Theobald Boehm

Biography

Born: April 9, 1794   Died: November 25, 1881; Munich, Germany  
Theobald Boehm was the son of a goldsmith and learned that craft as a matter of course while growing up. He taught himself flageolet and flute, using a one-keyed instrument. In 1810 he came to the notice of Johann Nepomuk Capeller, a flute player who gave him lessons until 1812 and at that time declared there was nothing more he could teach him.

Boehm toured for a few years, and then in 1818 was appointed a court musician. In the
Read more meantime, he had been working on making technical improvements to the flute. As early as 1810, he had built himself a copy of a four-keyed flute by a Dresden instrument maker named Grenser. In 1823 he established a flute-making factory, Boehm & Grève of Munich. In 1831 Boehm traveled to give some concerts in Paris and London. Although the tour went well, he noticed the greater success of a flutist named Nicholson, who got superior volume of tone because he used a type of flute that had become popular in England. This instrument had larger finger-holes.

After his return to Munich, he and Grève produced a new model of flute with a larger bore and larger finger holes. Since these are harder to cover than the traditional-sized holes, Boehm added ringed touchpieces that would seat themselves evenly over the holes. Due to opposition from jealous colleagues, this new design made slow progress. But before long it had spread from Germany to other countries.

In 1846 and 1847 Boehm devoted himself entirely to the study of acoustics. Using what he learned, he redesigned most aspects of the instrument, making beauty of tone rather than ease of fingering the criterion for the placement of each hole. The holes were large, and were ordinarily completely covered by padded covers. These were lifted by a system of keys. This design has proven to be applicable to flutes of all sizes, and has been adapted to other woodwind instruments. Although other designers have made some modifications to Boehm's layout, the essence of it has proven highly practical and reliable and has remained the standard for flutes since the new "Boehm system" flutes first appeared in 1847. Read less


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