Alto Flute

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The alto flute is an aerophone instrument of the flute family. The alto flute can be constructed with a straight or the more unusual curved head and sits just below the range of a standard C concert flute; with a pitch commonly ranging from from G3 to G6. In England, the alto flute can sometimes be referred to as a bass flute.
History of the Alto Flute
The alto flute has some common history with the other members of the flute family which evolved from medieval recorders and other cylindrical-bore woodwind instruments such as the chalumeau. Many early designs were developed before German inventor Theobald Boehm devised the modern flute system of depressed keys and improved the fingering design of the commonly found flutes of the time. The first alto flute by Boehm was created in 1850 and the popularity of this instrument immediately took off. English company Rudall Carte & Co were among the first manufacturers of the alto flute in 1891 and since this was the lowest flute in the flute family at that time it was dubbed ‘the bass flute in G’. This discrepancy in name has resulted in many misnomers of the alto flute being referred to as the bass flute in compositions such as the Planets Suite by Gustav Holst. Boehm’s design for the alto flute has changed very little over time and it is still considered a popular instrument, though not nearly as popular as the standard C concert flute that is found in almost every orchestra worldwide. Alto flutes are most commonly heard in flute ensembles and flute choirs as well as select recordings and performances of classical pieces written for its use.
Inventor: Theobald Boehm

Where to Buy

$1,000 - $5,000

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How to Play

A larger version of the standard C flute, with a deeper, richer tone. Played with the same fingerings as the C flute, but with more breath support required.

In Popular Music

The alto flute is uncommon in popular music recording compared to its more popular cousin the concert flute. However, it was used in the recording of David Bowie’s final album ‘Blackstar’ (2016) in which flautist Jesse Han played alto flute on multiple tracks to help with the experimental jazz sounds of this album.

Famous Players

Paul Edmund-Davies, Robert Dick, Ian Anderson

Close Relations

Bass Flute, Contrabass Flute
Video Credit: DoctorFlute
Understanding the Alto Flute
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Small

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Germany

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1850

Year

Woodwind

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