Baroque Flute

Baroque flute: information for composers
The written range of the baroque flute is D (the note above middle C) to the A two and a half octaves above.

The instrument has one key, for D sharp. The flute also has 6 finger holes (but no hole for the thumb)

Strong and Weak notes:
The baroque flute is characterized by strong notes and weak notes. There is a significant difference in timbre and dynamic response between these notes and it important that these differences are taken into account in the composition process (and perhaps even used as a feature). Baroque music for flute is typically written in keys which make use predominantly of the strong notes – for example D major (the strongest key, in which all the notes are strong), G major (C is weak but otherwise all are strong), E minor etc. The more distant the keys become, the more weak notes appear.

Strong notes overblow according to the harmonic series. These are the notes of the D major scale.

Weak notes are made from cross fingerings and include F, C and chromatic alterations of all other notes (G sharp, B flat etc). These do not produce the harmonic series when overblown, and can be significantly softer in tone and dynamic than the strong notes.

Standard fingerings for baroque flute can be found in a number of treatises – eg Quantz, Corette etc. Microtones can be produced from both pitch bends and fingering changes. This chart shows the 128 fingering combinations using fully open or closed holes.

This chart shows the alternative fingerings for each pitch, tested on the flute d’amour. It may also be used as a starting point for the ordinary sized baroque flute, but each instrument is slightly different in scale.

From my experience so far, it appears that multiphonics are most successful if only two notes are sounded at once. The bigger intervals tend to be hard to control and unstable. This chart outlines my explorations so far for the flute d’amour and may be used as a starting point for the standard baroque flute. The numbers from 1-128 represent the fingerings in the chart above.