Flauto, tecnologia e materiali


15 Agosto 2019
Salve a tutti, sono una flautista da molti anni e dato che frequento un istituto tecnico mi sto concentrando molto sulla parte tecnica e scientifica di questo strumento.

Su una cosa in particolare non riesco a trovare nulla : come cambia il suono in base al materiale del flauto? cosa cambia a livello di onde sonore frequenza ecc...???

grazie in anticipo


15 Agosto 2019
Ti stai cacciando in una valle di lacrime.

Molti (soprattutto in campo scientifico) sostengono che il materiale non abbia nessuna influenza sul suono, e che solo la forma del corpo strumentale conti. Altri (soprattutto in campo musicale – musicisti e costruttori) dicono che il materiale conta moltissimo.

Non ci sono veri e propri studi scientifici, ma parecchia parascienza (cosiddetti scienziati che dopo aver inventato un singolo esperimento, perdipiù sballato, sostengono di aver definito una volta per tutte la verità).

La mia personalissima sensibilità dice che il materiale conta, e anche parecchio. Allo stesso tempo, sospetto di scale di valore (non valutazioni di differenze) basate sul costo al mercato dei metalli. Galway ci tiene moltissimo ai suoi flauti d'oro tempestati di diamanti, ma sono certo che non siano le pietruzze a fare il suono.

Valuta se valga la pena impelagarsi in un tema scottante, e tutto sommato irrisolto. Più tardi provo a darti qualche indicazione di materiali su cui riflettere.



15 Agosto 2019
Qualche ricerca sui materiali.

- Da parte degli scienziati:

(allego pdf: gli effetti dell'argento, oro, platino sul suono del flauto)

(allego pdf: effetti dei materiali sul suono del flauto)

- Da parte di musicisti e costruttori:

Nickel Silver - Nickel Silver actually does not contain any Silver. Also known as German Silver and white Brass, this alloy of Copper, Zinc and Nickel is used throughout most student model instruments. It is also the choice for key work on mid-level instruments in order to keep costs down without sacrificing sonic qualities.

Silver - Silver is the most common material used in flute making. Many different alloys of silver are available. When the silver is designated by a number such as 950 or 998, this indicates the silver content. For instance, the 950 Silver used by Nagahara flutes is 95.0% Pure Silver. The 998 Silver used by Burkart flutes is 99.8% Pure Silver. Generally, higher pure silver content adds more resistance, which can lead to a slightly warmer or darker sound. Here are some common Silver alloys being used in flutemaking.

Coin Silver - Typically 90% Silver (sometimes 80%). Since Coin Silver is more prone to tarnish than other silver alloys, it is often plated over.

Sterling Silver - 92.5% Pure Silver. This metal serves as the standard of fine flutemakers worldwide.

Britannia Silver - 95.8% Pure Silver. This silver provides a slightly darker tonal quality than sterling. It is available on several Altus and Miyazawa models. Altus calls it Britannia and Miyazawa calls it 958 Silver, though the material is the same. The name Britannia derives from the fact that this metal served for coinage in England from 1697 to 1719.

.946 Altus Silver™ - This alloy consists of 94.6% silver and 18 precious metals, including small amounts of platinum and gold. Exclusive to Altus, it possesses many of the rich tonal attributes of the old French master flute makers, most notably Louis Lot's famous flutes. (Text provided by Altus flutes.)

Because most fine flutes are built with openholes, the selection of flutes available is many times greater. If one insists on plateau, he/she may have to special order a flute and might be required to pay before knowing if the flute meets expectations. Openhole flutes can be used as plateau flutes by inserting plugs in them. We ship all flutes with plugs so that a musician new to French openholes can easily play the instrument. One can remove a plug at a time until the technique and feel is developed. I recommend taking out the A first then the F. From there, take out the E. Lastly, remove the 3rd fingers, either the G or D first depending on the individual. Since openhole flutes are the standard, they will retain their resale value.

Aurumite - Consists of a Gold tube fused to a Sterling Silver tube. This is a Powell trademark name and they use a patented technology to produce this metal. Tonally, Aurumite leans towards the dark, lush sound of solid Gold.

Gold - Gold flutes are prized for their warm tone. Denser than Silver, when alloyed with other metals (Copper, etc.) Gold is also harder. Different karat tells of the volume of pure Gold to alloyed metals. Don’t confuse this with carat, a weight measurement for gems. Gold is normally alloyed with Copper, but can be alloyed with Silver and other material as well. The higher pure Gold content, the darker, warmer the sound. Pure Gold is 24K, but this metal would not easily form tubes, etc. Most practical alloys are 14K or less. Price follows purity.

Gold-Silver (GS) Alloy - An innovative composition made of 10 percent gold and 90 percent silver. Highly tarnish resistant, GS alloy combines the brilliance of silver with the textural warmth of gold resulting in a radiant, refined sound. This material is exclusively available on the Miyazawa Boston Classic.

Platinum - A pure element and extremely dense material, platinum embodies a dark, liquid sound with pristine clarity. With a solid fundamental core, platinum has an intense, penetrating quality and is the ultimate in power and depth. (Text provided by Miyazawa flutes.)

Grenadilla - This term is used to describe a number of different strong, dense woods that are used in instrument making. The wood most makers use is African Blackwood, or dalbergia melanoxylon, which grows in central eastern Africa. Piccolos, clarinets and oboes are commonly made from grenadilla. Modern wood flutes and headjoints often use this material as well. Flutemaker Chris Abell best describes the sound: “The pungent, reedy tone produced with a wooden flute is unequaled in any other material. While the brilliance of tone produced in the metal flutes is exquisite, there is a quality of sound, a dark rich fullness in the wooden instruments, which the metal flutes can only approach…”

Materials Used in Head Joints

There is considerable debate concerning the effects of materials on the sound generated by a headjoint. Many other factors come into play as well. As you search for your next headjoint, I encourage you to be open-minded and try any and every headjoint, whether it is silver, wood, stainless steel, or anything else! The important thing is the performance of the headjoint and the sound it produces, regardless of the material.

Silver: Headjoints made with silver tubing are the most popular headjoints that we sell, particularly with a gold riser or lip plate. Most silver used in headjoint making is sterling, or .925. These headjoints can be made with various wall-thicknesses, from thin (.014), to medium (.016), to heavy (.018). Silver tends to have a brilliant sound. Some say bright. Silver headjoints are well-matched to silver or silver-plated flutes. Most makers offer their silver headjoints with a choice of gold or platinum riser, or with a gold lip plate. Mancke’s metal headjoints are offered with a grenadilla wood lip plate. Changing the riser or lip plate material has a significant effect on the tone by enhancing the sound of the silver with some characteristics of the other material.

Gold: Gold tends to produce a warmer, richer sound than silver. This is often considered a darker sound. The most commonly used gold in headjoint making is 14K Rose Gold. Sheridan also makes a beautiful 14K White Gold. Some makers use higher purities as well. Gold headjoints are well-matched to silver or gold flutes.

Platinum: Platinum headjoints offer the ultimate in power and precision. The sound is penetrating, and is sometimes considered bright or harsh. You’ll notice that there are no platinum headjoints listed in this guide. This is because there are few makers offering platinum headjoints as a part of their regular inventory. Brannen does offer headjoints with a platinum tube and 14k lip and riser that is priced upon request. Miyazawa also offers platinum headjoints, also priced upon request. We do see very few platinum headjoints on the market in the US. Perhaps it is because there are few platinum flutes. Or perhaps because of the high cost of this material. Regardless, if you are interested in a platinum headjoint, let us know and we’ll help you find the perfect one!

Wood: The most common wood used in headjoints making is grenadilla, but other exotic woods are available as well. Wood tends to produce a sound that seems warm and mellow when compared to metal. The wood headjoints featured in this guide (Abell, Mancke, and Young) are designed to fit modern metal flutes. We have sold many wood heads to buyers who intend to use them just for certain musical situations, only to find themselves later totally abandoning the metal head!

- Dalla parte di noi poveri confusi:

Gold, Silver, Platinum, Titanium......um.....Unobtainium; do you need a flute made out of expensive materials?

In the never-ending debate on whether gold, silver or platinum (or other exotic metals) enhances the sound qualities of the flute, I thought it might be interesting to offer up a series of links that discuss this topic.

See if any of these articles interest you:
1. Tests demonstrating that experienced flutists cannot tell the flute's metals apart:


2. The original (older)Coltman document concerning the effects of materials used in flute making (summary: any material can be made to sound well if the flute maker takes a great deal of care in workmanship):



Robert Dick's comments on the Geneva Flute Competitions gold players not projecting sufficiently to judges seated farther back in auditorium:



James Galway's three samples of the opening phrase of Syrinx played on platinum, 24k gold and a silver Yamaha 400 in which it's very hard to tell the instruments apart:

Update 2016: This link is broken. Sir Galway changed websites and did not repost these mp3s.

Click on platinum, gold, silver when you arrive at the above site.

After Much Discussion:

Here's a brief summary of year long discussion on FLUTElist that included over 70 contributers (teachers, professional players, headjoint makers, students):

The difference between a gold, a silver, and a headjoint made of any
other material is often not only subjective on the part of the player, but also a question of there being no two headjoints exactly alike even when they ARE made of the same materials.

Handcut headjoints made by experts typically sound better than cheaper, factory cut headjoints.
Carefully finished headjoints typically sound better than hastily finished headjoints.

But even among almost identical headjoints made by the same headjoint craftsperson, no two are exactly alike.

Every year we answer this question of gold vs. silver quite a few times, and here are some of the more interesting bits and pieces of answers I've seen on the internet over the years:

1. There is a Scientific American article from '98, entitled "Unsound Reasoning" by Karla Harby regarding headjoint materials and their sound qualities.
If it is still available on the net in PDF for reading online at:

Update 2016: This article now behind paywall at Scientific American. $7 approx.:

When you arrive at the above PDF file, scroll down to page 2 to see "Unsound Reasoning" article.
Its summary?
No two headjoints are alike, and even concrete flutes can sound like wooden flutes in a blind listening test. Galway is quoted in the article as saying that gold and platinum flutes play better probably because the flute builders are more careful and spend more time when handcrafting expensive materials into top-of-the-line flutes.

2. Rampal is said to have picked up a silver flute, in a documentary
interview, and said to the interviewer:
"This is the sound of a silver flute (plays).
This is the sound of a gold flute (plays same flute, making a different tone colour.)"

3. Galway also states in his PBS Biography that he cannot tell which flute (gold/silver/other) that he is playing on which CD. He simply can't tell them apart by listening.

4. Albert Cooper is said to have invited a group of flute specialists over one evening to try a new kind of flute material out. Blindfolded, each was handed the same flute and asked to guess the proportions of
"mystery" headjoint material by simply blowing on it and listening
They guessed all sorts of things: 10% gold, 20% platinum etc. etc. After they'd all put in their guesses, Cooper revealed that he'd made this headjoint out of melted down kitchen saucepan.

Cooper's summary? It's not the material it's the craftsmanship.

5. My own theory? (by Jen :>)
Until CNC technology is used that will allow testers to test identical flute headjoint "embouchure cuts" in identical-in-all-respects headjoints made of different metals, there will probably not be a definitive answer to the gold and silver question.

All is conjecture, speculation and subjective opinion (some of which is very strong among those who love playing on gold.)

However, subjectively, most flute players who give an opinion come up with descriptions such as:

-The gold sounds warmer, darker, deeper, more complex.
- The silver sounds brighter, has more sparkle, more carrying.

No one knows for sure, since the most topnotch players can usually get both extremes of tone colour, like Rampal, out of a single headjoint.

Hope this helps.
If you're rich you can afford to experiment.
Be aware, however, that not all headjoints work on all flute bodies. You still have to try many headjoint cuts, brands and sizes to find the one that gives the best results on your flute.

If you're poor, get a decently made headjoint (have an expert flutist help pick one out) and practice lots of tone colours using embouchure techniques outlined by flute expert/authors:

Roger Mather, Ann Cherry, Robert Dick, Trevor Wye, etc.
A good book list of these authors can be found at:


Jen Cluff



Wood may never be replaced as the material of choice for violins, and there may never be a more appropriate material than brass for constructing trumpets and horns. Still, instrument makers use materials as a way to differentiate their products from others, and even traditional craftspeople have been known to tinker with advanced materials for better sound quality—if only in the details of an instrument.

While materials selection plays a role in all instrument production, the extent of a material’s effect on the sound varies from one instrument to the next.

“In some instances, the material is directly involved in sound generation, while in other instruments, this is not the case,” said Gregor Widholm of the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. “For the violin, the material is extremely important, because the body generates the sound that we hear. The other extreme is the clarinet, where the air column inside generates the sound and the material is only needed to form the shape of the air column. In this case, you can take any material.”

From wind instruments to violins, scientists and musical instrument makers continue to test the use of traditional materials, while looking for ways to integrate new ones.

Materials are a hot topic in brass musical instruments: not so much because of scientific advances and innovations, but for quite the opposite reason. The debate is over whether the metal used plays any role in the sound of the instrument at all. The role of metals in brass instruments and flutes is a subject of considerable debate among instrument makers and players.
There is, obviously, a significant price difference between instruments made of valuable metals and those made of less expensive materials. But is there a difference in the sound? That’s what some researchers have set out to determine.

In Austria, Widholm conducted a study to learn the effect of different metals on the sound of flutes, while in the United Kingdom, Richard Smith has conducted tests to determine if different materials yield different sounds in trombones.

Testing Precious-Metal Flutes
Widholm, who established the Institut für Wiener Klangstil (IWK) at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna in 1980, conducts applied research in the field of musical acoustics, with a focus on the particular sound characteristics of the Viennese playing tradition. The institute credits Widholm with founding the scientific research field of musical acoustics in Austria by adapting scientific physical measuring methods to the investigation of the functionality of musical instruments. In recent years, Widholm and his colleagues set out to provide a final answer to the question of whether materials make a difference in sound quality—and to determine if it is worth spending $150,000 on a 24 kt gold flute or if a $3,500 silver-coated model will do the job just as well.

In the study, Widholm and his colleagues chose seven identical flutes made by a single manufacturer, Muramatsu, in seven different materials: silver coated, full silver, 9 kt gold, 14 kt gold, 24 kt gold, platinum coated, and all-platinum. Seven professional flute players from Viennese orchestras were recruited to test the flutes by playing short solo pieces and individual notes on each of the seven flutes. These results were recorded and analyzed by IWK researchers, and the professionals listened to the results. What they found was that the instrument being played had little effect on the sound.

“Silver, 24 kt gold, and platinum all have different vibrating properties, of course, but the musician can mask all these properties by generating the sound,” said Widholm. “That’s the reason why there’s really no difference between the $3,500 flute and the $150,000 flute. We conducted these tests with professional flute players, and when they heard the samples recorded, they heard no difference. There are some notes where you can hear slight variations, but in general, there was no difference.” These tests measured the dynamic range of the instrument—that is, how loud or soft the musician can play. The platinum flute provided a slightly higher dynamic range, but, while measurable, it was not significant. The difference between musicians varied more than between instruments.

“The musician can create their own personal sound with any flute,” said Widholm.

An Experiment in Brass
Unlike many instrument makers, who start out as musicians, Richard Smith began as a scientist, receiving masters and Ph.D. degrees in acoustics. His doctoral research dealt with the application of quantum physics to musical instruments.

Now, Smith uses his scientific background to manufacture brass instruments with high sound quality at his own company, SmithWatkins, where he designs instruments with trumpet player Derek Watkins. Recently, SmithWatkins cornets were selected over ten other top manufacturers as the instrument of choice for the U.K. Royal Air Force.

“Opinions on the matter of the contribution to musical quality made by the walls of wind instruments are diverse and certainly not lacking,” Smith wrote in “The Effect of Material in Brass Instruments,” an article that appeared in the Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics in 1986. “They range from those of the staid scientist who refuses to consider that the walls could have any effect at all, to those of the misguided musician who proposes pseudo-scientific theories of sound production.”

Like Widholm, Smith has also put instruments to scientific tests to determine if varying the material of an instrument will change its sound. Smith conducted an experiment using several trombone bells of various materials and thicknesses. Although holographic measurements show differences in the vibration for the various thicknesses of material, Smith found that not one of the professional trombone players in his study was able to tell the difference either between different types of material or different thicknesses of material in the bell of the trombone.

Internal shape is important to the sound, bell shape is important, and the lead pipes are important, according to Smith. “Materials are really just the icing on top,” he said. “I don’t worry too much about materials.” For trombones, trumpets, and horns, the materials issues really have not changed in years. For Smith, brass is still best.

“It’s all about what material is easiest to work with,” said Smith. “Brass is ideal because it’s malleable.” While the body material will likely stay the same, there is room for materials innovations in some of the instrument’s smaller pieces. For example, Smith would like to see a materials redesign of trumpet valves to make them faster. Using lighter weight materials in the valves, such as magnesium or titanium, could be the solution, he suggested.

A new challenge has been offered for materials science.

Instruments are Like Golf Clubs . . .
If specific metals have not proven to make much difference in the sound of metallic instruments, why select one material over another? Some manufacturers use materials as a marketing device to differentiate themselves from competitors. For others, it is simply a way to offer musicians more choice.

“There is, of course, a psychological effect,” said Widholm. “If you have a perfect instrument made out of silver that cost $10,000 and then you got a 24 kt gold flute for $120,000, maybe you would play the gold instrument in a slightly different way.”

Elizabeth Holm, a materials scientist and amateur musician, compares it to the golf club industry, where new clubs made of better materials are introduced every year, claiming to improve your game.

“There’s a strong placebo effect. If you have more confidence in your clubs, doesn’t it make you play a little better, at least for a while?” she said. “I don’t know; I’ve never measured it. But it’s the same with music.”


Does material affect tone quality in woodwind instruments?: Why scientists and musicians just can’t seem to agree
Most woodwind players would be surprised if you asked them whether the material from which their instrument is made affects its sound. Certainly!—most would reply. An inexpensive nickel-plated flute has a tone lacking in character and brilliance, but a fine silver flute sounds, well, silvery! It has a tone that sparkles, that sings, that carries to the back of the concert hall. The most discriminating flutists might opt for the more luxuriant timbres of white, yellow, or rose gold, or even the rare and weighty quality of platinum.
And any self-respecting oboist or clarinetist would refuse to even consider an instrument made of lifeless black plastic. Only the finest aged African blackwood can provide the dark, rich, woody tone that a true artist requires. Bassoonists likewise insist upon bassoons made from the best maple, and preferably treated with a secret-formula varnish, which, like that of the famous Stradivarius violins, is rumored to impart a special vividness and resonance to the instrument’s sound.
And fine saxophones, though most often made from brass and lacquered in a gold color, can be special-ordered in silver or even gold plate, which, saxophonists just know, bestow a unique sonic personality. Some saxophonists are willing to pay a premium for certain hard-to-find French instruments made in the decade following World War II, which are reported to be made from melted-down artillery shell casings, and to have a correspondingly powerful quality of tone.
It seems to many musicians a self-evident truth that premium materials produce a premium sound. But scientists have believed for years that a woodwind instrument’s material has virtually no effect on the kind of sound the instrument produces.
Unsurprisingly, the scientific view has not been popular with the woodwind-playing crowd. Most have invested thousands of dollars in their personal instruments made from the rarest woods and shiniest jewelry metals. Most have been taught the subtleties of instrument selection by wise and respected teachers, and have dutifully passed the knowledge on to their own generations of students. But most of all, they have heard with their own ears the difference between a silver flute and a gold flute, or a plastic oboe and a wood one. They have held the instruments in their own hands and felt, deep in their gut, that different materials just sound different.
Theobald Boehm, the 19th-century flutist and metalsmith who virtually invented the modern flute, held to this idea. He wrote in 1871,
The greater or less hardness and brittleness of the material has a very great effect upon the quality of tone. Upon this point much experience is at hand. Tubes of pewter give the softest, and at the same time the weakest, tones; those made of very hard and brittle German silver have, on the contrary, the most brilliant, but also the shrillest, tones; the silver flute is preferable because of its. . . unsurpassed brilliancy and sonorousness; compared with these the tones of flutes made of wood, sound literally wooden.1
Clarinetist Geoffrey Rendall, writing in 1954, said that clarinets made of ebonite (a hard rubber compound) “somehow seem to lack the carrying power and expressiveness of wood.”
The tone can be taken just so far and no further. It lacks life and is no longer popular with professional musicians. . . . What has been said of ebonite may be said of metal. . . . it has the slight deadness of ebonite. . . 2
The woodwind player and historian Anthony Bates said in 1967 of the clarinet,
. . . [It] has a cylindrical tube . . . of African blackwood, which has replaced cocus; though possibly none of this jungle wood can rival the old Turkish boxwood, which for some reason gave especially fine results in clarinets. . . Many fine players have played on ebonite, which gives a sweeter though rather smaller tone than wood. Metal, on the other hand, does not seem to offer the right resistance, giving a tone that feels to most players rather vapid and uninteresting, and it is not used for high-class work.3
So why do scientists insist that material is effectively irrelevant?
Many woodwind players assume that, say, a clarinet vibrates like a violin soundboard or a drumhead, transmitting sound waves into the surrounding air. And, in fact, a clarinetist can feel the instrument vibrating in her hands when she plays.
The mistake here, according to scientists, is thinking that the vibrating instrument is what is producing the sound. Basic acoustics tells us that the woodwind instrument is merely a container for the real sound-producing body—a vibrating column of air.4
A number of scientists have undertaken to prove empirically that characteristics of a woodwind instrument’s sound are affected only by the characteristics of the air column. But there are several factors which make this a difficult proposition.
First, as every woodwind player knows, no two instruments play alike. Fine woodwind instruments vary from specimen to specimen. These variations range from the easily visible to the virtually undetectable, and interact in complex ways to affect the sound of the instrument. In order to accurately test the effect of wall material, these instrument-to-instrument variables must be eliminated.
A particular difficulty with eliminating these variables in woodwind instruments is the question of the instrument’s pads. Woodwind instruments have toneholes that are opened and closed by pads made of cork or animal skin. These pads are installed by hand by specialized craftsmen, and the process is widely regarded as more of an art than an exact science. Small variations in the organic materials involved, and in the pads’ installation, can cause very noticeable differences in the way each instrument plays.
A second consideration is the human physiological factor. A woodwind player’s embouchure—the way he uses the complex system of facial muscles to form an interface with the mouthpiece—is, as he will ruefully tell you, highly variable. Even the finest and most consistent players change their embouchures, at least imperceptibly, from moment to moment. Many of these subtle changes are made intuitively and without the player’s awareness of which muscles are being used, or maybe even that they are being used at all. The complex human respiratory system adds another comparable layer of problems. The human anatomy presents a highly complicated and hard-to-measure set of variables that must be dealt with in order to construct a scientifically acceptable experiment.
A third and even more mysterious factor is the influence of human psychology. Any bias on the part of woodwind players or listeners can affect their perception of an instrument’s sound. A bassoonist, for example, might consciously or unconsciously expect that, say, a bassoon with richly grained wood might have a “fuller” sound, or that a plastic bassoon will just sound more “plasticky.” The simple expectation of hearing a certain sound may influence the bassoonist (or a listener) to project that expectation onto the actual sound heard.
In a 1964 experiment, University of Southern California physicist Dr. John Backus attempted to determine the role of a clarinet’s body vibrations in sound production.5 Backus’s experiment centered on a clever and slightly comical gadget, with an artificial embouchure powered by a household vacuum cleaner. The clarinet’s tone holes were all closed (simulating a clarinetist playing the instrument’s lowest note), and the bell of the instrument was fitted with a muting device. When the clarinet was “played” via vacuum cleaner in this way, no sound waves could pass from the air column inside the clarinet directly into the air surrounding the instrument. Backus found that in this situation the instrument was virtually silent; the vibrating wood of the clarinet emitted such weak sound waves as to be inaudible to a human ear at a distance of one inch from the instrument’s body. Backus concluded that the wall vibrations of a clarinet are too small to produce a perceptible sound. Further, he speculated that if it were possible to make the instrument vibrate sufficiently to be heard, the consequence would not likely be a pleasant one; he pointed out that a similar phenomenon occurs when one of the instrument’s keys works loose and causes an annoying buzz. Backus’s further research reveals that the instrument’s body vibrations are due to the reed vibrating against the mouthpiece, not due to the vibrations of the enclosed air column.6
In 1971, the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published a study by Dr. John Coltman, a physicist and researcher for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.7 Coltman, an amateur flutist, attempted to test the sound properties of different woodwind wall materials while minimizing the effects of instrument variation, physiology, and psychology. Coltman’s experimental apparatus matched Backus’s for both ingenuity and hilarity, consisting of three cylindrical tubes: one of silver, one of copper, and one of blackwood, all identical in inner diameter. Each tube was fitted with an ostensibly identical flute headjoint made of Delrin plastic. The three flutes were arranged so that their headjoints passed through a shield, blocking the tubes from the flutist’s view, and the entire contraption was mounted on a central rod, which the player held onto (so as not to touch any of the tubes) and rotated to bring each of the headjoints into playing position.
In the first phase of the experiment, a panel of listeners (including nonmusicians and musicians, some of the musicians being flutists), was asked to listen to sets of three sample notes or groups of notes. Two of each three samples were played on one flute, and one sample was played on another, and the listeners were asked to identify which sample was played on a different flute than the other two. The results? The listeners were correct about one third of the time, the same result that would be expected from random guessing.
In the second phase of Coltman’s experiment, trained flutists were asked to blindly play each of the three flutes, and select one which they thought they could identify again. Then the flutists were instructed to spin the rod quickly so as to lose track of the selected flute, and then find it by playing each of the flutes again. Again, the results were essentially on par with random selection. Coltman interpreted these results to mean that neither flutists nor listeners could accurately identify a difference in sound between the three materials.
Decades of similar studies, especially the continued work of Backus at the University of Southern California, confirm and refine these results. But though the scientific evidence seems overwhelming, musicians still insist they can hear a difference. It is possible—even likely—that wall material does influence an instrument’s sound, but only in a number of indirect ways.
Materials may affect they way an instrument sounds before anyone ever plays it—by affecting the way the instrument is made. For example, some woods may respond better to instrument makers’ drills and reamers, and thus more faithfully reproduce the desired bore shape; certain metals may likewise cooperate better in taking the desired form. Or perhaps more expensive materials make better-sounding instruments because makers handle them with an extra measure of care. In the case of plated flutes or saxophones, instruments that seem to play especially well may be selected by the maker for a special finish of some precious metal.
It is also possible that the vibration of the instrument’s body is, in fact, audible to the player through the phenomenon of bone conduction, in which sound waves are transmitted through the bones of the head to the inner ear. If this is the case, it is possible that the instrument’s vibrations are minutely audible to the player. As Backus points out, there is no reason to believe that audible instrument body vibrations would be an improvement, but in any case the vibrations could conceivably affect the player’s perception of tone, and thus even affect his approach to playing the instrument, indirectly affecting what the audience hears.
But the most convincing theory of why musicians are so sure about gold flutes and maple bassoons is that the materials do, in many ways, affect the way the player feels. And, as any musician will tell you, nothing affects the music more than the way the musician feels. The smooth, polished wood of a fine oboe, the patina of the silver keys, even the gold of the maker’s emblem, lend the oboist confidence, comfort, perhaps a sense of luxury?—that come through in the way he or she plays.
While it seems clear from scientific investigation that, all else being equal, materials make no difference to a woodwind instrument’s sound, it seems equally clear from musical experience that all else is never equal. Factors as small as the precise brass alloy of a saxophone’s body can make all the difference in the world—not because of any acoustical effect, but because of the undeniable human element. So if you feel, deep in your heart, that a platinum flute or a rosewood oboe or a silver-plated saxophone will make you sound better, then it probably will make you sound better.
Woodwind players will continue to play the instruments that feel and sound right to them, no matter what the scientists have to say. And so they should! A musician’s instrument is the tool of his or her trade, a treasured possession, and a nearly constant companion. But perhaps a levelheaded understanding of the role of materials in a woodwind instrument’s sound can lead to better instruments—and better musicians—in the future.
1. Theobald Boehm, The Flute and Flute Playing in Acoustical, Technical, and Artistic Aspects (New York: Dover Publications, 1964).
2. F. Geoffrey Rendall, The Clarinet: Some Notes Upon its History and Construction (New York: Philosophical Library, 1954), 14-15.
3. Anthony Bates, Woodwind Instruments and Their History (New York: Dover, 1967), 117.
4. See, for example, William J. Strong and George R. Plitnik, Music – Speech – Audio (Provo, UT: Soundprint, 1992), 307-315.
5. John Backus, “Effect of Wall Material on the Steady-State Tone Quality of Woodwind Instruments,” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 36, no. 10 (1964 ): 1881-1887.
6. Ibid., 1883-84.
7. John W. Coltman, “Effect of Material on Flute Tone Quality,” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 49, no. 2 (1971): 520-523.


  • Silver_gold_platinum-and_the_sound_of_the_flute.pdf
    465.2 KB · Visualizzazioni: 286
  • Coltman-1.06.pdf
    508.5 KB · Visualizzazioni: 273


15 Agosto 2019
Grazie per le info Paolo. Secondo me il materiale conta ma non così tanto... è questione di gusto.

Molti giovani si indebitano per comprare un all gold, quando all'inizio uno strumento troppo pesante è controproducente. Inoltre con un buon flauto d'argento si può suonare in qualsiasi orchestra, l'oro è più difficile da suonare secondo me.


15 Agosto 2019
Una cosa che suggerirei a iris, per puro interesse personale, è valutare una ricerca sulle variazioni del suono a seconda dell'espansione del metallo, scaldato dalla stagione e/o dall'aria calda insufflata. Contenuto armonico, volume, facilità di vibrazione. Non credo che esista qualcosa del genere, e sarebbe invece utile conoscere questi dati per sapere come comportarsi con il proprio strumento a seconda della stagione o del procedere del concerto.



Staff Forum
8 Luglio 2019
Tra i trattati che potresti consultare (in italiano) Il flauto traverso di Lazzari-Galante, c'è una parte sull'acustica tra cui - p.432 L'influenza del materiale costruttivo.

L'influenza che il materiale con cui è costruito il tubo esercita sul suono dello strumento è un tema che divide le convinzioni dei fisici e dei flautisti. Mentre i primi tendono a minimizzarne i possibili effetti, i secondi ritengono il tipo di legno o di metallo impiegato influente al punto da considerarlo nelle loro scelte estetiche.
In un interessante esperimento condotto da John W. Coltman furono suonati tre flauti identici, di fattura elementare e privi di chiavi, ma di materiale diverso (argento, rame e legno): gli strumenti erano stati camuffati in modo tale che i tre esperti flautisti chiamati a suonarli non potessero riconoscerli dal peso o al tatto. Nessun esecutore riuscì a distinguere gli strumenti dal suono nè si ebbero "significative correlazioni" nelle risposte di una trentina di ascoltatori di varia competenza flautistica. Nel medesimo articolo Coltman afferma che "anche con i più accurati tentativi (con esecutori diversi) di produrre suoni identici sullo stesso strumento, si producono variazioni che sono più evidenti di quelli associabili al materiale".
Bisogna comunque chiarire che di solito i fisici predispongono gli esperimenti perchè si possano rilevare differenze acustiche indotte unicamente dalle intrinseche qualità del materiale: il peso specifico, la densità del materiale lavorato, dove entrano in gioco quelle complesse variabili, già discusse nel corso di questo capitolo, che possono smorzare o intensificare sonorità e armoniche. Basti anche soltanto osservare gli effetti sul suono della periodica manutenzione del flauto. Chi suona su flauti di legno ha sperimentato che l'oliatura interna opacizza il suono, invece chi utilizza flauti di metallo sa che una energica pulizia interna del tubo schiarisce il timbro (perciò di solito la si evita).
Questi due ordini di cose hanno spesso confini comuni, come nel caso del grado di rifinitura delle pareti interne del tubo, che in parte dipende dalla compattezza delle fibre del legno o dalla duttilità del metallo, ma in parte varia in relazione all'abilità (o alla volontà) del costruttore e al livello tecnologico dei suoi strumenti di lavoro. La porosità del legno, una caratteristica che può alzare il diapason fino a 20 cent, può essere attenuata dalle vernici e la flessibilità del materiale con cui è costruito il tubo, che vibra e per gli impulsi del generatore di suono, può essere attenuata aumentando lo spessore della parete del tubo. A seconda del materiale impiegato, i medesimi costruttori sul medesimo modello di flauto calcolano dimensioni e seguono procedimenti di rifinitura leggermente diversi, che hanno ripercussioni sul suono.
Vi sono poi due caratteristiche che potrebbero determinare sensibili influenze sul suono. La prima è la vibrazione che il generatore comunica al tubo che, quando il materiale è molto flessibile e le pareti sono sufficientemente sottili, i flautisti percepiscono sotto le dita mentre suonano (da non confondere con la vibrazione della colonna d'aria percepibile nei flauti con tastiera aperta). Questa vibrazione non genera un suono autonomo nè, come dimostrano gli esperimenti, influisce sensibilmente sulla colonna d'aria vibrante.
La seconda caratteristica è il grado di rifinitura del bordo del foro d'imboccatura, poichè il generatore è estremamente sensibile e importante per l'attivazione delle armoniche componenti il suono. Si spiega forse così il suono scuro e dolce del legno di bosso e la vena incisiva e brillante dell'ebano e dei legni di struttura compatta ma fragile, i quali conservano microfratture superficiali che trasmettono al suono alcune alte frequenze dovute al rumore di soffio.