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Body Vibrational Spectra of Metal Flute Models

By Clare M. Hurtgen, Dewey T. Lawson, Daniel J. Gauthier and Stephen W. Teitsworth Abstract


For years, flutists have argued over the tonal advantages of using different precious metals for their instruments. Occasionally, scientists have entered the fray and attempted to offer an objective point of view based on experimental measurements. However, their research often involved actual instruments and performers, ignoring variations in wall thickness, craftsmanship, and human consistency. These experiments have been conducted using a variety of methods; all have concluded that wall material has no effect on tone. This project approaches the question using simple tubular models, excited by a wind source through a fipple mouthpiece. The amplitude and phase of the harmonic components of the body vibrational signal were measured with a stereo cartridge. Results demonstrated the existence of complex patterns of wall vibrations in the vicinity of a tone hole lattice, at frequencies that match significant harmonics of the air column. Additionally, the tube wall was found to expand in a nonuniform or “elliptical ” manner due to the asymmetry of the tone holes. While this method is somewhat removed from direct musical applications, it can provide an objective, quantitative basis for assessing the source of differences among flutes.

Year: 1999
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