Several months ago we looked at balance and alignment issues with the right hand and how that can impact the development of solid technique and good tone. Today we are going to look at left hand balance and alignment issues. When you look at how this young man is holding his flute, what do you see?
I see the flute is rolled back toward him, his right wrist is under the flute and his left wrist is in front of the flute, with his fourth and fifth fingers almost completely straight. Also, his head is forward of his shoulders. Can you see that the headjoint is rolled forward more in line with the front of the keys?
What kind of problems will this type of positioning cause? In terms of ergonomics, he’s going to be fighting the flute because it will always feel like it wants to roll back. If you are fighting the flute, developing a fluid and relaxed technique becomes much more difficult. The flute isn’t well supported and always feels unstable. Holding the flute this way can also lead to strain in the neck, left elbow, wrist and shoulder. In extreme cases, I have heard of players developing problems with nerve impingement in the left elbow.
Notice in the second photo how much better the alignment is for this young man. We turned the headjoint back a bit to between the keys and rods. Now the left wrist is under the flute, supporting it. The right hand is behind the flute and the flute is resting on his right thumb. His finger positions are more relaxed. The weight of the instrument is distributed evenly between both his hands. His ears are now over his shoulders. Now that he isn’t fighting the instrument, his technique improved immediately. The other thing that improved right away was his tone. He could place notes in a big interval much more easily and maintain a focused sound.
To put it in the simplest terms; if the flute is balanced between the hands, the player can get on with the business of developing good tone and solid technique. It’s really difficult to do this if you are always fighting to balance the flute in your hands. Biggest clue there is a balance problem with the left hand is that the left wrist is in front of the flute rather than under it. Check the headjoint alignment and make sure the blow hole lines up between the rods and keys, as we’ve discussed in the past.
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