1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Flute

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FLUTE, a word adapted from O. Fr. fleüte, modern flûte; from O. Fr. have come the Span. flauta, Ital. flauto and Ger. Flöte. The New English Dictionary dismisses the derivations suggested from Lat. flatuare or flavitare; ultimately the word must be referred to the root seen in “blow,” Lat. flare, Ger. blasen, &c.

1. In music “flute” is a general term applied to wood-wind instruments consisting of a pipe pierced with lateral holes and blown directly through the mouthpiece without the intervention of a reed. The flute family is classified according to the mouthpiece used to set in vibration the column of air within the tube: i.e. (1) the simple lateral mouth-hole or embouchure which necessitates holding the instrument in a transverse position; (2) the whistle or fipple mouthpiece which allows the performer to hold the instrument vertically in front of him. There is a third class of pipes included among the flutes, having no mouthpiece of any sort, in which the column of air is set in vibration by blowing obliquely across the open end of the pipe, as in the ancient Egyptian nay, and the pan-pipe or syrinx (q.v.). The transverse flute has entirely superseded the whistle flute, which has survived only in the so-called penny whistle, in the “flute-work” of the organ (q.v.), and in the French flageolet.

The Transverse Flute or German Flute (Fr. flûte traversière, flûte allemande: Ger. Flöte, Querflöte, Zwerchpfeif, Schweitzerpfeiff; Ital. flauto traverso) includes the concert flute known both as flute in C and as flute in D, the piccolo (q.v.) or octave flute, and the fife (q.v.). The modern flute consists of a tube open at one end and nominally closed at the other by means of a plug or cork stopper: virtually, however, the tube is an open one giving the consecutive harmonic series of the open pipe or of a stretched string. The primitive flute was made in one piece, but the modern instrument is composed of three adjustable joints, (1) The head-joint, plugged at the upper end and containing at about one-third of the length the mouth-hole or embouchure. This embouchure, always open when the instrument is being played, converts the closed tube into an open one, in an acoustical sense. (2) The body, containing the holes and keys necessary to produce the scale which gave the flute its original designation of D flute, the head and body together, when the holes are closed, giving the fundamental note D. Before the invention of keys, this fundamental note and the notes obtained by the successive opening of the six holes produced the diatonic scale of D major. All other semitones were obtained by what is known as cross fingering (Fr. doigté fourchu; Ger. Gabelgriffe). It became usual to consider this the typical fingering nomenclature, whatever the fundamental note given out by the flute, and to indicate the tonality by the note given out when the six lateral holes are covered by the fingers. The result is that the tonality is always a tone lower than the name of the instrument indicates. Thus the D flute is really in C, the F flute is E♭, &c. (3) The foot-joint or tail-joint containing the two additional keys for C# and C which extend the compass downwards, completing the chromatic scale of C in the fundamental octave.

The compass of the modern flute is three octaves with chromatic semitones from Britannica Flute Transverse Range.png. The sound is produced by holding the flute transversely with the embouchure turned slightly outwards, the lower lip resting on the nearer edge of the embouchure, and blowing obliquely across, not into, the orifice. The flat stream of air from the lips, known as the air-reed, breaks against the sharp outer edge of the embouchure. The current of air, thus set in a flutter, produces in the stationary column of air within the tube a series of pulsations or vibrations caused by the alternate compression and rarefaction of the air and generating sounds of a pitch proportional to the length of the stationary column, which is practically somewhat longer than the length of the tube.[1] The length of this column is varied by opening the lateral finger-holes. The current or air-reed thus acts upon the air column within the flute, without passing through the tube, as a plectrum upon a string, setting it in vibration. The air column of the flute is the sound-producer, whereas in instruments with reed mouthpieces the vibrating reed is more properly the sound-producer, while the air column, acting as a resonating medium, reinforces the note of the reed by vibrating synchronously with it. If the angle[2] at which the current of air is directed against the outer edge of the embouchure be made less acute and the pressure of the breath be at the same time increased, the frequency of the alternate pulses of compression and rarefaction within the tube will be increased two, three or fourfold, forming a corresponding number of nodes and loops which results in harmonics or upper partials, respectively the octave, the twelfth, the doubje octave. By this means sounds of higher pitch are produced without actually shortening the length of the column of air by means of lateral holes. The acoustic theory of sound-production in the flute is one on which there is great diversity of opinion. The subject is too vast to be treated here, but readers who wish to pursue it may consult the works of Rockstro,[3] Helmholtz,[4] and others.[5] The effect of boring lateral holes in pipes is to shorten the vibrating length of the air column, which may be regarded as being effective only between the hole in question and the mouthpiece. In order to obtain this result the diameter of the hole should be equal to that of the bore; as long as the holes were covered by the fingers, this was obviously impossible. The holes, therefore, being smaller than the laws of acoustics demand, have to be placed proportionally nearer the mouthpiece in order to avoid deepening the pitch and deadening the tone. This principle was understood by wind-instrument makers of classic Greece (see Aulos and Clarinet), and has been explained by Chladni[6] and Gottfried Weber.[7]

The bore of the early flute with six finger-holes was invariably cylindrical throughout, but towards the end of the 17th century a modification took place, the head joint alone remaining cylindrical while the rest of the bore assumed the form of a cone having its smallest diameter at the open end of the tube. The conoidal bore greatly improved the quality of tone and the production of the higher harmonics of the third octave. Once the conical bore had been adopted, the term flute was exclusively applied to the new instruments, the smaller flutes, then cylindrical, used in the army being designated fife (q.v.). At the present day in England, France and America, the favourite mode of construction is that introduced by Theobald Boehm, and known as the “cylinder flute with the parabolic head,” of which more will be said further on. The successive opening of the holes and keys on the flute produces the chromatic scale of the first or fundamental octave. By increasing the pressure of the breath and slightly altering the position of the lips over the mouth-hole, the same fingering produces the notes of the fundamental octave in the next octave higher. The third octave of the compass is obtained by the production of the higher harmonics (Fr. sons harmoniques; Ger. Flageolettöne), of the fundamental scale, facilitated by the opening of certain of the finger-holes as “vent holes.” The quality of tone depends somewhat on the material of which the flute is made; silver and gold produce a liquid tone of exquisite delicacy suitable for solo music, cocus-wood and ebonite a rich mellow tone of considerable power suitable for orchestral music. The tone differs further in the three registers, the lowest being slightly rough, the medium sweet and elegiac, and the third bird-like and brilliant. The proportions, position and form of the stopper and of the air chamber situated between it and the embouchure are mainly influential in giving the flute its peculiar slightly hollow timbre, due to the paucity of the upper partials of which according to Helmholtz[8] only the octave and twelfth are heard. Mr Blaikley[9] states, however, that when the fundamental D is played, he can discern the seventh partial. The technical capabilities of the flute are practically unlimited to a good player who can obtain sustained notes diminuendo and crescendo, diatonic and chromatic scales and arpeggios both legato and staccato, leaps, turns, shakes, &c. By the articulation with the tongue of the syllables te-ke or ti-ke repeated quickly for groups of double notes, or of te-ke-ti for triplets, an easy effective staccato is produced, known respectively as double or triple tonguing, a device understood early in the 16th century and mentioned by Martin Agricola,[10] who gives the syllables as de for sustained notes, di-ri for shorter notes, and tel-lel-let for staccato passages in quick tempo.[11]


Britannica Flute Eight-keyed Cone Flute.png
From Captain Day's Catalogue, &c., by permission of Messrs. Eyre & Spottiswoode.
Fig. 1. — Eight-keyed Cone Flute by Richard Potter. 18th century.


Britannica Flute Boehm Cylinder Flute.png
Messers. Rudall, Carte & Co.
Fig. 2. — Boehm Cylinder Flute. Rockstro Model.


Musical instruments, such as flutes, in which a column of air is set in vibration by regular pulsations derived from a current of air directed by the lips of the executant against the side of the orifice serving as embouchure, appear to be of very ancient origin. The Hindus, Chinese and Japanese claim to have used these modes of blowing from time immemorial. The ancient Egyptians had a long pipe held obliquely and blown across the end of the pipe itself at its upper extremity; it was known as Saïb-it[12] and was frequently figured on the monuments. The same instrument, called “nay,” is still used in Mahommedan countries. The oblique aulos of the Greeks, plagiaulos,[13] was of Egyptian origin and was perhaps at first blown from the end as described above,[14] since we know that the Greeks were familiar with that method of blowing in the syrinx or pan-pipe. The instruments preserved at the British Museum[15] having lateral embouchures show, however, that they were also acquainted — probably through the Hindus — with the transverse flute, although in the case of these specimens a reed must have been inserted into the mouth-hole or no sound would have been obtained.


Britannica Flute Gandhara Party with Flute Player.png
Fig. 3. — Transverse Flute. 1st or 2nd century A.D. From the Tope at Amarābati, British Museum.


The high antiquity of a lateral embouchure in Europe is generally admitted; the flute evidently penetrated from the East at some period not yet determined. A transverse flute is seen on Indian sculptures of the Gandhara school showing Greek influence, and dating from the beginning of our era (fig. 3). But although the transverse flute was evidently known to the Greeks and Romans, it did not find the same favour as the reed instruments known as auloi. We have no evidence of the survival of the transverse flute after the fall of the Roman empire until it filtered through from Byzantine sources during the early middle ages. Instances of the flute occur on a group of caskets[16] of Italo-Byzantine work of the 9th or 10th century, while of purely Byzantine origin we find examples of flutes in Greek MSS.[17] preserved in Paris, at the British Museum and elsewhere. There is moreover in the cathedral of St Sophia at Kiev[18] an orchestra depicted on frescoes said to date from the 11th century; among the musicians is a flautist.

The first essentially western European trace of the transverse flute occurs in a German MS. of the 12th century, the celebrated Hortus deliciarum of the abbess Herrad von Landsperg.[19] Fol. 221 shows a syren playing upon the transverse flute, which Herrad explains in a legend as tibia; in the vocabulary the latter is translated swegel. In the 13th century it occurs among the miniatures of the fifty-one musicians in the beautiful MS. Las Cantigas de Santa Maria in the Escorial, Madrid.[20] Eustache Deschamps, a French poet of the 14th century, in one of his ballads, makes mention of the “flute traversaine,” and we are justified in supposing that he refers to the transverse flute. It had certainly acquired some vogue in the 15th century, being figured in an engraving in Sebastian Virdung's celebrated work[21], where it is called “Zwerchpfeiff,” and, with the drums, it already constituted the principal element of the military music. Agricola (op. cit.) alludes to it as the “Querchpfeiff” or “Schweizerpfeiff,” the latter designation dating, it is said, from the battle of Marignan (1515), when the Swiss troops used it for the first time in war.

From Agricola onwards transverse flutes formed a complete family, said to comprise the discant, the alto and tenor, and the bass — Britannica Flute Agricola Discant Pitch.png Britannica Flute Agricola Alto and Tenor Pitch.png Britannica Flute Agricola Bass Pitch.png respectively. Praetorius[22] designates the transverse flute as “Flauta traversa' Querpfeiff” and “Querflöt,” and gives the pitch of the bass in Britannica Flute Praetorius Bass Pitch.png the tenor and alto in Britannica Flute Praetorius Tenor and Alto Pitch.png and the discant in Britannica Flute Praetorius Discant Pitch.png as varieties then in use. A flute concert at that time included two discants, four altos or tenors, and two basses. The same author distinguishes between the “Traversa” and the “Schweizerpfeiff” or fife (which he also calls “Feldpfeiff,” i.e. military flute), although the construction was the same. There were two kinds of “Feldpfeiff,” in Britannica Flute Praetorius Feldpfeiff A Pitch.png and Britannica Flute Praetorius Feldpfeiff B Pitch.png respectively; they were employed exclusively with the military drum.

Mersenne's[23] account of the transverse flute, then designated “flûte d'Allemagne” or “flûte allemande” in France, and an “Air de Cour” for four flutes in his work lead us to believe that there were then in use in France the soprano flute in Britannica Flute Mersenne Soprano Pitch.png the tenor or alto flute in Britannica Flute Mersenne Tenor or Alto Pitch.png and the bass flute descending to Britannica Flute Mersenne Bass Pitch.png. The museum of the Conservatoire Royal of Brussels possesses specimens of all these varieties except the last. All of them are laterally pierced with six finger-holes; they have a cylindrical bore, and are fashioned out of a single piece of wood. Their compass consists of two octaves and a fifth. Mersenne's tablature for fingering the flute differs but little from those of Hotteterre-le-Romain[24] and Eisel[25] for the diatonic scale; he does not give the chromatic semitones and the flute had as yet no keys.

Britannica Flute Bass Flute Verona.png Britannica Flute Bass Flute Brussels.png
Fig. 4. Fig. 5.
Fig. 4. — Bass Flute. From Museo Civico, Verona (facsimile).
Fig. 5. — Bass Flute. Brussels Museum.

The largest bass flute in the Brussels museum is in Britannica Flute Brussels Bass Pitch.png at the French normal pitch A 435 double vibrations per second. It measures 0.95 m. from the centre of the blow orifice to the lower extremity of the tube. The disposition of the lateral holes is such that it is impossible to cover them with the fingers if the flute is held in the ordinary way. The instrument must be placed against the mouth in an almost vertical direction, inclining the extremity of the tube either to the right or the left. This inconvenient position makes it necessary that the instrument should be divided into two parts, enabling the player to turn the head joint that the embouchure may be most commodiously approached by the lips, which is not at all easy. The first and fourth of the six lateral holes are double in order to accommodate both right- and left-handed players, the holes not in use being stopped up with wax. The bass flute shown in fig. 4 is the facsimile of an instrument in the Museo Civico of Verona. The original, unfortunately no longer fit for use, is nevertheless sufficiently well preserved to allow of all its proportionate measurements being given. The lowest note, E♭, is obtained with a remarkable amplitude of sound, thus upsetting a very prevalent opinion that it is impossible to produce by lateral insufflation sounds which go a little lower than the ordinary limit downwards of the modern orchestral flute.[26]

The bass flute cited by Mersenne should not differ much from that of the Museo Civico at Verona. We suppose it to have been in Britannica Flute Verona Museo Civico Pitch.png and that it was furnished with an open key like that which was applied to the recorders (flûtes douces) of the same epoch, the function of the key being to augment by another note the compass of the instrument in the lower part. A bass flute in G similar to the one in fig. 5 is figured and described in Diderot and D'Alembert's encyclopaedia[27] (1751). According to Quantz,[28] it was in France and about the middle of the 17th century that the first modifications were introduced in the manufacture of the flute. The improvements at this period consisted of the abandonment of the cylindrical bore in favour of a conical one, with the base of the cone forming the head of the instrument. At the same time the flute was made of three separate pieces called head, body, and tail or foot, which were ultimately further subdivided. The body or middle joint was divided into two pieces, so that the instrument could be tuned to the different pitches then in use by a replacement with longer or shorter pieces. It was probably about 1677, when Lully introduced the German flute into the opera, that recourse was had for the first time to keys, and that the key of D# was applied to the lower part of the instrument.[29] The engraving of B. Picart, dated 1707, given in Hotteterre's book, represents the flute as having reached the stage of improvement of which we have just spoken. In 1726 Quantz,[30] finding himself in Paris, had a second key applied to the flute, placed nearly at the same height as the first, that of the Britannica Flute Quantz D Sharp.png, intended to differentiate the D# and the E♭.[31] This innovation was generally well received in Germany, but does not appear to have met with corresponding success in other countries. In France and England manufacturers adopted it but rarely; in Italy it was declared useless.[32] About the same time flutes were constructed with the lower extremity lengthened sufficiently to produce the fundamental C, and furnished with a supplementary key to produce the C#. This innovation, spoken of by Quantz[33] did not meet with a very favourable reception, and was shortly afterwards abandoned. Passing mention may be made of the drawing of a flute with a C key in the Music-Saal of J. F. B. Majer (Nuremberg, 1741), p. 45.

The tuning of the instrument to different pitches was effected by changes in the length, and notably by substituting a longer or shorter upper piece in the middle joint. So wide were the differences in the pitches then in use that seven such pieces for the upper portion of it were deemed necessary. The relative proportions between the different parts of the instrument being altered by these modifications in the length, it was conceived that the just relation could be re-established by dividing the foot into two pieces, below the key. These two pieces were adjusted by means of a tenon, and it was asserted that, in this way, the foot could be lengthened proportionately to the length of the middle joint. Flutes thus improved took the name of “flûtes à registre.” The register system was, about 1752, applied by Quantz to the head joint[34] and, the embouchure section being thus capable of elongation, it was allowable to the performer, according to the opinion of this professor, to lower the pitch of the flute a semitone, without having recourse to other lengthening pieces, and without disturbing the accuracy of intonation.

Britannica Flute Octaves.png

The upper extremity of the flute, beyond the embouchure orifice, is closed by means of a cork stopper. On the position of this cork depends, in a great measure, the accurate tuning of the flute. It is in its right place when the accompanying octaves are true. Quantz, in speaking of this accessory, mentions the use of a nut-screw to give the required position to the cork.[35] He does not name the inventor of this appliance, but, according to Tromlitz,[36] the improvement was due to Quantz himself. The invention goes back to 1726.

When the Method of Quantz appeared there were still in use, besides the orchestral flute in D, the little fourth flute in G, the low fourth flute in A, and the flûte d'amour a note higher; in France they had, moreover, the little octave flute in D (octave). A bass flute in D had also been attempted (see fig. 5). When Ribock published his Bemerkungen über die Flöte[37] the flute had already the five keys here shown. Britannica Flute Five Keys.png This author states that the inventor of these new keys is not known to him, but that either Kusder, a musical instrument-maker in London, or Johann Georg Tromlitz of Leipzig was the originator, since he has not been able to trace those keys on the flutes of any other maker. Although Tromlitz does not claim for himself the invention of the keys for F, G# and B♭, he states that “he had occupied himself for several years in applying these keys so as not to augment the difficulty of playing, but on the contrary to render the handling of them as easy as possible.”[38] In the later work published in 1800,[39] however, he seems to attribute the invention of these keys to Richard Potter of London; he says that he has never yet been fortunate enough to come across a good flute by that maker — “the flute has certainly gained by the addition of the keys for F, G# and B♭, but this is not everything, for on such a flute much must perforce be left unattempted. . . . Only a flute with eight keys according to my invention is capable of everything.” It would seem, moreover, from circumstantial evidence stated clearly and on good authority by Rockstro[40] that the keys for F, G# and B♭ must have been used first in England and made by Richard Potter before 1774. The higher key of C adopted from 1786 by Tromlitz, we believe to have been first recommended by Ribock (1782).[41] Tromlitz in Über Flöten describes at length what may be termed the first systematic effort to overcome the difficulties created by the combination of open holes and closed keys. He attempted to solve the question by determining the positions of the holes according to the exigencies of fingering instead of subordinating them to the more arbitrary theories connected with the musical scale.

In 1785 Richard Potter improved Quantz's slide applied to the head joint as well as to the register of the foot by a double system of tubes forming double sliding air-tight joints. In the document[42] describing this improvement Potter patented the idea of lining the holes with silver tubes and of adapting metal conical valves to the keys. Potter's patent conical valves were an adaptation of the contrivance first invented by J. F. Boie or Boye of Göttingen,[43] who used pewter for the plugs, and silver for lining the holes. The keys mentioned in the patent were four — D#, F, G#, A#. The idea of extending the compass of the flute downwards was taken up again about the same time by two players of the flute in London named Tacet and Florio. They devised a new disposition of the keys C and C#, and confided the execution of their invention to Potter. In Dr Arnold's New Instructions for the German Flute occurs a tablature, the engraving of which goes back to the end of the 18th century, and bears the following title, “A Complete Drawing and Concise Scale and Description of Tacet and Florio's new invented German Flute, with all the additional keys explained.” It explains the use of six keys — C, C#, D#, F, G#, A# — that are not always figured, because the employment of so many keys was at once admitted. Tromlitz himself, who, however, made flutes with nine keys — adding E♭, another F, and C♮, declared that he was not in favour of so great a complication, and that he preferred the flute with only two keys, D# and E♭, with a register foot joint and a cork nut-screw at the head joint. This instrument met all requirements. He was always much opposed to the use of the old keys for C♮ and C#, because they altered the recognised quality of tone of the instrument. When Tromlitz published his method, the family of flutes had become modified. It comprehended only the typical flute in D, the flûte d'amour a minor third lower, a “third” flute a minor third higher, and, finally, the little octave flute.

While Tromlitz was struggling in Germany with the idea of augmenting the compass of the flute downwards by employing open keys for C♮ and C#, an Italian, Giovanni Batista Orazi,[44] increased the scale of the instrument downwards by the application of five new keys, viz. B, B♭, A, A♭, and G. At the same time that he produced this invention[45] he conceived the plugging of the lateral holes by the valve keys then recently invented by Potter. But it was hardly possible to obtain a perfect plugging of seven lateral holes with the aid of as many keys, for the control of which there were only the two little fingers, and therefore this invention of Orazi proved a failure.

In 1808 the Rev. Frederick Nolan,[46] of Stratford, near London, conceived an open key, the lever of which, terminating by a ring, permitted the closing of a lateral hole at the same time the key was being acted upon. The combination in this double action is the embryo of the mechanism that a little later was to transform the system of the flute. Two years later Macgregor,[47] a musical-instrument maker in London, constructed a bass flute an octave lower than the ordinary flute. The idea was not new, as is proved by the existence of the bass flute mentioned above. The difference between the two instruments lies in the mechanism of the keys. That employed by Macgregor consisted of a double lever, a contrivance dating from before the middle of the 18th century, of which the application is seen in an oboe of large dimensions preserved in the National Museum at Munich.[48]

In 1811 Johann Nepomuk Capeller invented the extra D♮ hole and key, which is still in constant use on every flute of modern construction.[49]

Britannica Flute Three Notes Each With Grace Notes.png

About 1830 the celebrated French flautist Tulou added two more keys, those of F# and C#, and a key, called “de cadence,” to facilitate the accompanying shakes.

To increase the number of keys, to improve their system of plugging, and to extend the scale of the instrument in the lower region, — these had hitherto been the principal problems dealt with in the improvement of the flute. No maker, no inventor to whose labours we have called attention, had as yet devoted his attention to the rational division of the column of air by means of the lateral holes. In 1831 Theobald Boehm, a Bavarian, happening to be in London, was struck with the power of tone the celebrated English performer Charles Nicholson drew from his instrument. Boehm learned, and not without astonishment, that his English colleague obtained this result by giving the lateral holes a much greater diameter than was then usually admitted. About the same time Boehm made the acquaintance of an amateur player named Gordon, who had effected certain improvements; he had bored the lateral hole for the lower E, and had covered it with a key, while he had replaced the key for F with a ring. These innovations set Boehm about attempting a complete reform of the instrument.[50] He went resolutely to work, and during the year 1832 he produced the new flute which bears his name. This instrument is distinguished by a new mechanism of keys, as well as by larger holes disposed along the tube in geometrical progression.

Boehm's system had preserved the key of G# open; Coche,[51] a professor in the Paris Conservatoire, assisted by Auguste Buffet the younger, a musical-instrument maker in that city, modified Boehm's flute by closing the G# with a key, wishing thus to render the new fingering more conformable to the old. He thus added a key, facilitating the shake upon C# with D#, and brought about some other changes in the instrument of less importance.

Boehm had not, however, altered the bore of the flute, which had been conical from the end of the 17th century. In 1846, however, he made further experiments, and the results obtained were put in practice by the construction of a new instrument, of which the body was given a cylindrical bore, while the diameter of the head was modified at the embouchure, the head-joint becoming parabolic (see fig. 2). The inventor thus obtained a remarkable equality in the tones of the lower octave, a greater sonorousness, and a perfect accuracy of intonation, by establishing the more exact proportions which a column of air of cylindrical form permitted.

The priority of Boehm s invention was long contested, his detractors maintaining that the honour of having reconstructed the flute was due to Gordon. But an impartial investigation vindicates the claim of the former to the invention of the large lateral holes.[52] His greatest title to fame is the invention of the mechanism which allows the production of the eleven chromatic semitones intermediate between the fundamental note and its first harmonic by means of eleven holes so disposed that in opening them successively they shorten the column of air in exact proportional quantities.[53] Boehm (Essays, &c.) published a diagram or scheme to be adopted in determining the position of the note-holes of wind instruments for every given pitch. This diagram gives the position of the intermediate holes which he had been enabled to establish by a rule of proportion based on the law of the lengths of strings.

The Boehm flute, notwithstanding the high degree of perfection it has reached, has not secured unanimous favour; even now there are players who prefer the ordinary flute. The change of fingering required for some notes, the great delicacy and liability to derangement of the mechanism, have something to do with this. In England especially, the ordinary flute retains many partisans, thanks to the improvements introduced by a clever player, Abel Siccama, in 1845 (Patent No. 10,553). He bored the lateral holes of E and A lower, and covered them with open keys. He added some keys, and made a better disposition of the other lateral holes, of which he increased the diameter, producing thus a sonorousness almost equal to that of the Boehm flute, while yet preserving the old fingering for the notes of the first two octaves. But in spite of these improvements the old flute will not bear an impartial comparison with that of Boehm.

A flute constructed on a radically new system by Signor Carlo Tommaso Georgi and introduced in 1896 places the technique of the instrument on an entirely new and simple basis. The principal features of this flute consist in an embouchure placed at the upper extremity of the tube instead of at the side, which allows the instru- ment to be held in a perpendicular position; no tuning cork is required. There are eleven holes mathematically placed in the tube which give the semitones of the scale; there are no keys. The eleven holes are fingered by the fingers and thumbs, the C# hole being closed by the side of the left fore-finger. All the notes are obtained by means of simple fingering as far as G# of the third octave, the remaining notes of which are produced by cross-fingering. For the convenience of players with short fingers keys can be added, and the head of the Georgi flute can be used with any cylinder flute. The compass of the Georgi flute is almost the same as that of the concert flute; viz. Britannica Flute Georgi Flute Range.png If the lower C and C# are required, extra holes and keys can be added. Everything that is possible on the Boehm flute is possible on the Georgi and more, owing to the simplicity of the fingering; each finger having but one duty to perform, all trills are equally easy. The tone is the true flute tone, brilliant and sympathetic.[54]

The old English fipple flute, or flûte à bec, is described under the headings Recorder and Flageolet. (V. M.; K. S.)

2. In architecture the name “flute” is given to the vertical channels (segmental, semicircular or elliptical in horizontal section) employed on the shafts of columns in the classic styles. The flutes are separated one from the other by an “arris” in the Doric order and by a “fillet” in the Ionic and Corinthian orders. The earliest fluted columns are those in Egypt, at first with plain faces without any sinking, subsequently at Karnac (1400 B.C.) with a segmental sinking equal in depth to about one-seventh of the width of the flute. The columns flanking one of the “beehive” tombs at Mycenae have segmental flutes and are the earliest Greek examples. In two of the earliest Doric temples at Metapontum and Syracuse (temple of Apollo) the flutes are also segmental, but in later examples in order to emphasize the arris they were formed of three arcs and are known as “false ellipses,” and this applies to nearly all the fluting in Greek examples whether belonging to the Doric, Ionic or Corinthian orders. The number of flutes varies, there being 52 in the archaic temple of Diana at Ephesus and from 30 to 52 flutes in the Persian columns according to the diameter of the column. In the Greek Doric column 20 is the usual number, but there are 16 only in the temples of Sunium, Assos, Segesta and the temple of Apollo at Syracuse; 18 in one of the temples of Selinus and the temple of Diana at Syracuse, and 24 in the temple of Neptune at Paestum. The depth of the flute also varies; in the Propylaea at Athens the radius is equal to the width of the flute and the flute is segmental. In the Parthenon the radius of the central part of the flute is greater than the width, but the smaller arcs on either side accentuate better the arris. A similar accentuation is found in the Ionic and Corinthian orders, where the flutes are separated by fillets, and their section is always elliptical in Greek work, the depth of the flute, however, being always greater than in the Doric order. Thus, in the temple of Ilissus and the Ionic column in the cella of the temple at Bassae, the depth is about one-quarter of the width, in the Propylaea at Priene it is about one-third, and in the Erechtheum and other examples of the Greek Ionic order it is little more than one-half. The width of the fillet also varies, being as a rule one quarter of the width of the flute; and the same applies to the Greek Corinthian order. In the Roman Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders, the flute is either segmental or semicircular, its depth being about one-third of the width in the Doric column, and in all Ionic, Corinthian and Composite columns half the width of the flute. The fillet also is much broader in Roman examples, being about one-third of the width of the flute. In Roman columns sometimes the flutes of the lower part of the shaft, about one-third of the height, are partly filled with a convex moulding, “cabling” being the usual term applied to this treatment. The French architects of the 16th and 17th centuries carried this decorative feature much farther, and in the Tuileries and the Louvre carved a series of leaves in the flutes. In a few Italian buildings, instead of the fluting of the column being vertical, it twines round the column and is known as spiral fluting; a fine example is found in the Bevilacqua palace at Verona by San Michele. Fluting is sometimes introduced into capitals, as in the tomb of Mylasa, and in friezes, as in the theatre at Cnidos, the Incantada at Salonica, and a doorway at Patara. In one of the museums at Rome is a fine sarcophagus, the sides of which are sculptured with flutes in. waved lines. The coronas of many of the Roman temples were carved with flutes. In medieval buildings, fluting was occasionally introduced in imitation of Roman work, as in the churches of central Syria and of Autun and Langres in France, but in the south of Italy and Sicily it would seem to have been brought in as a variety of treatment in the decoration of the shafts carrying the arches of cloisters, as at Monreale in Sicily and in those of St John Lateran and St Paul-outside-the-Walls at Rome. (R. P. S.)


  1. See E. F. F. Chladni, Die Akustik (Leipzig, 1802), p. 87.
  2. See Sonreck, “Über die Schwingungserregung und die Bewegung der Luftsäule in offenen und gedeckten Röhren,” Pogg. Ann., 1876, vol. 158.
  3. The Flute (London, 1890), § 90-105, pp. 34-40.
  4. Theorie der Luftschwingungen in Röhren mit offenen Enden (Berlin, 1896). Ostwald's Klassiker der exacten Wissenschaften, No. 80.
  5. V. C. Mahillon, Experimental Studies on the Resonance of Trunco-Conical and Cylindrical Air Columns, translated by F. A. Mahan (London, 1901); D. J. Blaikley, Acoustics in Relation to Wind Instruments (London, 1890); Fnedrich Zamminer, Die Musik und die musikalischen Instrumente, &c. (Giessen, 1855); idem. “Sur le mouvement vibratoire de l'air dans les tuyaux,” Comptes rendus, 1855, vol. 41, &c.
  6. Op. cit., § 73, pp. 87-88, note 1.
  7. “Akustik der Blasinstrumente,” Allgem. musikal. Zeit. (Leipzig, 1816), Bd. xviii. No. 5, p. 65 et seq. See also Ernst Euting, Zur Geschichte der Blasinstrumente im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert. Inaugural Dissertation, Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität. (Berlin, 15th of March 1899), p. 9.
  8. Lehre von der Tonempfindung (Braunschweig, 1877).
  9. See additions by D. J. B. to article “Flute” in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London, 1904).
  10. Musica instrumentalis deutsch (Wittenberg, 1528).
  11. See also L'Artusi, Delle imperfettioni della musica moderna (Venice, 1600), p. 4; Gottfried Weber in Cäcilia, Bd. ix. p. 99.
  12. See “Les Anciennes Flûtes égyptiennes,” by Victor Loret in Journal asiatique (Paris, 1889), vol. xiv. p. 133 et seq., two careful articles based on the ancient Egyptian instruments still extant. See also Lauth, “Über die agyptische Instrumente,” Sitzungs. der philos., philolog. und histor. Klasse. der Kgl. bayer. Akad. zu München (1873).
  13. See Albert A. Howard, “The Aulos or Tibia,” Harvard Studies, iv. (Boston, 1893), pp. 16-17.
  14. Representations of flutes blown as here described have been found in Europe. See Comptes rendus de la commission imperiale archéologique (St Petersburg, 1867), p. 45, and atlas for the same date, pl. vi. Pompeian painting given by Helbig, Wandgemälde, No. 7607; Zahn, vol. iii. pl. 31; Museo Borbonnico, pl. xv. No. 18; Clarac, pl. 130, 131, 139; Heuzey, Les Figurines, p. 136.
  15. There are two flutes at the British Museum (Catal. No. 84, 4-9 and 5 and 6), belonging to the Castellani collection, made of wood encased in bronze in which the mouthpiece, consisting of the head of a maenad, has a lateral hole bored obliquely into the main tube. This hole was probably intended for the reception of a reed. The pipe is stopped at the end beyond the mouthpiece as in the modern flute. There are six holes. See also the plagiaulos from Halicarnassus in the British Museum described by C. T. Newton in History of Discoveries at Halicarnassus (London), vol. ii. p. 339. The Louvre has two ancient statues (from the villa Borghese) representing satyrs playing upon transverse flutes. Unfortunately these marbles have been restored, especially in the details affecting our present subject, and are therefore examples of no value to us. Another statue representing a flute-player occurs in the British Museum. The instrument has been supposed to be a transverse flute, but erroneously, for the insufflation of the lateral tube against which the instrumentalist presses his lips, could not, without the intervention of a reed, excite the vibratory movement of the column of air.
  16. Florence, Carrand Collection. See Museo Nazionale Firenze, Catalogo} (1898), p. 205, No. 26 (description only). Illustration in Gallerie nazionali italiane, A. Venturi, vol. iii. (1897), p. 263, L'Arte (Rome, 1894), vol. i. p. 24, Hans Graeven, “Antike Vorlagen byzantinischer Elfenbeinreliefs,” in Jahrb. d. K. Preuss. Kunst-Sammlungen (Berlin, 1897), Bd. xviii. p. 11; Hans Graeven, “Ein Reliquienkästchen aus Pirano,” id., 1899, Bd. xx. fig. 2 and pl. iii.
  17. Greek MS. 510, Grégoir de Nazance 10th century, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; illustration in Gustave L. Schlumberger, L'Epopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle (Paris, 1896 and 1900), vol. i. p. 503. British Museum, Greek Psalter, add. MS. 19352, fol. 189b. written and illuminated cir. 1066 by Theodorus of Caesarea. A cylindrical flute is shown turned to the right the left hand being uppermost. Smyrna, Library of the Evaggelike Schole B 18, fol. 72a, A.D. 1100, illustration by Strzygowski, “Der Bilderkreis des griechischen Physiologus,” in Byzantinisches Archiv (Leipzig, 1899), Heft 2, Taf. xi.; N. P. Kondakoff, Histoire de l'art byzantin (Paris, 1886 and 1891), pl. xii. 5; “Kuseyr' Amra,” issued by K. Akad. d. Wissenschaften (Vienna, 1907), vol. ii. pl. xxxiv.
  18. A fine volume containing coloured drawings of these frescoes has been published in St Petersburg (British Museum library catalogue, sect. “Academies,” St Petersburg, 1874-1887, vol. iv. Tab. 1325a).
  19. This manuscript, written towards the end of the 12th century was preserved in the Strassburg library until 1870, when it was burnt during the bombardment of the city. See the fine reproduction in facsimile published by the Soc. pour la conservation des monuments historigues d'Alsace. Texte explicatif de A Straub and G. Keller (Strassbure 1901), pl. lvii., also C. M. Engelhardt, Herrad von Landsperg und ihr Werk (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1818), twelve plates.
  20. MS. j. b. 2. Illustrated in Critical and Bibliographical Notes on Early Spanish Music (London, 1887), p. 119.
  21. Musica getutscht und auszgezogen (Basel, 1511).
  22. Organographia (Wolfenbüttel, 1618), pp. 24, 25, 40.
  23. Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636), Livre v. p. 241.
  24. Principes de la flûte traversière ou flûte d'Allemagne, de la flûte à bec et du hautbois (Paris, 1722), p. 38.
  25. Musicus αύτοδιδακτός oder der sich selbst informirende Musicus (Erfurt, 1738), p. 85.
  26. Fétis, Rapport sur la fabrication des instruments de musique à l'Exposition Universelle de Paris, en 1855.
  27. See Recueil de planches, vol. iv., and article “Basse de flûte traversière,” vol. ii. (Paris, 1751). See also The Flute, by R. S. Rockstro (London, 1890), p. 238, where the wood cut is reproduced together with a translation of the article. The Museum of the Conservatoire in Paris also possesses a bass flute by the noted French maker Delusse.
  28. Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen (Berlin, 1752).
  29. Unless the contrary is stated, we have always in view, in describing the successive improvements of the flute, the treble flute in D, which is considered to be typical of the family.
  30. “Herrn Johann Joachim Quantzens-Lebenslauf, von ihm selbst entworfen,” in the Historisch-Kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik, by Marpurg (Berlin, 1754), p. 239. Quantz was professor of the flute to Frederick the Great.
  31. See Johann Georg Tromlitz, Ausführlicher und gründlicher Unterricht die Flöte zu spielen (Leipzig, 1791), 1, § 7, and Über Flöten mit mehrern Klappen (Leipzig, 1800), cap. vii. § 21.
  32. Antonio Lorenzoni, Saggio per ben sonare il flauto traverso (Vicenza, 1779).
  33. See Anweisung, i. § 15.
  34. See Lebensiauf, loc. cit. p. 248, where Quantz states that he invented the adjustable head for the flute.
  35. See Anweisung, i. §§ 10-13 and iv. § 26.
  36. Ausführlicher und gründlicher Unterricht die Flöte zu spielen (Leipzig, 1791), i. cap. § 20. Compare Schilling, Univ.-Lexikon (Leipzig, 1835).
  37. Stendal, 1782 (published under his initials only, J. J. H. R., see p. 2).
  38. Kurze Abhandlung von Flötenspielen (Leipzig, 1786), p. 27.
  39. Über Flöten, &c., pp. 133 and 134.
  40. See The Flute, pp. 242-244 and 561 and 562.
  41. See op. cit. pp. 51 and 62.
  42. English patent, No. 1499.
  43. See Rockstro, op. cit. p. 197.
  44. Saggio per costruire e suonare un flauto traverse enarmonico che ha i suoni bassi del violino (Rome, 1797).
  45. The idea of this large flute was taken up again in 1819 by Trexler of Vienna, who called it the “panaulon.”
  46. Patent, No. 3183. Part of the specification together with a diagram is reproduced by Rockstro, op. cit. pp. 273-274.
  47. Patent, No. 3349. Part of the specification together with a diagram is reproduced by Rockstro, op. cit. pp. 273-274.
  48. Another specimen, almost the same, constructed about 1775, and called “Basse de Musette,” may be seen in the Museum of the Paris Conservatoire.
  49. See account of Capeller's inventions by Carl Maria von Weber in Allgem. musikal. Zeit. (Leipzig, 1811), pp. 377-379, a translation of which is given by Rockstro, op. cit. pp. 279 and 280.
  50. See Über den Flötenbau und die neuesten Verbesserungen desselben (Mainz, 1847); and W. S. Broadwood, An Essay on the Construction of Flutes originally written by Theobald Boehm, published with the addition of Correspondence and other Documents (London, 1882).
  51. Examen critique de la flûte ordinaire comparée d. la flute Boehm (Paris, 1838).
  52. They existed long before, however, in the Chinese Ty and the Japanese Fuye.
  53. The reader may consult with advantage Mr C. Welch's History of the Boehm Flute (London, 1883), wherein all the documents relating to this interesting discussion have been collected with great impartiality.
  54. For further details see Kathleen Schlesinger, The Instruments of the Orchestra, part i. pp. 192-194, where an illustration is given, and Paul Wetzger, Die Flöte (Heilbronn, 1906), pp. 23-24, and Tafel iv. No. 20.