Flutes in C


The C flute is one full tone (2 semitones) below the standard flute in D. 

(We have to be a bit careful with our terminology here - modern usage calls a standard D flute a flute in C.  We're sticking to the traditional naming convention - the note played with the fingering xxx xxx.)

Just as the usual D flute plays most easily in the keys D, G, Am, Bm and Em, a flute in C will play readily in the keys C, F, Gm, Am and Dm.

Asking musicians of various persuasions what they use such a flute for reveals a busy potential lifestyle:

  • a deeper, more resonant flute voice for concert, home and recording use

  • accompanying singing in the popular keys of C and F

  • playing along with Irish pipers with "flat" sets in C

  • or Northumbrian pipers in F

  • or Galician and Asturian Gaita players in C

  • some Irish and French-Canadian tunes in Dm or F

  • the English Country Dance repertoire, including Playford, often set in C or F.

Multiple flutes versus Multiple Keys

So why have a flute in C rather than using a fully chromatic D flute with a C foot?  Answer is that both approaches will work, but each approach attracts a different kind of player.  For those who have only played keyless flute (or keyed flute but not using the keys much) and therefore have a great investment in the basic scales, a second flute permits you to take further advantage of that investment for no additional effort.

And what model?

On an historical note, the earliest conical flutes - France in the mid 17th century - were pitched in what we would now call C, although at the time they were regarded as being in D, at the old French Pitch of around 395Hz.  But these had small embouchures and tone holes, and would be altogether too quiet in today's rough and tumble world.

So, lacking any appropriate historical precedent, what to use as a model?  There seemed to be two likely approaches:

  • extend or rescale a normal D flute down to C, or

  • rescale a Bb flute back up to C.

Both of these have their merits, and I offer both.  Let's work it through ...

Normal Bore version

My "normal bore" C flute can be based on any of my D models.  The bore of head and body are kept the same, but the finger holes are redistributed along the body and foot to give us a flute in C rather than D.  You'd choose this approach if you wanted your C flute to have the same general sound and response as a D flute, and to be able to switch between them with a minimum of re-familiarisation. 

Big Bore version

I also wanted to produce a C flute with a bigger and fruitier tone, so I took the latter course, resulting in a flute nicely balanced in tone over the usual range, but capable of playing easily up to the middle of the third octave if needed. This would suit someone wishing their C flute to have a different sound to their D flute.

Finger stretch

The finger stretch is proportionally greater than the D flute, but not unreasonably so. (A Siccama version, with keys to extend fingers L3 and R3, is available for those whose stretch stops at or before D).  As is usual with my flutes, I've kept the weight down and the responsiveness up.

Image coming soon, but it looks pretty much like any of my other keyless flutes, e.g. this one in Bb:

Keyless flute in Blackwood, Eccentric Bore head, Elliptical Embouchure,
New Improved Tuning Slide, Integral Foot.  This one with slightly offset L3 and R3 holes (optional).

Combination C and D flute

It is possible and practical to have a Normal Bore C body fitted to your D flute head and barrel, or to buy a combination D and C flute with one head (and barrel) and two bodies.  Talk to me!

Options and Features

All the usual options and features are available:

  • Screw cap

  • Eccentric Bore, Traditional Cylinder or Thinned head

  • Elliptical, Two Semicircles or Rounded Rectangles embouchure

  • New Improved Tuning Slide or Minimum Disruption Tenon

  • Integral Foot, Short Foot or Long Foot

  • Blackwood or other timbers as available

  • Keys

Where to now?

Check out my other flute models:

D & Eb

Bb & B

Last updated, November 2005