Automatic C-sharp-System by Jacques Zoon

- PAN Magazine (UK) - March 14
- Traversières (France) - October 15
- Pipers Magazine (Japan) - May 15


Theobald Boehm's invention in 1832 marked a big revolution for the flute: almost every note was provided with its own tone-hole, of bigger size than before. Thanks to the Boehm system, nowadays, the flute sounds more powerful, in tune and equal in all registers. The classical flutes had already begun developing in this sense, as players started adding extra keys onto baroque flutes. However, once the fingers were on the keys, it was difficult sliding back onto the holes, inducing a more difficult and less fluent digital technique. Boehm solved this problem, while keeping the fingers in the same position. With 9 active fingers (the right thumb having the task of keeping/lifting the instrument) and with 12 semi-tones to produce (one semi-tone being produced by the end of the flute and 11 by the positions of the fingers) Boehm created the two missing notes, F sharp and A sharp, by combining different fingers, but without moving them out of their respective positions. The C-sharp-hole was the only tone-hole that Boehm did not enlarge, because it had several functions:
• the emission of the fundamental notes C-sharp2 and C-sharp3;
• facilitating the octaves of D-natural1 and D-sharp1;
• the ventilation of D-natural3, G-sharp3, A-sharp3 and C-sharp4. The fundamental note C-sharp2 (and the octave C-sharp3) need a big tone-hole, whereas, for the other functions, a small vent-hole is required. Boehm opted for a compromise: he chose a small hole, placed too high, serving acceptably as a ventilation-hole, but providing a poor C-sharp2 (weak and too high) and a too low C-sharp3. This caused a too small octave C-sharp2 – C-sharp3. A solution to this problem is to create in the flute’s body a big sized tone-hole for C-sharp2, similar to the holes for all other fundamental notes in the Boehm-system. This large C-sharp-hole, used for the C-sharp trill-key, is activated by the right index and can be implemented as an option in a standard Boehm-system keywork. It is to be placed somewhat lower, in other words, further away from the tuning slide, than the original smaller hole. In fact, its position coincides exactly where a ventilation-hole for G-sharp3 is needed. On a standard flute, G-sharp3 is vented by two holes, neither of which being in the correct position:
• the small C-sharp-hole (also octave-hole for D-natural1 and D-sharp1);
• the tone-hole for C-natural2/3. However, on a Boehm-flute, for optimal ventilation, the notes in the range of D-sharp3 to G-sharp3 should preferably be vented with one hole only. As a consequence, the overly-vented note G-sharp3 is too high. Using the optional C-sharp trill-key (with big sized tone-hole) as the only vent-hole, the notes C-sharp2, C-sharp3, G-sharp3 and also C-sharp4 are produced in an acoustically correct manner. A drawback of this additional tone-hole is that the flute player must change fingerings in order to activate the C-sharp trill-key-lever: first of all, the right index has to slide from its key onto the C-sharp trill-key-lever and back, and secondly, the left index must close the original smaller hole while playing the C-sharp. These changes significantly impacts the flute player’s playing habits. The automatic C-sharp-mechanism as described here below, provides a way to eliminate the compromise for C-sharp2 and C-sharp3. A new key (corresponding to a supplementary hole in the body of the flute) is integrated in the mechanism in such way, that the flute player doesn't need to touch, nor think of it: it opens and closes automatically, without any changes of fingerings. Automatically, the emission and intonation of the problematic notes, C-sharp2, C-sharp3, G-sharp3 and also C-sharp4, are corrected. The various functions of the small C-sharp-hole of the standard Boehm-flute are divided over two holes: a small vent-hole and a large supplementary C-sharp tone-hole.
- The small hole is used for: • facilitating/venting D-natural2 and D-sharp2;
• venting D-natural3, A-natural3 and A-sharp3.
- The big hole is used for:• emitting the fundamental notes C-sharp2 and C-sharp3;
• venting G-sharp3 and C-sharp4.

The image illustrates the new C-sharp-system, where a is the octave-/ventilation-key, b is the automatic C-sharp-key, c is the C-natural-key, d is the platform for the flute player’s left index, e and f are trill-keys.

The working of the notes affected by the system are explained as following:
• C-sharp2 and C-sharp3: no key is pressed down; all keys are open, except for a and trill-keys e and f; a is closed by b: C-sharp is produced by big sized tone hole b.
• C-natural2 and C-natural3: the left hand index presses down d, closing a, respectively b by means of the surrounding lever; c and the other keys remain open (except for trill-keys e and f).
• D-natural2, D-sharp2, D-natural3, A-natural3 and A-sharp3: c is closed and closes b as well; small hole a is open and functions as vent-hole.
• G-sharp3: both b and c are open; b closes a through its lever; vent-holes b and c are open instead of a and c on a standard flute.
• C-sharp4: both b and c are open, b closes a through its lever; vent-holes b and c are open instead of a and c on the standard flute.

While improving the intonation and sound quality of C-sharp2, C-sharp3, G-sharp3 and C-sharp4, this system still allows the execution of F-natural4 (in contrary to some other C-sharp-systems): for this note the keys a and c should be able to open simultaneously without interacting. The left thumb pushes the extension of key b in order to open key a.

This new automatic C-sharp-system is patented and now exclusively made by Zoon&Maia Flutes, integrated in our new wooden flute model. For more information, please, write to: moreaboutzooncsharp@gmail.com.