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3 good reasons why also YOU should use alternative fingerings with the flute

by | Mar 14, 2020 | Ory's Tips | 0 comments

Ory’s Flute Tips

 3 good reasons why also YOU should use alternative fingerings with the flute

 

Alternative fingers are a bit of a controversy between those who believe and teach that one should only use the ‘official’ fingerings and just keep practicing until you get it right and those who recommend and are in favor of using the alternative fingers to solve various issues.
I’m definitely one of those who encourage all students in my intensive masterclasses to learn and use the alternative fingerings and benefit from what they can offer us.

Why then would I consider using alternative fingerings?
There are 3 main reasons:

  • To make passages easier to play
  • To correct the intonation and allow a bigger dynamic range (especially in the orchestra)
  • To help playing with different colors that might fit better to the musical moment

 

🎿 Making difficult passages easier

Chant de Linos by Jolivet, Liebermann’s sonata, Prokofiev’s sonata and orchestral excerpts and many more pieces in our repertoire can be sometimes very difficult. Not only that changing between the different ‘official’ fingerings is extremely hard and confusing sometimes, they can create other issues that you might not have noticed or thought about, for example loosing the stability of the flute and therefore sacrificing your tone quality. Using alternative fingering can make difficult passages all of a sudden really easy.

As a student I was already very interested in finding new fingerings and my professor, Jacques Zoon, was always encouraging us to use them. I played the sonata by Liebermann and there was one passage from the 2nd movement I absolutely had to find a solution for. For the next trick you owe me 100$ 😜:

I figured out that to play this passage (2nd movement bars 118-119) with the ‘official’ fingerings, there are simply too many fingers which are involved (in bar 119 that is) and I was looking for solutions in order to reduce that. In quick tempi involving difficult intervals and finger changes, the least the fingers has to move the safer it is. So I managed to come up with a solution.

Here’s the passage:

And these are the fingerings for the 4 first notes of the second bar:

The right hand pinky should be on the Gizmo key!

High C (normal high C fingering):

High G (normal high G + Gizmo key):

High Ab (High G + Gizmo+ 1st trill key):

 

High Eb (High G + Gizmo + 2nd trill key):

 

Play it slowly and see how easy it has become. Not bad, huh? 😇

But difficult passages aren’t necessarily always quick. Even in the Mozart Concerto in G Major in the 2nd, the slow movement, you can use some fingerings to make things easier. In this case I’d play with a different fingering in order to play the interval as smoothly and soft as possible, yet without any cracking, accents, crescendo towards the higher note and intonation falling. So many benefits in only one little alternative fingering!

Here’s the passage, and I’d use an alternative fingering for the high F# in the second bar:

 

Get the Most Out of Your Flute.

Quickly and Efficiently.

🔉🔊 Improve your dynamics range and intonation (especially in the orchestra)

For those of you who wish to play in an orchestra or already do, the earlier you acknowledge that in the orchestra you don’t have to be right, rather be flexible – the better.

It doesn’t matter if your tuner shows that you are perfectly in the center because very often you actually don’t have be at the center at all in order to fit in the chord (you can read here my article about intonation and how you can practice it). It could be as well that your colleagues in the oboe, clarinet, bassoon etc. simply have a very high/low note in intonation and can’t do much about it and then it’s your responsibility to be flexible and help by changing your pitch.

In addition, you might be required to play extremely soft or loud because the conductor wishes that or simply because the music requires that – and you sure do not want to become too flat or sharp.

Therefore, for almost every note on the flute you’d be able to use some alternative fingerings to make the note sharper or flatter. The first octave is a bit limited, but above that you have more possibilities. Sometimes the fingerings are based on the ‘official’ fingerings and sometimes they are completely different.

The more fingerings you know, the more possibilities you’ll have when playing with others. You’ll be able to be flexible and fit yourself immediately in every situation – and that’s exactly what playing with others is about.

🌈 Expanding your colors range

Sometimes I’d choose to play with certain fingerings in order to achieve a certain color that I’m looking for. We can (and should be able to) change of course a lot between the colors with the way we use our lips, face and the space inside our mouth, but sometimes you might want to use some fingerings to help that as well.

As a simple example, you can use the next fingering for the middle E and see the difference in color. Very often I use the alternative (which is just an add-on on the ‘official’ fingering) in order to get a bit richer color (this one I’ve learned from my professor, Jacques Zoon).

Conclusion:

As in many aspects in your life, having few more options is not a bad idea. Learning and using alternative fingerings give you more possibilities, which are going to make your life easier for your own playing and while playing with others and make you a better, more flexible flutist.

I totally encourage you to not be afraid of using them and hopefully we’ll see more and more flexible flutists around the world.

Enjoy practicing, keep healthy and let me know what you think in the comments.

Ory

Ory Schneor is a principal flutist with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra and member of the Geneva Camerata. He is teaching masterclasses around the world and he is the founder and instructor at FLUTEinWIEN – Intensive Masterclasses in Vienna

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