5 Tricks to Speed Up Your Flute Fingers

Jul 12, 2021

Here are 5 tricks to speed up your fingers on the flute. But actually, four of them are more like flute technique TIPS and one of them is a brain trick which certainly tricks MY fingers into going faster!


Well, hello there. You're about to learn five tips to speed up your flute fingers. My name is Jane Cavanagh. I am a flute teacher, I'm Australian, which you can probably guess from the way that I speak. And I'm going to teach you my five top tips to speed up your fingers when you play the flute.

Now, the way that I teach is all about learning proper technique. Proper technique means that you get faster progress. So these five tricks that I'm going to teach you - these five tricks to speeding up your flute fingers. They're not really tricks. They're actually real ways to practice and real ways to think about playing the flute.

Alright, so here we go. Tip number one, identify where you've got tension in your body when you play the flute. And you might be thinking well, what's tension got to do with finger speed?

Everything. No kidding.

As you've probably experienced before, when anywhere in your body is tense or tight, speed is not what's going to happen naturally. It's going to slow your body down. If you try to run and you're really tight, you're obviously going to run not as fast as if you were more relaxed and free flowing. So tension in your body runs into your hands and it makes your fingers tight and stiff and tense and slows them down.

So students in my flute academy learn how to systematically go through their body and identify which part of their body is tense because there's always something and there's normally way more than one spot. And then how to actually remove that tension. It's amazing watching someone reduce the tension in their body and see it flow into their fingers. They instantly feel different and they instantly sound better to me and to them.

So it's really noticeable when you can work out where you're tight and let it go. See if you can identify where you're tight in your body. It can be quite sneaky so you can't always pick it, but see how you go.

Tip number two is when you're learning a piece or a scale ,practice just the hard bits, and then do a once run through of the scale or the piece. So many students are guilty of this. And I wonder if you're guilty of this too. They'll play the piece when they're practising top to bottom, start to finish and then go, cool. I'm done.

But they don't think about going back to correct their mistakes and probably more to the point, they don't know how to correct their mistakes. They notice that they've made mistakes, but they don't know how to help to actually go back and fix them.

So my advice to you to speed up your fingers, which means getting through hard bits of a piece, circle it in pencil, lead pencil, and go over that bit slowly and carefully and a hundred times, maybe not actually a hundred times, if you can do it 10 times. And then later that day do it another 10 times slowly and carefully. Then you put that back into the piece. So you do that heaps, and then you do that with every hard bit and then play the piece through. And you'll be amazed at how much faster your fingers feel because you've actually dedicated brain space to learning the bits that really need to be learned. And then you play the piece through once.

I've actually got a workshop on exactly this, it's practice technique, learning how to practice efficiently, which is this. You basically get more bang for your buck when you know how to practice.

There's a whole workshop on that inside the flute academy, which I'll tell you more about in a little bit.

Tip number three for faster fingers on the flute is learn scales, but learn them from memory. Even better learn to play them without the music.

I was just teaching a student inside the academy about how to memorize scales. And we said, okay, take it back. Instead of learning it with music and then trying to remember them, learn them without the music in the first place. And the reason for this is that your brain can focus much more on what it's doing. If it's not distracted or,  having to work on reading music at the same time. So you do it totally from memory and your fingers can really be the thing that your brain is focusing on. So do it without the music. And you'll see a huge benefit to your fingers. Scales are great in general.

Tip number four, fix your hand position.

You wouldn't believe how much this slows down your fingers if your hand position isn't correct. And the reason that it slows down your fingers is like I mentioned back in tip number one, tension. So if your hand position, isn't right, it's going to cause tension in your fingers and your hands and your arms and ever else in your body. There's a flow on effect and it's going to slow down your fingers, but it's not only tension that slows down your fingers with your hand position if it's wrong.

There's a whole module inside the flute academy about hand position and balance of the flute. If you have your flute not quite balanced and it feels like it's going to roll back, so for example, when you play C's and C sharps. If it feels like the flute is going to roll in towards you, and it's just not quite balanced, that means that when you play the flute in general, your hands are gripping on to hang onto the flute to stop it from rolling.

Now, logically if you're gripping onto the flute even a little bit, even if you're so used to it, you don't even realize that you're doing it. It is going to slow down your fingers because they're tight from hanging on. So you only need to learn the right balance of the flute as well as the right hand position. They go hand in hand.

Tip number five. This is the only one that really is a bit of a trick. It's tricking your brain into thinking about a passage differently. So for example, if you have a run of notes, if you think of every single note, it's kind of like your brains, like note one, note two, note three, note four, and I can't probably necessarily process them quickly enough to do it fast enough.

So one of the ways that you can get yourself into the next level of speed with playing runs is to think of it differently. So let's say that you have this B-flat major run scaling run at the start of this melody

And you're having trouble doing it that fast. This is an example of a trick that you can do for your brain. An example is instead of thinking, you have every note, think of the first note and the last note, and then rip through everything in between. And it will get you from the bottom to the top, faster than if you're thinking of it every note.

You notice that I lean on the first note and then rip up to the top. So that's, that is one of the brain tricks or brain hacks that you can do. I'm just actually about to record a lesson for the new flute academy, all about brain tricks, that speed up your fingers. And that's just one of them.

In the flute academy. I go into actually a lot more detail obviously and give you the exercises with how to get you there.

Now, if you're interested in the flute academy, I mentioned it's new, a new expanded version of a flute academy is coming out later this year. And if you'd like to be notified of when it's ready to be open to the public, come and add your name at www.flute.school/waitlist .You'll be added to the wait list and I'll notify you when the flute academy is launching and open for enrollments.

So there you go. They work five tricks, five tips to speed up your flute fingers, choose your favourite one from today and implement it into your playing. The next time you play, see you later.

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