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 C5 and 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, and thus allows D6 but not G4 or G5. 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.


Sound spectrum of a classical flute with a flared foot played using fingering for D6.

Sound Clip

You can hear D6 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.