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Flute Volume - Question for Flute Makers
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Author:  tstermitz [ Fri Dec 13, 2019 6:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Flute Volume - Question for Flute Makers

If you are trying to turn a quieter (smaller) flute into a louder one, what are the most important factors:

    - Bore Size
    - Hole Size
    - Embouchure Size

First of all, I'm aware that the quality of my embouchure and breath is the most important factor.

Second, I'm aware that you can't just change one thing, as they all interact. But, I assume some factors drive the volume more than others.

Third, these things also affect the quality of the flute tone. Do you just wave your hands and call it art & experience, or is there some science/engineering strategy there as well?

Author:  Geoffrey Ellis [ Sat Dec 14, 2019 4:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Volume - Question for Flute Makers

Enlarging the bore of an existing flute is tricky. Is this a conical bore instrument? If so, you'll need to make a larger tapered reamer. Then you are faced with holding the work while you re-ream it, and you have to be careful that you don't accidentally crack the body of the flute. Same is true for a cylindrical bore flute, actually, in terms of re-drilling it. And making a larger bore on a finished flute means that now the wall thickness is reduced, which will have an effect on the tuning.

Making the finger holes larger is a fairly easy way to give a bigger sound, but of course you sharpen the notes. If you don't have "tuning holes" (i.e. you have an integral foot) then you might have to cut a bit off the end to compensate for the tuning changes brought about by enlarging the holes.

If the embouchure hole is already a good size then you may not want to mess with it. Trying to get a bigger sound by enlarging it is probably not a good strategy, IMHO. It might have some small effect, but you risk messing with the voice of the instrument.

To do something like this effectively, there is certainly some strategy and engineering involved, and if you've never done such modifications before you might very well ruin a perfectly good flute! Even if you succeed in making it louder, it doesn't follow that the sound quality will be better, or even as good. Might be a change for the worse! Or you might totally nail it. If it's just an experiment and you aren't attached to the flute it could be educational. If you like this flute, I'd leave it alone and see about acquiring a louder flute :-)

Author:  tstermitz [ Sat Dec 14, 2019 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Volume - Question for Flute Makers

Thanks Geoffrey.

I do't intend to change an existing flute. I was thinking about how flute designs in the early 1800s started out smaller and gradually became larger. Terry McGee has some articles describing the process, but I don't know anything about "why" one factor or another is important. Surely you eventually reach a limit.

What are the design decisions relevant to making a flute louder?

Author:  Geoffrey Ellis [ Sat Dec 14, 2019 9:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Flute Volume - Question for Flute Makers

tstermitz wrote:
Thanks Geoffrey.

I do't intend to change an existing flute. I was thinking about how flute designs in the early 1800s started out smaller and gradually became larger. Terry McGee has some articles describing the process, but I don't know anything about "why" one factor or another is important. Surely you eventually reach a limit.

What are the design decisions relevant to making a flute louder?



Ah, that makes more sense. When you spoke of trying to turn a quieter flute into a louder one that sounds like you wish to transform an existing flute into something different (like turning lead into gold :-).

Assuming that you are staying with a certain key (say, key of D). Then the things that have changed on the louder flutes are all the things that you've mentioned. A larger bore, larger finger holes and larger embouchure hole.

You can change things like bore size, but if you change it too far (make it too large) then you start to change the timbre of the instrument as well as the tuning balance between the octaves. You can make the finger holes larger, but there is a limit before they become difficult to cover. You can enlarge the embouchure as well, but you face the same limits in effective size. But I think you have correctly named the relevant factors that makers tweak in order to get a louder flute.

I suspect that most makers, both historic and modern, have experimented with this process, probably using a lot of simple trial and error. I would offer that "art and experience" are "science and engineering" without the math!

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