In the last half of the seventeenth century, French flutist Jacques Hotteterre (1673-1763) employed significant changes to satisfy this need. He began by adding the d-sharp key in the 1660s, transforming the otherwise keyless mechanism into the one-keyed flute. In order to educate flutists about the new system, he published a tutor method, Principes de la Flute Traversiere, ou Flute de Allemagne in 1707. Another innovative move was to change the bore to from cylindrical to conical starting at the top of the middle joint tapering to the beginning of the foot joint. This radical modification eliminated the shrill quality of the timbre and flattened the pitch by allowing the finger holes to be placed closer together.
Though progress in workmanship was evident in the early eighteenth century, advancement in pitch accuracy was not. Prior to the days of equal temperament, variances in pitch from a=350 to a=500 were common depending on the country of performance and the other instruments in the ensemble. Pitch versatility, therefore, was a necessity. To accommodate this, common flute components of this period included an adjustable head joint tuning cork as well as interchangeable upper middle joints in varying lengths. The latter, called corps de rechange were carried along in separate cases in the event a different pitched instrument was required for a collaborative performance. Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) also invented a head-joint tuning slide that evolved into the tuning method flutists use today.
The Classic Period (1750-1820)
These innovations achieved moderate intonation success, however complicated cross fingerings and impeccably accurate embouchure placements were required to play many of the notes on the flute. There was, unfortunately, little room for amateur ignorance. Consequently, Mozart (1756-1791) primarily wrote in the flute friendly keys of G and D to appease his own sensitive ears. Nevertheless, to the general listening public, poor intonation was an accepted reality. The great skill required to navigate tuning tendencies was taken into consideration whenever a flutist performed.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, London flute makers Pietro Florio (1730-1795), Caleb Gedney (1729-1769), and Richard Potter (1728-1806) introduced several chromatic adjustments to the flute mechanism. The addition of three new keys—g-sharp, b-flat, and f—left c-natural as the only remaining note needed to fill the d-chromatic scale. The flute making trio added the missing c and a c-sharp key in 1774. Though the materials used in constructing the key mechanisms were not widely accepted until the 1790s, evidence of these changes can be observed in Haydn’s music in the second half of the Classic period.
The “German” or “old system” flute was complete with the further contributions of flute designers Dr. J.H. Ribock (1743-1785) and Johann G. Tromlitz (1725-1805). The resulting eight-keyed flute sported a closed c-natural key and an additional f-key (long-f) to more easily facilitate certain slurs. The eight-keyed flute was highly innovative in its time, though the popularity of the one-keyed flute prevailed into the early nineteenth century. The latter was less expensive to manufacture and flutists preferred the familiar fingering system—troubled as it was.
Stay tuned for next week's post all about how Boehm came to the rescue of flutists everywhere!
Thanks for reading, and happy practicing!
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