Flute/Ab alto piccolo

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Question
So it's lower than the Db or C pic but higher than the Eb flute?  Does it differ much in sound from the Eb, besides obviously being higher.  The Eb sounds like a pic in the upper register, but really sounds like a bad player in the mid-range and lower.  Is it better in tune than the Eb?

Answer
Hello again, Janice!

Yes, it is lower than the piccolo, but higher than the Eb soprano flute.  It has a very different sound than the Eb (at once both more focused and sweeter), but it sounds like your experience with Eb sopranos may have been on a low quality or poor condition instrument, so this comparison may not be the best way to communicate the timbre of an Ab piccolo.  While most of the Eb flutes out there are built like student level flutes, if they're in working order, they should not sound like a bad player.  What you describe sounds suspiciously like a very leaky instrument.

In any case, the Ab piccolos were built approximately 100 years ago on what would be deemed a "traditional scale" today, but which was state of the art at the time.  The scale is the size and placement of the toneholes, which affects pitch and intonation, as well as timbre to a certain extent.  Traditional scale instruments take a bit more effort to play in tune than more modern instruments (those built after Albert Cooper and others recalculated the flute scale, evening out the intonation tendencies across the range).  This is true even of C flutes....A 70 flute will generally require a bit more consciousness on the intonation front than one built this year.  However, I've personally played an Ab against a well-maintained, recently-tuned piano and in an orchestral setting, and found it to be perfectly possible to play in tune all the way to the top of the range.  No flute is perfectly in tune, but I found the Ab piccolo to be a very usable instrument, even in modern settings.  Sure it takes a bit more work than a modern C flute, but that's to be expected of any instrument of this age.

I hope this is helpful.  If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Herbert

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Herbert Smith

Expertise

I can answer questions about almost any flute-related topic.

I have trained professionally as a flute repair tech and music educator, and have a broad range of experiences as a performer. I also have experience with a huge array of flutes with any imaginable material or specification, and can comment on the quality of various instruments, as well as guide people through the flute-buying process. I'm willing and able to discuss various flute gadgets (Valgon rings, Foster extensions, etc.) as well.

I'm very familiar with piccolo, alto, and other harmony flutes (including those in unusual keys, such as Eb flute, Db piccolo, G treble, Ab alto piccolo, Flute D'amore, Contrabass, etc.).

I am also glad to offer advice on how to approach difficulties within pieces of music, offer teaching tips to those who give lessons, or answer just about any other flute-related query you can throw at me!

Please note, however, that I am not an appraisal service, and will not provide estimates of value. Please do not ask me about the value of your flute. I also must decline to date instruments based on their serial numbers.

Experience

I'm a professional repair tech with years of experience, and a veteran high school band director. I've maintained a successful studio for private flute lessons for many years, and have performed professionally in just about any imaginable venue.

Education/Credentials
I have bachelor's degrees in music education and performance from highly regarded universities, and have trained with one of the best flute techs/flute makers in the US.

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