A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I thought a Boehm flute’s ‘natural key’ was C but was corrected in my mis-understanding by Geert Lejeune. A Boehm flute is intrinsically a D flute (albeit with a C foot). It’s not a C flute despite the easy (keyless) F-nat and the complicated (ugly, keyed) XXXOOX for F#. Having the reach down to C4 (middle C!!) is just the cherry on top not the root toot of the flute 🙂

The flute is named for its XXXXXX note the all fingers down D. And for it’s octave the OXXXXX note - D’. And, were the Boehm a C flute you wouldn’t have the ‘all fingers off’ C#, it’d be a B. Further… when a Boehm flute has a B foot we wouldn’t now call that a B flute.

If I now understand the labelling - when the flue is referred to as being in the family of C-instruments - this refers to the fact that play C, sounds C; it is not a transposing instrument.

Or have I got this entirely wrong (it has happened before, frequently)?

==

An interesting aside - in classical Indian flute traditions (Carnatic venu and Hindustani bansuri) the instrument is named according to the XXXOOO note. So our D flute would be called a G.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

The Boehm is in C. If it were in D, your F would be F#, but it is F natural. You must use an alternate fingering to play F#. An alto flute is in G for the same reason. When you play a scale, your F is F#, not F natural. The same is true of C vs. C#.

Not to confuse the issue, but an eight-key flute goes down to C natural as its lowest note, but the instrument is still in D for the reason stated above. Similarly, a Boehm flute with a B foot joint is still in C, even though its lowest note is B,. In both cases, the extra keys are extensions that do not affect the key of the instrument. On a Boehm flute, the notes of the foot joint are not an extension as is the case on an eight key. There is no such thing as a Boehm that does not go down to C.

The C Boehm is not a transposing instrument. The G alto is. The key for each is not affected by this.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"The flute is named for its XXXXXX note the all fingers down D. And for it’s octave the OXXXXX note - D’. And, were the Boehm a C flute you wouldn’t have the ‘all fingers off’ C#, it’d be a B. Further… when a Boehm flute has a B foot we wouldn’t now call that a B flute.

If I now understand the labelling - when the flue is referred to as being in the family of C-instruments - this refers to the fact that play C, sounds C; it is not a transposing instrument."

Your understanding is correct, but I’d say it slightly differently: traditional musicians refer to the key of instrument by whatever note the "D fingering" produces - this is the 6 fingers down, aka XXXXXX, note in your example above, whereas classical musicians don’t use this system - they refer to instruments by whichever note sounds when you play the "C fingering".

So a simple system flute that plays D with all 6 fingers down would be a D instrument, a whistle would similarly be in D if the 6 fingers down note is D, and by extension a Boehm flute is a "D instrument" in traditional terms. But in classical music terms, since they use a different system, they’re all "C instruments". Note that the "concert pitch" uilleann pipes, which are a D instrument in traditional terms are a C instrument in classical terms. The fact that a Boehm flute plays an Fnatural by default isn’t really a factor.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Surely both the Boehm flute and the (keyed or keyless) wooden flute and standard whistle are in concert pitch: that is, what one would usually say is ‘in C’. The ‘D whistle’ is so called because D is the lowest note, and D major is the simplest scale to play. It’s a convenient way of expressing it. However, the D on a whistle is the same D as played on a piano D key - meaning that it is not a transposing instrument. The flute likewise.

The tenor trombone, on the other hand (along with various other brass instruments) is ‘in Bb’. That is, its fundamental note - referred to as a C - is in fact a tone lower. To play with a pianist in the key of C, the trombonist has to think a tone up - in D. That is, transpose. An alto sax, on the other hand, is in Eb, so plays a tone-and-a-half down to match the pianist’s key.

Sometimes I think you need a slide rule to work it out, especially when you’re with a Northumbrian piper playing on an F chanter and the guitarist has his capo on 4th … .

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

A Boehm piccolo doesn’t typically have a low C, but the fingering is the same as a Boehm flute. A bass flute also has the same fingering, but does have the bottom C. And an alto flute is a transposing instrument (G) so the same fingering produces a different set of notes, and the same range as the fiddle.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

The more that is written about transposing, the more confusing it gets for the person who asked the question! 🙂

Bottom line, the simplest and most succinct way of saying it is:
1. Traditional musicians call the key of the instrument by the pitch of the D fingering.
2. Classical musicians call the key of the instrument by the pitch of the C fingering.
In both cases, the pitch is relative to A440.

"That is, its fundamental note" - I don’t think Bb is the fundamental note - it’s just the note that comes out when you play a C fingering on tenor saxophones, trumpets, baritone/euphoniums, etc.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Yes.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

No. Boehm created it. I think he would know.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Michael is correct for Irish traditional music terminology. Since Ailin is primarily a classical player, it makes sense that he would think in classical terms.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I am not primarily a classical player. I happen to play both. I don’t get where trad players would consider a Boehm to be in D, considering trad players rarely play a Boehm.

Can you point to anything authoritative that refers to a Boehm as being in D? I’ve simply never seen such a thing, but who knows?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"I don’t get where trad players …"
Indeed.

Classical musicians (and the larger western art music world) regularly classify simple-system flutes as C instruments, because they use different terminology.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

That’s not what I asked. If anyone refers to a SS flute as being in C, I believe they are wrong.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

In classical music terminology, they would be correct.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Please explain.

A SS flute can be made in C. What would it be called in classical terminology?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I already did explain, please read my first and second post here.

A simple system flute whose D fingering plays a C would be called a Bb instrument in classical terminology, because its C fingering sounds as Bb - exactly the same as a tenor sax, trumpet, etc.

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I don’t understand any of this….

But I agree with Nico. Nico is a piper. Pipers are always right. That why they get to call the tune.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Haha, thanks David - I’m also a flute player, and I was in the classical world as a french horn player before discovering traditional music (as a teenager though).

The reality is that transposing and what you call an instrument really only matters when you introduce sheet music OR if you want to use the same fingering system for differently pitched instruments *and talk about it with reference to note names*. Bottom line "concert pitch", ie A fingering is A=440, flutes are both D and C instruments, depending on which terminology you’re using.

Do you want to be super confused? Because the pitch standard wasn’t consistent until very recently, some "Eb" (traditional terminology) flutes are actually "C" (classical terminology) instruments, but where A=456 (or whatever pitch). There’s a small group of people who maintain that "C#" (traditional terminology) pipes were just old pitch "C" (classical terminology) or "D" (traditional terminology) pipes. Hopefully that confused everyone 🙂

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Excuse me (a non-fluter) interjecting here. Surely there are specific criteria that determines the key a monophonic instrument is in?

Look at whistles - on a D whistle, with a specific fingering, you get the key of the whistle (eg D). On a C whistle, with the same specific fingering, you get the key of the whistle (C), and so on.

So, what’s different about flutes? Is the criteria fixed, or not fixed?

Thanks.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Yes, er, no, er, mebbe. Uh, what was the question, again? 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

String instruments are a bit strange, as unlike other instruments, you learn a different fingering system for each pitch of instrument. That is to say, for violin / fiddle (with regular tuning), if you read "C", you play C (for example, third finger on the second highest pitch string), whereas for viola, you’d play a different finger on a different string (I don’t know what it is for viola).

The goal (in classical, aka western art music) for transposing instruments was to have a regular fingering system across families of instruments. So all flutes use the same fingering (6 fingers down is "D", regardless of what the pitch of the sound actually comes out as), and similarly across brass instruments there’s a commonality of fingering (French Horn is another exception, because the modern french horn actually is an F instrument *and* a Bb instrument melded together with a fourth valve, so you do end up learning a different set of fingerings).

But back to fiddle - in traditional music terms, the shorthand to describing what a fiddler has done when they play with B pitched pipes is to say they’ve tuned to B - they’re now playing a "B" instrument in traditional terminology.

To answer your question, I think you’re looking at it in the wrong way. But the short answer is that the criteria for traditional music is "what is the pitch of the D fingering?", and for classical music it’s "what is the pitch of the C fingering?" There’s a lot of reasons why the two terminologies have developed differently, though.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

A keyless simple system C flute where XXXXXX plays a C would, in classical circles - by Ailin’s logic - be called a Bb Flute.

The classical guys name their flutes according to the note produced by raising a left thumb or by carefully depressing the insignificant pinkie finger on TWO adjacent keys simultaneously. And we’re the crazy ones!

@Nico - with your old and new flutes, French horn and piping experience the only way you could impress us more is to suggest that your are also a classically trained bodhran player. 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I’ll wait for something authoritative on this.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@gbyrne - actually, that’s my logic 🙂

@Ailin - you really can’t ever admit when you’re wrong, can you?

"A pianist who sees a written C will play a note that the violinist would agree is a C. This may seem obvious, but a clarinet player who sees a C on the page will play a note that does not sound like a C to the other players. This is because the clarinet is a transposing instrument. The music for transposing instruments is not written or read at concert pitch."
https://opencurriculum.org/5567/transposing-instruments/

Literally, all you need to do is google this, it’s not hidden knowledge.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transposing_instrument

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Nah, nah, nah, David - he who PAYS the piper calls the tune 🙂

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@Nico - "So all flutes use the same fingering (6 fingers down is "D", regardless of what the pitch of the sound actually comes out as)"

So, with 6 fingers down, if your actual pitch was D, would you call it a D flute, and if the actual pitch was C, would you call it a C flute?

In other words, in reality, it would be a [actual pitch] flute, but colloquially/traditionally be a [conventionally agreed pitch]? Do you follow me? 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"So, with 6 fingers down, if your actual pitch was D, would you call it a D flute, and if the actual pitch was C, would you call it a C flute?"
Because I’m a traditional Irish musician yes - if I were living only in the classical music world, I would reference the "C" fingering.

"In other words, in reality, it would be a [actual pitch] flute, but colloquially/traditionally be a [conventionally agreed pitch]? "
I followed everything up until this. Everything is in reality - we’re just talking about how people talk about reality 🙂

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@Jim Dorans, Fiddleologist: Yes by convention, a flute with six holes, all holes closed, producing a Concert (Actual) Pitch of C would be called a C flute. There are also Eb flutes made as well. Dave Copley and Tom Aebi, among others, can supply you with these type flutes.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Snap! Cross-posting Nico 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

We haven´t even wandered into the odd world of British Marching Flutes!

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I occasionally find myself playing my ‘D’ simple system flute from the dots along with orchestral types. I have learned to pick up the score for C instruments, as does the Boehm flute player.

That’s the easy part - flat keys not so!

(i.e what Nico said)

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Nico, I read and understood your post. I fully understand a transposing instrument does not sound the note written. This has nothing whatever to do with the key of the instrument. The fundamental scale of the instrument determines this. Often, but not always, the fundamental scale starts with an instrument’s lowest note, because, obviously, the scale produced is determined by the note one starts on. That’s why I made it a point to explain the foot joint of an eight-key is an extension, just as the B foot is an extension of the Boehm. The fundamental scale of a Boehm starts on C; on an eight-key, it is D. Your post on transposing instruments is not germane. When I ask for something authoritative, I’m asking for a source that refers to a Boehm as being in D.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"This has nothing whatever to do with the key of the instrument"
Seems like you didn’t understand the question from gbyrne.

BTW, Geert Lejeune is a very well respected flute maker. I doubt you can get more authoritative. But, I guess you’ll dismiss anything that contradicts your beliefs, as you’ve done previously.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"The flute is named for its XXXXXX note the all fingers down D. And for it’s octave the OXXXXX note - D’. And, were the Boehm a C flute you wouldn’t have the ‘all fingers off’ C#, it’d be a B. Further… when a Boehm flute has a B foot we wouldn’t now call that a B flute."

The first sentence is incorrect. It is about the scale, not the start note.

The second sentence, likewise. All fingers off on a Boehm is, in fact, C#.

Being a transposing instrument gives you a clue, but if you couldn’t read music, you’d know the key from the scale.

Lastly, I started out disagreeing with Mr. Lejeune, so it hardly makes sense to go back to him as your source.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"Lastly, I started out disagreeing with Mr. Lejeune, so it hardly makes sense to go back to him as your source."
As I said, you’re going to dismiss any authoritative source.

"The first sentence is incorrect. It is about the scale, not the start note."
No, you are incorrect. Feel free to change your mind now.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Nico, I won’t argue. I offer you the chance to name a source I have not disputed.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Why bother, when you’ll just dispute it?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Ah. But you could, if you wanted to, right? Okay, good.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

This is like asking what key a fiddle’s in.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"…the complicated (ugly, keyed) XXXOOX for F#…" Geert Lejeune’s words or yours, gbyrne?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

So, in other words, still yes.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I don’t understand Michael’s post nor Yhaal’s. Please elaborate. This is so strange. The keys of the respective flutes have been established forever. Now, there is a controversy? Will someone please give me some data?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Ailin, Nico already explained it in the third post. The key a flute "is in" depends on whether you’re describing it from the worldview of a trad musician, or from the worldview of a classical musician. That’s really all there is to it. There is no need to insist that one is right and the other is wrong.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I asked a simple thing. Show me a definitive source that agrees a Boehm is in D. He can’t do it. He goes back to the source I dispute. Does that make sense to you? I’m not invested in being right. I’m invested in making sense. There is absolutely no difference between trad and classical regarding this subject. Why would there be?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"This is like asking what key a fiddle’s in." If the fiddler is playing a tune in A then that’s the key the fiddle is in. But what fiddler only plays tunes in A all night long? I should do an emoji, shouldn’t I?
Nah!

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"There is absolutely no difference between trad and classical regarding this subject."
Ailin, the subject (if I’m not mistaken) is about the difference between classic & trad naming which key ‘their’ flute is in; i.e. C flute vs D flute. Although, frankly, why would a trad fluter bother with sorting out classical fluters reasoning for *this subject*?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

It’s a simple system D flute, with a foot joint that allows you to play a C and C# and a complex key mechanism and additional holes that makes it easier to play in C and flat keys.

Or it’s a flute in C. Or both.

Or it’s a dessert topping. Whatever.

All depends on what you measure. In my mind, I’d measure the resonant tube from the headjoint to the Eb key and see what note that corresponds to. If you think the C and the C# keys also should be included, well then I guess my 8-key 1856 Metzler wooden flute, which is a simple system flute but also has those foot joint keys, is in C instead of D.

This whole discussion is silly.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Let me explain. I know nothing about fiddle, but wind instruments are capable of playing in a limited range. On keyless flute, sharps and flats are accomplished by keys, half-holing and cross-fingering. On a keyless flute, these methods are always a compromise. A D flute is ideal for Irish trad because most of the tunes are in D, G and their relative minors. It’s a bit awkward (I should know!) to play trad on Boehm because of how F# andC are fingered. That’s because the flute is in C. A Boehm is s completely chromatic, but given the tiny range trad is played in, it is much easier to play a flute in D. On the other hand, ever try to play an F natural on a keyless flute? Each flute has its place because one is in D and one is in C. I rest my case.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

No the fingerings and chromatics work because of the complex key mechanism to make it easier to play in C and flat keys as well as get those chromatics, not because of any inherent property of the length of the flute tube.

It’s a tube with holes, and you cannot in this discussion ignore the historical model of the 8-key simple system flute in "D" with the addition of a footjoint with additional keys to get a C# and C (which I never use and took off my antique instrument). A simple system "C" flute would have additional keys to get B and Bb.

I think you’re conflating key mechanism properties and possibilities with the "key of the instrument".

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Michael, you make my point. I’m not conflating anything. As you say, key mechanisms help, but you also say you don’t use them much. The mechanisms were not intended for trad. Their addition expanded the capability of the flute, but did not alter the key.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

No, you’re completely missing the point.

For you, as you define it, it’s in C. You win.

I’m out. Sorry I said anything.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Well, don’t argue with me, argue with every flutemaker out there who make flutes in a variety of keys. I’m not sure what point you think I’m missing, but trad makers agree with me and so does Theobald Boehm, so I don’t know what to add

AB - the point of the thread, at least in the name, is if Boehm flutes are in D. They are not, according to Boehm and, I suspect, every trad flutemaker out there, excepting Mr. Lejeune.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Point taking, Ailin. I won’t hazard any speculation about what every trad flutemaker might say on the subject if asked. Take care. 🙂

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Oh, no, I’m not getting sucked back into this quagmire until y’all agree on what you mean by “key of an instrument”. I’ve got 5 days of Grand Sumo to catch up with on NHK World that is way more fun to watch than this.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Okay, Michael - I’ll bite. You’ve been at this a long time and you have a classical background, so don’t tell me you don’t know that whistles, for example, come in a variety of keys.

The mechanical keys in a Boehm are not unlike a piano keyboard, with a row of keys comprising the C major scale and what I’ll call offshoot keys to play the sharps and flats. Being chromatic, it can be argued that the Boehm is in no particular key, which may be what you’re trying to say. I would argue, since the flute does not have 88 keys and they are not as conveniently positioned as the piano’s, the flute was designed to have the key of C as the "home row," adding that it is also consistent with the flute’s range in each octave. Whether or not you concur, I think you will agree there is no basis for saying the Boehm is in D, which is my steadfast point and addresses what the op wanted to know. The rest is noise.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Nope.

It’s in D by some of many of our definitions and in C by yours.

Might as well stop now because no minds will be changed.

AB, I’m only still here because I’m addicted to rage and dinner isn’t done yet. We watch Sumo while we have dinner.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"Point taken, Ailin. I won’t hazard any speculation about what every trad flutemaker might say on the subject if asked. Take care. 🙂"

Hey, Ben, just take a look at their websites, if you doubt me. You don’t have to quizz them on the subject.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Might as well stop now because no minds will be changed.

# Posted by Michael Eskin

I disagree, Michael. I’m truly interested. No one has yet presented a case for a Boehm in D and I have no idea how you get there.

Nico posted this

So a simple system flute that plays D with all 6 fingers down would be a D instrument, a whistle would similarly be in D if the 6 fingers down note is D, and by extension a Boehm flute is a "D instrument" in traditional terms.

I’m not sure where he got that. My dispute would be that, with the F being natural, the logic falls apart. A Boehm is not the same as a simple system flute, differing only by virtue of having keys.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

No, Ailin, I’m not saying a flute is not in any key at all, please don’t twist my words.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Sorry, Michael, I’m trying to get your point. I added to my last post and would love for you to reply.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

By your definition, it’s in C, or no key at all, or all keys.

By mine it’s a modern evolution of a simple system D flute with a C foot joint and the addition of a complex key system to allow for simplified fingerings in keys not easily played on the original simple system flutes.

Can these two definitions co-exist, absolutely.

Anyone else want to chime in here as Sumo is about to start and I have nothing else to say.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

An eight key has a similar foot joint, but the F is still sharp. Does that not make a difference? If we just concentrate on the six fingers starting with D, you have an F# on one and a Fnat on the other. Again, I have never heard of Nico’s explanation anywhere else. All I ask is some authentication.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"No, Ailin, I’m not saying a flute is not in any key at all, please don’t twist my words."

This is why I stopped engaging in TheSession discussions - the propensity for Straw Man arguments. If people took the time to make sure they weren’t putting words in people’s mouths and weren’t more interested in being "right" than having a useful and constructive discussion… this forum would be much better.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

If I reduce the size of the hole so an F# on a d whistle is playing an F natural instead of F sharp and add an extension so I can finger a low C (see D+ whistles) is it a D or a C whistle?

In the nomenclature of traditional musicians and band musicians and indeed classical musicians of a certain era (you will find antique wooden simple system flutes marked D and some marked C) it is still a D instrument because the six finger note is still D.
Using this nomenclature (six finger note ) A Boehm flute is in D.

In the nomenclature of modern classical musicians it is a C instrument but not because I have made the F natural and added an extension and hole for low c natural but because when I finger a C note the note played is C (non transposing) .

It’s simply two different ways of saying the same thing as Nico highlighted earlier but the reasoning behind it is not because we altered the D whistle but because when we play a c note it sounds an actual C.

I wonder when the change happened in classical music as I said above you will find antique German flutes and English flutes marked D on the instrument. Later German flutes are marked C low pitch etc. (Note their f sharp is still simple system f sharp)

By the way 25 years ago Ralph Sweets flute flyer explained all this to the prospective buyer .

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

See here:

http://www.oldflutes.com/german.htm

Bottom of the page The Huller flute stamp is marked C low pitch.

Note the xxxx00 fingering would be an F sharp yet it is still a “c “ instrument as Rick Wilson notes the nomenclature was changing.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Patrick, if you say there is a convention that defines the instrument by the lowest note it plays, I believe you. I freely admit that’s a new one on me. Thanks for clearing the matter up.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Cool but the traditional musician convention is not based on the lowest note playable but by what note is played by this general xxxxxx fingering.
If we add a C foot to a simple system flute in traditional conventions it is still a D flute.

In modern classical convention a short foot D, ie no long foot flute is a C flute because when I play a C 0xx000, 0x0xxx, or indeed half hole the top hole the actual pitch produced is C.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"Cool but the traditional musician convention is not based on the lowest note playable but by what note is played by this general xxxxxx fingering.
If we add a C foot to a simple system flute in traditional conventions it is still a D flute."

I’m clear on that. The reason I can accept your explanation is, beside the fact I know your knowledge is dependable, you answered my question straight away about whether the F# matters. No one else addressed that, so I was left thinking key was essential and it’s not in the trad context. That, for me, was the missing link.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Ailin, we were all saying the same thing to you. Glad you found the missing link in dunnp’s thought experiment to tie it all together.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Sorry to have missed the craic here lads. I was out playing in our weekly Comhaltas session led by Tom Moran - banjo legend. Great to be back.

https://youtu.be/4eb0qeayTB0


FWIW - here’s the verbatim quote from Geert Lejeune.

“A Boehm flute is essentially in D, not in C. All fingers off gives a C#, not a B as would be the case if it would be in C. The early Boehm flutes also often had a short footjoint, without the keys for C and #, they were/are just adapted D flutes. Not that this is important in your story, but it is nice to remember that the C note was just added to the flute, in the same way often a low B and even Bb are added.”

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Not sure why I wasted five minutes of my life reading this thread but if you bring your Boehm flute into our trad session and we’re playing in C then you’re in the wrong place or you have a lot of transposing to do. If I bring my simple D flute to your concert pitch wind band I’ll be grand.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I’m not sure what deficit in my life prompts me to join in on this one again, but … (deep breath) …

This is an old, and possibly irresolvable, chestnut: a conTROVersy (or CONtroVERSY) arising from different naming systems. For me (but maybe not for you) the touchstone is a comparison between the instrument in question and an accurately tuned piano. That is, if you play a named note (say, ‘C’) on the instrument and it sounds the same as the corresponding piano key, then the instrument is considered to be ‘in C’ - or, more usefully, ‘in concert pitch’. If you play a note you call ‘C’ on the instrument and it corresponds to a different piano key (say, Bb) then you have a transposing instrument, and you have to write the dots - and adjust your thinking - up one tone to match concert pitch, and you’d call your trombone, or whatever, ‘a Bb instrument’. That’s what I’ve always called mine, anyway.

Now, take a basic whistle: its lowest available note is a D and its simplest scale is that of D major so it is convenient to call it ‘a D whistle’. Heavens! I do it myself! BUT (and this is my point) the ‘D’ that it plays is the same D that you’d get from a D key on a piano: therefore it is NOT a transposing instrument - it is in concert pitch. And, of course, so on for what we’d call a ‘C whistle’ or ‘a Low F’ whistle. They’re all in concert pitch, but to say that ‘a D whistle is in C’ is unnecessarily confusing. Placement of fingers, disposition of the mechanics, availability of additional low notes, and the tonal centre of the tune are not relevant to question of nomenclature under consideration. By which I mean that in the argument above about Boehm and simple system (keyed or otherwise) flutes, the same principle applies. At least, I apply it with my flutes - which all conform to concert pitch.

Now for the test question: If the piper with an F chanter is playing a tune written in (concert) B minor, with a clarinettist whose clarinet is in A, a euphonium player (Bb instrument), and someone with an Eb Sousaphone, in what key signatures are their parts written, and where should a guitarist place his capo if he wants to use chords based around C? Answer me that, if you can.

Michael, what station is the Sumo on?

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@Bazza. ‘Concert pitch’ ? What about British marching band instruments mentioned by postie above? They are usually referred to as being ‘high pitch’ (A=452Hz) rather than ‘concert pitch’ (A=440Hz).

@gbyrne - If you had given the full quote in the OP we might not have been treated to this…

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

David20: You’re right to raise the question but I think it just reflects the fact that, over the years, various factors have altered the accepted ‘concert pitch’ before settling on A=440Hz, and some older or reproduction instruments are made to higher (or lower) pitch specs. I have some, and they can’t always be adjusted to play comfortably with modern instruments. It doesn’t change my case, though: whatever the prevailing ‘concert pitch’ measurement may be, some instruments are built to play to it and some have to transpose to do so. Ordinary flutes and whistles don’t transpose; French horns, tenor saxes, etc. do.

Incidentally, it may be a ‘meta’ question, but it occurs to me to wonder whether Jeremy might be inclined to set up a special category for topics like this one - along with ‘Are spoons an acceptable session instrument’, ‘Is learning from music less valid than learning by ear?’, ‘Should backing strummers learn the tunes’, and ‘Are self-written tunes to be welcomed or prohibited on a specifically ITM site’?

But then, he may have better things to do.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Boehm is a system of keys and fingerings. It isn’t even limited to flute. There are Boehm flutes of various sizes and pitch ranges. So saying a "Boehm flute" is in a particular key, is like saying penny whistles and pipes are tuned to D. Sure, most of them are conventionally tuned that way, but the statement isn’t the most accurate either.

Though, it’s pretty obvious we are talking about concert flutes used in classical music, yes?

Standard concert flutes are in C. Their lowest note is C4. The music for them is transposed in C (as in, it isn’t transposed). They are commonly called C flutes.

Rattle on about fingering and transposing all you want. But those are the facts.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

It’s also a fact that that my 1856 8-key wooden Metzler flute’s lowest note is also C4 and the music for it is transposed in C. And it’s also a fact that it’s a D flute with a footjoint that allows it to play the notes C# and C. If I take those keys off (I have since I don’t need them), it’s just a 6-key D flute. 🙂

It is possible for there to be two correct answers to this question depending on how you define the "pitch of an instrument".

Has that not been beaten to death yet here yet or do you want to do another dozen rounds or so to arrive at the same stalemate?

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Hello. I was reading through Hammy’s blog (great reading) & followed a link to the Library of Congress Dayton C. Miller Collection. https://www.loc.gov/resource/dcmflute.0236.0 Scrolling through the (19th c.) flutes listed in that index many are identified as "Flute in C". However there is little (or no) detail about whether a listed flute has a stamp indicating it’s ‘key’.

My understanding is prior to Boehm many on the standard "flutes in C" were referred to as ‘concert flutes in D’.
I believe that’s part of what dunnp was saying about differing/changing flute nomenclature. It’s worth a read through the site’s article on "Flute Misnomers" for their take on this subject. https://www.loc.gov/collections/dayton-c-miller-collection/articles-and-essays/catalog-of-wind-instruments/flute-misnomers/

Here’s a brief excerpt if you don’t want to read the whole article.

"The lowest pitch available with all six toneholes covered is usually regarded as a written D above middle C, no matter what its actual pitch. Opening the six toneholes in succession then yields roughly a written D major scale. If that actual written D sounds D, the instrument is then a C instrument. However, such C flutes were often termed D flutes due to the basic scale centered on the original lowest written note, D."

{note: this is the description used by the site; not mine}

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

That quote seems to put it very clearly AB, thank you.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Yes, Schrodinger’s Flute, it’s both C and D.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Test question? "If the piper with an F chanter is playing a tune written in (concert) B minor…"
tee-hee. ;

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@Michael Eskin

"Yes, Schrodinger’s Flute, it’s both C and D."

For the Schrodinger thing .. it would have to be [both C and not C], or [both D and not D].

Sorry, nerd here 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

It’s both C and not C and D and not D.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@Michael, you just violated the law of Non-Contradiction twice, but you’re by no means the first to do so 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

AB: "Test question? "If the piper with an F chanter is playing a tune written in (concert) B minor…"
tee-hee. "

Answer: One to play the tune, 2 to talk about how that’s not how Willy Clancy would have played it, and 3 asking if the reed is cane or spruce.

Of course if it was a Boehm chanter, it wouldn’t matter, it would still be in C.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Thanks, Michael. Boehm possibly did try his hand on a chanter or 2 given his curiosity. Probably answered my 2nd test question about a Boehm D drone; also still in C. No transposing needed. WWMGS (What would Mr. Gumpy say)
Cheers!

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"For the Schrodinger thing .. it would have to be [both C and not C], or [both D and not D]."… Thanks Jim, you just reminded me to take the cat out of the fridge.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"you just reminded me to take the cat out of the fridge."

@Gobby - no, you’d need the cat to be both in the fridge and not in the fridge. Sorry.

Is it a C cat or a D cat?

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

It’s Dead! Like this topic (albeit a good one).

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Three only loosely related things:
1. What Sound comes out of the flute when all six main fingers are down. As related to those notes played on a piano. This is the note used by traditional flute players to describe the instrument.
2. Assuming that we have learnt to play a flute with all six main fingers down when we see a "D" on sheet music, then what is the sound that comes out when we play a c natural as related to the notes on a standard piano? This is the transposing key of the instrument. i.e if we finger "D" and get a "D" then it is a C instrument. This is the terminology used by classical musicians to describe transposing (or non-transposing) instruments of all types. Some use the term concert pitch to mean a C instrument in this sense.
3. When we start with all six fingers down and run up the instrument in the simple sequence of removing fingers, what is the major scale that uses those notes? This is D for a SS D flute and C for a Boehm flute. No one actually uses this to describe the key of the instrument. e.g. I have a G Bombard (six finger and thumbs down) that plays the notes of G minor by default.

Any argument that insists that one and only one of the above is true or that one applies to one instrument and not the other or claims inconsistencies by using one system for one flute and another system for another … These are all missing the point that different people use the terms differently. Doesn’t make any of them more or less wrong than the others.

And the lowest note of the instrument with foot keys is so utterly irrelevant - I have seen an old high pitch D Simple system with 8 foot keys that went down to a low G… I would still call it a D flute. And a Boehm with a C or B foot is the same instrument in every respect except for one key and an inch or so of extra pipe.

Chris.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

Assuming one can only use one meaning at a time then the naming depends on context and narrative.
Now I’m going to take my flute out of the fridge.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

This thread has me wondering whether a flute in D or C is preferable for impaling oneself.

And just to echo the accurate info that has been sprinkled along the way, the trad definition of a flute’s key is xxx xxx note equals the flute’s key; the classical definition is C equals non-transposing. (The foot joint and/or F/F# fingering have nothing to do with ascribing a key to the flute.) Thus, a D flute by trad definition and a C flute by classical definition are the same.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

I play both. The original question makes no difference whatsoever to the player. A lot of people are working way too hard here.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

17 additional posts and what a surprise, we’ve arrived at the same stalemate, that it all depends on your definition of "key of an instrument", that depending on your definition, it’s either in C or D, and that those two contexts can coexist.

I’m sure we’ll squeeze 20 or 30 more posts saying the same thing before this is over because that’s how we roll here… 🙂

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

As @Nico said so succinctly earlier… indeed!

I suppose, in the case of a fully chromatic instrument, it’s in the key of whatever damn tune you’re playing at the moment be that C, D, Bb or G#. The ‘scale’ of an instrument is more relevant in the case of a Diatonic one - such as a tin-whistle or keyless flute - where it really has a ‘natural’ key that it plays in and the keys which require +/- 1,2,3 sharps/flats become increasingly difficult to play.

I didn’t appreciate that traditional and classical conventions might use differing frames of reference to describe the same thing. So the XXXXXX = D for traditional vernacular versus the non-transposing C fingering => C note makes it a "C instrument" (moreso than calling it an in-the-key-of-C). Within the response that Geert Lejeune made - there is an interesting alternative viewpoint - that the ‘key’ of an instrument is more tied to the top note OOOOOO or OXXXXX as a reference point.

Big thanks to Michael Eskin for the link to Robert Bigio book - 240 pages of intimate detail on the evolution of the Boehm. Bedside reading for the next week or two. Here it is again (link) in case you missed it - really interesting - https://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/28633/1/MUS_thesis_BigioR_2005.pdf

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@ Stiamh, as really funny as it is in itself, I at first I didn’t see the relevance of that video, and then as I was thinking about it, it suddenly hit my thick head, and I cracked up laughing. I’d forgotten the title of the thread. Very Good! I think the Boehm went off in ‘D’.

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

My take on it:
Boehm flute terminology: Fingering XXX XXX X is the root note (normally C)
Simple system terminology: Fingering XXX XXX is the root note (normally D)
Bansuri terminology: Fingering XXX OOO is the root note (which would be G for a standard Boehm or Simple system flute).

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

It’s a D flute with a C foot. Not that complicated.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

New members are joining just in order to participate in this debate!

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

This thread is still going?

I’m glad to see Ailin finally admitted he was wrong. Thanks dunnp for adding some details on that! It’d be great if Jeremy could remove the factually incorrect posts, but totally understand it’s not super necessary and a lot of extra effort.

hnorbeck - I’d forgotten about bansuri, thanks for the reminder. That said, for Boehm and Simple System, I don’t think "root note" is the correct term, since technically they’re fully chromatic instruments, rather than diatonic (obviously unkeyed modern Irish flutes are a niche exception).

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@Nico, you’re right, I used a bad term. I should have said "flute name note" or something like it.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

@hnorbeck - I thought that might be what you meant, and thanks again for the reminder that there are other traditions that have yet again different naming conventions!

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Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

"Holtzensitzplatzgehinderstuckverein" only in German do we truly explore the metaphysical reality that a chair is still just a chair!

Despite the stupidity of arguing over semantics, there are some interesting and useful comments here.

I especially liked Michael Eskin’s contributions, and Jim Doran’s question "What key is the violin?".

Because classical musicians and trad musicians tend to use different names, it sometimes is necessary to be explicit and say something like "The six-finger down note is D". When a late 19th Century band flute comes up on eBay from a seller who say "I don’t know anything about flutes, but…", you need to have an accurate way to talk about it for audiences with different naming conventions; not to mention the high-pitch/low-pitch, which has also changed meaning over 200 years.

I also like the good explanation about transposing instruments. The Bb band guys pretend that they are playing in C, but the musical notes on the staff have been cleverly encoded so that their "Bb" instrument plays in C. My friend from band said that they would swap out the transposed scores for the regular C scores just to mess with their band mates.

Re: A Boehm flute is a D flute, isn’t it?

So why is a D whistle with all holes covered not called a C whistle.