Flutes – Introduction




            The flute family is the highest voice in the band.  The C Flute, and its close kin the Piccolo, carry the top notes, and indeed are sometimes the only instruments capable of playing in the top soprano range with delicacy.  The flute, however is a loner in the band world.  It is a woodwind with no reed.  Its sound production is unlike any other instrument, and thus it becomes the one unique voice in the ensemble.  This fact, however, has gone unnoticed by most arrangers and bandestrators.  The traditional role of the flute is a simple soprano, but this role may be changing.

The Flute Family has recently undergone a massive expansion.  The popularity of flute choirs has seen a rise in the so-called “harmony” flutes.  When we think of the flute, we picture the traditional C Flute, but this is now only the tip of a much larger family.  These new voices are just waiting to be explored by creative orchestrators and bandestrators.


Nomenclature – Traditional flute nomenclature does not work.  For years the standard C Flute and Piccolo were the only flutes available for use, and then came along the slightly larger Flute in G, which we know as the Alto Flute.  However, the earliest composers to use this instrument, like Gustav Holst, called the instrument a Bass Flute.  Hence we have confusion already.  When a flute an octave lower than the C Flute was finally constructed, it was christened the Bass Flute entirely skipping over the terms tenor and baritone.  Over the past two decades, flutes even lower than the traditional “Bass” have been constructed and are seeing wider use.  In this volume, I am trying to do my part to rectify this situation.  I am using the terms Tenor, Baritone, Bass, etc. to refer to these instruments in their proper role.  What we generally know as the Bass Flute, now becomes the Tenor Flute.  The new Bass Flute is now the instrument pitched one octave lower (what we generally call the Contrabass Flute).

Traditional Name

Revised Name

Piccolo Piccolo
G Treble G Treble
E-flat Soprano E-flat Soprano
Alto Alto
Bass Tenor
Contra-alto Baritone
Contrabass Bass
Sub-Contra-Alto Sub-Bass
Double Contrabass Contrabass

Many of these flutes are rare and not widely used, but I am including them for the sake of presenting the complete family.  Ten years ago, some of these instruments were represented by only a few individual specimens, but today can be seen more regularly.

For the majority of band writing, the bandestrator need only to familiarize themselves with the Piccolo, C Flute, and perhaps the Alto Flute.  All others are rare visitors.


D-flat Piccolo

C Piccolo

G Treble

E-flat Soprano

C Flute

B-flat Flute d’Amore

A Flute d’Amore

Alto Flute

Tenor Flute (Bass)

Baritone Flute (Contra-alto/Contr’alto)

Bass Flute (Contrabass)

Sub-Bass Flute (Sub-Contrabass)

Contrabass Flute (Double Contrabass)

Instrument List

Before I post anything about any of the particular instruments, I think it best to put up a sort of table of contents on what to expect.  The following list are all the instrument I plan on covering.  I already know that there will be more than is on this list, but I’ll keep some of those a surprise.


  •             Piccolo Flute
  •             G Treble Flute
  •             E-flat Soprano Flute
  •             C Flute
  •             Alto Flute
  •             Tenor Flute
  •             Baritone Flute
  •             Bass Flute
  •             Sub-Bass and Contrabass Flute


  •             Garklein Recorder
  •             Sopranino Recorder
  •             Soprano Recorder
  •             Alto Recorder
  •             Tenor Recorder
  •             Bass Recorder
  •             Great Bass Recorder
  •             Contrabass Recorder


  •             Piccolo Oboe
  •             Oboe
  •             Oboe d’Amore
  •             English Horn
  •             Bass Oboe
  •             Heckelphone
  •             Lupophone


  •             A-flat Clarinet
  •             E-flat Clarinet
  •             C Clarinet
  •             B-flat Clarinet
  •             A Clarinet
  •             Basset Horn
  •             Alto Clarinet
  •             Bass Clarinet
  •             Contra-alto Clarinet
  •             Contrabass Clarinet


  •             Piccolo Saxophones
  •             Sopranino Saxophone
  •             Soprano Saxophone
  •             Alto Saxophone
  •             Tenor Saxophone
  •             Baritone Saxophone
  •             Bass Saxophone
  •             Contrabass Saxophone


  •             Alto Bassoon
  •             Tenor Bassoon
  •             Bassoon
  •             Contrabassoon


  •             Soprano Sarrusophone
  •             Alto Sarrusophone
  •             Tenor Sarrusophone
  •             Baritone Sarrusophone
  •             Bass Sarrusophone
  •             Contrabass Sarrusophone


Wagner Tuba


  •             E-flat Soprano Cornet
  •             B-flat Cornet
  •             Alto Horn
  •             Baritone Horn


  •             Piccolo Trumpet
  •             F and G Trumpets
  •             E-flat and D Trumpets
  •             C and B-flat Trumpets
  •             Alto Trumpet
  •             Bass Trumpet


  •             Soprano Trombone
  •             Alto Trombone
  •             Tenor Trombone
  •             Bass Trombone
  •             Contrabass Trombone


  •             Flügelhorn
  •             Euphonium
  •             Bass Tuba
  •             Contrabass Tuba