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History Lesson: Why metal vs wood flutes?

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator
#1
Question: Why did flute makers go from the original wood to the metal flutes?

Pied Piper sez: Progress. If you build a better flute, they will come. That's what Theobald Boehm did and the rest is history.


Mostly, the reason was that the wood flutes of the baroque and classic era did not project all that well and chromatic note fingering was awkward. They also had difficulty competing with other orchestral instruments. Boehm developed a new fingering system and started building flutes from silver. The Boehm flute was then able to be better heard and they gradually replaced the simple system wood flutes.

Boehm wrote a book about his new flute system. It's highly recommended reading:
https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Flute_and_Flute_Playing.html?id=RYetl-gE4PAC
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#2

kymarto

Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
#3
Question: Why did flute makers go from the original wood to the metal flutes?

Pied Piper sez: Progress. If you build a better flute, they will come. That's what Theobald Boehm did and the rest is history.


Mostly, the reason was that the wood flutes of the baroque and classic era did not project all that well and chromatic note fingering was awkward. They also had difficulty competing with other orchestral instruments. Boehm developed a new fingering system and started building flutes from silver. The Boehm flute was then able to be better heard and they gradually replaced the simple system wood flutes.

Boehm wrote a book about his new flute system. It's highly recommended reading:
https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Flute_and_Flute_Playing.html?id=RYetl-gE4PAC
Might be worth mentioning that Boehm and Mendler built a whole lot of wooden flutes. Wooden Boehm flutes were quite popular through the 30s, especially in Europe, and actually are making a comeback now, with Powell and Haynes and other top makers building them again.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
#4
Well, wooden flutes with metal fittings. Like these. Not like these. Look at how those keys are mounted and think how difficult that would be if you implemented even partial Boehm keywork. Not to mention expensive.

I'm not a flute player, but I generally see a lot of wooden piccolos when I see orchestras and such and I have for years. I think probably all modern wooden flutes are probably going to be upper-pro range, like this $9K Yamaha. Hey, even wooden headjoints aren't cheap.
 
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