Speelfluit Dutch
Spielflöte German
Spillflöte German
Spillpfeife German
Spillflute German/English
Spindel Flute English
Spielpfeife German
Spindle Flute English
Spindelflöte German
Spindleflöte German

A metal half-covered flute stop of 8', 4' or 2' pitch, which gets its name from its pipe-form, which resembles a spindle (German spill), having a lower cylindrical portion and an upper conical portion. According to Irwin, the length of the conical portion may be anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 the total speaking length. Since the top of the pipe cannot be manipulated for tuning, tuning is accomplished using large ears on either side of the mouth. Audsley recommends a 1/5 mouth, with a 1/2 cut-up, and while he states that German scales for this stop were usually small, Grove states that they were wide. The opening at the top, according to Audsley, varies in size, but when it is small, its bright tone is between that of the Rohrflöte and Spitzflöte. Wedgwood and Irwin maintain that this stop has no distinctive tone, though Sumner calls it “beautiful”. Audsley considers it to be almost identical to the Schwiegel, though Irwin claims that the Schwiegel is larger in scale. While various sources date this stop from the first half of the 16th century, there is at least one example from the 15th century (see below). The illustration is Audsley's.

The names Spillpfeife, Spielpfeife, Spielflöte and Speelfluit do not appear in the literature. We assume them to be synonyms, though there is reportedly some evidence that the Spielflöte, whose name means “play flute”, may be conical rather than half-conical. Maclean writes:

There is evidence of considerable confusion among the Baroque builders between the two types of Full Conical (Spitzflöte) and Half-Conical (Spillflöte) pipes, as the prefixes Spitz and Spill were frequently interchanged.

Regarding contemporary practices, John A. Panning, Tonal Director of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Lake City, Iowa writes:

Generally, Koppelflöten have short cones (c. 1/4 of the body length), while Spillflöten have long cones (1/2 body length). A similar thing holds true for the diameter of the hole at the end of the cone: Koppelflöten often have smaller holes than Spillflöten, which might be 1/2 of the diameter or more. Today most Koppelflöten and Spillflöten have movable canisters (felted or papered), not flexible ears, for tuning.
See Flûte à Fuseau, Koppelflöte, Koppelgedeckt, Spillgedeckt.


Spillflöte is the most common name, with over five dozen examples in Osiris, compared to eight for Spillflute and eleven for Spindel Flute. Most of those are at 4' pitch, about a fifth are at 8', with a handful at 2'. Osiris also contains nineteen examples of Spielflöte at 8' pitch, fifteen at 4' pitch, and one at 2', all from the 20th century except for one by Schnitger. Of Spillpfeife it contains 28 examples at 8' pitch, and two each at 2' and 4' pitch. It contains a dozen examples of Speelfluit at 4' pitch, one at 8' pitch, and two each at 2' and 3' (2-2/3') pitch. The other names are all but unknown.

Spillflöte 4', Manual; Marktkirche, Halle, Germany; Reichel 1664 (restored 1972).

Spillflöte 8', 4', Hauptwerk; Wenzelskirche, Naumburg, Germany; Hildebrandt 1746 (restored 1932-33, 1964).

Spindelflöte 8', Oberwerk; Luitpoldhalle, Nürnberg, Germany; Walcker 1936 (destroyed).

Spindleflote 2', Pedal; Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California, USA; Ruffatti.

Spielflöte 4', Ober-Werck; St. Nicolai, Hamburg, Germany; Schnitger 1682-86 (destroyed).

Speelfluit 2', Ruckpositiv; Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Schonat 1655. This stop may have been added in 1668.

Speelfluit 4', Hoofdwerk; Noordbroek, Netherlands; Schnitger 1695-96.

Spillpfeife 8', Pedal; Marienkirche, Stralsund, Germany; Stellwagen 1653-59.

Spillpfeife 8', Hauptwerk, Pedal; St. Jakobi, Lubeck, Germany; Stellwagen 1636-37.

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Audsley[1]: Spillflöte. Audsley[2]: I.XIII Spindelflöte; II.XXXVI Spindelflöte. Grove[1]: Spillflöte. Irwin[1]: Spillflote. Locher[1]: Flute. Maclean[1]: Spillflöte. Sumner[1]: Spillflöte. Wedgwood[1]: Spillflöte. Williams[1]: Glossary: Spillflöte. Private correspondence.
Copyright © 2001 Edward L. Stauff, all rights reserved.
Spillflote.html - Last updated 20 January 2003.
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