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how do i hold the flute and press the keys?
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Author:  flyingparchment [ Thu May 16, 2019 9:01 am ]
Post subject:  how do i hold the flute and press the keys?


i'm mostly a fiddle player, but i'd played the Boehm-system flute for a few years on and off; actually mostly off, so i'm really not very good (i can just about make it through a jig), but i've been trying to work on it a bit more seriously recently.

so i bought an M&E 6-key polymer flute to see how i get on with the simple system flute. i'm quite taken with it so far but i'm having a couple of issues i can't find a good answer for...

first problem is, the keys seem really stiff. on my Boehm flute i hardly need to touch the key at all to close it, but for example trying to use the E-flat key on the M&E, i can hardly finish a tune without my finger feeling like it's going to fall off from the effort. the other keys are a little easier, but still need a pretty firm press that makes fast(er) playing a bit tricky.

the second problem is i can't find a good way to hold it. the flute is very top heavy (perhaps because of the fully lined headjoint?) and to hold it properly i need to rest it on my L1 knuckle and also support it with my thumb, otherwise it starts to slip down while i'm playing. that makes it hard to use the B-flat key, and means my wrist ends up at an odd angle; i've been feeling a bit of wrist soreness that i think is due to that.

but despite all that i really enjoy playing it - so i guess my question is, are these normal problems for new players that i just have to get used to (in which case, what _is_ the best way to hold it?), or would things be a bit better with a better flute?

i realise i sound a bit critical of the M&E flute here but i really don't mean it like that; it's the first simple system flute i've ever played and i can easily believe that problems are with me, not the flute. aside from the keys issue, the flute does play really nicely and i'm pretty happy with it.


Author:  Gromit [ Thu May 16, 2019 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: how do i hold the flute and press the keys?

Hi, I play an 8 key flute

I support the flute with my LH thumb under the flute close to the Bb key with the flute resting against my L1, on the fleshy bit between the knuckle and 1st joint, the Rh thumb goes under the flute. With the flute anchored against my chin below the lower lip it's pretty stable but sometimes I use RH little finger as well.

Sounds like you are venting the Eb key while playing - I never do this although there are some people on here who do but I've never found the need. I usually play ITM and the keys don't get a lot of use but I can't remember suffering from stiff keys on either of the keyed flutes that I've had. I'd get used to holding and playing the flute without using the keys at first, some good players have no keys at all!

Author:  Andro [ Thu May 16, 2019 8:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: how do i hold the flute and press the keys?

Hi @flyingparchment,

I have a nice McNeela Delrin keyed flute. I have never been able to figure this out, but it is essentially identical to the M&E one in all respects. I do not know whether these are rebranded from M&E, or whether both chaps actually get them from a third party manufacturer, or what. The similarity makes me wonder.

Mine is a fine flute. I have also come from a Boehm flute background. Compared to my silver flute, I find the key springs incredibly stiff and heavy, and I likewise have been wondering about this. I have not played enough keyed Irish flutes to know if this is normal. Perhaps the very strong spring pressure is to ensure the holes are really sealed up tight so as not to leak when closed.

I recently posted here about weak A's and E's, which are more or less normal on simple system flutes. But I found that to get good E's on this flute I need to vent with the E flat key, as on a Boehm flute. But I also observe, as a relative beginner, that on the good days when my embouchure is really cooking I can get good notes through the octave and I don't need the venting. Certainly you don't need to hold down that key the whole time as you may think from Boehm flute practice.

The Delrin flute is really very heavy in my view, especially of you have come from a concert flute. Delrin is a good flute material, but I think they up the weight to help with the tone, and I would say this is one of the heaviest flutes I have used. It's not the metal head liner, which is a negligible amount of material. The tone of these flutes is wonderful by the way.

As for holding it, you will get used it it. Each person is different - there is no one prescribed way to hold.

You may find it easier to start with a simple system keyless flute, as the keys are really a sort of luxury in ITM. My Sam Murray African Blackwood fills a whole room with sound and even though made of very dense wood, is very lightweight and no strain to hold at all. My Casey Burns boxwood flute weighs precisely nothing and also has a huge tone, and a delight to hold. Perhaps you could consider this sort of thing also.

Author:  flyingparchment [ Thu May 16, 2019 10:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: how do i hold the flute and press the keys?

thanks both,

yes, i'm venting the E-flat for everything out of habit - or at least i was, i've given up now and just rest my finger on the E-flat key. i did wonder about picking up a keyless wooden flute and keeping the Boehm for odd keys. i think the weight of it is the main problem i'm having with holding it, so if wood is lighter, maybe that would be better. on the other hand, it seems like a bit of a faff to carry two flutes around everywhere...

Andro, that's interesting about your McNeela flute, i agree it does look very similar! i thought the M&E flutes were made of a generic PVC rather than Delrin, but i understand he buys the keywork (and the rings?) from the far east rather than making them himself, so perhaps they both use the same supplier?

i may take the flute to a local woodwind tech and see if they can improve the key action at all, but i also wonder if the stiff action is needed to seal the holes; i don't recognise the padding material on the keys but it doesn't seem to be the same stuff as a Boehm flute.

Author:  tstermitz [ Thu May 16, 2019 10:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: how do i hold the flute and press the keys?

Having spent the past three years learning the Irish flute from scratch, I can testify that there are some physical issues that ease with time.

I remember that my right pinky got quite sore from holding the Eb key down, but I don't notice that any more. On my antique flute, the tone quality of the E note improves quite a bit with venting the Eb. Just today I noticed I was gripping a little too hard, but when I told my hands to relax, they cooperated.

I also remember that the flute was awkward to hold at first, and when I started learning the Bb key everything became very awkward again. This too, will pass. In order to keep the flute stable while floating my left thumb, I needed to reposition some of my other, supporting fingers. So, initial habits needed to be unlearned.

My left hand knuckle against the flute does become sore after playing for a while, especially on F/D-minor tunes where I need to float the left thumb. I would endorse the Nicholson (?) flattened cutout as a useful ergonomic improvement.

Not sure about the stiff springs as my flute springs do not seem particularly stiff. But then, I have nothing to compare it against.

Author:  piperjoe [ Fri May 17, 2019 11:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: how do i hold the flute and press the keys?

I had the same M&E flute that you have for a while and also found the keys a bit stiff and the body very slippery. One thing that helped me was to use Runyon flute cushions (black but now hard to find) or BG flute hand positioners (white but readily available from music stores). They are non-slip pads you apply where you grip the flute, usually LF first finger and RH thumb to prevent the flute from rotating.

I even use them on whistles. :thumbsup:

Piper Joe

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