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The bass flute is a member of the flute family. It is in the key of C, pitched one octave below the concert flute. Despite its name, its playing range makes it the tenor member of the flute family. Because of the length of its tube (approximately 146 cm (57 in)), it is usually made with a J-shaped head joint, which brings the embouchure hole within reach of the player. It is usually only used in flute choirs, as it is easily drowned out by other instruments of comparable register, such as the clarinet.
Kotato and Fukushima produce an instrument that they call bass flute in F, which some people refer to as a Contra-alto flute.
Prior to the mid-20th century, the term "bass flute" was sometimes used, especially in Great Britain, to refer to the alto flute instead (for example: the part for "bass flute in G" in Gustav Holst's The Planets ). In 1910, Abelardo Albisi invented a bass flute known as the albisiphone which was used in scores by Mascagni and Zandonai among other composers during the first half of the 20th century.
The instrument's sounding range is from C3, one octave below middle C, to C6, two octaves above middle C. Bass flute music sounds an octave lower than it is written, which is the typical concert flute range (C4 to C7). Notes written above A6 are not often used as they are difficult to produce and have inferior tone. Because manufacturers do not taper the flute body through the curve, intonation of all notes beginning with written D6 and higher tend to be sharp. The player can bend them in tune through blowing technique or use alternative fingerings.
Bass flutes often have a C foot rather than the B foot common to other flutes. The shorter tube reduces acoustic resistance, which quickens the response and makes the tone brighter, livelier, and more resonant. The shorter tube also makes the instrument somewhat lighter and less fatiguing for the player to hold.
Bass flutes are most often made with silver-plated bodies and head joints. Most basses come with trill keys which allow the player to stabilize some otherwise unstable middle register notes as well as trill between otherwise impossible notes. Kotato basses have addressed the weight problem of bass flutes by designing a graphite rod that screws onto the underside of the instrument and then rests on the chair seat between the player's legs. Adjustable rods have also been developed by Jeff Amos. Other manufacturers have added a left hand thumb support called a crutch, which helps some players with physical control of the instrument. Dutch flute maker Eva Kingma has created a vertical design for the bass flute which allows the weight of the instrument to be supported by the floor.
Many composers are beginning to write more pieces for the bass flute. These include Katherine Hoover's Two for Two, Bill Douglas's Karuna, Sophie Lacaze's Archelogos II, Mike Mower's Obstinato and Scareso, Gary Schocker's A Small Sonata for a Large Flute, Lorenzo Ferrero's Ellipse and Shadow Lines, Sonny Burnett's Stone Suite, Catherine McMichael's Baikal Journey and Ennio Morricone's Secrets of the Sahara. Other important works include Tristan Murail's Ethers for solo bass flute and small ensemble, Brian Ferneyhough's Mnemosyne for bass flute and tape, Mario Lavista's Lamento a la muerte de Raúl Lavista for solo bass flute, Michael Oliva's Moss Garden also for bass flute and tape, John Palmer's Inwards for bass flute and live-electronics, She Cried by Shiva Feshareki, and Marc Tweedie's Zoli, written for renowned flautist Carla Rees. Studies and concert etudes are beginning to appear that address the instrument's many challenges (physical balance, finger technique, air stream, overblowing, etc.). Peter Sheridan has commissioned and arranged new compositions in this area, including a set of 'Etudes for Low Flutes' by Hilary Taggart. The sixth movement of Claude Bolling's suite for Flute and Jazz Trio, 'Versatile' has the soloist playing the opening melody on a bass flute. Morton Feldman's composition "Crippled Symmetry" has a part for the bass flute, as does John Cage's late work "Seven2". Hans Pfitzner's 1917 opera Palestrina features an early (true) C bass flute part. Another piece featuring the bass flute is John Mackey's "The Frozen Cathedral" (2013) in two separate sections of the piece.
For an extensive list of repertoire for bass flute and contrabass flute see Repertoire Catalogue for Piccolo, Alto Flute and Bass Flute (2004) by Peter van Munster (Roma: Riverberi Sonori). Selected repertoire graded into ability levels with short descriptions and information about basses can be found in The Alto and Bass Flute Resource Guide published by Falls House Press, and specialist low flutes publishing company Tetractys has a growing catalogue of works for bass flute.
A handful of jazz musicians have used the bass flute, including flutist Jeremy Steig, beginning with his 1975 album Temple of Birth, saxophonists Henry Threadgill, Brian Landrus, and James Carter, and drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson who occasionally played bass flute as a second instrument. Hubert Laws features the bass flute on his recording of "Amazing Grace," in which he plays the first verse on bass flute, the second on alto, and the third on soprano. Steig later took up the Kotato & Fukushima bass flute in F.
In electronic music, Jack Dangers has sometimes used bass flute as the leader of the Meat Beat Manifesto.
A bass flute is heard throughout George Bruns' score for The Jungle Book and the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
Perhaps the best-known work to feature the bass flute is the album Wave by Antônio Carlos Jobim.
The clarinet is a family of woodwind instruments. It has a single-reed mouthpiece, a straight, cylindrical tube with an almost cylindrical bore, and a flared bell. A person who plays a clarinet is called a clarinetist.
The recorder is a family of woodwind musical instruments in the group known as internal duct flutes—flutes with a whistle mouthpiece, also known as fipple flutes. A recorder can be distinguished from other duct flutes by the presence of a thumb-hole for the upper hand and seven finger-holes: three for the upper hand and four for the lower. It is the most prominent duct flute in the western classical tradition.
The saxophone is a type of single-reed woodwind instrument with a conical body, usually made of brass. As with all single-reed instruments, sound is produced when a cane reed on a mouthpiece vibrates to produce a sound wave inside the instrument's body. The pitch is controlled by opening and closing holes in the body to change the effective length of the tube. The holes are closed by leather pads attached to keys operated by the player. Saxophones are made in various sizes and are almost always treated as transposing instruments. Saxophone players are called saxophonists.
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. As with all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player's vibrating lips (embouchure) cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate. Unlike most other brass instruments, which have valves that, when pressed, alter the pitch of the instrument, trombones instead have a telescoping slide mechanism that varies the length of the instrument to change the pitch. However, many modern trombone models also have a valve attachment which lowers the pitch of the instrument. Variants such as the valve trombone and superbone have three valves similar to those on the trumpet.
The tuba is the lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family. As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by lip vibration, or a buzz, into a mouthpiece. It first appeared in the mid-19th century, making it one of the newer instruments in the modern orchestra and concert band. The tuba largely replaced the ophicleide. Tuba is Latin for "trumpet".
A clef is a musical symbol used to indicate which notes are represented by the lines and spaces on a musical stave. When a clef is placed on a stave it assigns a particular note to one of the five lines. This line becomes a reference point by which the names of the other notes on the stave are determined.
A transposing instrument is a musical instrument for which music notation is not written at concert pitch. For example, playing a written middle C on a transposing instrument produces a pitch other than middle C; that sounding pitch identifies the interval of transposition when describing the instrument. Playing a written C on clarinet or soprano saxophone produces a concert B♭, so these are referred to as B♭ instruments. Providing transposed music for these instruments is a convention of musical notation. The instruments do not transpose the music, rather their music is written at a transposed pitch.
The Carnival of the Animals is a humorous musical suite of fourteen movements by the French romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The work was written for private performance by an ad hoc ensemble of two pianos and other instruments, and lasts around 25 minutes.
The bass clarinet is a musical instrument of the clarinet family. Like the more common soprano B♭ clarinet, it is usually pitched in B♭, but it plays notes an octave below the soprano B♭ clarinet. Bass clarinets in other keys, notably C and A, also exist, but are very rare. Bass clarinets regularly perform in orchestras, wind ensembles/concert bands, occasionally in marching bands, and play an occasional solo role in contemporary music and jazz in particular.
Contrabass refers to several musical instruments of very low pitch—generally one octave below bass register instruments. While the term most commonly refers to the double bass, many other instruments in the contrabass register exist.
The contrabass clarinet and contra-alto clarinet are the two largest members of the clarinet family that are in common usage. Modern contrabass clarinets are pitched in B♭, sounding two octaves lower than the common B♭ soprano clarinet and one octave lower than the B♭ bass clarinet. Some contrabass clarinet models have a range extending down to low (written) E♭, while others can play down to low D or further to low C. This range, C(3) – E(6), sounds B♭(0) – D(4). Some early instruments were pitched in C; Arnold Schoenberg's Fünf Orchesterstücke specifies a contrabass clarinet in A, but there is no evidence of such an instrument ever having existed.
The tenor saxophone is a medium-sized member of the saxophone family, a group of instruments invented by Adolphe Sax in the 1840s. The tenor and the alto are the two most commonly used saxophones. The tenor is pitched in the key of B♭ (while the alto is pitched in the key of E♭), and written as a transposing instrument in the treble clef, sounding an octave and a major second lower than the written pitch. Modern tenor saxophones which have a high F♯ key have a range from A♭2 to E5 (concert) and are therefore pitched one octave below the soprano saxophone. People who play the tenor saxophone are known as "tenor saxophonists", "tenor sax players", or "saxophonists".
The alto flute is an instrument in the Western concert flute family, the second-highest member below the standard C flute after the uncommon flûte d'amour. It is the third most common member of its family after the standard C flute and the piccolo. It is characterized by its rich, mellow tone in the lower portion of its range. It is a transposing instrument in G, and uses the same fingerings as the C flute.
The Western concert flute is a family of transverse (side-blown) woodwind instruments made of metal or wood. It is the most common variant of the flute. A musician who plays the flute is called a flautist, flutist, or simply a flute player.
The contrabass flute is one of the rarer members of the flute family. Typically seen in flute ensembles, it is sometimes also used in solo and chamber music situations. Its range is similar to that of the regular concert flute, except that it is pitched two octaves lower; the lowest performable note is two octaves below middle C. Many contrabass flutes in C are also equipped with a low B, Contrabass flutes are only available from select flute makers.
The double contrabass flute (sometimes also called the octobass flute or subcontrabass flute) with over 5.5 metres (18 ft) of tubing is the largest and lowest pitched metal flute in the world (the hyperbass flute has an even lower range, though it is made out of PVC pipes and wood). It is pitched in the key of C, three octaves below the concert flute (two octaves below the bass flute and one octave below the contrabass flute). Its lowest note is C1, one octave below the cello's lowest C. This flute is relatively easy to play in comparison to most other large flutes. Despite the tendency of the larger sizes of flute to be softer than their higher pitched relatives, the double contrabass flute has a relatively powerful tone, although it usually benefits from amplification in ensembles.
The First Suite in E♭ for Military Band, Op. 28, No. 1, by the British composer Gustav Holst is considered one of the cornerstone masterworks in the concert band repertoire. Officially premiered in 1920 at the Royal Military School of Music, the manuscript was originally completed in 1909. Along with the subsequent Second Suite in F for Military Band, written in 1911 and premiered in 1922, the First Suite convinced many other prominent composers that serious music could be written specifically for band.
A flute choir is an instrumental chamber ensemble consisting of range extensions of the flute family. Although a flute quartet can, in some cases depending on instrumentation, be considered a flute choir, most flute choirs extend the melodic range of the group in either direction with the addition of "melody" flutes. Most flute ensembles of five or more people can be considered a flute choir, although this is not a fixed number.
The treble flute is a member of the flute family. It is in the key of G, pitched a fifth above the concert flute and is a transposing instrument, sounding a fifth up from the written note. The instrument is rare today, only occasionally found in flute choirs, some marching bands or private collections. Some 19th-century operas, such as Ivanhoe include the instrument in their orchestrations.
The western concert flute family has a wide range of instruments.