Bass Flute (Contrabass)

Bass Flute (Contrabass)

Bass Flute range

This instrument, two octaves lower than the C Flute and one octave lower than the Tenor (former Bass), has been growing in popularity over the past two decades.  It provides a true bass for the flute ensemble.  In pitch, it is equal to the Bassoon or Cello.  Its sound is rather weak but haunting.  Response is somewhat slow, so the fast passages associated with the C Flute are not advisable on the Bass Flute.

Scoring for this instrument must be done very lightly.  Higher flutes, light percussion, harp, and piano are preferred.  In octaves with the Tenor Flute, the Bass Flute is at its best.  A lightly played Bass or Alto Clarinet or even Horn could make effective combinations with the Bass Flute.

This instrument is still quite rare, but I can foresee a day in a few years when we will see them as commonly as the Tenor Flute – an unusual, but not endangered species of woodwind.

Three Philosophies, concerto for low flutes

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