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Should you use alternative fingerings? Prokofiev Classical Symphony flute excerpt example – the high D scale

by | Jan 3, 2018 | Ory's Tips | 11 comments

Ory’s Flute Tips

Should you use alternative fingerings?
Prokofiev Classical Symphony excerpt example – The high D scale


There’s often a debate whether using alternative fingerings is good or not. In my opinion, if you are a beginner, then better focus first on learning the real fingerings and improve your technique. As an advanced flutist though, I believe you can benefit a lot by using alternative fingerings and I support learning as many alternative fingerings as you can.
I’m often surprised in my masterclasses how many flutists are not aware of them and they are very positively surprised by the new alternative fingerings I have suggested.

For those of you who are not exactly sure what alternative fingerings mean, these are some different fingerings for a specific note, which you normally don’t learn, as they aren’t considered as the ‘official’ fingerings.

❔ Why should you use alternative fingerings?

You can benefit in various ways from playing with alternative fingerings:

  • They can improve the intonation of certain notes, making them higher or lower

  • They can improve the tone quality or color of certain notes

  • They would react better/quicker than the ‘official’ fingerings

  • They will allow you to play difficult notes changing more easily

  • In general, they allow you to play with more risks, whether it’s about dynamics, speed, colors etc.


🙄 How to decide when to use an alternative fingering or not?

I would say, if it makes your life easier in a certain extremely difficult or quick passage – use it. If you can hide it well and it doesn’t sound much different than the rest of the notes – use it. If you are always playing certain notes too sharp or flat and it would help your intonation – use it (especially in extreme pianissimo or fortissimo).

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The classical symphony by Prokofiev is a very good example for a piece in which alternative fingerings can be really helpful. I would like to concentrate in my example on a passage that would normally not get the attention, as the other passages in the fourth movement normally get.

Here is the passage:

Prokofiev Classical Symphony 4th movement D scale

I have always found the last bar of this passage rather difficult, mostly because there are so many fingers changing involved. I therefore looked for ways of reducing them and came up with this solution:

Key points to notice:

The right hand pinky: I play the whole last bar with the right pinky pressing the low C, instead of the Eb key. It provides more stability and saves a lot of extra finger movements. I prepare that in advance, and probably will move the pinky to the low C already a bar before, with the A with the accent, and just keep it there till the end.

The high F#: I play with the right hand third finger (the middle), not with the fourth. As we use the pinky on the low C key, it makes the F# higher, and using the middle finger will lower it.

The high A: I play it as the real fingering, but with the addition of the left hand second finger as well (as a low A). By doing that I reduce one finger to move from the note before and for the next note.

The high B: I play it without the trill key. Because of its physical position, it require the fingers to move away from the main keys line, and therefore I try to avoid using it.

The high C#: The real fingering for this note will include the G# key, which is again outside of the main keys line. I will avoid it in order to keep the fingers only on the keys line.

The high D: Normal fingering.

Practice it at first slowly, note by note, in order to understand and learn the new fingerings. I’m sure after trying them few times you’ll understand better how much movement they save, and when performing that with the orchestra, it will help a lot, I’m sure!

Try it out and let me know how it feels.

Enjoy experimenting,

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

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