The Piccolo (Italian for small) is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The piccolo has the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. It was for that instrument that John Phillip Sousa wrote his famous march “Stars and Stripes Forever.
The C Flute (standard concert flute) is pitched in the key of C and has a range of three octaves starting from middle C. This means that the concert flute is one of the highest common orchestral instruments, with the exception of the piccolo, which plays an octave higher.
The Alto Flute is the next extension downward of the C flute. It is characterized by its distinct, mellow tone in the lower portion of its range. It is a transposing instrument in G and, like the piccolo and bass flute, uses the same fingerings as the C flute. The tube of the alto flute is considerably thicker and longer than a C flute and requires more breath from the player. This gives it a dynamic presence in the bottom octave and a half of its range.
The Bass Flute is the bass member of the flute family. It is in the key of C, pitched one octave below the concert flute. Because of the length of its tube (approximately 146 cm), it is usually made with a “J” shaped head joint, which brings the embouchure hole within reach of the player. It is usually only used in flute choirs, as it is easily drowned out by other instruments of comparable register, such as the clarinet.