Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

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rykirk
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by rykirk »

Terry McGee wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 7:53 am Ah, it sure sounds like you have arrived at a good place, rykirk. Well done! But your new development is interesting. You've now gone beyond our 19th century flutes back to an 18th century style baroque flute. We've been able to amass plenty of evidence for the 19th century English Three-point hold (aka "The Rockstro Grip" - you know my aversions to that title!). But I've not seen any mention of it having been used earlier (say pre-Nicholson). But it would make perfect sense for it to have been used earlier - to give full freedom to the use of the Eb key and all the cross-fingerings of the baroque flute era. This era is largely "before my time" (I'm old, but not quite that old...). Has anyone seen evidence for the three point hold from before the 19th century?
I haven't consulted a lot of primary sources, but I did consult with some modern baroque flautists who confirmed that they play this way and it is the recommended method proposed in Boland's "Method for the One Keyed Flute" and she claims to have scoured over fifty period flute tutors. She does mention that Hotteterre suggested in 1707 that one rest the pinky on the wood between the sixth hole and the moulding of the foot joint, but Boland says he is in the minority and recommends against it. Handling this flute I can say that either Hotteterre's flutes had drastically different external proportions than Grensers or Hotteterre had unnaturally long pinky fingers. There is just no physical space between the sixth hole and the key and joint for a finger unless you can reach well over the key or perhaps if you roll the key so far towards your self that you are effectively poking it forward rather than depressing it. Both seem very ungainly and not remotely agile for use of the key.
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by Terry McGee »

Very good, rykirk, thank you. As I said, it seems to make sense, and if Jan Boland's research confirms it, that's enough for me. So we can now say it was the generally preferred way to hold the flute in the 18th and 19th centuries, and not just in England.

It is a reminder that often in our business, one loud voice, Hotteterre in this instance, can overrule dozens of quieter voices until someone does the delving needed to unearth what the majority of voices had to say. Rockstro, in our period, is such a loud voice - I've learned never to assume anything from Rockstro unless collaborated by others. I guess the hint was in his name. He was born Rackstraw.

It was a time for showmanship. Rockstro's flute teacher Richard Carte was born Cart. He came from Hampshire, and ran off with the local clergyman's daughter. And ended up calling one of his sons D'Oyly, who became an impresario! "Nominative Determination" at work? What else could you be when you grow up with a name like D'Oyly Carte hanging over your head?

Hmmm, if I had taken my mother's surname, I'd be Turlough O'Carolan. I wonder if I would have still ended up playing flute?
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by tstermitz »

As an FYI, Jan Boland (female) is well known in the one-key, baroque flute circles/
Flutist Jan Boland, Executive Director of Red Cedar Chamber Music, holds a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the University of Iowa and her Method for the One-Keyed Flute, published by University of California Press is the standard text for baroque flute instruction.
Bio on this page:
http://www.bolanddowdall.org/boland-dow ... n-dowdall/

"Method for the One-Keyed Flute"
https://books.google.com/books/about/Me ... QwDwAAQBAJ
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by skap »

rykirk wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 9:33 am
Terry McGee wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 7:53 am Ah, it sure sounds like you have arrived at a good place, rykirk. Well done! But your new development is interesting. You've now gone beyond our 19th century flutes back to an 18th century style baroque flute. We've been able to amass plenty of evidence for the 19th century English Three-point hold (aka "The Rockstro Grip" - you know my aversions to that title!). But I've not seen any mention of it having been used earlier (say pre-Nicholson). But it would make perfect sense for it to have been used earlier - to give full freedom to the use of the Eb key and all the cross-fingerings of the baroque flute era. This era is largely "before my time" (I'm old, but not quite that old...). Has anyone seen evidence for the three point hold from before the 19th century?
I haven't consulted a lot of primary sources, but I did consult with some modern baroque flautists who confirmed that they play this way and it is the recommended method proposed in Boland's "Method for the One Keyed Flute" and she claims to have scoured over fifty period flute tutors. She does mention that Hotteterre suggested in 1707 that one rest the pinky on the wood between the sixth hole and the moulding of the foot joint, but Boland says he is in the minority and recommends against it. Handling this flute I can say that either Hotteterre's flutes had drastically different external proportions than Grensers or Hotteterre had unnaturally long pinky fingers. There is just no physical space between the sixth hole and the key and joint for a finger unless you can reach well over the key or perhaps if you roll the key so far towards your self that you are effectively poking it forward rather than depressing it. Both seem very ungainly and not remotely agile for use of the key.
Do you have some kind of a completely revised edition ? Because
my copy of Boland's book says the exact opposite: that the flute
should be supported with the left hand (between the thumb and the
first finger), and no mention of anything that could even remotely
suggest the three-point hold. She seems to merely repeat what Quantz
says in his treatise, but leaving out some interesting and maybe even
useful details.

Frankly, 18th century flute tutors are not very good at explaining
the technical stuff (and Boland is even worse ;-) ). I don't think flutists
of that era held their flutes "incorrectly", though, they just failed
to explain it properly. From my own experience, for the best result
with the baroque flute you should practice the "Rockstro" (three-point)
grip as well as the "Quantz" grip (left thumb), so that you are able
to alternate between the two freely (and unconsciously) when you actually
play, depending on what is more comfortable and appropriate at each moment
of time. This is probably what Tromlitz meant in his book (my favorite
in this respect).
rykirk
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by rykirk »

skap wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 8:34 am
rykirk wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 9:33 am
Terry McGee wrote: Sun Sep 19, 2021 7:53 am Ah, it sure sounds like you have arrived at a good place, rykirk. Well done! But your new development is interesting. You've now gone beyond our 19th century flutes back to an 18th century style baroque flute. We've been able to amass plenty of evidence for the 19th century English Three-point hold (aka "The Rockstro Grip" - you know my aversions to that title!). But I've not seen any mention of it having been used earlier (say pre-Nicholson). But it would make perfect sense for it to have been used earlier - to give full freedom to the use of the Eb key and all the cross-fingerings of the baroque flute era. This era is largely "before my time" (I'm old, but not quite that old...). Has anyone seen evidence for the three point hold from before the 19th century?
I haven't consulted a lot of primary sources, but I did consult with some modern baroque flautists who confirmed that they play this way and it is the recommended method proposed in Boland's "Method for the One Keyed Flute" and she claims to have scoured over fifty period flute tutors. She does mention that Hotteterre suggested in 1707 that one rest the pinky on the wood between the sixth hole and the moulding of the foot joint, but Boland says he is in the minority and recommends against it. Handling this flute I can say that either Hotteterre's flutes had drastically different external proportions than Grensers or Hotteterre had unnaturally long pinky fingers. There is just no physical space between the sixth hole and the key and joint for a finger unless you can reach well over the key or perhaps if you roll the key so far towards your self that you are effectively poking it forward rather than depressing it. Both seem very ungainly and not remotely agile for use of the key.
Do you have some kind of a completely revised edition ? Because
my copy of Boland's book says the exact opposite: that the flute
should be supported with the left hand (between the thumb and the
first finger), and no mention of anything that could even remotely
suggest the three-point hold. She seems to merely repeat what Quantz
says in his treatise, but leaving out some interesting and maybe even
useful details.

Frankly, 18th century flute tutors are not very good at explaining
the technical stuff (and Boland is even worse ;-) ). I don't think flutists
of that era held their flutes "incorrectly", though, they just failed
to explain it properly. From my own experience, for the best result
with the baroque flute you should practice the "Rockstro" (three-point)
grip as well as the "Quantz" grip (left thumb), so that you are able
to alternate between the two freely (and unconsciously) when you actually
play, depending on what is more comfortable and appropriate at each moment
of time. This is probably what Tromlitz meant in his book (my favorite
in this respect).
Regarding the left hand thumb my copy says "since there are no thumb keys ... one may choose to hold the flute" with the thumb. So true, she doesn't recommend not gripping the flute with the left hand...but her advice on the right hand pinky is definitive and I don't see how one could hold the flute with all holes open without the pinky and without using the kind of lever hold Rockstro describes. If I try to hold all holes open, no pinky, and my thumb on the bottom of the flute and just gripping with the left hand the flute is going to roll and dip unless I really deathgrip with my left hand, which seems wrong. So I guess it's implied for me by process of elimination rather than outright stated.

I'm sure in reality there was no standard hold in the 18th Century. Very few things were standardized country to country or even city to city at that time. But it certainly seems like a Rockstro-like grip was used by at least some and it seems the most ergonomic choice.
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by Terry McGee »

Good to keep in mind that Boehm had tried to introduce a different approach to the same challenge:

Image

The handle part of his "flute crutch" was intended to nestle into the gap between left thumb and forefinger, providing an anti-rotation device for the flute and support for the flute independent of the left thumb. That would leave the left thumb free to press any of the keys provided for it.

I don't know what sort of reaction that received on the Continent, but from memory, Rockstro was a bit scathing of it:
It may be noticed that the name of Boehm does not appear on the list: he was one of the very few [my emphasis] who placed the mouth-hole in a straight line with the finger-holes, and, because he did so, he was unable to hold his flute without the aid of his "crutch."

But Rockstro was happy with the three-point hold, so didn't need the additional support of the crutch. He goes on:
...I regret to say that a most reprehensible movement has recently sprung up, amongst a certain few English players, against the true system of holding the flute. I consider it my duty to protest emphatically against this innovation.
More from Rockstro on this topic at: http://www.mcgee-flutes.com/Rocksto_on_ ... flute.html
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by skap »

rykirk wrote: Tue Sep 21, 2021 7:45 am
Regarding the left hand thumb my copy says "since there are no thumb keys ... one may choose to hold the flute" with the thumb. So true, she doesn't recommend not gripping the flute with the left hand...but her advice on the right hand pinky is definitive and I don't see how one could hold the flute with all holes open without the pinky and without using the kind of lever hold Rockstro describes. If I try to hold all holes open, no pinky, and my thumb on the bottom of the flute and just gripping with the left hand the flute is going to roll and dip unless I really deathgrip with my left hand, which seems wrong. So I guess it's implied for me by process of elimination rather than outright stated.

I'm sure in reality there was no standard hold in the 18th Century. Very few things were standardized country to country or even city to city at that time. But it certainly seems like a Rockstro-like grip was used by at least some and it seems the most ergonomic choice.
rykirk, is it possible that you are placing your left thumb under the flute
rather than on its side? When you find the right position you should be able to
hold the flute with the left hand alone (with your right hand off the flute)
in a very stable and comfortable manner without any tension anywhere, and play
the notes from G to C# (all holes open) and the trills freely. This way, the flute
rather rests in your left hand firmly without any need to grip it. The base of the
first finger and the thumb form a V form (if looking parallel to the flute)
where the flute "lies", the two are however offset in the longitudinal direction
of the flute (the thumb is close to the second hole). Pay attention not
to let the flute "sink" into this "V", the "V" should be "closed" enough so that
the flute remains relatively high. The thumb should be curved inwards (toward the
flute) and touch its side with the fleshy part (although curving the thumb a bit more
and using the tip rather than the fleshy part also works for me). Do not press the
thumb against the flute, let the flute's weight do all the job.

Here's how Tromlitz describes it (almost identical to Quantz but a bit more precise):

"The best placement for all eventualities is therefore to hold the flute,
as already noted, so that it rests on the knuckle of the
lowest joint of the first finger of the left hand, and the thumb placed on the
inside in such a way that the fleshy part of the first joint is on the flute, just
a little behind the second finger, though not quite equidistant from both
fingers. This way of holding the flute is not only secure, but convenient for
everything."

Now that should work perfectly for the left hand notes, but when the right hand is
used actively it will inevitably destabilize the left hand and make it grip too much
(maybe even deathgrip as you say). This is where the "Rockstro grip" comes into play
and prevents any tension in the left hand. As you say, the "Rockstro grip" was probably
always part of the tension-free way of playing the flute, but it was used only when
needed to compensate the destabilisation that the right hand would otherwise produce
in the left hand. This must be the reason why the flutists of that time were convinced
to hold the flute exclusively with the left hand, which could not be exactly true,
in my opinion.

As to Hotteterre's pinky, I don't think he was using the right hand pinky for stabilisation.
Like the others he says that the flute should be held between the first finger and the thumb
of the left hand. I think his pinky was touching the flute's side, behind the key, actually,
for whatever reason, but without any impact on the balance. In his famous picture, there's
quite a space between the fourth finger and the key, too.
Last edited by skap on Wed Sep 22, 2021 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by PB+J »

My skype flute teacher has been telling me to play with neither right pinky nor left thumb touching the flute. The goal, he says, is to prevent the flute from moving at the embouchure hole. It does work but I end up putting a goodly amount of pressure below the lower lip, which feels like too much work. Tunes I know well I can play this way, but tunes i don't know well fall apart quickly. It's been interesting as a practice exercise but I'm not sure I'd ever end up playing that way all the time.

I have to turn the blow hole waaay in to get it to work
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by Sedi »

On the boehm flute (which was what I first learned but it was ages ago) the right pinky rests on the flute at all times except for a few notes. That's because it has the D# (or Eb) key to press to keep it open. If the pinky is not depressing this key, another finger of the right hand is pressing a key and does stabilize the hold.
What's good for the boehm can probably do no harm on a flute of the romantic era. So I always leave the pinky on the flute (but I play keyless anyway). And sometimes I also use "piper's grip" for some tunes as it gives me more dexterity for the upper hand. But mostly I use a classical "boehm hold" (as skap described it for the upper hand). Works fine for me. I think everybody should find his own comfort zone here. There is no absolutely "right way" to hold the flute. Apart from that -- if you need to use any keys with the upper hand thumb -- what skap says is the best way.
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by tstermitz »

@rykirk:
If I try to hold all holes open, no pinky, and my thumb on the bottom of the flute and just gripping with the left hand the flute is going to roll and dip unless I really deathgrip with my left hand, which seems wrong.
Three point hold: If your right thumb presses outward (from the inside of the flute), then it provides leverage to work against left index base, and chin. If your right thumb is on the bottom, then yes, the flute won't be supported.
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Re: Flute Hold Right Hand Pinky

Post by rykirk »

tstermitz wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:33 am @rykirk:
If I try to hold all holes open, no pinky, and my thumb on the bottom of the flute and just gripping with the left hand the flute is going to roll and dip unless I really deathgrip with my left hand, which seems wrong.
Three point hold: If your right thumb presses outward (from the inside of the flute), then it provides leverage to work against left index base, and chin. If your right thumb is on the bottom, then yes, the flute won't be supported.
Yea, this was my point.
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