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Alto flute

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The alto flute is a type of Western concert flute, a musical instrument in the woodwind family.

Said to be a favourite instrument of Theobald Boehm, its inventor, it is pitched in the key of G (sounding a 4th lower than written, which is a 4th lower than the regular C flute. Its range is from G3 (the G below middle C) to G#6 (4 ledger lines above the treble clef staff.

The emboucher hole is slightly larger than that of the regular C flute and requires slightly more air than the smaller flute (or picollo), and with a slightly wider aperture, which are relatively easy adjustments to make... besides which, the alto flute is played exactly as the C flute.

Its tubing is about a quarter inch wider in diameter than the regular C flute, which allows for greater development of the overtones which gives the alto flute a richer and warmer sound than the smaller flute. The headjoint may be straight or curved. The curved head is a compromise from the ideal straight tube; its purpose being to make the instrument manageable by shorter arms, though the curve in the tubing, (in the very section of the flute wherein the tone is created), does interfere slightly with the production of some overtones, which it turn detracts very slightly from the tone of the instrument. This simply means that the player may need to work a little harder to get the desired tone quality. The alto flute can produce quite a variation in timbre because of its naturally rich sound. It sometimes said to be a little less responsive that the C flute; the keywork is obviously larger therefore (very slightly) heavier and the volume of air is greater. This of course varies greatly according to the make and model of the instrument; one of the main factors in the response of any flute is in the quality of the headjoint - the material it's made of and the shape, dimensions and placement of the emboucher hole.

The upper register on alto and bass flutes is somewhat impractical, especially in a flute choir or large ensemble, where the regular C flute is better suited for such notes; the real beauty of the alto flute, and its usefulness in an ensemble, is in the two lower octaves.

The written repertoire of the alto flute is small as yet but a growing number of composers are writing interesting works for it. It's worth noting that the alto flutes lowest note is that of the violin, which suggests that a simple process of transposition up a 4th gives the alto flute player the entire classical violin repertoire to explore, although some passages would need transposing down a 5th rather than up a 4th, since the flute doesn't have the violins upper register.

In addition to being used in various flute choirs and concert ensembles, alto flutes are also popular in many jazz groups where its solo potential can be explored most fully. The alto flute is also bound to become more and more popular as the dedicated amateurs instrument of choice; it's a very personal instrument.

This article was started using a Wikipedia flute article
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