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Right hand pinky on the flute: is it really necessary

Right hand pinky on the flute: is it really necessary?

Jun 01, 2020

If I had a dollar for every adult flute student who has ever asked me, "Do I really need to use my right hand pinky? It doesn't seem to do much." then I'd have a very jingly piggy bank!

Right hand pinky on the flute: is it really necessary?

Hehe, well I've got the best darn answer for you that will change the minds of even the most hardened pinky-is-pointless kind of players!

There's a SMALL reason why and a BIG reason why using your right hand pinky is important.

(You might be able to guess the small reason. But I bet you can't guess the big reason!)

Jane xx


I'm gonna answer the question: Do I really have to use my right hand pinky when I play the flute for most notes, because it doesn't really make a difference, does it? Well, the short answer is yes, you do need to use it.

And there's two reasons why there's a teensy reason why, and there's a gigantic reason why. And I'm going to tell you both, but first my name is Jane Cavanagh. I teach the flute, which you probably guessed. I love teaching people how proper technique gives them faster progress.

Instantly improve your flute tone

Stick around to the end of this video and I'll show you exactly what I mean with a free minicourse that instantly improves your tone. Proper technique for your embouchure gives you instantly better tone.

All right. So onto those two reasons, the teensy one and the huge one. We're gonna start with the tiny one first.

Reason number 1 to keep your right hand little finger on the D# key

Here's the tiny reason why you do need to use your right hand pinky when you play the flute is because it actually makes a difference for some notes. Not many, honestly, not many, but some. So obviously D sharp or E flat. You have to have that down. Otherwise, it's a different note.

That's so obvious, it's barely a reason. But it still falls into this category of it makes a difference for some notes. Now playing an E and it does make a slight difference to the intonation and tone of this  E. Can you hear it slightly flatter when it's off? Admittedly, it's a teensy difference.

I wouldn't like it if I heard someone playing like that, but I've got finally tuned ears to what people are doing on the flute. So it's not a great reason. And this is what a lot of students struggle with. It's not a great reason.

Okay. Still on the teensy reason, for some notes, it really does make a difference. Play high F sharp, and you'll hear it change dramatically when your little finger comes off. Okay fair enough, it wasn't that dramatic. Here's a dramatic one for you. High A, you actually can't play high A without your little finger. It just actually doesn't work.

So all of those little fingerings there, that was the teensy reason why. And I think you will probably agree with me that in the grand scheme of playing flute, not at an elite level, but for your own enjoyment, they are teensy reasons, but here is the huge reason.

Reason number 2 to keep your right hand little finger on the D# key

All right. If you learn the flute and you learned your notes correctly with your right pinky down, when it needs to be down, which is pretty much familiarly, every note, except for D and some of the high ones, you are going to give your brain less to think about because you're being consistent with your fingerings.

So if you make sure that you always have this down, when it needs to be down, your brain will learn that that's what it needs to do. And it will automatically do that. It will not have a choice.

So that consistency of you using your right hand pinky, when you're supposed to will free up your brain to think quickly, which means speeding up your fingers.

It will all also give you the brain space to think about other aspects of improving your flute playing, concentrating on something else that you're learning to do a new piece, a new technique. So the consistency of you using your right hand pinky, when you're supposed to teaches your brain to react automatically and frees that brain space for other things. So there you go.

Instantly improve your flute tone here

Now, come and join me in a free 3 day mini-course where I show you how to instantly improve your tone on the flute www.flute.school/free to register. I'd love to see you there, and I'll show you over three days, how to instantly improve your tone. Bye.

 

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