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What Is a Bass Flute?

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson

The bass flute is a woodwind instrument which can be made of either wood or metal. In the modern concert flute family, the bass flute is pitched in the key of C, and can play down to the C note at the second space on the bass clef. The end of the flute curves back on itself so that the player can reach the hole which must be blown into to play the instrument. The note produced by the flute is controlled by covering one or more holes on the body of the instrument.

Flutes are transverse woodwind instruments, and are available in many different sizes. Each of these sizes is given an individual name, such as the piccolo, the alto flute, and the bass flute. The flute is classed as a transverse instrument because the player blows across the hole from the side, as opposed to straight down. A person who plays the flute is referred to as a flautist, or simply a flute player.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

In the medieval Europe, the recorder was more popular than the flute, and it wasn't until the Byzantine Empire brought them from Asia that they fully entered European consciousness. They did not gain popularity until the Renaissance period in the 1400s. The Renaissance and Baroque periods both produced bass flutes, but these were pitched in the key of G, unlike the modern bass flute.

Bass instruments are basically lower pitched versions of the original. For example, a bass guitar is like an ordinary guitar, but has thicker strings and produces notes an octave lower in pitch. The bass flute has a similar relationship to the ordinary flute, being similar in most ways but producing lower notes when played. The concert flute is the standard type of flute, and this is in the key of C as well, but the notes produce by it are an octave higher than those produced by the bass flute.

The symbol at the beginning of a musical staff which indicates the notes represented by the lines and their accompanying spaces is called the bass clef. It looks like a backward "c," and the bottom line of the staff with the bass clef at the beginning is the note G. The spaces and lines are then counted alphabetically upwards from this point, making the second space up a C note. The lowest note that can be produced by the bass flute is the C, which sits in the second space of the bass clef.

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