Now that your flute is assembled, you have to hold it in an effective playing position.
Since your fingers will be resting on keys, we need to discuss the two different kinds found on flutes. Professional flutes are sometimes referred to French models, also called “open hole.” This means many keys have a hole in the middle which the pad of your finger covers when closing the key. Frequently flutes manufactured for students or beginners have closed, covered keys. This style is referred to as “plateau.” An open hole flute can be temporarily modified into a plateau by purchasing a set of plugs which fill the holes. The reverse is not possible for a plateau flute.
If your flute is an open hole flute, this means you will have to be precise when closing keys because you have to both close the correct key and make sure the pad of your finger is centered over the hole to prevent air leaks. If a key is not completely sealed, you won’t get the note you expect.
If your flute is an open-hole model and you are having difficulties you might consider purchasing a set of plugs. A temporary solution is to use small squares of masking tape, or some other easily removable tape (not cellophane or “scotch” tape), to cover the holes, though this is not ideal.
Good hand position is crucial to playing any musical instrument, including the flute. Drop your relaxed hand to your side and let it rest there a moment. Notice how your fingers are slightly curved. This is caused by muscle tone. When holding your instrument make sure your fingers, and thumbs, retain this natural curve as much as possible. It takes muscle tension to straighten fingers so if you play with straight fingers your hands will tire sooner than if they’re curved.
You can not really hold the flute properly until it is brought up to your mouth which creates difficulties because you cannot see much of anything when the flute is in playing position, so now you need to find a mirror you can sit in front of.
Study the next picture for a bit:
The right hand rests comfortably on the keys as shown, with your pinky resting on the first foot joint key. Because it is longer, your middle finger will be slightly more arched than the other fingers.
Thumbs should be slightly curved as much as possible (see illustration).
Wrong – straight thumbs:
The left hand thumb has two different keys it can play. Normally it will play the smaller key.
Your right hand wrist should be as straight as possible:
Your elbows should be comfortably down. Picture the flute as pivoting on the left index finger, so that it acts as a hinge. Any amount of guiding the foot joint away from you will bring the headjoint closer to your chin. Experiment with this.
The main points of support will be the underside of your left hand index finger, the pinky of your right hand (which depresses its key most of the time) and your thumbs.
As you can see from the picture below, the flute is not parallel to the shoulders.
Turn your chair to the right at approximately a 45 degree angle, then turn your upper body and your head so that you’re looking over your left elbow.
The flute should make an angle or pie-shaped wedge between the line of your shoulders and the line of the flute’s body. Guiding the foot joint away from you with the right hand should allow a relaxation of your left shoulder down and into its socket.
Don’t worry if this seems like a lot of details to keep track of. After a bit of practice this will seem natural.
Once you are comfortable with this you will be ready for the next lesson and your first note!