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You want to add a bass flute to your collection. But bass flutes are expensive, and you want to spend your money wisely. So how do you find the best bass flute? First, the bad news: a good bass flute will cost you thousands of dollars. You may be able to find a cheaper model, but you’ll lose tone quality and features like trill keys that you’ve come to expect on your Boehm flute.
Now, the good news: a good bass flute will last generations and may become the centerpiece of your woodwind collection. So if you’re buying a bass flute, you’re making an investment in your music and your career.
How I Choose the Best Bass Flute Model
I have the best bass flutes listed here for less than $5,000, $10,000, or $20,000. I also threw in a cost-no-object bass flute for composers, professional bass flutists, and lottery winners. I looked very hard for less expensive instruments. But I discovered there really are in the beginner-level bass flutes.
The most inexpensive composite bass flutes work neither as practice nor as performance instruments. The cheaper generic metal bass flutes lack mechanical features, consistent quality, and customer support. Students trying to get nice sounds out of these bargain-basement bass flutes soon become frustrated. They lose interest, and the bass flute that cost $1,000 to $2,000 gathers dust in the closet.
Buying a bass flute is going to involve scrimping, saving, and sacrifice. But if you’re going to buy a bass flute at all, you need to buy the best model you can afford. All of the bass flutes listed here are suitable for professional, recording, and recital use.
Best Bass Flute under $5,000: Trevor James Bass Flute
So what can you get in a bass flute for just shy of $4,000? If you buy the Trevor James Bass Flute, you get full Boehm functionality. You have a thumb key roller and French-style pointed trill keys and key arms. Trevor James uses the highly qualified Pisoni Lucien Deluxe pad and pearl inlay on the touch pieces.
The Trevor James bass flute has an ergonomic finger arrangement that makes it easy to use for musicians more familiar with a concert flute.
A wooden left-hand crutch will help you deal with the bass flute’s weight until you become more accustomed to holding the heavier instrument. And Trevor James also includes a fleece-lined case to transport your bass flute between gigs.
Trevor James is highly qualified in England for their flutes and saxophones. Trevor James offers more sound quality per shilling (and dollar) than comparable offerings from other targets at the beginning to intermediate market.
The Trevor James bass flute, like most bass flutes, has a limited dynamic range. It’s simple physics. An organ blows pressurized air through long tubes to get sound. A bass flute produces music when somebody blows into the embouchure hole like the top of a soda bottle. Most flute ensembles and flute choirs amplify their bass flute.
- A bass flute you can play throughout your musical career
- Easy to play for musicians with concert flute experience
- Will be playable for decades with proper maintenance
- Does not project as well as the other flutes on this list
Best Bass Flute Under $10,000: Yamaha Bass Flute YFL-B441II
With its shiny gold-brass body, the Yamaha YFL-B441II is certainly a visually striking bass flute. But that brass construction also makes the YFL-B441II considerably lighter than most bass flutes. The key action is buttery-smooth and the lower register response is especially strong.
Yamaha has been making wind instruments since 1966 and pianos since 1900. Their craftsmanship and attention to detail are legendary, as their customer service on rare occasions problems arise. Yamaha’s history means used of Yamaha flutes fetch a high price on the used market.
(This is good if you decide to sell your Yamaha bass flute, though maybe not so good if you want to buy one used). So what do you get when you spend twice as much money on a bass flute? The lighter weight and easy key action make long hours of practice and performance more comfortable.
And the gold color stands out on stage, always a plus for jazz flutists and soloists if you play bass flute for a living; all those things matter.
The Yamaha house sound is often described as clean, bright, and accurate. Flutists praise the strength and purity of Yamaha’s tone. If you are seriously committed to the bass flute, or if bass flute gigs make up a sizable portion of your work, the YFL-B441II will be a great tool for future success.
- Comfortable for lengthy playing sessions
- Reliably excellent sound from a company with a long track record
- Easy action makes faster passages work
- While many people love Yamaha’s sound, some find it sterile and uninvolving
Best Bass Flute under $20,000: Kotato Bass Flute in C
Kotato & Fukushima manufactures every tone hole on its Kotato Bass Flute in C individually, then solders them to the flute body. This results in more uniform and tightly sealed holes and gives the flute a more full and rounded sound.
Solded tone holes are typically expensive and found only on the highest-end flutes. But they are just one of the many handmade touches that go into making a Kotota instrument. Each Kotato flute is made to order with a 6 to 12 month wait time.
For additional fees, you can add open hole keys, the split-E key, or upgrade the headjoint and body from silver-plated to sterling silver. You can also add Kotato’s “Be-Mode,” a tiny membrane that slides over your mouth hole and produces the tone and timbre of a bamboo bass flute.
The Kotato is a luxury flute with a luxurious sound. The wider bore means the Kotato plays louder and carries further than more slender tubing.
The Be-Mode can come in very handy when playing with jazz, New Age, or world music ensembles. And the Kotato’s glorious tone could create a beautiful foundation for a chamber group.
If you buy a Kotato, you won’t just have a bass flute that will last throughout your career. You will own an instrument that future musical historians will admire the way we admire Stradivarius violins. Even if your musical career doesn’t land you in the history books, your bass flute may someday be in a museum.
- Kotato flutes are hand-crafted works of art.
- Be-Mode adds extra possibilities to your bass flute sound
- An heirloom-quality instrument
- 6-12 month wait for your new flute
Best Cutting-Edge Bass Flute: Eva Kingma Kingma System Bass Flute
Every flute on this list can play anything in the current bass flute repertoire. With the Eva Kingma Kingma System Bass Flute, you can do things that were hitherto impossible. If the Trevor James is a trusty Lexus and the Kotato a purring Rolls Royce, the Kingma is a space shuttle.
Since Theobald Boehm introduced his flute system in 1847, most flute makers have followed his lead. Eva Kingma’s Kingma System® adds six extra keys to Boehm’s design. With these keys and the C# trill, a flutist can easily play quarter tones which are almost impossible to reliably produce on a Boehm flute.
Why is that important, do you ask? Quarter tones are found in many non-Western musical traditions. Quarter tones can be used to produce blue notes. If you want to do speedy, smooth glissandos across challenging keys, the Kingma System will make it easier than ever before.
There is definitely a learning curve associated with mastering six new levers. But many advanced flutists have stated the Kingma System is remarkably intuitive and raved about the added flexibility of the Kingma System offers.
The Kingma System Bass Flute is a bespoke product. When you contact Kingma Flutes, you will receive a price quote and a list of available options. You can get a C-foot or a B-foot. You can choose a wider bore for a greater projection or a narrower bore for sweeter tone and harmonics. You can even choose between a transverse or horizontal (upright) Kingma System bass flute.
The Kingma System has received a great deal of attention in the flute community. Kingma System levers may become standard on future flutes. Buy a Kingma System bass flute, and you may be standing at the forefront of a flute revolution.
- Kingma System Fingerings Offer New Music Possibilities
- Bespoke design means you get exactly the bass flute you want
- Mastering six new keys take time
Answer: Before you buy a bass flute, try a few out and see which model works for you. Many instrument stores offer rental programs. These programs allow you to try out the bass flute at home or use it for performances, rehearsals, and recordings.
Answer: The fingerings on a bass flute are the same as the fingerings on a standard flute. But the embouchure hole is larger and requires considerably more air to produce sound. The bass flute’s higher register can be challenging, as it tends to be thin, airy, and sharp.
Bass flutes are heavier than smaller flutes and can be difficult to balance. More widely spaced keys and levers may also pose issues for players with small hands.
Answer: The bass flute is pitched in C, like the standard flute. Music for the bass flute is written in treble clef. The bass flute is a transposing instrument which plays the note an octave lower than it is written.
Until the 1920s, the alto flute was called a “bass flute.” The orchestration for Holst’s Planets includes lines for “Bass Flute in G,” which are played today by alto flutes.
Against high flutes, which are sometimes called “bass flutes,” play an octave below a high flute and, like high flutes, are typically in G.
Answer: The range of a bass flute is between C3 and C7, exactly one octave below that of a concert flute. The bass flute’s range is comparable to a clarinet or alto saxophone, though both those instruments can extend their range through overblowing and harmonics.
While the concert flute is strongest in its higher registers, the bass note’s lower notes are stronger, and its higher notes can be shaky even for skilled players. Very few bass flute composers write music above G6.
Answer: The bass flute is not a good beginner’s flute. Embouchure, breathing, and fingering are all more challenging on a bass flute than on a concert flute. If you are starting from scratch, a student concert flute will be a better (and cheaper) introduction to the basic flute techniques.
Best Bass Flute: Conclusion
So what’s the best bass flute? For most bass flute buyers, their new flute will be their third or even their fourth instrument. While the bass flute repertoire continues to grow, there is still far more demand for loud flutists or piccolo players.
The Trevor James Bass Flute Will Be The Best Bass Flute For Most Flutists. It is a professional instrument that will serve you well in bass flute rehearsals, auditions, and performances throughout your career. The Trevor James will increase your repertoire and earnings potential for a comparatively modest investment.
The Yamaha Bass Flute YFL-B441II may be the best bass flute for flutists who use the bass flute regularly in performances. The YFL-B441II’s extra comfort and lighter weight will be greatly appreciated during long hours in a studio.
While Yamaha’s clean, bright sound has some naysayers, Yamaha flutes are found in symphonies and studios worldwide.
The Kotato Bass Flute is the best bass flute for flutists who use the bass flute regularly as a central part of their performances.
If you’ve made a name for yourself as a bass flute, are regularly giving bass flute recitals, or earn a significant amount of your income by playing bass flute, The Kotato is the world’s finest bass flute.
The Eva Kingma Kingma System Bass Flute in C is the best bass flute for flutists who want to expand the boundaries of what a bass flute can do.
The Kingma System Bass Flute is the first bass flute to offer these new keys and quarter-tone capabilities. With this flute, you’re not just a musician; you’re a pioneer. Ultimately, the best bass flute is the one that best suits your needs. The bass flute is becoming increasingly popular, and with good reason.
Your bass flute may change the direction of your career and your musical development. Invest wisely, and here’s to many happy days of fluting in a lower octave!