Acoustics of baroque, classical and modern flutes

modern flute
C foot


Music Acoustics UNSW

modern B modern C classical C classical D classical flared baroque 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 C foot 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 thumb 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 G6 but not G4, G5, or D6. Comparing this with the G4 impedance spectrum, we see that the fourth minimum is little changed. The third is shallower and unplayable. The first minimum plays ~C5 and the second ~B5 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.

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.