Newer developments of the flute from Böhm on

In 1832 Theobald Böhm finally invented a completely new flute. He changed about anything. Instead of wood he used metall, the thickness of the tubes wall, number, size and assembly of the bore-holes and even the mouth-hole were changed. Despite lots of critical votes, (first of all Tulou) at the beginning, the new instrument made it's way. The final breakthrough in France happened in 1860, then Dorus became the lectorship of Paris conservatory.

Böhm´s flute was the final result of a period of fast change and lots of innovations, which started around 1726. The instrumentation changed and the flute hat to cover a wider range and to play really chromatically. This demanded mechanical changes and additional keys. Those additional keys at first were all closed. Thus it was possible, as Devienne suggested in his flute method, to play with the original fingerings for a normal traversiere most of the time and only use the new keys if needed.

The flute of 1832 had ring keys. The holes for the finger-holes were placed strictly by acoustical experiments. As not all of them were reachable, the flute needed a completely new key system. This first model still had a cylindrical head joint. The conical bore started from the middle-hole.

Böhm did not like this result and made a new flute in 1847. Following his studies of acoustices, the new position of the finger-holes was exactly calculated. the inner hole was turned around: the head joint had a parabolic head joint, the middle and lower joint were cylindrical.

Numbers about Böhms flute:

Some of the dimensions above were later changed by Böhm to adjust intonation and timbre. In the end the tube's diameter becam 19 mm and the cork was fit in in 17 mm distance to the mouth-hole. In order to reduce the outlet resistance of the air when keys are open, the finger holes near the head joint were scaled down.

The flutist Briccialdi added 1849 the today known double key for the thumb.

The first golden flutes were built by Louis Lot around 1869. Besides silver and gold today the main materials are gold-plated silver, white gold, German silver (an alloy made of copper, zinkc and nickel), platinumg and palladium.

After the radical enhancements of Böhm the propagation of the flute accelerated dramatically. The much better intonation and more flexible technics inspired many composers to write for the flute. The new literature led to better musical performances, new technics like flutter-tonguing were developed. Through Teachers like Taffanel, Gaubert and of course Moyse France became dominant at the end of the nineteenth century regarding flute playing.

Today the flute is quite in vogue. One sign for this development are the always over full flute classes at music xshcools. Musicians like James Galway, James Newton or Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull gain flute enthusiast by opening up new areas of music for the flute.

Of course experiments and development are still going on to enhance the flute. Especially regarding the pads there are alternatives using new artificial materials. Another expansive part is the adaptation of the flute for young flutists.

Developments for contemporary music led to additional holes and keys. Examples for this are the Matusi flute of Matthias Ziegler and the Kingma-flute.

The first features an additional hole near the thumb, closed by a diaphragm. During playing the diaphragm vibrates and a sound like from a Chinese bamboo flute is generated. There is a mute to stop the effect if wanted.

The Kingma flute allows to play multiphonics, glissandi and quarter-tones. This is enabled by six additional keys. The fingerings of the regular Böhmflute are not affected. The principle is to open such keys which are note closed directly by the fingers only partly like it is done for ring keys.

Another modern flute is built from new materials. The Matit flute (from Finland) the tube is built from carbon fibers. Regarding the key system, all springs are replaced by magnets. For this flute there are no pads any more.

Known under the name of Flautus Tremendus a three-piece slide flute is sold. This technic was especially developed to play glissandi

Pierre-Yves Artaud: Die Flöte
Author: Claudia Haider; Last updated 02.05.2014