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

modern flute with a B foot

  Each results page has the acoustic response of the flute for the fingering indicated with a sound spectrum and a sound clip for the note played with that fingering.

The B foot flute, as illustrated, is longer than one with a C foot. Its lowest note is B3. This longer foot joint also facilitates some high notes.

Non-standard fingerings

A4 A#4 E4 F#4 B4 C5 C#5 D5 E5 F#5 A5 A#5 B5 C#6 D#6 E6 C7 C#7 D#7 F#7

Flutists may suggest other fingerings for study.


For normal fingerings (table above) and for low notes, the frequencies of the minima are in harmonic ratios (f, 2f, 3f ...). For the note with frequency f, its harmonics are supported by these minima (giving it a bright timbre). In muliphonic fingerings, suppose two minima have approximately equal magnitudes and frequencies g and f. With suitable embouchure, it is often possible to sound the two notes with frequencies g and f simultaneously. Usually it is easier to play them softly, so the airjet-bore interaction is in a more linear part of its range. The table below gives examples.

A#4 & E5 C5, C6 & D#6

C#5 & E6

A#4, A#5 & F6 C5 & D6

D5, F5, D6 & F6

C5 & F5 C5 & D#6

D5, C6, F6 & A#6

C5 & F#5 C#5, D5, C#6 & D6

D5 & E6

C5, B5 & G6

C#5, E5, C#6 & E6 D#5, B5, D6, G6 & A#6

Flutists may suggest other multiphonics for study.

The flutes

Results are presented for these flutes:
 modern B  modern C  classical C  classical D  classical flared  baroque
A modern flute with a B foot. (Larger data set) A modern flute with a C foot. A classical flute with a C foot. A classical flute with a D foot. A classical flute with a flared foot. (Larger data set) A baroque flute.
To compare flutes, it is easiest to open a separate browser window for each instrument.
Baroque, classical and modern flutes are described in The anatomy and evolution of the flute.
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Recent additions
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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.