Difference between alto flute and normal flute

Difference between alto flute and normal flute

Jun 14, 2022

If you've ever been wondering what an alto flute is, and how it's different to a normal flute, here is your answer, complete with a demonstration!

Difference between alto flute and normal flute

In this video, I'm going to show you the difference between an alto flute and a normal C or concert flute.

An alto flute is a fourth lower

The biggest difference is that the alto flute is lower. Actually it's kind of like the only difference is that the alto flute is lower. More specifically when you play notes on the alto flute, it sounds a fourth lower so the interval of a fourth lower than written, compared to what this would sound. I'll give you some examples in a second.

Curved head joint on the alto flute

Now you can see that the other differences is that there's a curve. There's a curve in the alto flute, not all alto flutes have curved head joints, sometimes they're long and they just feel longer to play.

Here is a demo. So you'll know this theme as the theme from Harry Potter. So this is Hedwig's theme. The start of this piece is actually on a Celeste, which is a type of keyboard like that, very ethereal-sounding keyboard. But after that, when the rest of the orchestra comes in, there's an alto loop playing with it.

The sound of an alto flute

Now sounds quite low. Let's compare that to how it would sound on the normal flute also called a concert flute or a C flute because it's in the key of C. I gotta say, I have never felt this flute feels small before. It feels really strange. It feels familiar but unfamiliar.

Okay now, let's just compare for fun what this would sound like on the Piccolo. The Piccolo sounds an octave higher than what's written. So the normal flute sounds as it's written, the alto flute octave higher.

So you can see that it's got a totally different characteristic to it. And the alto flute when it is written for Well and John Williams does a great job of doing this. And he's the guy who wrote Harry Potter when it's written for Well, it has such a beautiful sound and such a unique characteristic that it gives to the music.

Pieces for the alto flute

So I'm curious, do you know any other pieces that use the alto flute in them? Write in the comments below, if you know any other pieces that use the alto flute? Personally, I love Neptune from the Planets by Holst. It is one of my favourite pieces for alto flute.

I'm curious to know if you know, any other pieces that have alto flute in them. If you're watching this video on YouTube, type in the comments below which piece you know, that has alto flute in it. Or which piece do you think would sound perfect on alto flute? I'd love to know. So let me know in the comments below.

Instantly improve your tone on the flute

And once you've done that, if you would like to instantly improve your tone on the flute and really quickly improve your flute playing come and join me for a free mini-course. It's a three-day very short and very effective mini-course to instantly improve your tone register at And I would love to see you there.

Oh my gosh. I didn't mention who I am. My name is Jane and I'm a flute teacher, but you might know that by now. <laugh> See you later.

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