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The OP:

Maybe we need to define "doubling opportunities" here.

If we assume it to mean "playing a second instrument in a big band", then I agree that opportunities are few - although I did use my alto flute with big band. It is actually quite good to use alto flute when the written parts are voiced so low as to not have much volume.

On the other hand, if you are the wind player in a small ensemble, you are not constrained in your selection.

Alto flute - It's the tenor sax of the flute world.
True;

I did assume "doubling" as in big band or pit work.

In my experience it's really hard to hear the alto except in a quiet ensemble. In other words, if you've got a grand piano, electric bass, drums, two trumpets and a tenor sax, the alto flute is going to disappear without significant amplification. If you have two acoustic guitars and upright bass playing bossa nova, there will be nothing more beautiful than alto flute. (In fact, just writing that makes me want to find a couple guitar players and get started.)

OP, another issue is that you have to decide between curved and straight head. Personally as a long time flute player, male, of average stature with long arms, the straight is workable and seemed to sound a bit better; but if you have short arms or bad shoulders you may want to consider the curved head.

As I noted above, I'm not sure whether it's possible or advisable to start on alto flute. I'm sure it's quite rare to do so, given how many flute players there are and how few alto flutes there are; but I don't think that means you HAVE to start on alto flute. It might be worth going to one of the flute message boards ("Fluteland"?) and asking that question. We have had, here on the saxophone forum, questions like "can I start out on baritone sax" and the consensus seems to be that if you're physically big enough to do it, there's no real good reason you can't start out on baritone sax. So I'm not convinced you would NEED to start out on C flute.
 

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Well of course you can get a good C flute for less money than a good alto, but if you want to play alto not C, it's largely irrelevant.
I hear you can get an alto sax for less than a good tenor, too... :twisted:
 

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If you have two acoustic guitars and upright bass playing bossa nova, there will be nothing more beautiful than alto flute. (In fact, just writing that makes me want to find a couple guitar players and get started.)
So true! Recently I had a gig with bossas with vocals, guitar, bass, a good drummer and me on tenor sax and alto flute. So nice!
My problem with alto flute is this:

The music (bossas etc.) I'd like to play with altoflute is mostly too complex to be played only by ear - and since there are no sheets (and I propably got no time to make them) I play the music with concert flute, knowing that it would sound much better with alto ....Or I take my bassflute
 

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So true! Recently I had a gig with bossas with vocals, guitar, bass, a good drummer and me on tenor sax and alto flute. So nice!
My problem with alto flute is this:

The music (bossas etc.) I'd like to play with altoflute is mostly too complex to be played only by ear - and since there are no sheets (and I propably got no time to make them) I play the music with concert flute, knowing that it would sound much better with alto ....Or I take my bassflute
You have to learn the alto flute transposition, up a fourth. As with any transposing at sight, it takes a while to get comfortable, and the skill goes away if you don't do it frequently, but it's really not that difficult.

Anyway, getting used to playing on different instruments from concert key lead sheets is one of those skills that I would recommend for anyone who reads at all. It also applies to changing keys for a singer. Don't get the wrong idea; I'm not a fantastic sight reader or transposer, but I am better at it than a lot of people I play with. When a singer is struggling with notes that are too high or too low, or when there's only a concert key lead sheet available, it's a great stress reducer simply to be able to ask "what key would you like it in, then? Shall we try G instead of D? How about Bb?" Again, you don't have to be the greatest at this (and I certainly am NOT), but even modest transposing skills can help you be a full-function musician more than you might imagine.
 

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You have to learn the alto flute transposition, up a fourth. As with any transposing at sight, it takes a while to get comfortable, and the skill goes away if you don't do it frequently, but it's really not that difficult.
I do transposing at sight all the time and find it easy if this means playing a (tonal) chord progression on a piano when singing with children or a choir (I'm a music teacher). Transposing a melody up a whole step playing tenor sax from a concert sheet is easy if there are not too many weird things in the melody (I should have more routine in this, but it works). Slightly more complicated is alto sax, but if I look in a certain way at the sheet, I can reed it one line down ....
Now sighttransposing - say - the B section of "One note samba" from a concert score playing alto flute? This is where I would simply choose my concert flute and leave my beautiful alto in it's case ....
 

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Alto flute:

- Roughly 3 times the price (for similar quality) of a soprano flute.
- More often badly made mechanically.
- Adjustments are generally more challenging and more precarious.
- Intonation is often dodgy.
- Heavier. More troublesome if you have shoulder or neck problems.
- Quite a lot softer.
- Used very little in pit playing. In 150 shows I think I used mine three times. (Wonderful for the intro for "Send In The Clowns"! - that's why I bought mine.)
- Uses a lot more air. The player, especially if inexperienced (hence likely to waste air), could have much greater dizziness issues.
- Fundamentally a less "perfect" instrument acoustically, possibly because the embouchure hole is rather small for the upper end tone hole, used for every note.
- As others have mentioned, transposing issues.

Some of these are reasons why I do not see it as the tenor sax of the flute world.
 

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I do transposing at sight all the time and find it easy if this means playing a (tonal) chord progression on a piano when singing with children or a choir (I'm a music teacher). Transposing a melody up a whole step playing tenor sax from a concert sheet is easy if there are not too many weird things in the melody (I should have more routine in this, but it works). Slightly more complicated is alto sax, but if I look in a certain way at the sheet, I can reed it one line down ....
Now sighttransposing - say - the B section of "One note samba" from a concert score playing alto flute? This is where I would simply choose my concert flute and leave my beautiful alto in it's case ....
You picked one of the easier tunes to transpose as an example.
I'm pretty sure you could play the bridge to One Note Samba in any key if you know all your minor scales.
You just have to know what your one note is to start. It's seems I've played this tune in at least three different keys.
 

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You picked one of the easier tunes to transpose as an example.
I'm pretty sure you could play the bridge to One Note Samba in any key if you know all your minor scales.
You just have to know what your one note is to start. It's seems I've played this tune in at least three different keys.
Shure you're right. But nevertheless this is my mindset which keeps the alto flute too often in its case:

a summer evening and an outside gig with an accustic bossa band but no rehearsal-> would be nice with alto flute and tenor sax -> print out the songs from the playlist in C and Bb -> ah, some jobim tunes I don't know -> safety first - perhaps better take the concert flute instead of the alto ...

Some times ago I started playing flute duets with my wife with me playing alto from concert score. I should do that again (playing duets with family members is great anyhow)
 

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Alto flute:

- Roughly 3 times the price (for similar quality) of a soprano flute.

Agree. Maybe even more than 3X.

- More often badly made mechanically.

The old Armstrong, Emerson, and Gemeinhardt ones that I ever played were pretty terrible but Jupiters, De Medici, etc., are well built in my opinion.

- Adjustments are generally more challenging and more precarious.

Certainly if the mechanism design is bad, this will be the case. My di Medici (Jupiter derived) has a good strong mechanism and I have no indication that this would be the case.

- Intonation is often dodgy.

See my note about older American altos vs. current Taiwan/Japan ones.

- Heavier. More troublesome if you have shoulder or neck problems.

True, though the curved head helps a lot.

- Quite a lot softer.

True, thus my notes above about limited applications.

- Used very little in pit playing. In 150 shows I think I used mine three times. (Wonderful for the intro for "Send In The Clowns"! - that's why I bought mine.)

Agree. Can't hear it except with a very light background. Didn't get my alto for this purpose.

- Uses a lot more air. The player, especially if inexperienced (hence likely to waste air), could have much greater dizziness issues.

True, it needs to receive proper woodshedding. Just because an experience C flute player can pick it up and get a pleasing sound on most notes right away doesn't mean they have it under control.

- Fundamentally a less "perfect" instrument acoustically, possibly because the embouchure hole is rather small for the upper end tone hole, used for every note.

I'm not sure of this, really. Mine does really well up to the middle of the third octave both for intonation and tone quality. As noted above, old American altos (at least, the ones I have played) had some really awful playing characteristics - I remember a couple notes I would be totally unable to eke out a non-split tone no matter what, and I mean notes like the middle D or Eb - but the late model Taiwanese/Japanese respond much more like a C flute.

- As others have mentioned, transposing issues.

Only if you choose to define "needing to transpose" as a problem.

Some of these are reasons why I do not see it as the tenor sax of the flute world.
I certainly wouldn't consider it the tenor sax of the flute world, whatever that means. However it does have its own voice and in practiced hands a good alto flute can provide a beautiful flute sound. As noted, I like it for things like quiet bossa nova, or playing fairly low-pitched violin parts without having to break the melodic line at (piano) middle C.

As I noted above, Theobald Boehm rarely played anything but alto flute after middle age. I could go the same way except that these days most of my flute playing is as a sax double in a big band and the alto flute disappears without a trace in that context.
 

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I've become a doubler myself two years ago, I can recommend it - my appreciation for the flute i ever growing, and I'm considering to get a bass flute as well - I just love the sound of it!

- But before you buy a flute, consider if you got the time for it, you wont get far if you don't give it time on a daily basis, it would be best if have some extra time to put in for it, unless you want to cut some time from your saxophone practise
 

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The hardest thing for me going from sax to flute was the embouchure and getting a good sound on flute. The flute is its own animal in this regard. There are many more saxophonists out there who think they can play a flute than actually can.

Alto Flute is tougher than a C Flute. It requires much more air while still being focused into the Alto Flute. The transposition is tough as well. The Alto Sax is in G. When it is three hours into a gig, some one requests a tune on the big flute on the stand, and you have had three or four Guinnesses, then tell me how well you can transpose a lead sheet into the key you need to be successful on Alto Sax. That is the real test of your transposition skills. To reach the expert level of transposition add in the singer who wants to do it a minor sixth higher than the lead sheet as well.

I enjoy playing the Alto Flute, but rarely do on gigs. It tends to be a magnet for every idiot who thinks they know something about music, but are curious about the large shiny flute thing next the funny looking large saxophone with a big loopy section at the top.
 

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The hardest thing for me going from sax to flute was the embouchure and getting a good sound on flute. The flute is its own animal in this regard. There are many more saxophonists out there who think they can play a flute than actually can.

Alto Flute is tougher than a C Flute. It requires much more air while still being focused into the Alto Flute. The transposition is tough as well. The Alto Sax is in G. When it is three hours into a gig, some one requests a tune on the big flute on the stand, and you have had three or four Guinnesses, then tell me how well you can transpose a lead sheet into the key you need to be successful on Alto Sax. That is the real test of your transposition skills. To reach the expert level of transposition add in the singer who wants to do it a minor sixth higher than the lead sheet as well.

I enjoy playing the Alto Flute, but rarely do on gigs. It tends to be a magnet for every idiot who thinks they know something about music, but are curious about the large shiny flute thing next the funny looking large saxophone with a big loopy section at the top.
I suppose I'm fortunate that flute was my first wind instrument, so even without recent practice the embouchure is deeply ingrained. And you're right, alto flute embouchure is not C flute embouchure. Like you I mostly play baritone sax, and I think that's an easier transition than coming from alto or soprano with their tighter embouchures.

Also like you, I have not found a reliable place for the alto flute in my actual gigs. Back in the days when I did solo flute with backing tracks, alto worked as a nice change of pace from C flute - I probably did about 40% alto flute and 60% C flute on those gigs. But it's not really found a place in my other work. Someday I may have a bossa nova band and start using it again. Or Django-style gypsy jazz?
 

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In terms of doubling for sax, clarinet comes first, then flute. Clarinet is a given...flute not so much.

The alto flute is a wonderful instrument, but very few gigs (I’ve had one show call for it in 2 years: reed 1 on Annie). As someone said earlier, expect to pay a lot more for an alto over a c flute...and if gigging makes s really your interest, piccolo is far more important...I’ve had two shows this year call for piccolo, in addition to saxes and clarinet.
 

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Sure wish I had my Alto up and running.
Old sailing buddies asked me to play waltz's on flute after they bury/rebury some really ancient folks... New Orleans meets Tennessee meets CaneMutiny.
Uke
Bass Harmonica
Blues Harmonica
Melodica
Flute

Patsy Clinish mood.
OR :evil: :cheers:

 

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In terms of doubling for sax, clarinet comes first, then flute. Clarinet is a given...flute not so much.

The alto flute is a wonderful instrument, but very few gigs (I've had one show call for it in 2 years: reed 1 on Annie). As someone said earlier, expect to pay a lot more for an alto over a c flute...and if gigging makes s really your interest, piccolo is far more important...I've had two shows this year call for piccolo, in addition to saxes and clarinet.
Your perspective is pit orchestra, yes?

The same does not hold true for all other doubling situations. For swing bands, yes, clarinet is a strong call. For contemporary big band, flute is much more common. I played alto flute on more charts than clarinet.
 

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Your perspective is pit orchestra, yes?

The same does not hold true for all other doubling situations. For swing bands, yes, clarinet is a strong call. For contemporary big band, flute is much more common. I played alto flute on more charts than clarinet.
I am fortunate in not being able to play clarinet. That has made it possible for me to turn down pit jobs all my adult life.

I have played a lot in swing bands and I use soprano for the clarinet double. If there's a part that just really has to have the true clarinet sound, I'll hand that part off to the person in the section that can really play clarinet. I am sure some authenticity-minded bandleaders would disagree, but I've never been given "doesn't play clarinet" as a reason for not getting called back. (They may just not bother to mention why I never got another call...)

In this day and age saxophone players under 40 who can really play clarinet are getting kind of thin on the ground, compared to flute players, so for anything except pit work the clarinet has become much more of a "nice to have" double.

Neither big band nor pit work is relevant to the alto flute as there are few parts in either context, and you wouldn't be able to hear it most of the time anyway. Alto flute's place is a different place.
 

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I was loaned an Albert System clarinet for my first real band job.
Summer of ‘64 at 17.
Rattled a bit but a new wooden Kohlert followed me to New Hampshire.
Always thought my band/flyfishing mate would be White Monk Jr.
Marty.... Martin Rev.
One hour of Beatles with wigs then adults dancing and cut little shows.
Music this evening with the fabulous Crestones.
Kids that practice have options and fun.
 

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Alto flute in the Pit I have done: Pippin, the Wiz (calls for 4 but is scored for clarinet also), Annie. I think the opening for Fiddler was originally alto flute as it is cued this way in some of the other books. But now it is scored for C flute down to low C. Not easy to pull off with any volume.

Chicago (the band) used alto flute on Colour My World. Range is down to low C on a C flute but it sounds fatter on the recording with the alto flute.

I mostly played alto and bass flutes in church as a soloist until recently. My wife plays too and we both joined a flute choir and are having fun playing the low flutes regularly.
 

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I played in 150 musical productions. I bought my alto flue for Send In The Clowns in A Little Night Music, and played it in only 1 other show.
 
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