Which Bb fingering is correct?

Which Bb fingering is correct?

Jul 20, 2020

If you've ever thought to yourself (or Googled!) "Which is the correct Bb fingering to use on the flute?", then I have your answer...

 

Today's 8 minute mini-lesson shows you the right Bb fingering to use in the correct situation, which (said from experience!), knowing which one to use makes your flute playing life so much easier!

Stay well, look after yourself, and hopefully these mini-lessons are bringing you joy in an otherwise difficult time in the world.

Jane xx


Hey, sometimes I get asked as a flute teacher, which B flat fingering is correct. The one where you use your thumb on your left hand or the one where you use your index finger on your right hand. Well, did you know there is actually three fingerings, not two for B flat. And in this mini-lesson today, I'm going to teach you why there are three different fingerings for B flat and the situations where you would use all three. So by the end of this video, you'll know which one is correct. My name is Jane Cavanagh. I'm a flute teacher in Australia, in Sydney, and I love showing my students how to get faster progress on the flute, using proper technique on the flute. So stick around to the end of this video and I'll show you how to do the free minicourse that shows you the proper technique to instantly improve your tone.

The first B flat fingering is the one where you use your thumb on your left hand, on the B flat key, instead of the B natural key. This is used where you're playing a piece that has B flat in the key signature, or has mostly B flats through the piece. So you don't have to have B flat in the key signature, but the B flat in the key signature gives you a clue that there's gonna be mostly B flats in the piece. That is where you use this fingering. I use this 95% of the time when I'm playing music with B flats. So that's how common this fingering is. An example of when you would use this B flat is in a scale that has B flats in it, for example, F major. I'm gonna turn around so that you can see my thumb, and you're going to see that it stays on that key for the whole scale, not just for B flat.

The only situation where you wouldn't use this for your B flat is if it's next to a B natural. And the reason for this is sliding between B flat and B natural is really hard to control and have good precision when you're playing fast music. So the great news, this is where you use the second B flat, this type of B flat, or this B flat is when you have your thumb on the B natural key here, but you use the index finger on your right hand. The situation where you use this B flat is when you've got a B flat next to a B natural. It's so much easier to change between B flats and B naturals like that, than to try and slide and control that. An example of where you would use this B flat, which is sometimes called long B flat is in chromatic scale. Another example is in any piece where you've got B flats and B naturals next to each other. For example, in the start of Super Mario brothers like this, see if you can spot where I use this fingering. So you probably saw it happen twice. 

Another example of when you would use this B flat fingering is when the note is in fact, an A sharp. It's the same fingering. It's the same note, but whenever you have an A sharp in a piece, when you're playing in the key that has A sharp, it generally is gonna have B's as well, B naturals. So whenever you see an A sharp, that's a clue to be using this fingering. For example, in Badinerie by Bach. See if you can spot my A sharp.

This B flat that we've been using the long B flat is the B flat that I teach beginners when they learn to play, I teach them this for about six months to get used to it. And then I switch them across to mostly using the B flat thumb.

And the third rarest fingering for B flat is the lever key. So this key here that all flutes have is another way of playing B flat. This is a more advanced way of playing B flat and many high level flute players can go their whole career and never feel the need to use this key here. Personally,  I love it. When I'm playing B flats next to B naturals, I love this fingering. It can get a little bit awkward if that fingering is followed by a fingering that needs your index finger. Cause obviously you can't get from here to here very quickly. So the long B flat that I just showed you before that still comes in handy even if you do use this lever. Now, the reason it's good is because you can play between A's and B flats really smoothly, really smoothly. There's almost no clunk between them like this.

So you can actually leave a key down when you play between A's and B flats. You don't actually leave it down, but it just means that when you're doing a transition. So in a chromatic scale, you can be a little bit sloppy with this key, with this B flat key, lever key, and it doesn't matter. So I love this lever key. Now, if you use this, lever key, you never use it with the tip of your finger. You always use it with the edge of your finger. If you can see here. So not with the tip, but with the edge.

So they were your three B flat fingerings on the flute. And number one, the thumb version comes with a word of warning. There are two notes on the flute that you can't leave that thumb, and you have to have it on the natural key instead, apart from B natural, of course. The two notes that you can't have it on the thumb key are high F sharp. Listen to what happens if I change it to the B flat key. So that was natural, and I'm gonna change it to the B flat key, and you'll hear it sound terrible. It's also hard to play. So try that yourself, play higher sharp, and then switch it across and you'll feel and hear that you shouldn't have it on the B flat key.

The other note that you can't have your thumb on the B flat key. Oh, and of course, apart from C, but that's kind obvious. So the other note that you can't have it on the B flat key is high B. That makes it difficult. I switched from the B natural, which is right across to the B flat, and it doesn't work. So try that yourself for high, B natural.

So to summarise, I'm gonna be really clever here to summarise these three B flat fingerings,  I have a rule of thumb for when you use your B flat thumb. Now you think I should use this, this pun more often, but honestly, I just thought of it. I've been teaching for what, 20 something years. And I just thought of this pun, the rule of thumb for using your B flat thumb key is that you use your thumb on the B flat, unless the note is next to a B natural. That's it. Use your thumb for B flat, unless the note is next to a B natural.

So about that mini course I was telling you about if you want to come and learn proper technique to really improve your tone. And by that, I mean, actually instantly improve your tone, come and join me at www.flute.school/free. And I'll show you over three days for free, how to improve your tone. See you later.

 

Faster Progress Through Proper Technique ™

Learn how making the right tiny adjustments to your flute playing accelerates your progress.


Come and join Jane in The Flute Academy to transform your flute playing - one clever tweak at a time!

Find out more