Baritone Flute (Contra-alto)

Baritone Flute (Contra-alto)

Baritone Flute in G range

Baritone Flute in F range

In traditional nomenclature, this instrument is referred to as either a Contra-Alto/Contr’alto or as a Bass in F/G, but as the flute family skips over the tenor and baritone voices, these names are rather silly.

It is pitched one octave below the Alto Flute in either F (Kotato) or G (Kingma).  The G instrument, seems to be the most common.  If writing for this instrument, it is best to include parts in both keys and only write down to the lowest concert G (and not the F that would be the lowest note on the F instrument). A low B foot  (sounding F# or E) is available as an option from the makers, but is not standard.

This instrument is far more unusual than either the Tenor or Bass, but is increasing in use.  Its role is rather ambiguous, and so far it has been found to be best at doubling bass lines (like all of the flutes below the Tenor).  Therefore, if I had to choose only one flute below the Tenor, I would prefer the Bass over the Baritone, but if both are available, then more interesting passages can be concocted.

Duets between either the Tenor or Bass are quite effective.  It has more projection than does the Bass, so would be more useful in solo passages, but light accompaniment is stressed.

Debussy’s Serenade for Flute, Alto Flute, and Baritone Flute in G (Contra-alto)

Bach on Baritone Flute

A duet between a Baritone (F) and a Bass Flute

Tenor Flute (Bass)

Tenor Flute (Bass)

Tenor Flute Range

This is the largest commonly encountered flute and is pitched one octave below the C Flute.  It is the same pitch range as the Viola.  It has a soft and mellow sound, and is quite often haunting.  Most technique from the C Flute can be transferred to the Tenor, though passages in the third octave tend to be challenging.  It is best to keep this, and all lower flutes, out of their very top ranges.  Some Tenors do possess a low B foot, but their availability is unknown, so it is best to avoid this note altogether.

Typically, the Tenor Flute is the lowest voice in a flute quartet (2 C Flutes, Alto, and Tenor).  In larger flute ensembles, the Tenor Flute is sometimes doubled an octave lower by the Bass Flute.  This doubling helps to ensure that the bass line is audible and adds considerable warmth (akin to Basses doubling Cellos in the orchestra).

A special note: from the Tenor Flute on down to the Contrabass, all low flutes benefit from amplification.  A player who specializes in the low flutes will almost assuredly have a small speaker and microphone set up as part of their gear.  I would greatly advise the use of amplification with all lower flutes.

Jean-Pierre Rampal playing a jazz etude on the Tenor Flute

Three Philosophies, concerto for low flutes