Acoustics of baroque, classical and modern flutes

modern flute
B foot


Music Acoustics UNSW

modern B modern C classical C classical D classical flared baroque B3 B3
C4 C#4 D4 D#4 E4 F4 F#4 G4 G#4 A4 A#4 B4
C5 C#5 D5 D#5 E5 F5 F#5 G5 G#5 A5 A#5 B5
C6 C#6 D6 D#6 E6 F6 F#6 G6 G#6 A6 A#6 B6
C7 C#7 D7 D#7 E7 F7 F#7 multiphonics


a key depressed
a key not depressed
a part of the mechanism that is not normally touched
Details in fingering legend.

Acoustic schematic
a closed tone hole
an open tone hole

Non-specialist introduction to acoustic impedance
Non-specialist introduction to flute acoustics

Impedance spectrum of a modern flute with a B foot measured at the embouchure hole using fingering for A6. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

This fingering might be considered comparable to F4 with the RH 1st and 3rd finger keys as register holes. Comparing this with the F4 impedance spectrum, we see that the fifth minimum is little changed. The fourth is very shallow and unplayable. The first minimum plays A5, the second B5, and the third D#6. Some combinations of these notes may be played simultaneously as multiphonics. (One might also consider this fingering as that for A4 with a register hole three fourths of the way along. In this picture, it is not simple to explain why the cross fingering using RH 1st finger raises the pitch rather than lowering it.)


Sound spectrum of a modern flute with a B foot played using fingering for A6.

Sound Clip

You can hear A6 played by Geoffrey Collins.

The Virtual Boehm Flute may suggest other fingerings for this note.
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.