Bass Flute

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The bass flute is a woodwind instrument of the flute family. It was the largest and lowest flute until the invention of the contrabass and subcontrabass flute were designed in the 20th century. The bass flute is ordinarily pitched in the key of C and is one octave lower than the most common concert flute of orchestras worldwide.
History of the Bass Flute
The bass flute was theoretically discussed for many years before its construction was possible. As the flute family of instruments gained popularity as an ensemble, there was a greater need for an instrument capable of playing the low pitch range required to fill out the sound of these bands. Many inventions were created in the late 19th and early 20th century that were not fit for purpose. Records of the 1900 Paris exposition reference bass flutes that had to be operated with large extendable rods to reach the lower notes, or even multiple players. The albisiphone created by Italian flautist Abelardo Albisi in 1910 marked the first step forward for the bass flute. This design was played upright and could cover two and a half octaves. In the 1930s, the Boehm key and pad system, commonly used for clarinets was added to the bass flute design and the players were able to use these instruments in ensembles. As the technical aspects of mass production improved, modern bass flutes became so portable that they could be handheld as well as upright. The low range of the bass flute often requires amplification when played in large groups or with other instruments in bands. Due to these restrictions, the bass flute hasn’t been commonly adopted by orchestras or added to many popular music recordings, but it has become integral to flute bands and ensembles across the world.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$2,000 - $8,000

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How to Play

A larger version of the standard C flute, with a lower range and a deeper, more resonant sound. Played with the same fingerings as the C flute, but with more breath support required.

In Popular Music

The bass flute is a rare instrument that is mostly used in flute ensembles and bands. Japanese composer Dai Fujikura wrote a piece called ‘Glacier’ for solo bass flute and this has been performed live by groups such as the International Contemporary Ensemble.

Famous Players

Keith Underwood, Peter Sheridan, Bart Feller

Close Relations

Alto Flute, Contrabass Flute
Video Credit: DoctorFlute
Understanding the Bass Flute
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19th century

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