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A fife /ˈfaɪf/ is a small, high-pitched, transverse flute, that is similar to the piccolo, but louder and shriller due to its narrower bore. The fife originated in medieval Europe and is often used in military and marching bands. Someone who plays the fife is called a fifer. The word fife comes from the German Pfeife, or pipe, which comes from the Latin word pipare.
The fife is a simple instrument usually consisting of a tube with 6 finger holes, and diatonically tuned. Some have 10 or 11 holes for added chromatics. The fife also has an embouchure hole, across which the player blows, and a cork or plug inside the tube just above the embouchure hole. Some nineteenth-century fifes had a key pressed by the little finger of the right hand in place of a seventh finger hole.
Fifes are made mostly of wood: grenadilla, rosewood, mopane, pink ivory, cocobolo, boxwood and other dense woods are superior; maple and persimmon are inferior but often used. Some Caribbean music makes use of bamboo fifes.
Military and marching fifes have metal reinforcing bands around the ends to protect them from damage. These bands are called ferrules. Fifes used in less strenuous conditions sometimes have a lathe-turned, knob-like decoration at the ends for similar reasons. Some fifes are entirely made of metal or plastic. Some modern fifes are of two-piece construction with a sliding tuning joint similar to some recorders.