What Are Different Types of Flutes?

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Just like other instruments, flutes come in different types. There is the small piccolo, the beginner-friendly c-flute, and the low-octave double contrabass flute. In this article, you’ll discover all the different types of flutes and how they differ. 

Modern Concert Flute Family  

With a history dating back to the stone age, many scholars consider the flute the oldest musical instrument. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t undergo several changes. From simple wooden flutes with open holes to metal flute options with interchangeable parts like reeds, many options exist. 

Today, the family of contemporary concert flutes comprises different types of flutes, with each one having its unique tone and even dimensions. Let’s take a closer look at the many current concert flute varieties to determine which is best for you.

Fun Fact: Bassoons, oboes, and saxophones are not brass instruments but are woodwind instruments


Yamaha YPC-32 Student Piccolo with Nickel Silver Headjoint

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Piccolo is a well-liked instrument for solo performances and is ideal for giving orchestras, bands, and other ensembles a bright, dazzling sound. Physically, it’s the smallest type of flute out of the modern concert flute family. Amazingly, it is also the highest-pitched flute. 

The piccolo can play up to two octaves, with a range of D5 to C8, and has a loud, piercing tone. Since it is in the key of C, you can use it in classical, folk, and modern music. It is a terrific musical instrument if you’re seeking a flute to give your compositions a little additional glitter.

Alto Flute  

Di Zhao Alto Flute

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The alto flute is a distinctive member of the family of contemporary concert flutes. It has a pleasant, mellow tone and is bigger and heavier than a typical concert flute. 

Since the alto flute is tuned a fourth lower than the concert flute, it has a richer, more reflective tone. Its range is from G3 to G6, but you still play it up to two octaves. Since it is tuned to the key of G, it is used for various musical styles, including jazz, classical, and modern. 

The alto flute is a fantastic choice if you’re searching for an instrument to give your song a rich, warm tone. It’s a special and lovely instrument that will give your performance a new depth.

Theobald Boehm also modernized the flute design, using pins and springs.

Bass Flute 

picture of a bass flute, which belongs to the modern flute family.
Source: Wikimedia

The bass flute is in the key of C and ranges from C3 to C6. Physically, the bass flute features a long tube (around 146cm in length) with a curved head joint. Its timbre is frequently characterized as warm and deep. This flute type is common in flute ensembles and orchestras.

C Flute  

Cecilio Closed Hole C Flute - Musical Instrument, Kids Beginner/Intermediate Flute in Band & Orchestra, Nickel 

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The concert flute, commonly called the C flute, is popular with beginners and professionals alike. The length of the concert flute is double that of piccolos, measuring 67cm long. 

The concert flute, which is tuned in the key of C, ranges between C4 and C7. It produces a bright, clear tone than the alto or bass flute, making it a versatile flute type for concert bands, jazz bands, or orchestras. In fact, it can blend well with other band instruments. 

Eb Soprano Flute 

The Eb soprano flute or tierce flute is the only flute type that is tuned in the key of Eb, which is similar in some types of saxophones. Despite its richer deeper tone than a concert flute, many flute makers do not produce it anymore. 

Low Flute Family 

The low flute family contains various types of flutes, including bass flutes, contrabass flutes, and subcontrabass flutes. These flutes are frequently constructed of metal and are lower-pitched than different types of wooden flutes. 

Contrabass Flute  

The contrabass is a hefty flute type mostly constructed of metal. It is also almost twice the size of a typical concert flute. 

Being the biggest member of the flute family, it has a strong, rich, and deep tone frequently utilized to add bass to an ensemble. 

The contrabass flute’s note range is constrained, usually covering two octaves. It has a lower pitch than other flutes and is set to a low C. It gives compositions a certain personality while also giving an ensemble depth and strength.

Subcontrabass Flute  

The subcontrabass flute is bigger than the contrabass flute, measuring over 15 feet (4.6 m) long. This flute type is tuned in the G key, with a range of an octave below the contrabass. If you compare its range with the C-flute, it is two and a half octaves below! 

Double Contrabass Flute  

a musician using a contrabass flute
Source: Wikimedia

The double contrabass or octabass flute is the largest flute type, measuring 8 feet tall and weighing over 8 feet tall. The dimension of its tube alone is as high as 22 feet! Interestingly, the double contrabass flute’s note range is almost identical to cellos. It is three and a half octaves, beginning at the low A – that’s just a minor third below the cello bass’s low note. 

Other Types of Flutes 

  • Side-Blown Flutes 
  • End-Blown Flute 
  • Directly-Blown Flute 
  • Rim-Blown Flute 
  • Bamboo Flute 
  • Dizi


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