top of page

The Flute Family

Flute Ranges

Earliest Instrument Found

The oldest musical instrument yet found is a 60,000 year old Neanderthal flute discovered in Divje babe cave near Cerkno in Slovenia.


Made from the thighbone of a young cave bear, it has four pierced holes. Archaeological research has determined that the size and position of the holes cannot be accidental – meaning they were made with the intention of making music.


This flute is the only one yet found that was definitely made by Neanderthals. It predates other known flutes made by modern humans by some 20,000 years

by Roman Bonnefoy

Picture by Roman Bonnefoy 

Piccolo range D5–C8.

The piccolo is the highest-pitched member of the flute family, it's range is an octave above the concert flute. It is usually the highest-pitched instrument within orchestras and bands.


The piccolo is a little difficult to play in tune; and is very loud thats why you quite often see piccolo players wearing earplugs.

Concert flute range C4–C7.

The most commonly seen flute is the concert flute, sometimes called the C flute. This flute can be seen is in many ensembles including concert bandsorchestras, flute ensembles (choirs), jazz and big bands.

The instrument is pitched in C, it has a range of three octaves and a little over, starting from middle C (C4). Quite often you will see  flutes with a longer B-foot joint, which can reach B below middle C.

Alto flute range G3 (the G below middle C) to G6.

The alto flute has a distinct, mellow tone in the lower register. The tube of the alto flute is considerably thicker and longer than a C flute requiring more breath from the player. However, this gives it better dynamics in the bottom octave and a half of its range. It is a transposing instrument, pitched in the key of G (sounding a fourth lower than written) with its range starting on G below middle C.


Because of its greater size it can sometimes be seen with a curved head joint.

Bass flute range C3–A6.

The bass flute is pitched in the key of C, and one octave below the concert flute. Because of the length of its tube it is usually made with a curved head joint to bring the embouchure hole within reach of the player. It has a comparable register to other instruments such as the clarinet.

Other flutes you may encounter going from highest pitch to lowest are:

  • Treble

  • Soprano

  • Flûte d'amour

  • Contra-alto

  • Contrabass

  • Subcontrabass

  • Double contrabass flute

  • Hyperbass

For more info see the wikipedia page on the flute family.

A brief history and types of flute 

bottom of page