The Central Coast Philharmonia

Contrabass Flute

The contrabass flute is one of the most quietly powerful and beautiful sounds to ever come out of a man-made instrument. Preserving the flute fingering, a few companies have extended the range of the flute downward to the point where today there are many different types of contrabass flutes. The contralto flute in G is pitched an octave lower than the alto flute, and is able to grab a few notes below the bass flute without adding too considerable of an amount of difficulty. The contrabass flute in C (This is the one featured in the Genesis concert) is pitched a full octave lower than bass flute, two octaves below written, and routinely has a low B foot. The bottom of this enormous flute is very dark and fundamentally full with a certain aspect of primordial earthiness. The middle to upper range has a wonderfully cantable and smooth, if airy sound which is fundamentally different from all other flutes in that concert range. The contrabass flute is a big instrument and it keeps a big sound all the way to the top of its range (about A above the staff). Kigma-system contras are fully capable of fingering quartertones and have excellent intonation. Genesis will feature the contra flute in Genesis, Seismic Disturbances, Four Poems, and Reflections of Honor.

Some technical info:
The contrabass flute, owing to its sheer size, is capable of enormous ranges of harmonics and avant-garde techniques. It is also a very quiet instrument, sometimes dubbed the "gentle giant" of the flute family, and while very resonant in a flute choir, it benefits from amplification in other situations. Amplification also opens up new possibilities for the contra in terms of orchestrational possibilities and wild effects. The contrabass flute is truly an instrument for the 21st century and should see much more music written for it in the near future. For more info on contrabass flutes and contrabass flute players, check out the section for "Big Flutes" in the "Contrabass Compendium" at

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