The Flute Academy
Should you remove all the plugs from your open-holed flute all at once

Should you remove all the plugs from your open-holed flute all at once?

May 18, 2020

Today I'm answering this question that I often get asked: "Should I take out ALL the plugs in my flute at once, or ONE AT A TIME?"

Should you remove the plugs from your open-holed flute?

There is a definite answer, but it might not be what you've been told in the past.

I can't wait to tell you!

Jane xx


Flutes with open holes

When you first get an open hold flute, it can be a bit of a struggle to get your fingers to cover the keys. So you are normally given a set of five of these little plugs, plastic or cork. These ones are cork to plug into the holes so that you can actually play the flute properly.

And I often get asked when you're getting used to playing without these plugs in, should you take all of the plugs out all at once or one at a time?

When to remove the flute key plugs

Teachers have very strong opinions on this and I'll tell you why. And what I think is the best way. My name is Jane Cavanagh. I live in Sydney, in Australia, and I took my flute teaching school online because I want to show how the best way to improve is to really understand what you're doing. Breaking concepts up into tiny little pieces that actually make sense and you know why you're doing it is the best way to accelerate your flute playing.

It's because this understanding builds up little by little by little and makes playing so much easier not to mention sound so much better too.

Okay. Should you pull all of your plugs out all at once or one at a time. Bit of background first. You probably already know if you have an open hold flute that you need to cover these exactly. If even just one of these holes is cracked a tiny bit. The whole flute won't work.

Covering the flute holes with your fingers

So here's an example of the holes covered. The flute will work. Now if I move my hands so that the holes are not covered, this is what the same scale sounds like. So obviously not very good, not much like a flute either.

There are two commonly taught approaches to taking the plugs out. One is to take them all out at once. And the other one is you take them out one at a time.

Taking the flute plugs out one at a time

Taking one plug out at a time is fine if you have good hand position. So if you already have a good hand position and you take plugs out one at a time and you just have to very, very slightly adjust your finger to cover the hole, that's fine. That's great. But if you don't have such a great hand position, it can actually make it worse.

So if your, let's say your hand position is not so good, I'm going to twist this hand. I'm going to flatten my fingers here. And what else can I do? I can chuck my thumb forward a bit, a little bit here or a lot. So I'm missing the holes.

If you have a hand position that's not quite right and probably not this bad either. And you try and take one plug out at a time. Let's say you take this plug out. You're gonna move that finger back.

And let's say that you might get used to that. It's not gonna be very comfortable, but then let's say you take this plug out and you move that finger back. Then let's say you move that finger out and you move that one back. I have a worse hand position now because I've moved my fingers, but I haven't actually fixed my hand position.

So taking one out at a time is good. If you've already got good hand position and it's not so good, if you have a not so good, oh, it's bad. If you have not so good a hand position.

Taking the flute plugs out all at the same time

Alright, the other other option is the cold turkey taking all five plugs out at once. If you have a good hand position where your hands are slightly curved, your fingers are on top of the keys as opposed to like this, your thumb here is not too far forward and it's not too far back. And your right hand is not too twisted this way. You're going to be fine.

Doing cold turkey, taking all the plugs out at once. Your fingers might need to adjust a little bit and you'll be okay. But if you don't have a great hand position and you take all the plugs out at once, it's going to be a frustrating mess.

It's gonna be a catastrophe because you won't be able to cover any of the holes. And you'll just be so frustrated because you can't get through even a line of music without it sounding like this. That's what happens. And it's so I know I have had students that have tried this by themselves, taken all the plugs out, a frustrating mess is what I call it.

So you might be thinking now, okay, that's great Jane. But if I don't have great hand position, what am I supposed to do? Because one plug out at a time is not gonna work for me. Cold turkey is not gonna work for me.

Getting your flute hand position right with open-holes

So yes, I do have a solution. It's a bit of a hybrid solution. You probably guessed. We really need to get your hand positioned right for you to play an open hold flute without the plugs. So the way I do this with students is I do one hand at a time.

And the reason for this is because you can address your whole hand and you only have to deal with say two holes in this hand.

And if it's this hand, you only have to deal with deal with 3 at a time. We can get your hand position, right, and get you covering holes.

So that is my advice. Do one hand at a time so that you can address your hand position and make sure that your fingers are curved, but not too curved, curved, and not flat that your thumb is in the right position. Your hands are not twisted, and you'll be able to cover all the holes easily with a little bit of practice.

ou might be thinking at this stage, why on earth would I want an open hold flute? If it seems so complex, a task to get used to it. Well, open hold flutes they encourage good hand position. You know, from what I just talked about. Open hold flutes also have a slightly nicer tone to them.

It's more important to have a good embouchure and a good way of blowing for your tone. But open hold flutes do make your flutes sound a little bit nicer.

I like the feel of an open-holed flute

The reason I like playing it on open hold flute, I like the feel. What's the word? Um, it's very tactile. It feels nice on my fingers. And I also have greater control when I'm playing flute. If you sort of need an emergency,  pitch change to fit in with an instrument or a chord that you didn't expect to have to play either particularly sharper or flatter, and you can do it on the spot, you can change your picture on the spot like this, watch this finger.

This is not the normal way of playing a flute in tune, but it's a good sort of spontaneous emergency ability to adjust your tuning. That's why I like it.

Closed hole flutes

There are professional players that play closed whole flutes. There's absolutely nothing wrong with them. It's just a preference.

Okay. And one more little tip to help you get used to playing an open hold flute. If you put your plugs in all of them in, but you push them down quite far so that you can really feel that there's a hole there, but the plug's still in.

If you do that with all five, it will feel like you're playing an open hold flute and you can get used to that tactile feeling I was saying about where the holes are. So that's a good way to actually get used to playing an open hold flute, but without the risk of not cover the holes.

Getting a much clearer tone on the flute

Now I mentioned about getting a better sound. You don't do that by going and buying an open hold flute to get a better sound. You do that by adjusting and working out the best way to play using a good embouchure. So if you wanna come and join me for a free 3 day mini course on instantly improving your tone, it's all about embouchure.

Come to www.flute.school/free. Join me there for 3 days of lessons to instantly fix your embouchure and get you an instantly better sound on the flute. I'll see you there.

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