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Your flute players will sound better (and your local flute instructors will love you) if you are diligent about making sure your students use these correct fingerings:

  1. Teaching first finger up for middle D and Eb. Why? With first finger down, it is considered a harmonic fingering. There is an added undertone in the color of the note. Effectively, lifting the first finger acts as an octave key for these two notes resulting in a clearer and more open sound.
  2. Using the right pinky or Eb (D#) consistently, especially for E natural and F# (Gb), but also for every note except D. Two reasons: the E natural and F# will be flat and have a dull color without the Eb key, and the Eb provides a fulcrum to help balance the flute in the hands. Notice I didn’t say anything about “holding” the instrument. More on this in another post.
  3. Using the correct fingering for F# (Gb), which is T123|003Eb, not T123|020Eb. Why? As with #2, the middle finger F# has a duller color and is a little flat. Though it is the main fingering for F# on saxophone, it is primarily a trill fingering on flute. It is to be avoided for all but the fastest passages or trills.
  4. Teaching that third octave fingerings are different than the lower two octaves. Why? The cross fingerings of the third octave are actually combining the overtone series of two different notes (for example, the high E is a combination of the fingerings for E and A), thereby reinforcing the sound and stabilizing the pitch. In most cases it is completely unnecessary to teach so-called fake fingerings (harmonic fingerings) to play in the third octave through high school. The difficulty level of the literature simply doesn’t warrant using these fingerings.
  5. Correct fingering for D above the staff is T023|000Eb, never T023|123 or worse, T123|123. Same reasoning as #1. The incorrect fingerings are harmonics and drastically change the color, and sometimes pitch, of the note.
  • One last weird one I run into sometimes in my studio — fingering high F T103|103Eb. I’m not sure where this comes from. Is this in a band method book? The correct fingering is T103|100Eb. It flattens the pitch some and seems to be an obstacle to facility in the third octave.

What references do I recommend regarding flute fingerings? The Woodwind Fingering Guide at http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/flute/ and the old standby “A Modern Guide to Fingerings for the Flute by James Pellerite, published by Zalo Publications.

If you find these entries helpful, please subscribe, share with your colleagues and come back next week for another flute tip. Comments and questions always welcome.

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