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Do you want to play the bass line in your local flute choir? I’d recommend learning how to find the best contrabass flute so that you can play different parts in ensembles than just the melody.
I’ve played the flute for over a decade and have experimented with all kinds of flutes. While I haven’t played the contrabass specifically, I have enjoyed playing other low flutes, like the alto and bass flutes.
I would love to buy myself a contrabass flute to play in a flute choir, but I know they’re expensive. If you’re looking at this low flute, you need to take the time to choose the model that meets your needs.
Bottom Line Up Front: The best contrabass flute is probably the Pearl model since it’s affordable and sounds great. But I think you should consider all of your options and know what to look for in your search.
How to Find the Best Contrabass Flute
Sure, you can use the same tactics to find a good contrabass as you’d use for a regular flute. But the large flute is more different than you think.
You can’t use all of the same strategies to choose the perfect model for you. If you want to learn one of the lowest flutes in the family, you’ll need to consider a few special factors.
Here’s what I recommend you do before you buy your next contrabass flute.
Prepare Your Finances
The first thing you should do is look at your bank accounts and your financial situation. Contrabass flutes are much more expensive than other flutes.
So you’ll need to have plenty of cash on hand for the purchase. Sure, you could finance the flute, but you’re still going to have to come up with the money eventually.
I’d recommend saving at least $5,000 to $10,000 before you go shopping. That way, you’ll at least be able to put down a large down payment, so your financing payments won’t be too high.
Stick to Reliable Brands
In my search for the best contrabass flute, I only came across models from reputable brands. But I wouldn’t put it past some cheap instrument makers to attempt to develop a contra.
If that does happen, you need to steer clear of the off-brand models. They might be cheaper, but that’s because you won’t get a good quality product.
It’s better to save and spend a bit more to get something you’ll know will work for a while. Then, you won’t have to worry about wasting thousands of dollars on a contrabass flute.
Consider Your Flute Brand
Another thing I recommend doing is looking at the brands of the flutes you already own and love. Consider if those companies also make contrabass flutes.
For example, my current C flute and alto flute are from Pearl. The brand also makes contras, so there’s a good chance I’d like the Pearl contra since I like other Pearl flutes.
Now, this won’t work for every flute brand since most don’t make super low flutes. However, it’s worth looking into your options to get an idea of if you might love or hate a particular contrabass.
Know Who Will Use It
You should determine who will use the contrabass flute. It may seem silly to ask that, like “of course, I’m going to use the flute since I’m buying it.”
I know a lot of people buy flutes for their own use. However, if you’re a flute teacher or flute choir director, you might look into getting a contra for your ensemble or studio.
In that case, you should prioritize general playability over specific needs. That way, multiple students or flute choir members will be able to use the instrument.
Know Where You’ll Use It
No matter who you expect will play the contrabass flute, consider where you’ll use it. The most common scenario for the contra at this point is in a flute choir.
However, you can also practice it alone and perform solos on the instrument. If you plan to do more solo work, you’ll want a contra that can project well across a performance hall.
On the other hand, a contra that you use in a flute choir should blend well with the other low flutes. And if you want to do both, you can get a model that meets all of your needs.
Try the Contras
I know it’s not as easy with contras as with other flutes, but consider if you can try a couple of them. The best way to do this is to go to flute festivals such as the National Flute Association (NFA) Convention.
Some contras seem to only be available through special order, which means you need to commit to buying it before you can test it out. So trying instruments on display is nice, or you can find a contra player who’s willing to let you borrow it.
Trying the contrabass flute you want can help you determine if it’s the best model for your needs. You might learn you want to buy it, or you could decide to keep shopping around.
Decide If You Want Trill Keys
From what I can tell, most of the contrabass flutes out there don’t come with trill keys. On a low flute, they aren’t as necessary since you probably won’t play a ton of fast passages with trills.
But I know of at least one model that offers trill keys as an upgrade. If you want to do a lot of solo work, it can be nice to have the trill keys.
Then, you can play music originally for other instruments and not worry about notes being hard to play. You’ll be able to work on the music of your choice.
Even after you choose what model to buy, you might need to be patient. A few months ago, I saw someone online ask about the wait time for Pearl contras, and Pearl’s technician said it was like a six-month wait.
I don’t know what the wait times are like for other brands, but they might be similar. With other flutes, you can usually order them and get them within a week or two.
That’s not going to be the case with a contrabass flute. Maybe there isn’t a waitlist, but it can still take close to a month to produce the instrument, and that doesn’t account for shipping times.
Shop for a Used Contra
If you want to save a bit of money, consider shopping around for used contrabass flute. I don’t see them pop up that often, so you’ll still need to have patience.
However, you might not have to wait as long as for a company to make a new one. And the contrabass will probably be at least a little cheaper, even if it’s only a few hundred dollars less.
Every dollar counts, especially when it comes to expensive flutes. If you can find a used contra, consider buying it, but make sure you try it first or get the seller to accept returns in case you don’t like how the contrabass flute plays.
Think It Over
Buying a low flute is a big deal, so try not to make an impulse purchase. If possible, do some research on the model you’re considering and listen to recordings if you can’t try it yourself.
Then, give yourself a day or two to think about it before placing the order. Taking time to think will help you make sure you’re choosing the right contra for your needs.
That can help reduce the chances of buyer’s remorse. Instead of feeling regret, you can look forward to playing your new low instrument alone or with others.
Best Contrabass Flutes
Finding the best contrabass flutes isn’t as simple as going to your local music store. I have yet to see any general music retailer carry the low flute.
Not even any of the major flute shops carry all of the available contrabasses. So you’ll need to shop around to find the best selection.
To help you out, I looked for models from well-known brands. I also made sure to include flutes at various price points.
Here are all of the contrabass flutes I found and what you need to know about them.
Di Zhao Contrabass Flute
The Di Zhao Contrabass Flute is the most affordable model as of when I’m writing this. It’s in no way cheap, but it’s a better deal than some.
This model uses silver plating to keep the costs low, and the plating also makes it slightly less heavy. You’ll need to buy it before you get a chance to try it, which can be a risk.
However, it’s a nice choice for beginners or flute ensembles. Most people should be able to get a good sound out of it without a ton of practice.
- Easy to play
- For beginners
- Nice sound
- Silver plating
- Not available for a trial
Pearl Contrabass Flute
As someone who plays other Pearl models, I’d want to try the Pearl Contrabass Flute. It uses silver plating to reduce the cost and weight, and it comes with a case and a support stand.
You’ll also get a peg to help support the flute as you play. While I haven’t played this model, I played in a flute choir last year that did use this contra, and it sounded great.
It’s a nice choice for use in an ensemble, but it could also work for solos. I love that the parts have numbers as well to help you learn how to assemble it correctly.
- Comes with a support stand
- Easy to play
- Good for ensembles
- Nice sound
- Not the most affordable
- Some people don’t like Pearl
The Jupiter Contrabass Flute is another option for students and ensembles. It uses silver plating over a yellow brass headjoint to help you get a nice sound.
You’ll also get an adjustable floor peg to get the right height for you. When you aren’t playing, you can put it in a case with wheels that makes the flute easy to transport.
I haven’t seen many players use this model, but it’s a good choice if you like Jupiter instruments. So you might want to test it out if you can.
- Good for doublers
- Nice sound
- Adjustable floor peg
- Decent case
- A bit expensive
- Not super common
Kingma Contrabass Flute
If you want to get serious about playing the contra, I’d recommend trying a Kingma Contrabass Flute. During grad school, the flute choir I was in had a member who owned and played one well.
Eva Kingma specializes in low flutes, so I imagine the quality is fantastic. The sound carries well, so it’s perfect for solo or ensemble playing.
Of course, it’s quite a bit more expensive than some other models. But if you know you want to play the contra often, it might be worth the investment.
- Good sound
- Easy to play
- Works well in an ensemble
- Perfect for serious players
- Pretty costly
- Not for new contra players
Kotato Contrabass Flute
The Kotato Contrabass Flute is another option for pros and other serious players. Unfortunately, it’s only available through special order, so you can’t try it first.
But it features a handmade brass body with silver plating. You can also get it with or without a custom flute stand, and the stand is a great place to rest the instrument.
Out of the models I found, this is the only one with trill keys as an option, but they’ll cost extra. Still, I think this is a great choice for contrabass flute specialists.
- For specialists
- Great sound
- Trill keys available
- Very expensive
- Not for beginners
Why Buy a Contrabass Flute
Before you choose the best contrabass, you should consider why you should buy one in the first place. It may not be as popular as other flutes, but it can be a nice purchase for some flute players.
If you’re looking to get a new flute, consider if a contra is the way to go. Here are a few reasons why you might want to get this low flute.
Fill Out the Low Section
If you play in a flute choir or direct one, you know that the ensemble is often top-heavy. Even when you have plenty of alto and bass flutes, you can only go so low.
The contrabass flute can help fill out the bass line and play lower notes. Plus, I like to think of the flute choir instruments in relation to those of a string orchestra.
C flutes (and piccolo) match up with the violins. The alto and bass flutes serve similar roles to the viola and cello, respectively, so it makes sense to have a contrabass to represent the string bass.
Get More Opportunities
Speaking of the low section, maybe there’s a flute choir you want to join but can’t. If you’re able to play a contrabass flute, you might have a better chance of getting into an ensemble that doesn’t need more C flutes.
Even if you can get into the ensemble, you might not get the most interesting parts. What I like about playing alto in a flute choir is that it has unique parts.
As a contra player, you might get some fun bass lines. You could even get some solos if no one else in the group has a contrabass flute.
Expand Your Skills
Learning how to play the contrabass flute can also help you get better at music overall. You’ll have to learn how to manage your air and how to play the low register well.
When you go back to your regular flute, you can apply what you learned when playing the contra. That makes it an excellent choice to help challenge you.
If you ever feel bored playing your C flute, alto, or bass, the contra can offer that challenge you need.
One of the best reasons to learn any new instrument is to have a good time. Playing the contrabass flute is a great way to do that.
Sure, you may get a lot of slow bass lines in a flute choir. However, that gives you the chance to work on your tone since you don’t have to worry about learning a bunch of notes.
I love that you can explore different facets of music with the low flutes. You don’t have to stick to just the melody or another high part like you would if you only played the C flute.
FAQs about How to Find the Best Contrabass Flute
Answer: I’d assume there aren’t that many contrabass flutes for a few reasons. First, the instrument isn’t that common yet, but that could change in the future.
Contras also take a lot more materials and time to produce. Some flute makers might not want to invest in the instrument until it gains more popularity.
Answer: If you’ve never played the flute, you shouldn’t try the contrabass flute. Instead, learn the C flute first to get the basics of breathing and fingering the right notes.
Then, you can try an alto or bass flute and work your way down to the contra. Eventually, you’ll be able to focus on the larger flute if you choose.
Answer: Contrabass flutes tend to cost anywhere from around $9,000 to $25,000 or even more. The exact price depends on the model, brand, and specs.
I’d also bet that the prices will increase in the future. So if you’re reading this a few years from now, the price range may be closer to $11,000 to $30,000.
Answer: It may surprise you, but there’s a small amount of solo music for the contrabass flute. A recent addition to the repertoire that I know of is Thrive by Nicole Chamberlain.
You can also transfer a lot of bass flute or C flute repertoire to the contra. That way, you don’t have to play just a few pieces on your low flute.
Final Note on How to Find the Best Contrabass Flute
No matter why you want to get one, you should know how to find the best contrabass flute. Choosing the right model is vital when all of them cost almost five figures.
I’d recommend the Di Zhao and Pearl models for most people. They’re the most affordable and can sound great alone or in a group, but try all of the ones you can afford if you have a larger budget.
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