A fife is a musical instrument that looks like a very small flute. Fifes are usually made of wood, rather than metal, and are common in military marching bands.
A fife is much more high-pitched than a flute—it's also louder and more shrill sounding. It was a popular instrument in some of the folk music in medieval Europe, and especially during the Colonial period in America, when it was played more than violins or pianos. Because it's so portable and relatively loud for its size, the fife became widely used in military and marching bands starting during the Renaissance period.