Contrabass Flute

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The contrabass flute is a very large woodwind instrument of the flute family. It has a tubing length of approximately 107 inches, which is four times longer than a standard concert flute. Variations of the contrabass flute exist, however, a common construction in G is pitched a fourth below a bass flute and an octave below an alto flute.
History of the Contrabass Flute
The contrabass flute’s history dates back a short time to the late 20th century when the popularity of the flute and flute ensembles began to require a need for a low range flute. The 1900 Paris exposition, reportedly saw bass flutes that were propped up on tripods and extended with unworkable long extension rods that left the tubing far out of reach of the player’s fingers. Italian flautrist Abelardo Albisi could be credited with creating the contrabass flute’s earliest relative in the Albisiphone which was a low upright flute capable of reaching the required range of notes. As an influx of flute ensembles and bands changed the popularity of the flute, new innovation built upon these ideas to create the first contrabass flute and later the hyperbass flute and subcontrabass flute.Instead of using the typical silver for a flute, early models had to be constructed from PVC piping and hardwood in order to manage the large scale of the instrument. The contrabass flute has never been mass produced due to its scarcity in musical compositions, however, there are instrument makers including Kotato and Fukishima that still create this instrument to order today. In recent years, the unique low sound of the contrabass flute has been popularised by flautists such as Brazillian Daniela Mars and it features on the score of the popular video series Horizon.
Inventor: Kenji Ogawa

Where to Buy

$5,000 - $15,000

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How to Play

A larger version of the standard C flute, with a longer tube and larger holes. Played with the same fingerings as the C flute, but with more breath support required.

In Popular Music

Since the contrabass flute is a rare instrument, it has not often been featured in popular music recording. However, it may be heard in the soundscape of David Bowie’s final album ‘Blackstar’ (2016) in which flautist Jesse Han played multiple flutes for this experimental album. British composer Andrew Downes wrote a sonata for contrabass flute in 2008.

Famous Players

Peter Sheridan, Matthias Ziegler, Helen Bledsoe

Close Relations

Subcontrabass Flute
Video Credit: InstrumentManiac
Understanding the Contrabass Flute
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19th century






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