Hand position on wooden flute (2023)

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Hand position on wooden flute

Hi all,
I’m new to the flute and am using a pipers grip,and covering holes with the pads of my fingers. Am I limiting my flexibility by doing so.? I’ve noticed a lot of players using not the pads but the second joint (on the right hand fingers) to cover holes..Do you experienced players have an opinion about this.? Thanks much.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

I cover all six holes with my second joint pads. I haven’t had a problem with it at all.

I say try all different positions, and the one that is the most comfortable and sounds great should be the grip you choose.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

And what sort of grip do you use, pipersgrip? 😀

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

If you are covering the holes with the end pads, which I take it is what you mean, you are not using piper’s grip. Pipers use straight(ish) fingers, relaxed enough to curve slightly rather than held stiff and straight. I use the end pads of my third fingers, so that the tips of my left pinky just clears the flute and that of my right pinky rests against the side. My index fingers cover the holes with the middle pad close to the palm-ward crease, and my middle fingers the middle pad closer to the nail-ward crease. I suppose it depends on whether your flute has keys or not, and on the relative lengths of you fingers; but the idea is not to bend or contort your fingers, so that you are use fewer muscles.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

errata – tip not tips | you use fewer muscles

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

I use a modified pipers grip, which means the fingers are fairly straight as opposed to being positioned like one drumming their fingers on a table top. The fingers pointed down on the holes position is the way Boehm (silver flute) players play, more or less. On an open-holed flute, this is not as good for good coverage of the holes and I find it makes it harder to finger quickly. You must experiment, but be sure you get the holes covered!

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

hi Ailin,
My fingers are flat but I use just the pads ,I was wondering if it made sense to use more of my finger although it does seem harder to get a good seal on the holes that way, maybe just practice will help.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Those who use a true pipers grip have my admiration - I can’t do it. The irony is that I went to my modified version because I have a condition that has reduced the sensitivity in my fingers, so if I flatten the fingers a bit and cover the holes with the larger and more fleshy portion of my finger, I get better coverage without having to be quite as precise. However, if I go past the joint, I again have difficulty feeling where my fingers are, not because of my condition, but because that part of the finger is less sensitive to begin with.

To answer your question, though, I see no benefit in using a true pipers grip unless you play pipes or low whistle. However, I do think my modified version is a better way to finger an open-holed flute and it sounds like you are doing much the same as I do.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

There are a number of different lower-hand positions, and a number of different upper-hand positions, and they’re all used in various combinations.

(Video) Irish Flute Hand Position

It doesn’t seem to matter: there are great players who use all of them.

The normal/classical upper-hand position has the weight of the flute resting on the base of the index finger, that finger curling around the flute, all three fingers using the end-joint pads. This has a couple advantages 1) the flute is supported 2) the thumb is free to operate a key if need be. Most Irish fluteplayers use this upper-hand grip.

Then you’ll see trad players with their upper-hand fingers held perfectly straight, which pushes the hand far from the flute, the thumb supporting the flute. Oftentimes the middle-joint pad is used to seal the holes. This grip has the advantage of freeing the upper-hand index finger for ornaments etc.

You’ll see a number of lower-hand positions using straight fingers, curved fingers, or a combination of straight and curved fingers, and the end-joint pads and the middle-joint pads being used.

The ‘classical’ grip uses the end-joint pads with the fingers having a gentle curve. I use the end-joint pads but with rather flat fingers. Matt Molloy has the lower-hand index and ring fingers straight but the middle finger oddly curved. Works for him!

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Using the ‘pipers-grip’ works and I used it when I was first starting out too, but I was told early on by some big-name players that it has the following disadvantages. The first problem is it may bump into certain keys or make some touches awkward on some keyed flutes, keyed flutes were/are designed to be played with the tips of the pads. Another point to consider is that the fingertip is more sensitive than the 2nd pad (unless you have some nerve problems or lost a fingertip etc), which can make precise half-holes a little easier to nail and you can feel the vibration of the air column better. The tips also naturally sweat a bit more and are fleshier making taps and cuts pop a bit more easily, there’s also the mechanics of a longer lever to be considered.

The pipers grip crowd will refute every point, but take a look at the top players Molloy, O’Grada, Crawford etc, they all play on the pads of the fingertips.

As an aside; I’ve held/played an uilleann pipe chanter and I fully understand the lower hand needs to be played ‘flat-fingered’ to cover all 4 holes with the bottom hand, but the flute is not held vertically or have a ghost d to cover. On the flute, some people think they get a bigger spread with a pipers-grip, but the fingertips spread further apart than the knuckles closest to your palm, it’s a simple matter of geometry.

In other words, if I spread my fingers about 30°, they are about 1“ apart at the first knuckles, about 1.75“ at the second and about 2“ at the fingertips.

I’m not saying a pipers-grip is wrong - but those are the advantages of playing on the pads of the fingertips.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Using the pads of the tips of your fingers is the way to go. Keep in mind that a pipers grip was developed with pipes in mind, but when a flute gets turned sideways, or transverse, then its grip needs to be adapted accordingly. Spending some time on YouTube could show you how the better transverse players do it, which could get you headed in the right direction.

A good grip should be comfortable and relaxed. And that likely will call for some experimentation.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

@b. maloney / o’muirgheasain – Each position has its advantages and disadvantages; but I think it is unhelpful to say anything is right or wrong, or to give misleading information. As with most things musical, there are as many right ways as there are people (as well as, unfortunately, even more wrong ways).
I don’t want to turn this into a battle of the grips; but out of the reasons given for not using pipers grip only the one regarding the keys applies.
The finger tips are indeed more sensitive, which IMO is why many whistle- and flute-players end up with such contorted hand positions. A little practise overcomes the initial desire to ‘feel’ the hole, and once the instrument is playing, the vibrating air column can readily be felt under the middle of the fingers (or whichever part is over the hole).
Finger tips don’t sweat any more than the rest of the finger, and don’t help if keys are used.
The mechanics of a long lever don’t come into it as nothing is being levered, and a straight finger requires fewer muscles to raise and lower than a curled finger.
It makes no difference whether the instrument is vertical or horizontal – the holes are the same distance apart.
Spreading the fingers while flat gives more span than spreading them while curled, which is the reason pipers do it that way – turn your hand palm up and hold a pencil or something across your fingers. Try spreading, curling, moving and adjusting your fingers and watch what happens to the bits touching the pencil. When you curl your fingers the tips come together, they don’t spread out.
I think the best approach here is to say what it is that *you* do and the reasons why *you* do it that way. The OP can then read all the replies and work out what is best for him.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Given that these flutes are 19th century instruments, it makes sense to me to at least try out the holding methods used and promoted by the experts in that period. You’ll find convenient extracts on my web page under the heading: Flute Information and Resources. http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/

(Video) Holding the flute: finding a natural hand position

In particular, I find it helpful to turn the body out so that my left arm hangs down across my chest (rather than sticking out), and my right thumb points into the flute. This puts least strain on the left wrist, and allows the RH fingers to be straighter, increasing their flexibility. Neither LH thumb or R4 are needed for support, allowing them to hover over their keys when needed (and also avoiding the L thumb death grip). If you have a flute with separate LH and RH sections, you can also fine tune the rotation of the RH section.

Terry

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

I beg to differ with gam over it “It makes no difference whether the instrument is vertical or horizontal” It makes a difference because the intrument still has to be held up and the orientation of the parts of the body doing that - and the use or not of the left thumb - make a difference to what the fingers can do.

Because I wanted to use keys in the long run I made an effort to get comfortable with the hold as Terry suggests (am still bit lazy about keeping R4 free though). It took several months to get comfortable, and I had to assess whether any soreness was due to unaccustomed use or to some form of damage, but it works very well for me now.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

As Terry points out, the ‘classical’ hold uses the base of the tophand index finger and the lowerhand thumb to support the flute, freeing the upperhand thumb and lowerhand little finger.

As I pointed out above, the ‘classical’ hold has tophand index finger wrapped around the flute tube in such a way that it’s not as free to ornament; many beginning Irish fluteplayers have trouble doing cuts and taps with that finger. Like everything else it’s a matter of practice.

Not only does having the upperhand fingers straight make upperhand index finger cuts & taps easier, it also (at least for me) keeps the upperhand wrist straight, while that wrist is bent with the ‘classical’ hold. This might be an issue for some people.

As a caveat I’ll say that I play flute using the ‘classical’ hold (except that my lowerhand fingers are flattened out a bit), that I play pipes (uilleann and Highland) using the ‘pipers grip’ for the lower hand, and that I play Low Whistle with a rather different ‘pipers grip’ for both hands. (The so-called ‘pipers grip’ used on low whistles uses the middlejoint pads of the index and middle fingers and the endjoint pad of the ring fingers. On the lower hand of the pipes the middlejoint pads of the index, middle, and ring fingers, and the endjoint pad of the little finger, are used.)

Bottom line is that you can use various grips on various things.

There’s a great video of a concert feature Matt Molloy doing flute duets with a guy using the so-called ‘pipers grip’ and it’s cool to see two very different ways of holding the flute apparently be equally successful.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Here you can see Michael Tubridy using a pretty much pure ‘classical’ hold compared to Matt Molloy’s slightly modified hold. As you can see Matt has his upper hand pushed further up, meaning that the base of the index finger can’t support the flute as it does with the ‘classical’ grip, putting more work onto the upperhand thumb, but freeing the upperhand index finger a bit. You can also see his straight lowerhand index and ring fingers and bent middle finger going _/-\_

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRwWGI81AcY

Hand position on wooden flute (1)
play video

(Video) Online Bansuri / Flute Lessons - 1: How Do I Position My Fingers

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Now here’s a guy with a more or less ‘classical’ hold on the lower hand but straight fingers, wrist to the side, thumb supporting the flute, with the upper hand. This is the exact grip I use on the upper hand of the pipes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcgWWwp36H8

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Gam, I never said pipers-grip was wrong.

I did try it on my block mounted Past flute. What happened was that my G finger was hitting the G# key and had to contort the hand so it wouldn’t, the pinky was way out of line to use the touches on the G# or long F (unusable with this grip), to hit the long c (which you need to hit for big clear in tune C#‘s) you need to cock the whole lower hand. In other words, it doesn’t make anything easier and prevents getting at the touches on 3 keys, if I had the low C# & D those wouldn’t work with that grip either. In fact the flute was unplayable - right or wrong, it just won’t work on that particular instrument.

That being said, I have and do sometimes use a pipersgrip on keyless flutes and it works fine, but I don’t find any advantages either.

I didn’t say anything is right or wrong and the “misleading” information is common advice from people who make a living at playing Irish music on flute. Which, to me, shouldn’t be taken with a a grain of salt.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

The problem with flute holds are that they are dependant on personal hand size, finger width etc.

I have a pal who plays straight fingered on the top hand and he is very good at using all the keys.

Have you ever seen Cathal reach up for his g# key?

The minute I start analysing my own hold is the minutes things start going wrong. I get tense and things that are second nature start annoying me.

The key is to relax and put the fingers where they feel natural.

I do feel for me playing straight at the top makes a and b rolls crisper yet I don’t use this hold on flute for other reasons.

(Video) how to hold the Flute and have a perfect posture

I once listened to a guy post over and over again about how he couldn’t understand how some people have trouble with a and b rolls. They were the same as others etc.

I watched his youtube videos and heard anything but nice clear crisp a and b rolls. And yet he railed on……..

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

In fairness to Cathal, he is a. a genius, and b. playing a right-handed flute left handed.

I guess it’s whatever works for you, based on your own hands and your own flute. Name a dozen generally agreed ‘top’ players (i.e. not me 🙂 ) and you’ll probably find everyone does it a wee bit differently. I use a form of piper’s grip (second pads for RH index and middle and either first or second pad ring finger) on my bottom hand for anything from a low G whistle down, but first pads on the flute as the bottom hand spacing is fine.

m.d.

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

Thanks for all the helpful comments,
I was happy to hear there are as many grip variations as there are players.!

Re: Hand position on wooden flute

I think you find more variety amongst “traditional Irish” fluteplayers than amongst orchestral fluteplayers because the latter nearly always received instruction while the former are often ‘self taught’ (untaught).

In formal lessons one learns a certain way to hold the flute, a certain posture, how to hold the shoulders, how to keep the head erect and the neck straight, how to keep the throat and oral cavity open, how to breathe from the bottom, how to form the lips into a certain shape, and many other things.

Were these things all recently dreamed up by some authoritarian High Priest(ess) of the Flute and forced upon our children due to the megalomaniac powertrip of closeminded teachers, suppressing the creative powers of the kids?

Not at all. Every single thing is the result of generations of experience, the things which have been found, over and over, with the majority of people, to lead to the best possible tone and comfort and ergonomics and longevity of the player.

We forget sometimes that “classical”/“orchestral” fluteplaying is traditional too! The modern generation of players and teachers is the end-product of many unbroken generations of teacher-to-pupil relationships stretching back at least to the 18th century. Every variation concerning every aspect of fluteplaying has been tried many times over the last 300 years and mainstream teaching has been formed through this process of trial-and-error, by sticking with what has over and over been proven to work and throwing out what over and over has been shown to not work. The learning process is greatly facilitated and speeded up because the student is the beneficiary of several hundred years of combined teaching experience.

The guy sitting in his room, who just bought an “Irish flute”, and knows nothing about any aspect of fluteplaying, and noodles around on his own, might indeed become a fine player. But he also might do a number of things less than optimally, things which might limit his playing now, or things (like un-ergonomic head, neck, shoulder, and hand positions) not rear their heads until several decades in the future.

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FAQs

Is wooden flute easy to learn? ›

Though it is not too easy to learn a flute, the soothing sound of this instrument has the power of making you feel calm in no time. The sound is created when the air is passed through the cavity and the holes in the flute.

Are all flutes right handed? ›

Left handed flutes have always existed, but only as custom made and therefore very expensive instruments, made by individual flute makers.

What is the proper hand position for piano? ›

Once you're comfortable, lay your hands either side of the center of the keyboard. Your fingers should be parallel to the keys, hovering somewhere above the middle of the white keys, close to the where the black keys begin (not on the edge). Your elbows should be at a comfortable distance from your body, bent outward.

Is it hard to play a wooden flute? ›

Yet, it is much easier to play than you think. If you want to master it, you can begin by availing of an excellent bamboo flute. At the onset, as a beginner flutist, you may end up trying too hard. You may tend to cover all the holes and make a whistling shape of your lips and blow hard on the mouthpiece.

What is a wooden flute called? ›

A bansuri is an ancient side blown flute originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is an aerophone produced from bamboo, used in Hindustani classical music.

Are wooden flutes any good? ›

While the metal flute tends to be the most popular kind, there are some advantages to a wooden flute, which is why some musicians prefer this type. For example, wooden flutes are known for creating a richer, more powerful sound than metal flutes, which can make them especially popular when playing folk music.

What are the parts of a wooden flute? ›

Sections of a flute:

Houses the mouth-hole or embouchure. The top end is sealed with a small corked plug above the embouchure and capped with the end-cap. We make headjoints both with and without tuning slides, the tuning slide necessitating a two-piece head joint.

Which flute is better bamboo or wooden? ›

The primary plus of the wooden flute is a greater likelihood of longevity, as the bamboo is considerably more prone to cracking. We find a well made and cared for flute will give you years of use, but bamboo has an unpredictable nature inherent to the "wood" (actually, a grass....)

Is a bamboo flute with six or more finger holes? ›

di, Wade-Giles romanization ti also called dizi, in music, transverse (or side-blown) bamboo flute of the Han Chinese. Traditional di have a membrane of bamboo or reed tissue covering the hole that is located between the mouth hole and the six finger holes.

What is the difference between left hand and right hand flute? ›

When the playing (Fingering) holes are on the left side of your body, this means that you are a Left-hand player. Another way of identifying if you are a Left-hand player is if your left hand is used to cover the bottom three holes and the flute is tilting down to your left hand side.

Does flute go left or right? ›

Either way, there's no 'handedness' in wind instruments. Get the one that fits the kind of music you want to play. Put your hands in the standard position for that instrument. The orchestral flute is held to the player's right, left hand fingers the keys nearest to the player.

Which side should we hold flute? ›

Left Hand Position

Your left index finger, middle finger, and ring finger, and rest on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th keys of the flute. Allow your pinky finger to gently touch the side key. You'll hold the weight of the instrument in your left hand by supporting the flute on the palm between your thumb and index finger.

Does hand placement matter on piano? ›

Yes, finger positioning really does matter while playing ANY Instrument. Piano finger numbers are found in piano sheet music and indicate which finger to use on a specific note.

How many hand positions are there for piano? ›

Likewise, at the piano, there are 88 keys, 10 fingers, and you move your hands around; thus there are a virtual infinite number of hand positions, if one takes in account both the left hand and the right hand, and all the possibilities, including crossing the hands over.

Is hand position important in piano? ›

Hand position is vital in piano, and without it, a student won't be able to progress as a musician and realize their full potential. For students younger than seven years old, having them play a few notes with the “okay” gesture with both hands is a good way of introducing correct hand position.

Is it easy to teach yourself flute? ›

Learning the flute is not difficult, but it can be if you do not maintain your focus or dedicate the right amount of time to practicing what you learn. The challenges that you will face in the process will not only be technical, but physical as well.

Why are flutes played to the side? ›

Instruments are designed to be played in certain ways to create characteristic sounds. A flute, (aka transverse flute) is held to the side so that you can rest your lower lip against the lip plate and blow over the air hole.

What are 5 facts about the flute? ›

George Washington, James Madison and Leonardo da Vinci all played the flute. Flutes are considered one of the earliest instruments and date back to Germany over 35,000 years ago. Many cultures have their own version of the flute. For example, one of the most popular traditional Japanese flutes is the the Shakuhachi.

How do you hold a woodwind instrument? ›

Place the index, middle and fourth fingers of your left hand on the three keys with holes, skipping over the solid ones. Your left thumb should rest on the body of the instrument in back (facing you), tilted upward. Your pinky can rest on any of the three elongated keys below your fourth finger.

Are flutes right or left handed? ›

As the mechanism became more complex and standardized, the current “right-handed” configuration was the only one mass-produced. However, a left-handed flute is much easier to obtain now.

Why are holes kept at different positions in a flute? ›

Similarly, opening different holes will generate different standing waves with different frequencies corresponding to different ′n′ depending on which holes are opened. This is necessary to create different notes of sounds on the flute. Hence this is why flutes have so many holes.

How do I stop my flute from rolling in? ›

To compensate, you will have to turn your headjoint more inwards in relation to the body, e.g. aligning the far edge of the mouth hole (instead of the center) with the center of the keys. Ideally, you should be able to balance the flute with only your chin, base of left index finger and right thumb.

What is the difference between a flute and an Irish flute? ›

Classical flutes usually have cylindrical bores, while Irish flutes have conical shaped bores. The difference affects both the tone and the resistance of the flute.

Videos

1. Irish Flute Lesson 1 - [The Basics] Start Here
(Online Academy of Irish Music)
2. Flute Lesson: Hand Position Tutorial - Playing Flute with Kaili
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3. Finger Positions For Flute In Depth
(The Flute Channel)
4. Intro Bamboo Flute Lesson with Dora Wang
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5. Beginner Flute - Finger Position on the Flute
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6. Transposing Technique | by The Flute Guy
(The Flute Guy)
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