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Flutes are a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments and are played by blowing into the mouthpiece.  Unlike the majority of woodwind instruments such as clarinets or bassoons, a flute does not include a reed in the mouthpiece section. Instead a flute player blows across the hole to generate noise from the instrument, whilst placing their fingers over the various holes to change the pitch of he note played. 

Another member of the flute family are piccolos, which are played in a similar fashion but are tuned an octave higher than a flute. Some flutes may have a curved head, but these are played in the exact same way. The curved head normally serves to make playing easier for the flautist, but it's construction can also be considered to have unique tonal characteristics.  Marching flutes are also available for use in marching bands. These flutes have less holes and thus a shortened range, making them ideal for a marching band context.