The Anatomy of a Flute

by Adam Kuenzel

Capable of reaching higher notes than any other woodwind, the flute is used in everything from classical music to jazz and pop. While the flute may seem like a relatively basic instrument at first glance, the classic woodwind is an intricately designed piece of equipment with many nuances. Here is a brief overview of the three main components of a flute and the way in which they work together to produce music.

Headjoint: The first piece of the flute is the headjoint, the part of the instrument that touches the musician’s mouth and allows him to breathe into it. This makes the headjoint one of the most influential components in the final sound the flute produces. Several key parts of the flute are included on the headjoint, such as the lip plate, the curve of which can affect the instrument’s tone and the flutist’s ease in playing, and the headjoint cork, which can be used to adjust pitch.

Body: The largest portion of the flute, the body contains the vast majority of the keys. Keys come in two types: open hole, also referred to as French, and closed hole, also called American or plateau. While there are no strict rules about what type of keys to use, most professional flutes have open holes while most student flutes have closed ones.

Foot Joint: As its name suggests, the foot joint is the final part of the flute. Before the foot joint was invented, the downward range of the flute was limited to D above middle C. Flutists can now choose between a C foot joint, which adds brilliance of tone and makes it easier to play in the upper register, or a B foot joint, which extends the range of the flute to B below middle C, and increases the depth and richness of the flute’s sound.

About the Author: An accomplished flutist, Adam Kuenzel possesses close to three decades of professional experience and is currently the Principal Flutist of the Minnesota Orchestra. Kuenzel has performed several concerti during his career, including works by Otaka, Bach, Corigliano, and Manue Sosa. Sosa won a 2011 Guggenhaeim Award for his work, Eloquentia, which was premiered by Kuenzel and the Minnesota Orchestra. Adam Kuenzel received his undergraduate training at the Oberlin Conservatory under Robert Willoughby, where he earned a Bachelor of Music and won the Concerto Competition in 1981.

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