What is a "split E mechanism" on the flute?

What is a "split E mechanism" on the flute?

Apr 03, 2024

If you've ever wondered what a "split E mechanism" is on the flute, now's your moment to find out!

What is a "split E mechanism" on the flute?

In today's mini-lesson I'm going to tell you why split E mechanisms are so amazing, but also why not to despair if your flute doesn't have one.

Jane xx

Why flute split E's are so good!

Hey there - in this mini-lesson today, I'm going to teach you what a split E mechanism is on your flute and why it is so good. My name is Jane Cavanagh. I live in Sydney in Australia, and I love teaching people how to make faster progress on the flute by teaching them proper playing technique. Stick around to the end of this video, and I'll show you how to learn and some proper playing technique that makes high notes really easy to play by learning the proper way to do them.

A Split E key makes the flute easier to play

Okay. So a split E mechanism, in a nutshell, it makes high E, easier to play. Let's break it down a little bit.

So what actually is a split E mechanism on your flute like mechanically? So you know that you have one because when you have a look at your flute, here's a G sharp key. If you go down, see, there's a little bar, a metal bar here that indicates that you've got a split E mechanism.

Combined with that you've got this extra rod here across the top of your flute or the back of your flute. That means that you've got a split E mechanism on your flute. It's like a little extra thing that you can pay for when you're buying a new flute.

Making high E easier on the flute

What happens is that these two keys, either side of your G sharp key can work independently. If you don't have a split E mechanism on your flute, by the way, it's not something that you can add. It's added when the flute is built. If you don't have a split E mechanism, it means that these two keys are basically fused together, and they just operate up and down.

So if you're mechanically minded like me, you'll find that really interesting. But if you are thinking, yeah, that's great Jane, but what's it do?

High E on the flute is really an A!

Okay. So you know that it makes high E easier to play and here's why. High E fingering is actually a variation on your A fingering. It's called Overblow, your A and you get a harmonic above, it's actually that high E. That's where the fingering from high E, for high E comes from. And all we do is add these two fingers to make that harmonic, that high E more stable and easy to play.

When you have a split E mechanism, it means that when you add your fingers here, this key, that one also goes down and it makes your high E even more stable than if it didn't. So split E’s are awesome. If your flute doesn't have one, do not worry. You do not necessarily need to go and buy yourself a new flute. Unless of course you want to. 

Does a split E make F# easier too?

People that have split E mechanisms sometimes think that it makes high F sharps harder to play. It doesn't actually make them harder. It just makes high F sharps feel harder because the E becomes so easy. So that's not a downside. It's just like a perception change. The F sharp feels harder.

The reason you don't need to despair if you don't have a split, E is because all it does if you don't have a split E is, it sort of forces you into learning the right way to play high notes, the right embouchure technique to play high notes, because you don't have a helping hand from your flute.

Good quality flutes...

Having said that, every good quality flute will have a split E mechanism on it. Sometimes older flutes don't have split E’sbecause they weren't invented then. And also cheaper student model flutes sometimes don't have split E’s on them as well, because it's a bit of an extra expense in the manufacturer of the flute.

The real way of playing high notes on the flute

So that real way of playing high notes that I just mentioned, come and join me for a free three-day mini course at And I'm going to show you the exact way, the real way to play high notes. I'd love to see you there.


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