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This question is for flute users and experts, including flutists, flute sellers, flute repairers, flute teachers, and others who know the current state and keying system of the transverse flute in general.

About fifty years ago I wrote a classical piece for flute and piano (as equal partners, not for solo and accompaniment). It was in the 'key' of E Phrygian. The initial note for the flute part was the low B, the note immediately below middle C, and this note occurred several more times in the work. The person I wrote the piece for had the 'B-extension,' as it was known at the time, on their instrument, and could hit the pitch clearly and confidently every time, provided the dynamic level was mp or lower.

After the premiere, I was urged by several people, including the person I wrote it for, to seek publication. I did not, primarily because orchestration books I owned advised avoiding that low B as not available on most flutes. If I was to submit it for publication, I felt I would have to transpose the whole thing into F-Phrygian, with five flats, and I found the prospect more than daunting. (This was long before notation software with built-in transpose function.)

Lately the piece has been running through my head again, and I dug out the old score and realized that with some revision and a tweak here and there, it wouldn't be bad. Which leads to my question.

What is the status of the low B on today's flutes? Do most well-made instruments come with that note available? Do flutists in general feel confident about playing that pitch? Do publishers routinely print music that includes that pitch? (I still would rather not transpose it.)

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Most professional flutists nowadays have a flute with a B-foot, and have no trouble playing low B- although not fortissimo, so it shouldn't really be a problem.

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Whatever book said that the low B is not available on "most flutes" is not written well. It's not available on some beginner/intermediate level instruments, but it's going to be present on every single professional quality flute without exception. It's not a commonly used note because it's hard to project that low, but any advanced level flutist should be able to play it without significant difficulty.

  • They were old books even then and probably obsolete by now, which is why I asked the question here. – L3B Feb 17 '17 at 20:42
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As others have said, low B is available on most professional level flutes and even on Intermediate/Step-up flutes. Where I deviate from the previous answers is the level of projection to low B. I play a Haynes and projecting low B is no more a problem than any other low or second register note on the concert flute, i.e. B3 through C5 and even C#5.

Just my experience.

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