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 G6. 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 use of the LH 2nd finger as a register hole. This creates a pressure node (or flow antinode) approximately three quarters of the way along the pipe, and thus allows G6 but not G4 or G5. It operates on the fifth minimum (we are well beyond the harmonic regime in the impedance curve). Comparing this with the G4 impedance spectrum, we see that the frequency of that minimum is little changed. See register holes in our introduction to flute acoustics. Compared with that for F6, this minimum is deep and the note is clear and readily played.


Sound spectrum of a baroque flute played using fingering for G6.

Sound Clip

You can hear G6 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.