How To Hold My Fingers When Playing the Flute

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started the Flute

When playing really any instrument, but especially the flute, we all need to have good hand technique. There are many reasons for this. So if you have the question of, “How to hold my fingers when playing the flute” here are just 3 great answers for you of why it’s important to get it right:

  1. Some fingering patterns can feel a little tricky
  2. We need to have good technique to play fast on flute
  3. So that we keep our flute in good condition
How To Hold My Fingers When Playing the Flute

Pretend like you’re looking through binoculars but they’re really your hands over your eyes…

Now take them away from your eyes still in that “binocular” shape.

Separate your two hands and 4 fingers from your thumbs.

You should have two letter C’s (one the right way, the other mirroring it). Keep those same shapes on each of your hands as you put your flute in them. You’re going to have to move your left hand pointer finger to create a “chair” for your flute to sit on with the flute resting on the side of your right thumb. (this thumb position will move the more advanced you get)

Other than that you should have curved fingers on the tops of your keys.

I like to tell my students to pretend they are holding a peanut butter sandwich made with super soft bread. Don’t dig your fingers in or it’ll dent the bread (and jelly will leak out).

Positioning your fingers on the flute is more important than you think. Creating something called ‘good technique’ for yourself is kind of a big deal.

You can cut years off of your learning curve by just getting the correct habit in place to start with.

With good hand and finger technique, your fingers will be so much more coordinated as you learn and expand your knowledge on the flute.

Check out this video where I show you how to position your fingers on the flute so that you will feel relaxed and also keep your instrument in good condition (bad hand position actually causes problems for your flute):

Your fingers are so much more coordinated

Now that you have a good grip on basic hand positioning skills, here are the reasons why we do so in a little more depth:

We need to be able to play quick runs and fast or frilly tunes! When our fingers are flat or straight on the keys, our fingers can’t move as fast.
Have you ever seen a really great pianist play?
Check out their hand position.

A flutist’s hand position is almost the same as a pianist’s. They are excellent at playing those fast notes, and we can see that they do not have straight/flat fingers.

The same goes for flutists. The more we play on the center of the key with our fingers curved, the faster we are going to be able to play because of improved finger position.

Creating leaks in the keys of our flutes is a side effect of either having our fingers too far forward on the key, or having flat fingers.
Did you even know this could happen? Leaks are not cheap to fix. Granted, we do have to regularly maintain our flutes, but not near as often as when we keep our fingers curved and on the middle of the key.

If you’ve been playing your flute for weeks, months, or years and suddenly one or more of your notes just sounds kind of airy or squishy, you most likely have a key that is leaking. Check out my video where I show you how to identify a leak on a flute:
Some fingerings or finger patterns (when we switch from note to note) can be a little tricky and uncoordinated feeling.

When you have good hand position, it’s easier to move between the fingerings and play those tricky fingerings or patterns. Your fingers are so much more coordinated and not stiff or ridged.

Our right-hand thumb is oftentimes a problem for flute players.

Should the thumb hold the flute up?

Should the thumb be turned on its side?

Should it hold from the side or directly under the keys?

There are a lot of options, but definitely there are some rights and wrongs. The main reasons there are better options for thumb holding on the flute is because of relaxation, and ease of muscle movement.

Holding our hands and fingers in contorted positions actually causes problems within the nerves and muscles of the hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the main reasons we also need to learn to hold our hands correctly on the flute.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by unnecessary pressure on the median nerve which runs from your forearm all the way down and through a narrow passageway in your wrist.

This is the carpal “tunnel”. It runs from the forearm to the hand. This nerve area is what allows us to feel our palms and our fingers. It also helps our fingers move especially around the base of our thumb.

When this median nerve is kinked or compressed too much, we can have symptoms that include numbness, tingling, and an overall weak feeling in our hand or arm (or both).

It takes surgery and much therapy to remedy the problems caused by this condition that is self-inflicted.

Basically, this is not good for a flute player. We need our hands and fingers to move freely without pain, or numbness, and so that we feel relaxed.. And able to play for extended periods of time without problems.

Because we play the flute and practice different finger positions and hand movements over and over, we are at risk of problems within our carpal tunnel area. It’s not a problem if we are taught and learn right from the beginning though.

Have you ever seen a flute player whose hands look all kinked up and whose wrist is super bent? If so, you might worry for them because of this carpal-tunnel area.

I am a very careful teacher. I like to make sure my students have all of the best practices possible, and hand position is top of the list for me as I teach how to play the flute.

Some flutists, pianist, and cashiers I know have had to have their wrists in braces, or even quit playing the flute because of a hurt wrist and especially carpal-tunnel syndrome. I do not want this happening to you!

So, practice your good slightly curved flute fingers, ask me to check out your hand position, and be sure to pay attention to how I show you in the video modules here at Learn Flute Online.

Here’s a video I made for you to show you a little tool I use in my studio, and I’ll also show you where my thumb should be and how nice, relaxed fingers look on the flute.
I use this tool to help my students’ thumbs get and stay in the right position. You also can find it at most local wal-marts, pharmacies, or even grocery stores. This will demonstrate comfortable finger placement for flute (without scratching your instrument!)

Having good hand technique is not a hindrance or a bother.

In fact, it can only help and improve your playing and makes it feel so much easier. We can take things a step further now and learn what to do with our entire arms when we play the flute so we don’t have any arm or elbow pain also. Elbow pain for flute players is completely not fun (and 100% preventable).

I see some marching bands require their flutists to hold their elbows high. Uh.. this is a problem. Check out this article and you’ll see why:

Glad you were here today – lots to learn, and so if you’re asking the question of how to hold my fingers when playing the flute, you have found the right resource and can get working on it right away. Enjoy!

Have any questions? Comment below and I will help you out.

Rebecca FullerRebecca Fuller
Get Flutie with us! Learn and enjoy every musical minute.

6 thoughts on “How To Hold My Fingers When Playing the Flute”

  1. Hi. I have been playing flute for two years now but just noticed that my hand positioning isn’t very good. My right pinky is always flat and I practise lots with it curved but it immediately goes flat ?

    1. Hi Jennifer, oh yes- the right hand pinky is a common skill that usually needs more attention. The secret is to play slower, easier tunes while you focus solely on that finger. Try just 3 notes – turtle slow. If you can do that, then move it to 5 notes. Every day add a few more until you can make it through an entire little folk tune with good hand position. This will do it for you. Glad you asked. It’s a great thing to work on for sure! 🙂 ~Rebecca

  2. Hi Rebecca Fuller. I’m in beginner band and i have trouble pressing down on the C and D keys and Bb and D keys. Its very hard to do this and i’m having a really hard time. My band teacher said to practice ( which i do practice) but no matter how long i do practice i never get it right. I have lot’s of songs in my band book that has Bb to D keys and C to D keys. I know that i won’t get it the first time or second but is there any way i can get it right.

    1. Yes, Nyah this is normal. The C to D is the first real ‘trick’ you have to master. I have all the help lessons in sequential order inside the membership area here at LearnFluteOnline. It would be great for you if you go through the lessons carefully. Here’s the link to the super sale right now: Let me know if you questions- I’m here to help! ~Rebecca

  3. I have a beginner student who continues to struggle with her hand and finger position. I clearly see this causing her great difficulty in playing anything with more than one note. I can see her frustration when unable to accomplish playing correct notes in a scale for example. She holds her fingers so far away from the keys, she sometimes hits the wrong ones when lowering her fingers. Her right hand fingers curve way over the keys to cause the pads of her fingers to extend past the keys. I know she practices at home. However, I repeatedly show by example what correct hand positions should look and feel like, and attempt to help her follow my example by helping place her fingers on her flute where they should rest. Perhaps there are techniques and visual examples I can share with her that I haven’t thought of yet. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Jennifer, yes it is important to get those fingers under control. Your student is probably a newer player, and perhaps is trying to play music that is too difficult for her right now. This is probably why she cannot concentrate on finger placement. Slow her down and play only single notes with the focus on the finger position. After solely focusing on this for a week or so she’ll be fine. 🙂 Rebecca

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