Hear It! 3D Printed Flute Plays Microtonal Music

An Australian team may help change the way music is heard and composed.

Researchers at Australia’s University of Wollongong (UOW) have just developed 3D printed flutes capable of playing microtonal music, offering a whole new series of sounds for a flautist’s toolbox.

On a standard flute, the smallest distance between notes is a semitone (for example D to D flat).

The new 3D printed flutes, however, can produce sounds less than a semitone apart (microtones), allowing the entire organization of sounds and melodies to be re-examined and new formerly impossible scales and keys to be explored.

Already, several microtonal flutes have had their concert debut in Australia, but the research team says that is just the beginning.

“There are huge possibilities for the future of this project,” UOW’s Global Challenges, Manufacturing Innovation Leader, Professor Geoffrey Spinks said, stressing the possibility of 3D printed musical instruments. “We can see many applications moving forward with areas like custom-made instruments for people with physical restrictions, student models for use by children where the instrument grows as they do, customized instrument design where alternative designs can be printed and tested prior to production, as well as print on demand options.”

In addition, it will soon be possible for flautists to order a microtonal flute printed to specific tonal needs, greatly expanding the range of sounds available and allowing composers and players imaginations to run wild.