Baroque Flute Handbook

The Baroque flute was popular from the 1670s up until the 1900s. Its main use was from the 1670s until the late 18th to early 19th centuries, when more keys started being added. Even though multi-keyed flutes gradually supplanted the Baroque flute at the end of the 18th Century, these multi-keyed flutes were more widely in use by professionals than amateurs, who continued to use one-keyed flutes even up until the 1900s (although multi-keyed flutes, and eventually Boehm flutes, grew in popularity among amateurs as well).

It is known by several names:

  • Traverso
  • German flute
  • One-keyed (or single-keyed) flute

Traverso is the name preferred by many for historical reasons. This book will also use Baroque flute because it accurately names the instrument for modern readers.

In general, the Baroque flute has the following characteristics:

  • It is made of wood, of which the most commonly used are boxwood, ebony, and grenadilla.
  • It has a conical bore that is wide at the end with the embouchure hole and tapers to become significantly more narrow at the bottom.
  • It has relatively small embouchure and finger holes. Earlier flutes have embouchure holes that are almost exactly circular, and later flutes have more oval embouchure holes.
  • It has 6 finger holes plus a 7th hole on the far end that is closed unless opened by a single key.
  • Its body is divided into 3 or 4 joints: a headjoint that contains the embouchure hole, 1 or 2 middle joints with 6 finger holes divided among them, and a footjoint having a 7th hole and key.

The Baroque flute returned to popularity in the 20th Century as part of the HIP (historically informed performance) movement, where interest grew in music, instruments, and performance practices of earlier times. While it is easier to find information about the Baroque flute now than in previous decades, that information tends to be scattered across a variety of sources, much of it in the form of an "oral tradition" passed among the community of makers and players. Much of the information on the traverso itself and musical style comes from treatises of the time, (eg. Quantz, Hotteterre, CPE Bach, Leopold Mozart, etc). Even among experts, opinions on some matters vary widely. For the newcomer, this can be at times confusing and frustrating. The purpose of this handbook is to collect some of this material in one place, hoping it will be useful for beginners as well as more advanced players.

Table of Contents edit

  1. Know your instrument
  2. Care
  3. Practicing
  4. Technique
  5. Exercises
  6. References