrumentalists and were made in Romania after the first world war. Most multi-instrumentalist pipes players play a number of tunes on the ocarina.
Flaute and piculine
In the region around the river Olt transverse flutes are played. These are similar to the flute or fife; seven holes for the larger flaute and six holes for the smaller piculine.