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 B3. Z is plotted in dB, i.e. 20 log(Z/Pa.s.m-3).

This is the lowest note on this flute. All tone holes are closed, so the flute most closely resembles a cylinder, and there is no tone-hole filtering at high frequencies. As a result, the regular series of minima (and maxima) in Z(f) extends to high frequencies. The gradual rise at high frequencies is due to the overall geometry: the chimney is in series with the parallel combination of the main part of the bore and the short section between the closed end and the embouchure. The first eight or nine minima can be played (B3, B4, F#5, B5, D#6, F#6, A/6, B6, C#7), but usually flute players only play the first, for which the higher minima aid the production of harmonics. Details on the all-closed fingering at lowest note.


Sound spectrum of a modern flute with a B foot played using fingering for B3.

Sound Clip

You can hear B3 played by Geoffrey Collins.

B3 is not played on a flute with a C foot.

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.