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 C6. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

This can be considered as a complicated cross fingering. Closing LH2 alone flattens the first two minima of the C#5/6 fingering, but not enough to play C5 or C6. Closing the second hole (LH3) flattens the first minimum enough for C5, but too much for C6, because cross fingering is more effective at high frequencies. So, instead of closing LH3, the cross fingering itself is cross fingered. A fraction of the resonant wave is transmitted past LH1, and a fraction of that past LH3 into the second cross fingering. This increases the effective length beyond that of the simple cross fingering.


Sound spectrum of a baroque flute played using fingering for C6.

Sound Clip

You can hear C6 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.