Theobald Boehm

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Theobald Böhm (or Boehm) (April 9, 1794 – November 25, 1881) was a German inventor and musician, who perfected the modern Western concert flute and improved its fingering system (now known as the "Boehm system"). Theobald Boehm_sentence_0

He was a Bavarian court musician, a virtuoso flautist and a renowned composer. Theobald Boehm_sentence_1

The fingering system he devised has also been adapted to other instruments, such as the oboe and the clarinet. Theobald Boehm_sentence_2

Life and works Theobald Boehm_section_0

Born in Munich in Bavaria, Boehm learned his father's trade of goldsmithing. Theobald Boehm_sentence_3

After making his own flute, he quickly became proficient enough to play in an orchestra at the age of seventeen, and at twenty-one he was first flautist in the Royal Bavarian Orchestra. Theobald Boehm_sentence_4

Meanwhile, he experimented with constructing flutes out of many different materials—tropical hardwoods (usually Grenadilla wood), silver, gold, nickel and copper—and with changing the positions of the flute's tone holes. Theobald Boehm_sentence_5

After studying acoustics at the University of Munich, he began experimenting on improving the flute in 1832, first patenting his new fingering system in 1847. Theobald Boehm_sentence_6

He published Über den Flötenbau ("On the construction of flutes"), also in 1847. Theobald Boehm_sentence_7

His new flute was first displayed in 1851 at the London Exhibition. Theobald Boehm_sentence_8

In 1871 Boehm published Die Flöte und das Flötenspiel ("The Flute and Flute-Playing"), a treatise on the acoustical, technical and artistic characteristics of the Boehm system flute. Theobald Boehm_sentence_9

Boehm's experience as a goldsmith was a key factor in his ability to redesign the flute. Theobald Boehm_sentence_10

For example, in The Flute and Flute-Playing he recounts having made a flute with moveable tone holes, in order to determine the proper location of each hole for correct intonation -- a remarkable piece of metal-working. Theobald Boehm_sentence_11

Traditional flutes were limited in size because the player had to be able to reach all the tone holes in the span of two hands. Theobald Boehm_sentence_12

By substituting mechanically covered tone holes, Boehm eliminated this limitation, and was able to make larger, deeper flutes, such as the alto flute. Theobald Boehm_sentence_13

Boehm was very fond of the alto flute, and recounts a time he was playing it when someone mistook it for a french horn. Theobald Boehm_sentence_14

Legacy Theobald Boehm_section_1

Some of the flutes he made are still being played. Theobald Boehm_sentence_15

The fingering system he devised has also been adapted to other instruments, such as the oboe and the clarinet. Theobald Boehm_sentence_16

He inspired Hyacinthe Klosé, the inventor of the modern clarinet fingering system. Theobald Boehm_sentence_17

Klosé invented a system for the clarinet that today is the standard nearly worldwide (except Austria, Germany and others). Theobald Boehm_sentence_18

Boehm was his inspiration, and so Klosé named the new system the Boehm system just like the modern western flute. Theobald Boehm_sentence_19

The Boehm system clarinet and flute are not exactly the same. Theobald Boehm_sentence_20

However, they are very similar in one of the clarinet's registers. Theobald Boehm_sentence_21

If one plays the clarinet with the register key on, the fingerings are the same as the flute when the flute is in the lower and mid register. Theobald Boehm_sentence_22

The differences are that the clarinet's second register is a twelfth above its lowest register, unlike the flute's which is an octave higher, and the clarinet is a transposing instrument, so an F on the flute is played as a G on the clarinet. Theobald Boehm_sentence_23

Selected works Theobald Boehm_section_2

Theobald Boehm_unordered_list_0

  • Grand Polonaise in D Major, Op. 16Theobald Boehm_item_0_0
  • Variations sur un air tyrolien, Op.20Theobald Boehm_item_0_1
  • Fantasie sur un air de F. Schubert, Op.21Theobald Boehm_item_0_2
  • Variations sur un Air Allemand, Op.22Theobald Boehm_item_0_3
  • 24 Caprices-etudes, Op.26Theobald Boehm_item_0_4
  • Souvenir des Alpes, Opp.27–32Theobald Boehm_item_0_5
  • Andante for Flute and Piano, Op.33Theobald Boehm_item_0_6
  • 24 Etudes, Op.37Theobald Boehm_item_0_7
  • Elégie, Op.47Theobald Boehm_item_0_8

See also Theobald Boehm_section_3

Theobald Boehm_unordered_list_1

Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: Boehm.