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Do you want to play the bass line and extend the range of your family of flutes? You should consider how to find the best contrabass flute so that you can enjoy playing it and play it well.
A good contrabass flute isn’t cheap, so prepare to spend more than you might on a vehicle. Still, investing that much may help you advance your musical skills, and you can have fun too.
Bottom Line Up Front: To find a good contrabass flute, consider your budget and the available brands. Try the options you can afford, and compare them to decide which meets your needs.
If I had to choose a contra, I’d probably select the Pearl 905, but other players may prefer the other brands, so try them yourself to see what works best.
How to Find the Best Contrabass Flute
If you love the sounds of alto and bass flutes, you may want to go even lower. But to do that, you’ll need to consider how to find the best contrabass flute for you.
It may seem like you can follow the same steps as you would for finding the best C flute. However, there are a lot more differences than you might expect between the C flute and contrabass flute as well as available models.
Here are some of my best tips for finding the best contrabass flute.
Determine Who Will Play It
First, you should consider if you’re buying a contrabass flute for your use. If not, think about if you’re buying it to share with a friend or for your flute choir or studio.
When buying an instrument for your use, you can be pickier about certain things. However, if multiple people will use the instrument, you may need to focus on features that are more flexible.
That way, it will be easier for more people to make a sound on the instrument. You won’t have to worry about having the same person play it all the time if they aren’t the only one who can use it.
Understand Your Selection
For better or worse, there are only a handful of contrabass flute models out there. While you’ll have a good selection of C flutes at any level, that’s far from the case with lower flutes.
I’ve only found five or so models, which can severely limit your choices. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try all five of those models, but it means you may not be as picky as you could be if you bought a C flute, piccolo, or even an alto flute.
Before you try any contrabass, consider what you’re looking for. Most have pretty basic specs, but it may help to know if you like flutes from a particular brand.
Look for an Adjustable Floor Peg
Another crucial factor to think about is if the contrabass flute comes with a floor peg. Unlike other flutes, this one points down to the ground.
If you rest the flute itself on the ground, you won’t be able to get a sound out of the lowest couple of notes. A good contrabass flute should come with a floor peg that you can adjust.
That way, you’ll be able to get the flute and the embouchure hole to the perfect height for you. Plus, an adjustable floor peg makes it easy to share the contra with others, such as in a flute choir setting.
Consider a Stool
While I haven’t gotten to buy or play a contrabass flute, I have been in a couple of flute choirs that use the instrument. Not everyone uses a stool, but some players will use one when playing.
The contrabass flute is too big to sit in a standard chair like if you played the flute. Think of it like the string bass in an orchestra and how a lot of bass players have stools to sit on.
That way, you don’t have to stand during a long rehearsal or performance. If you plan to use a stool, figure out how tall it should be so that you can be comfortable and adjust the floor peg accordingly.
Try the Contrabass Flutes
Of course, you need to try a contrabass flute to know if it’s suitable for you and your playing. Despite the small selection, you may find that one or two models work much better for you.
It also helps to try multiple units of the same model if possible. That means you’d try two or three contras from the same maker but with different serial numbers.
Depending on the manufacturing process, there may be small differences in the cut of the embouchure hole. That can affect how the instrument responds to you, so trying a second one could yield very different results.
Start Saving Money
Even the cheapest contrabass flute can make other instruments look like a bargain. I’ve done a good amount of research on the cost of contrabasses, and they start at around $10,000.
They can go up to more than $24,000, and there are other models at various prices in between. As soon as you think you might want to buy a contrabass flute, you should start saving up.
Then, you’ll have more choices open to you when you’re ready to buy an instrument. While you can go for the cheapest model, it may or may not meet your needs.
You should also save some extra money for instrument insurance. I’d recommend this for a flute at any price, but if you’re spending five figures on one, you definitely need insurance in case of a fire, theft, or something similar.
Think About Financing
Perhaps you don’t want to wait until you have enough money to buy a contrabass flute in full. A lot of musicians will finance their instruments, and I’ve done this before as well.
You should think about how much money you want to spend on the entire instrument. Then, look at flute specialty shops and other stores that sell contrabasses.
Consider if they offer any sort of financing program directly. If not, you also have the option of getting a loan from a bank, and you can pay it back later.
College students looking to buy a contra may be able to raise their cost of attendance. Then, you can use your student loans to cover the cost of an instrument.
Review Used Options
Since contrabass flutes are relatively rare, you may not be able to find a used one. However, you can still look around and ask other flute players you know if there are some good used contras on the market.
Like other instruments, used contrabass flutes tend to cost less than new ones. That means you may be able to save money but still get a fantastic instrument.
Of course, you should inspect the instrument in person before buying it. People can easily lie about the condition, so you might actually waste money if you aren’t careful.
Know When You Need It
Because contrabasses are expensive and hard to make, they aren’t always readily available. If you know you need a contra now, such as for an upcoming concert, keep that in mind.
You may even want to contact the flute shop or the flute company before placing your order. Then, you can ask someone how long you can expect it to take for them to make your instrument.
Don’t forget to account for shipping times as well. Some makers are in Japan or even The Netherlands, so the contra may be ready, but it could still take a few days or weeks to get to you.
Prepare Your Embouchure
Another thing you should do before and during contrabass flute trials is to work on your embouchure. The large flute requires a larger hole between your lips and a different airspeed.
If you have access to a bass flute or even an alto, practice on those instruments for a while. That will help you get used to having a more open embouchure to produce lower notes.
Once you’re ready to test contrabass flutes, you can go to the companies or shops directly. Or you can go to a flute event where all of the dealers will be so that you can try multiple instruments in one place and not overwork your embouchure.
Best Contrabass Flutes
Even though there aren’t dozens of models, you should still know about the best contrabass flutes. I haven’t come across any knockoff models, probably because they’re expensive to produce.
However, it still helps to consider what’s on the market and what might meet your needs. Then, you’ll be able to try the models and figure out which you should buy.
Here are the best contras you should test out before purchasing your next instrument.
Di Zhao Contrabass Flute
The Di Zhao Contrabass Flute is the cheapest model, though that isn’t saying much. It’s a silver-plated model with the standard “4” shape that contrabass flutes have.
You’ll get an instrument stand with it, which is nice since it’s so heavy. You can’t put it on a standard flute or bass flute stand because of the height either.
From the pictures, it looks like this model doesn’t have trill keys. That means you may need to use alternate fingerings to play fast notes and to correct certain pitches.
This model is only available as a special order, so you won’t get it right away. Still, it can be an excellent introduction to the world of contrabass flutes.
- From a great flute company
- Decent price
- Comes with a flute stand
- Has a low B key
- Good sound
- No trill keys
- Not for serious players
Pearl Contrabass Flute 905
Another relatively affordable contra is the Pearl Contrabass Flute 905. I haven’t played it, but I was in a flute choir last fall that had a Pearl contra, and it sounded great.
A couple of flutists switched off on the instrument depending on the piece. Both of them sounded good and helped fill out the low end of the pieces we played.
This model is silver-plated, and it comes with both a floor peg and a flute stand. That way, you can play it comfortably and take a break when necessary.
I’m not sure if this model has trill keys, but I’d guess it doesn’t since the body breaks down into multiple pieces. That design means the case isn’t too big or bulky when you need to transport the contra.
- Easy to transport
- Good sound
- Easy to play
- Nice for beginners
- Comes with accessories
- Takes a while to assemble
- No trill keys
Jupiter Contrabass Flute
The Jupiter Contrabass Flute is another fantastic model to consider. It’s in the middle of the price range, and it has some decent features for a contra.
Silver plating covers the entire instrument, so it looks and sounds like most other flutes would. The offset G makes it easy to reach the G key with your left ring finger, so you don’t have to stretch too much.
It also features a low B, which is plenty low for more bass or contrabass flute parts. This model sounds great and has a nice balanced scale similar to other Jupiter instruments.
You can adjust the floor peg to meet your height or share the instrument with a friend. It’s a good option, though you may have a hard time finding one in stock for immediate purchase.
- Good sound
- Balanced scale
- Adjustable floor peg
- Offset G
- May be hard to find
- Expensive for what you get
Kingma Contrabass Flute
If you have a lot of money for a contra, you may want to try the Kingma Contrabass Flute. Eva Kingma is a flute maker from The Netherlands, which is where she makes her instruments.
This model plays at A=442, so it’s high enough for most modern flute choirs. You also get a floor peg and stand, so you can play as much or as little as you want and take breaks when you need them.
Depending on the dealer and what’s available, you may be able to get a contra with trill keys. That way, you can easily keep the instrument in tune, especially when playing a bit higher in the range.
Of course, this model is quite a bit more expensive than the others I’ve mentioned. After all, Eva makes all of the instruments from scratch, so you’ll need plenty of money to cover the cost.
- Modern tuning
- Features trill keys
- Comes with accessories
- Easy to play
- Quite expensive
- Not for beginners
Kotato Contrabass Flute
Another model to consider is the Kotato Contrabass Flute. This model is silver-plated, and you can use it to get a rich tone, which is great for playing in an ensemble.
I’d recommend this model as an upgrade if you have a contra and want something better. You can buy the model with or without trill keys as well as with or without a custom stand.
So if you already have a contrabass flute with a stand, you can use that to save some money. Still, this model is an investment and costs more than some new cars.
However, if you know you’ll be playing it a lot, you might want to get the contrabass. Then, you can get the best possible sound, and you can use it for the next few decades.
- Great for professionals
- Excellent sound
- Good upgrade
- Can get trill keys
- Very expensive
- Flute stand costs extra
FAQs About How to Find the Best Contrabass Flute
Answer: A contrabass flute is a lower member of the western concert flute family. It plays two octaves lower than a regular flute and two octaves lower than a bass flute.
Because of its size, most contrabass flutes use a “4” shape to make the keys and embouchure hole easy to reach. A peg usually supports the instrument as the peg rests on the floor.
Answer: The only place I’ve seen people play contrabass flutes is in a flute choir. It can be hard to play fast, which makes it not the best for solo music, though you can play flute music on it as a soloist.
Because other instruments with similar ranges sound louder, you won’t find a contrabass flute in a full orchestra. It’s also not a part of the wind ensemble for the same reason.
Answer: If you want to expand lower than the alto flute, the bass and contrabass are good options. The contrabass is better if you don’t want to have to hold up a large bass flute.
However, most bass flutes are cheaper than contrabasses. They’re also easier to transport, and more bass flute parts exist compared to contrabass flute parts, even in flute choir music.
Answer: You should think about how you’ll use the instrument. If you plan on playing the contra often, it may make sense to spend around $20,000 to get a better model.
However, if you’ll only use it in flute choir, for example, you may want to go with something cheaper. Then, you’ll still get a good instrument but without having to spend more than necessary.
Final Note on How to Find the Best Contrabass Flute
Knowing how to find the best flute doesn’t mean you’ll automatically know how to find the best contrabass flute. You have to consider the available models and your needs.
Then, you can try the models that do exist and can compare them. If I had to choose a contra, I’d probably select the Pearl 905, but other players may prefer the other brands, so try them yourself to see what works best.
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