Development of The Modern Cut Embouchure

The baroque flute had the most basic of embouchure - a round hole to blow down.  By the 19th century, this had developed into an elliptical hole, usually with straight sides or sometimes a small amount of undercutting.  This gave considerably more volume, but still required the player to adapt to the hole, rather than the hole coming any way towards suiting the player.  The eight key flute's development stopped fairly abruptly in the 19th century when Boehm introduced his new design.  Because the Irish flute is a development of the eight-key flute, this remains the standard embouchure in use today for Irish music.

Development of the flute embouchure in general did not stand still - it continued to progress on the orchestral flute and is still the subject of current research and development.  By comparison with the 19th century embouchure, we can summarise current trends as:

  • smaller hole dimensions to make focusing easier
  • deeper chimney for better tone development
  • substantial undercutting to offset the smaller dimensions and deeper chimney
  • undercut edge to sharpen edge angle
  • topcut on edge to sharpen edge angle
  • more rectangular hole to maximise cross sectional area and widen the edge
  • edge raised above centre of hole for more comfortable blowing angle
  • player's side thinned to get lips closer to edge to make focussing easier
  • player's side contoured for greater comfort and improved flute and lip support
  • sides of embouchure hole rounded inside and out to reduce wind noise and intermodulation products

Now the construction and dimensions of modern and 8-key flute heads are quite different, so it is not possible to simply replace one with the other. I have developed a variant of the 8-key flute head employing these improvements. Indeed, for a number of reasons, the improvements are of greater significance and can be more readily realised on the wooden instrument.

The prototype Modern cut embouchure
(shown here in Gidgee with a brass Mark I tuning slide)

Applying these developments to the Irish flute brings some quite significant benefits over a flute with the regular embouchure.  Being subjective, they are hard to quantify, but here goes:

  • The flute is much easier to play - say about 30% easier.
  • It's a little louder - say 15%
  • It's quicker to respond - about 25% quicker
  • It feels more "immediate" and "focussed" - say 30%.  The sound is "closer" to you.

I've been looking for a downside, so far without result.  The tone seems the same, but the flute is significantly more agile.  The head is also lighter, making the flute more comfortable to hold.

This style of embouchure will be of particular interest to those who wish to keep up their Boehm flute playing, those who find the older style embouchure heavy going and those who are looking to get as much out of the flute as possible.  Modern cut embouchures are available as an option on my flutes. I can also provide modern cut head joints for fitting to existing flutes.

A more recent Modern Cut Embouchure, now referred to as the Thinned Head

Development Continues

Finding not everyone was attracted to the radically different appearance of the new head, I struggled to find a way to achieve the new dimensions but retain the old appearance.  

Latest Development of my Modern Cut Head, now called the Eccentric Bore head.  All the sneaky stuff is on the inside.

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