Issue: April - June 2009
Bandworld Magazine Page


Ten Things that Every Band Director Should Know About Flutes, (part 2)

Click here for part 1

by Phyllis Louke Bio


In my work with private students and band students over the years, there are several fingerings that are frequently fingered incorrectly.  Most common is second octave D and Eb—the left first finger should be up.  It helps to think of the left first finger as an octave key, according to Patricia George.  The sound is different…really.

Fingerings for 3rd octave notes can also be problematic, since many students discover that they can overblow the lower octave fingering to play a 3rd octave note.  The overblown version of the note will suffer in both tone quality and intonation and should be corrected.  Correct fingerings for the 3rd octave are produced by venting at least one tone hole from the 2nd octave fingering.  Learning the similarities and differences of the two fingerings will help students remember the fingerings.  Band directors should periodically check to make sure the correct fingerings are being used:  D3 (right hand fingers should be lifted),  Eb3 (all fingers should be down, including both pinkies) , E3 (3rd left finger should be lifted) & F3 (2nd left finger should be lifted). 

It is also important for students to learn the correct fingerings for trills in their music.  Some fingerings are intuitive, but many are not.  Easy-to-read fingering charts are available free on line at  They can be printed and distributed to the flute section. You can also get a trill fingering chart from Andrew Magaña's Bandworld Magazine flute article.


When flutes try to play softer by blowing less, their pitch becomes flat.  In order to change dynamics without affecting intonation, students need to change the angle of their air stream while continuing to blow with consistently strong and fast air.  For soft dynamics, the lower lip should be forward, even with the upper lip, so that the air stream is blown across the tone hole.  This causes less of the air to go into the tone hole, resulting in the softer sound.  Since the air stream used is the same speed as for other dynamics, pitch will not be affected.  To start a note softly, use the syllable “pooh” with a strong air stream.  An easy way for students to remember to do that is to tell them that “p” (as in piano) is for “pooh”.  Conversely, for loud dynamics, the lower lip should be back, so that more of the air is directed down into the tone hole.

For crescendos, the student starts with a “pooh” attack (with lower lip forward) and gradually pulls the lower lip farther back to lower the angle of air, while maintaining the same speed air stream.  For diminuendos, the lower lip starts back (so that the air is directed more of downward angle) and gradually is pushed forward to raise the air stream angle.