Why are high note flute fingerings complicated?

Flute Q&A #27: Why are high note flute fingerings complicated?

Aug 09, 2022

In Flute Q&A #27, Eli wonders why high note flute fingerings are more complicated than the low notes! This is one of my favourite questions so far in these Q&As - and I find the answer fascinating...

Why are high note flute fingerings complicated?

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Welcome to Flute Q and A# 27. This question comes from Eli. Maybe it's Eli. I really should learn the difference. Ellie, you have been asking amazing questions and it is in fact, this question that you asked today that made me change  the format of these Q and A's into one question per video.

What a great flute question!

Because your question was so good, it made a light bulb go on in my brain. I went, this question deserves its own video. So there you go. From now on every question gets their own video.

Why are high flute notes complicated fingering?

Eli's question is why is the fingering in the low, in the middle octave of the flute, essentially the same but in the third octave the fingering completely changes. Amazing question with a very distinct specific answer.

So my name is Jane. I'm a flute teacher. I'm Australian. You can probably tell from the way I speak. I live in Australia. I live in Sydney. I teach the flute and I love teaching people, exact techniques, proper techniques of playing the flute so that they instantly get better. Or in this case, Eli instantly understand what something is on the flute, which makes it easier to, you know, comprehend, play.

High notes on the flute

So high notes, Eli’s question, Ellie/Eli. Please tell me, please tell me Ellie, Eli, which one it is and okay demonstration. That's an A, that's an A and then high A is totally different. So the top octave Eli is saying is completely different to the bottom octave and the middle octave, which are often exactly the same or very, very similar.

Examples of high notes

The answer for you, Eli is that the higher note is not really what you think it is. It's a harmonic of a fifth below. So maybe your brain just went, what, what is she talking about? Okay. So let me explain. A good example is the high D. That is not really a D fingering. It's a G fingering. So put your top finger down and it's the harmonica for that.

So overblow your G. So over blow it, get a higher note, and that's a D. And all we do is lift our top finger to make it more stable. Amazing right? So the high D is actually a harmonic of G it's an overblown G.

Learning the highest note on the flute is a fun way to see how high you can actually play! The highest note is generally considered really high C, but in reality, advanced players play up to C# and D regularly.

High Eb on the flute

Let's do another example. This is high E flat fingering. So everything is down. Everything, including this pinky here, both pinkies, everything is down. That's not really an E flat. It's an overblown A flat. So play the A flat below. Overblow it, and you'll get an E flat. Now, all you have to do is put your hand down to make it stable and more in tune.

High E on the flute

Okay. One more example. So here's your high E and the fingering's,  two fingers here, two fingers here, plus your thumb and your pinky on your right hand. That's actually not an E. It's an A overblown. So let's play the A below. Overblow it and then you add these two fingers to stabilize the note and to make it more in tune. That goes for all the high notes. Pretty cool. Right?

So that answers your question, Eli. Your question is the reason I know I said this before, the reason the Q and A are now one question per video, because smart questions. I love them. Did I have anything else to say to you, Eli? No, that was all.

Improve your flute tone

The only thing I would say now is if you would like to improve your tone on the flute and I mean, instantly improve your tone on the flute for free come and do the free minicourse I'll put a link below this video and I show you the proper technique of getting a better sound, a clearer sound, stronger sound on the flute. Maybe see there. Bye.

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