A comparison of flute types


People often ask - what's the difference between a Pratten's and a Rudall, or French and English flutes.  How do various types of flutes compare?  Indeed, what types of flutes are there?  What issues should we be comparing when we compare flutes?  Fair questions - let's find some answers.

Parameters to compare

So, what should we be looking at, when we compare flutes?  Here are some possible parameters:

  • Appearance - how the styling of flutes changed with time; caps, barrels, rings, ends

  • Materials and their properties

  • Bore profile - the diameter of the bore as we proceed along the flute

  • Hole size - how big the fingered and key holes are; cross-fingering and half-holing

  • Venting - the ratio between the diameters of the holes with the bore at that point

  • Scaling - how far the holes are apart, determining the pitch the flute will play well at

  • Range - what's the highest note easily playable

  • Flat Foot syndrome - how earlier flutes had really flat foot notes

  • Best Pitch - linked primarily to scaling, but influenced by other matters

  • Intonation - how accurate are the notes, the temperament question

  • Heads and Embouchures - shapes, depths, undercutting, head diameter, tone, agility and flexibility, lip plates, risers, thinned heads, patent head

  • Uniformity of response between notes

  • Keywork - cup styles, touch styles, single and double springs, mounting methods, pad materials

We'll discuss what we mean, and what it means, as we get into each topic.  Some of these topics are going to take more time to develop, so there are big gaps below, and will be until time permits.  Watch this space!  In the meantime, take advantage of what I have managed to pull together. 

You may be interested in other points of comparison, in which case I'll be pleased to hear from you!



On to Classical Bores I have known,

or Back to McGee-flutes Index page...