Acoustics of baroque, classical and modern flutes

classical flute
flared foot


Music Acoustics UNSW

modern B modern C classical C classical D classical flared baroque B3
D4 E4 F4 F#4 G4 A4 B4
C5 C#5 D5 E5 F5 F#5 G5 A5 B5
C6 C#6 D6 E6 F#6 G6 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 classical flute with a flared foot measured at the embouchure hole using fingering for D4. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

With two holes open, the filtering effect of the downstream holes is clear at frequencies above about 1.5 kHz. Compare this spectrum with more regular impedance spectrum for D4 on the classical instrument with a D foot. The regular, harmonically spaced minima in the latter spectrum allow greater power in the higher harmonics, and thus a brighter tone for this note. However, D4 with this flared foot produces more regular minima, and therefore a brighter D4 note, than does D4 on a classical flute with a C foot.


Sound spectrum of a classical flute with a flared foot played using fingering for D4.

Sound Clip

You can hear D4 played by Geoffrey Collins.

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.