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 F6. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

This fingering is comparable to that for F4 except for the use of the LH middle finger key as a register hole. This creates a pressure node (or flow antinode) about three quarters of the way along the pipe, and thus allows F6 but not F4, F5, or C6. Comparing this with the F4 impedance spectrum, we see that the fourth minimum is little changed. The third is shallower and unplayable. The first minimum plays ~A#4 and the second ~A5 but, because it is a cross fingering for these notes, their timbres are darker. Combinations of these three notes may be played simultaneously as multiphonics.


Sound spectrum of a modern flute with a B foot played using fingering for F6.

Sound Clip

You can hear F6 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.