Acoustics of baroque, classical and modern flutes

baroque flute


Music Acoustics UNSW

modern B modern C classical C classical D classical flared baroque B3
D4 D#4 and Eb4 E4 F4 F#4 G4 G#4 and Ab4 A4 A#4 and Bb4 B4
C5 C#5 D5 D#5 and Eb5 E5 F5 F#5 G5 G#5 and Ab5 A5 A#5 and Bb5 B5
C6 C#6 D6 D#6 and Eb6 E6 F6 F#6 G6 no G#6 on baroque flute A6


Acoustic and Fingering Schematic
a covered tone hole or key pressed
an uncovered tone hole or key not pressed
a partly covered hole

Details in fingering legend.

Non-specialist introduction to acoustic impedance
Non-specialist introduction to flute acoustics

Impedance spectrum of a baroque flute measured at the embouchure hole using fingering for C5. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

This fingering is a cross fingering: the first hole is open (as for C#5) but the two closed holes downstream increase the end effect and lower the pitch to C5. The higher minima are not at harmonics of the fundamental, so the higher harmonics in the sound spectrum are relatively weak. This gives it a dark timbre. Although variations in timbre on adjacent notes is considered undesirable on a modern flute, designed to play in all keys, this variation is often considered desirable in classical or folk instruments, especially when playing in G major. This fingering is also used for D6, which is the third minimum (the second is unplayable), and can play a multiphonic of the two notes.


Sound spectrum of a baroque flute played using fingering for C5 with key.

Sound Clip

You can hear C5 played by Matthew Ridley.

Fingering legend
How were these results obtained?
Acoustic measurements are available for these flutes -
modern B, modern C, classical C, classical D, classical flared, baroque
Sound clips are available for modern B, classical flared and baroque
To compare flutes, it is easiest to open a separate browser window for each instrument.

Copyright © Academic Press. JSV+ Joe Wolfe, John Smith, John Tann and Neville H. Fletcher, Acoustics of baroque, classical and modern flutes
Revised to include the baroque flute 2001.