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Known for its undeniably distinct mellow tone and lower range, the alto flute is somewhat unique amongst the woodwind family. Thanks to its use in works by diverse composers such as Harvey Sollberger, Charles Delaney, and Bruno Bartilozzi, its role within the traditional orchestra has expanded over the years.
A western style concert instrument, the alto flute is pitched in the key of G with a range from G3 to G6. It is generally thicker and longer than a standard C flute, which, in turn, is directly related to the lower sounds and notes it can produce. It should be mentioned that because of its size, the alto flute requires a great deal of breath control from its player, which, like most things, is achieved through practice.
Arguably the first thing anyone will notice about the alto flute is the shape of its unique headjoint. Its curved design makes it easier for smaller players. It allows the flutist to hold the instrument without overly extending their arms, giving it a much lighter feel. With that in mind, there is also a more traditional headjoint available. A straight headjoint will not only provide an additional challenge for players, it also offers a better overall intonation. If you are a beginner or a player of smaller stature, your best bet is to probably choose an alto flute with a curved headjoint such as the 201 Series Alto Flute from Pearl. On the other hand, if you are a stronger or more experienced player, a straight headjoint such as the one on the YFL-A421 Professional from Yamaha will work well for you. Some alto flutes even come with both styles of headjoint, allowing you to swap out as you progress in your skill with the instrument.
As a flutist, you know the choice of instrument can be the most important decision you make. With the alto flute, there are a variety of different options available to you based on everything from your skill level to your size. When you do find the alto flute that is perfect for you, you are certain to enjoy its markedly warm sounds for a long time to come.
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