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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:27 am 
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I'm using the Eb key routinely now on my keyed flutes, to brace the flute and vent the low E. This question is directed mostly to people who do so too, either on simple system or boehm flutes. My right hand pinky is dancing around. It's up only when I'm playing low D, the rest of the time it's down. And I'm retraining my right hand to do this, which is a bit of an undertaking.

The question: is what I'm doing standard practice? Are there alternatives as good?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 6:38 pm 
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I think it depends on the individual instrument. My McNeela Delrin needs it down for the high register which is otherwise weakish and somewhat ill defined, and for the low E. But other flutes are different. Of course, this usage is normal on Boehm flutes, for all the notes. All depends on the design.

Flutes are all individuals, just like us. There's no one single fixed way.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:09 pm 
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Thanks. Let me ask this question. On the Boehm flute, the Eb key is used to balance/hold the instrument. Is that right? Is it down except when low D is being played? Some of you took lessons on the Boehm. How did they instruct you to use this key? I have no access to teachers near where I'm living. Thanks again.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:46 pm 
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jim stone wrote:
Thanks. Let me ask this question. On the Boehm flute, the Eb key is used to balance/hold the instrument. Is that right? Is it down except when low D is being played? Some of you took lessons on the Boehm. How did they instruct you to use this key? I have no access to teachers near where I'm living. Thanks again.


That’s correct, Jim. Vented for all but the D.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:29 pm 
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I had to learn to hold down the Eb key on my 1850 flute. My low E is in tune, but it just opens or resonates better with the Eb key open.

Yes, I normally keep the Eb key down except on the D note, and on low C and C# for obvious reasons.. It took some effort/time to relearn, but it became automatic. I'm not really aware whether I always keep it down outside of D; Certainly for stability... I keep it up for C-natural (OXO XXX).

I have difficulty doing the E or F roll with the pinky holding Eb down, so I leave it open for rolls.

There are notes in the 3rd register that are affected by the Eb key. Sometimes it is helps or is necessary; sometimes it needs to be open.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:22 am 
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Much appreciated. Just what I wanted to know. I have been following this path, retraining my right hand, hoping that I was going down the right path. Appears I am.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 4:44 am 
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jim stone wrote:
Thanks. Let me ask this question. On the Boehm flute, the Eb key is used to balance/hold the instrument. Is that right?


based on Boehm's design philosophy - that all keys should be open standing - you would expect the Eb key to be open standing and only used to play D, similar to how Boehm's open G# works. but Boehm himself wrote that he made the Eb key closed-standing instead for two reasons: 1. because that's how it was done on the simple-system flute, and 2. to make it easier to hold the flute.

what i take from this is that although some people might tell you never to use the Eb key to support the flute, in reality, most people do actually do that at least to some extent - i certainly do on both the Boehm and simple system flutes, and while i can play without my R4 touching the flute, it's much easier and more stable when it is.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:42 am 
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Perhaps a contrary view here. It may be recommended practice, but I'm not sure how "standard" it is for all of us. Many players of Irish music on flute like Matt Molloy and Kevin Crawford rotate the foot joint to move the Eb key out of position, so they can have a steady R4 finger brace on the side of the flute.

I've experimented with R4 resting or venting the Eb key. The E note on my flute improves only very slightly with Eb venting, but not enough to make it worthwhile. It's just a tiny difference on this flute, and it doesn't do anything for the notes further up. There are very few tunes I'm interested in that actually need an Eb note, and none that need the C foot keys (they're leaky anyway on this flute). Off the top of my head, maybe Crested Hens and Beare Island?

So right now I'm just rotating the C foot forward and moving the Eb key out of the way unless I'm playing those two tunes. I feel that my lower hand fingers have much more flexibility and freedom with my R4 solidy resting on the side of the flute, compared to resting on the Eb key and having to think about venting or not. It removes one complication from what is already a somewhat complicated instrument to play. The vast majority of tunes in the Irish/Scottish repertoire don't require an Eb or low C and C# notes after all. "Crested Hens" is actually a French tune (Les Poules Huppees)!

I know this is "wrong" in terms of Classical technique, but then again if it works for Molloy and Crawford, it can't be too wrong. :)


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 11:58 am 
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Conical bore wrote:
I've experimented with R4 resting or venting the Eb key. The E note on my flute improves only very slightly with Eb venting, but not enough to make it worthwhile. It's just a tiny difference on this flute, and it doesn't do anything for the notes further up.


according to the fingering chart provided by the maker of my flute (Tony Millyard), the E-flat key should not be vented for E, F or F#, only for D# and for G and higher (and even then it's marked as 'optional' - i can't actually imagine it making any noticeable difference). i've been meaning to ask why this is, but my assumption is that because he makes keyless flutes which can have keys added later, the scale is tuned so intonation is correct without the E-flat vented. i wonder if this is one difference between a classical simple system concert flute and a modern "Irish flute"?

edit: but the E on my keyed polymer "Irish flute" is desperately flat without the E-flat vented, to the point that it's unuseable, so perhaps it depends on the flute. that flute also has a D that's so flat, a tuner shows it as C#; i know some people prefer a flat D, so perhaps the flat E goes along with that.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 1:55 pm 
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I've had a number of keyed flutes over the years. I would sometimes attempt to develop the habit of venting the Eb but I never stuck to it since it didn't make any difference to my ear. I understand it can be quite important on different flutes, but never on the ones that passed through my hands. (mostly modern makers of excellent flutes)


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 4:59 pm 
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On my Firth, Pond & Co venting the Eb key opens up (makes more resonant) the E note, although makes minimal difference to the intonation. I could get by without it, but my fingers learned it, and now it is second nature. Having solved that (and some other) 19th century "idiosyncrasies", I now have available to me a wide range of 8-keyed flutes at half the price of a modern flute.

On my flute, the Eb key also helps with certain fingerings in the third register, like C#. There must be a sympathetic resonance coming from the bottom of the flute, that opens up the note.

I "need" the Eb for accidentals on certain tunes, Tarbolton comes to mind, but the only other necessity would be to play in keys other than D, G, C & A.

The key of E turns out to be fairly easy to play on the simple system flute, so you can challenge your fiddle friends on Road to Errogie and Calliope House.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 1:19 pm 
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It really depends on the flute, and not just on an accident of detail, but on the deliberate choice of the maker. Hammy told me that his flutes were made to be played without venting the E and Forbes told me the keyed Windward is meant to be played with venting the E. I only really notice it with the E and F Natural. The F# seems to be vented well enough not to matter. Obviously a keyless has to be built to work without venting, so it can be done. What the trade-offs are that lead a maker to choose one over the other are is mostly beyond my ken, especially in the details.

So, a given flute is likely to either not need venting at all or really need it. It seems quite obvious to me which it is when I pick up a given flute.

The technical challenge is that as a player one ends up using the hold on the key as part of the control of the flute and it can be easy to end up shifting or wobbling the flute when raising the pinky for the D. This led to me moving the flute on my lip and having a phase of very weak low D - my E was much stronger than my D which is not how it should be! (Psychological blocks on thinking that the D needed "extra" work don't help either...). This was all fixed once I worked out what was happening and concentrated on not wobbling the flute when I raised the Eflat key.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 08, 2019 1:36 pm 
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tstermitz wrote:
The key of E turns out to be fairly easy to play on the simple system flute, so you can challenge your fiddle friends on Road to Errogie

Actually B pentatonic (not a single E in it).

ChrisCracknell wrote:
It really depends on the flute, and not just on an accident of detail, but on the deliberate choice of the maker. [...]

So, a given flute is likely to either not need venting at all or really need it. It seems quite obvious to me which it is when I pick up a given flute.

Absolutely, and especially with E. No more point pushing E sharp to make it 'strong' than leaving it flat and veiled, and the player should know.

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