Sax on the Web Forum banner
1 - 20 of 77 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
198 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It seems like the alto flute has been having a moment the last few years, though I have no proof of that. All I know is that after buying some flute music online recently, I decided to check out the "low flutes" page, which led to looking up YouTube videos of alto flute music, which led to a new, perhaps temporary, obsession.

I could rent an alto flute, sure - a very good decision for someone not looking for a distraction. But also extra work and, hey, wouldn't it be cool to have one's own alto flute to combine with the concert flute in duets for home recording?

For those of you who own an alto flute, do you find that it requires just as much time to play well as concert flute, or are skills on the C flute so transferable that you don't have to think about it? I'm mainly concerned about spreading my time too thin across too many instruments.

Thanks for any thoughts!
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
35,445 Posts
You’ll need to learn to relax your embouchure and direct your air differently, but in my not-so-humble opinion, they are well worth the effort. I really enjoy my DiMedici alto flute.

Listen to some alto flute to determine your motivation: Hubert Laws, Holly Hoffman, Ali Ryerson, Herbie Mann…
 
  • Like
Reactions: Oz Reed

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,341 Posts
Well, I can't tell you whether or not you should resist. But, I can tell you about my own experience and that of one other guy.

I've been playing flute for almost 50 years, though for the last 30 years or so as a doubler. I always had a certain interest in alto flute, and finally one day I pulled the trigger. I LOVE it. Have pretty much replaced C flute with alto for my own enjoyment playing, though of course for a gig I play what's needed. It takes out all the shrillness of C flute in the high register and replaces it with more rich chocolatey goodness down below.

It will take some time to work a larger looser embouchure and to deal with the tendency to be sharp up top if you are playing with the C flute embouchure. Of course the fingers are the same.

For me the straight head works fine - I like the sound of my straight head better than my curved, a little - but I am 5-10 with quite long arms for my height. Someone short or with short arms probably will be happier with the curved head.

I bought the Jupiter Di Medici 1200 (I think that's the right number) with both straight and curved heads from Carolyn Nussbaum in Dallas. This model is no longer made but there are other suitable substitutes, I'm sure. Of course if the budget extends to the $15,000 Miyazawa and such, those would be beautiful instruments.

The other guy I mentioned? That would be Theobald Boehm the inventor of the modern flute, who once he got the alto flute design worked out, basically played nothing else for his later years (he was not only a flute maker but also a well-regarded professional performer and composer). Seems like a pretty strong recommendation.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,341 Posts
You’ll need to learn to relax your embouchure and direct your air differently, but in my not-so-humble opinion, they are well worth the effort. I really enjoy my DiMedici alto flute.

Listen to some alto flute to determine your motivation: Hubert Laws, Holly Hoffman, Ali Ryerson, Herbie Mann…
Don't forget Tony Campisi and Dave Valentin.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
198 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This is great, thanks for the quick responses. I love the sound, too, and there's this great performance of Spain that uses both alto and C flute, so it seems fun to play both:

The two alto flutes I want to try are the Pearl and the Haynes Amadeus . . . seems like a trip to FluteWorld here in SF may be in order.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,216 Posts
I’ve owned several alto flutes, including an Amadeus. While it was a wonderful flute, the RH trill keys are set at an angle to accommodate those with shorter arm reach. While I am not a big guy, I constantly bumped these keys while playing the instrument! I got rid of it because of this, make sure don’t have the same issue! It’s the only alto flute I’ve ever played set up this way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,691 Posts
I didn't find it difficult to play alto flute coming from flute. Bassflute was really different, but alto, no. Intonation was a bit tricky first.
What do you want to play on your alto flute? If Jazz, Bossas etc. (lovely!) you need to do al lot of transpositions, or your flute sits in the case because no one provides you with G-parts. My alto wasn't played a lot because of that. If you can read bass clef you could take a Bb chart and read that (+adapting some flats and sharps).
Playing only for your own pleasure is really nice, but with others it takes always that extra effort.
I have a straight altus now for 25 years and I really rediscovered it in the last few years.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,341 Posts
I found the transposition wasn't really all that difficult with some practice. Read everything up a fourth. Add one flat/subtract one sharp.

You can play violin parts without modifying lines, too, as it will go down to G just like the fiddle.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
198 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
"What do you want to play on your alto flute? If Jazz, Bossas etc. (lovely!) you need to do al lot of transpositions, or your flute sits in the case because no one provides you with G-parts."

Yes, jazz standards mainly, although I've heard there are more classical compositions for alto flute being done these days. I'm trying to learn tunes mainly by ear these days and am hoping that between learning the melody and using iRealPro for the chords, I might be okay.

However, I'm also hoping to use the alto flute on home recordings - seems like a really cool sound to work into the mix with the C flute and the saxes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,694 Posts
I’ll add my contrary opinion; I don’t find mine alluring to play. I’ve needed to play alto flute fir a few shows here and there over the last 10 years, and the last show I was tired of borrowing one so I bought a Chinese eBay model. It actually plays really well, I needed to have the cork adjusted on the curved head as it played a little under pitch consistently through the whole range of the flute but it is a better playing head than some others I’ve used. Alas, though, in my spare time I would rather devote the energy to c flute if I’m going to and the alto literally just sits here. I’ve used it occasionally for recording little ideas for tunes, but that’s it. If you’re interested in buying it, let me know! I’d give you a good deal on it!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,801 Posts
I have an old Armstrong alto which I got in the early 90s, was old then. Had it overhauled and key heights adjusted. Plays well. Went to a flute convention looking for a new head for my C flute. I tried a lot of heads also many altos. The $6,000 and up ones were all good with Kingma and Katato being the best. Pearl, Di Zhao, Jupiter, Trevor James and a few others were nice for the price. I was disappointed with the fit and finish of the Amadeus and head felt stuffy. It just didn't make it. If I buy a new alto it will be a Trevor James based on that experience.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
35,445 Posts
Don't forget Tony Campisi and Dave Valentin.
Whoa, yes! One of my friends from college was Tony’s drummer when I last saw them. I had Tony’s bass flute for a while, but just couldn’t get it going - bass, for me, is a lot harder than alto flute, which just feels natural.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10 Posts
I've been playing alto flute for about 50 years. I play with a jazz guitarist and use the alto flute as a welcome contrast to the C flute. I will use both during the same tune. Alto flute is fun to play and not too difficult to make the adjustment. My alto is an old Gemeinhardt from the early 1970's, solid head and plated everything else. Sometimes you can find these in good shape for around $1500. Have fun.
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2015-
Joined
·
35,445 Posts
Yeah, alto flute doesn’t have much resistance.
 
1 - 20 of 77 Posts
Top