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

Conventional fingering


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 D6. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

This fingering is comparable to that for G4 except for the open register hole. This creates a pressure node (or flow antinode) about two thirds of the way along the pipe (one third from the downstream end), and allows D6 but not G4 or G5. (It not only facilitates the 3rd harmonic of G4, it makes the lower harmonics difficult.) Comparing this with the G4 impedance spectrum, we see that the third minimum is little changed. The second is shallower and unplayable. The first minimum plays C5. Both C5 & D6 may be played simultaneously as a multiphonic. For more detail on register holes see the section in the introduction to flute acoustics.


Sound spectrum of a baroque flute played using fingering for D6 with key.

Sound Clip

You can hear D6 with key 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.