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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 6:46 pm 
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I have not come to terms with playing in the key of A. Fiddlers seem to love it, and there are quite a few common tunes in A.

I much prefer F, although admittedly it was a biggish haul to get over the Bb key struggle. I just love the sound of F and Dminor/Gminor tunes. F tunes aren't necessarily popular at sessions, but whistle players can always grab a C whistle.

Working theories:

(1) Ease of playing. My little finger on the left hand for the G# key just isn't very quick. My left thumb is extremely agile, once I got past the death grip!

(2) Psychologi-musical. My A note is a little weaker and/or slightly flat when compared to other notes - in both registers. And venting the G# key at speed is not at all easy.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:52 am 
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I have to say, I quite like playing in A, and F for that matter, though most of what I play in "F" is actually in G Minor. I have a right hand bflat key and thumbhole. My A is in tune though without venting G#.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:12 am 
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I'm with you on that Chris. I have a problem with my left hand which makes reaching G# keys problematic on just about any flute I've ever tried, sometimes it works, sometime not. There aren't really all that many tunes in A major that I like anyway, so I live with it. Chris Norman did a workshop in Aberdeen some years back, and summed it up best I think when he described A major as a "weak" key on the flute.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:41 am 
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I think (part of) the problem with G# is that on most flutes this key is really not ergonomic because one needs to apply lateral rather than downward pressure. Terry McGee sums up this problem well and his solution looks intriguing. I'd really like to try that.

On my flute, G# is slightly tilted (about 45°) which makes it a little easier to play, but still not ideal in my opinion. On the Boehm flute it's a non-issue.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 5:19 am 
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I wouldn't say "not enjoy" but it certainly is more challenging to play than D/G tunes - and especially on whistle if there are G#s in an upward phrase (less difficult to hit coming down from B.A. I've always put the extra difficulty down to familiarity where all the ear and muscle memory and phrasing and ornamentation is 50% key of G, 40% key of D and 5% key of A. I know a Scottish repertoire would have a lot more of key-of-A tunes but for ITM that's roughly the spread.

We have a number of sets where we pop tunes from D to G to A in some rotation. It's a great test if you KNOW the tune by being able to transpose at will to another key and retain ornamentation and pace.

I've always found the Bb key tricky (admittedly without huge amount of experience and practice). I've a flute on order with Geert Lejeune and the Bb key is a long lever operated by the RH index finger (like the C-nat key). According to Geert - 20-25% of orders request this positioning.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 10:48 am 
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Came back to this - I was agreeing with the original poster, not Chris - mixed the 2 replies up. Can I ask this - and let's stick to the traditional Irish repertoire - which tunes in A major do you like playing on flute ? Without looking through any lists or recordings, I can only think of 2.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:14 pm 
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tstermitz wrote:
My little finger on the left hand for the G# key just isn't very quick.

Neither is mine, but I have to use it for regular G nat.

kenny wrote:
I have a problem with my left hand which makes reaching G# keys problematic on just about any flute I've ever tried, sometimes it works, sometime not.

So everyone should have a right-hand G# like mine! Seriously... we developed it through necessity, but it would still be a great addition for ten-fingered people (I can either rock R1 back onto it or hit it afresh)...

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:34 pm 
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I have a keyed flute and figure my issues of playing in A have more to do with lack of practice than anything else. I play with a keyless player who seems to manage somehow on flute and whistle.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:19 pm 
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I’ve always preferred the sharp keys to flay keys. And I have a flute with my preferred right-hand Bflat touch. I just like the sound of the sharp keys more, it’s nothing to do with the mechanics.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:30 pm 
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Thanks for all the comments.

Now that I've worked for a while with the long F-key the agility of my left-hand pinky has improved. (I've only ever needed the short F on one piece in C-minor which requires the transition from, F to Ab.)

One saving grace is that some A tunes are actually hexatonic, and don't or rarely use the G#.

As encouragement, I do have some really nice tunes in A that are calling me to practice the G# note:

Trolley's
Easy Club
Road to Errogie

Kerry Jig
Soggy's
Stan Chapman's

Once I get my Siccama flute restored, I can see what it's like to have a flute with E and A holes in the more optimal position.


Last edited by tstermitz on Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:36 pm 
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I'm a little mystified by the comment that pressing the G# key requires "lateral" pressure, or is un-ergonomic in any way.

On my flute (a large-holed R&R replica) it is straight down (i.e. toward the flute). The long-F is just a slight movement adjacent - also down, and in fact I can rotate the middle joint to adjust the position where I want it.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 3:50 pm 
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tstermitz wrote:
Road to Errogie

You know it was written in B? :devil:

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:08 pm 
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Quote:
You know it was written in B?


Yes. But, that challenge is for another time!


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:48 pm 
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tstermitz wrote:
I'm a little mystified by the comment that pressing the G# key requires "lateral" pressure, or is un-ergonomic in any way.

On my flute (a large-holed R&R replica) it is straight down (i.e. toward the flute). The long-F is just a slight movement adjacent - also down, and in fact I can rotate the middle joint to adjust the position where I want it.


It sounds like we don't have the same notion of "down" :-? In the link I provided in my previous message, Terry McGee talks about "inward" (= towards the flute, that's what I meant by "lateral") and "downward" (towards the ground) movement.

I've played the clarinet (a lot) and the Boehm flute (a bit), and both have a G# key which allows you to apply pressure in a direction roughly perpendicular to the plane of the instrument (my understanding of "downward" on the flute). I find that much more comfortable, and easier to use reliably, than the traditional G# on the wooden flute. But it's great if the latter works for you :thumbsup:

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2020 10:09 am 
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busterbill wrote:
I have a keyed flute and figure my issues of playing in A have more to do with lack of practice than anything else. I play with a keyless player who seems to manage somehow on flute and whistle.



To clarify my comment: D and G and their relative modals and minors are simple because I've played them regularly for 35 years. While the tunes in F and A and any music in key signatures I don't use don't come as easy. I write this off to seldom playing in those keys.

When we are kids in elementary school bands the teaching builds on skills one note at a time gradually introducing us to most key signatures. When I played the Boehm flute and later the clarinet as a kid I and my peers could play in any key the band teacher tossed at us.

But when I started to focus solely on the whistle and flute for ITM the majority of the key signatures were dropped from my practice. When I finally got myself a fully keyed flute I found I used the C# the most, the F naturals seldom and the others once in a blue moon. Gone were the days when I would practice the chromatic scale on a daily basis.

Fast forward 25 years, which contained an occasional rendition of Out on the Ocean and Fox Hunters Reel in A to please a particular fiddler or provide some lift, to the introduction of a set which included Music for a Found Harmonium. Hello keys! Then 4 years after that someone discovered Catharsis. Then 2 years ago another session: All the Handsome Young Ladies.

So, when I say lack of practice, I should rather say the lack of these key signatures coming up lead to a lack of familiarity and muscle memory. The simple system flute was the staple for orchestras for years playing smoothly in all key signatures.

So yes, it may be difficult, but it may be us, not our instruments. Certainly if I'd played tunes in Bb for 35 years I'd be a heck of a lot better at it than I am now. :D


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