F# flute fingering options

F# flute fingering options

I normally play a keyless Mopane Casey Burns Standard model in sessions, but I also have a decent blackwood early 20th century Nach Meyer flute that I inherited from my grandfather. I’ve been sticking to slower melodic playing on it (such as traditional hymns), but I’ve started trying to play some tunes on it of late and have encountered this issue: the F# fingering requires the f# key to be opened or the note is hopelessly flat. This is ok when I am playing slower melody lines, but it is nigh to impossible when playing tunes at faster speeds. I’ve noticed on listening to some of my Altan recordings, that some of Frankie’s f#s sound a bit flat. Is it a normally accepted technique to "cheat" the f#s on faster tunes (i.e. use the simple ‘whistle’ fingering instead of the "proper" fingering)? I’ve also heard that some players modified thier old flutes to play the f# without the key by enlarging the hole (which I’d rather not due to this flute because of it’s sentimental value). Any thoughts, (especially based on experience) would be appreciated. :)

Re: F# flute fingering options

If you do decide to tweak the hole, I’m sure you already know this, but in case you don’t, you’ll want to enlarge the hole BELOW the F# hole to sharpen the F# note. You’d only have to carve out a little bit and it wouldn’t really be noticeable—just make sure you know what you’re doing or have someone do it for you. And carving more toward the top end of the hole will make the note even sharper.

Re: F# flute fingering options

What is an F# key?
An 8 key has C, C#, Eb, F short, F long, G#, Bb and high C.

I just had my Nach Meyer practice flute tuned - it had overly sharp e, a & b. Mine needed to have these holes filled and drilled.

The Nach Meyers are a mixed bag, but solid instruments - you’re lucky if the only note out of tune is F#. If yours needs tuning and it’s dear to you, have a pro do it - don’t attempt it yourself as there’s no going back on a mistake.

Re: F# flute fingering options

I’m assuming that I was actually referring to the f short key (the one that falls underneath my right middle finger)? There may be other tuning issues, but they are probably mild enough to fix with embouchure. I am especially pleased with the clarity and intonation of my cross-fingered C natural (which I use instead of the actual key due to my habits formed on keyless flutes). BTW, if I was to get it tuned, where in the great plains (central oklahoma) would I find a competent pro? I do make my own flutes from PVC pipe (and even sell them occasionally), so I have some experience tuning a flute (but then again, if I screw up, I’m only out a few bucks worth of pipe and an hour or so of time investment).

Re: F# flute fingering options

I’m curious, do most traditional players who play old flutes use the straightforward ‘whistle’ fingerings and either ‘tweak’ the flute or live with the intonation problems, or do they use the 19th century fingerings (such as opening the short f key when playing an f#)?

Re: F# flute fingering options

Actually I just checked the 19th century 8 key fingering chart on Terry McGee’s web site, and it shows the f# fingered without the short f key open. I think my Nach Meyer just has a very flat f#. Opening the f key does bring it up to nearly the correct pitch, but man is it cumbersome to play like that! I do think I need to get it looked at by a knowledgeable expert.

Re: F# flute fingering options

I had played for a while before I realised that many peole hold the E flat key down (ie hole open) to improve tuning. on most notes… but I’m getting there slowly.

Re: F# flute fingering options

If you want to see how the F# note is handled watch some of the YouTube videos of Niall Keegan, Matt Molloy, Cormac Breatnach, Sylvian Barou. You’ll see that they’re not lipping notes into tune, they’re not holding down awkward hand positions, they’re not holding down the Eb key (typically that’s done on Boehm flutes, but on simple system flutes many players cover the bottom D hole), but they ARE playing the hell out of instruments that are in tune with themselves and the other people who are playing.
Having to lip a note into tune is OK but it will hold you back from the things you should be practicing and concentrating on - learning tunes, rhythms, ornaments, breath control, more tunes - and musicality.

PS Some of the keys are used for certain hand positions - for example the long F key is used for the interval between Fnat and D, the C key is used when you’re working with the Bb key and aren’t able to get to the crossfingered C position, or if in the upper register the crossfingered C is dark or flat - the keyed C most likely help the note ring out more clearly. (These are just a couple of examples, there are lots of places to use the keys - too many to write about here).

If you want to learn the keys, the first thing to do is slowly play a chromatic scale, one octave up using the short F and down using the long F, and using the C key instead of the crossfingered version. Until your hands know where the keys are it’s unlikely that you’ll ever use them, which is OK if that’s what you want.

Re: F# flute fingering options

Toppish - I don’t know what flutes Cormac and Niall play…but Matt and Sylvan play modern keyed flutes (Matt an Olwell and Sylvan is plays either a modern flute from a Brittany maker or a Swiss maker - can’t recall names at the moment). On modern keyed flutes, you don’t have to hold down the Eb key or use the Fnat key to get the F# in tune.

Justin - if you enlarge the E hole to get the F# up to pitch, you may change the tuning a bit on other notes a bit. I’ve messed with this on an old flute with no problems, but if you’re worried a modern maker could get it in tune for next to nothing.

Eric

Re: F# flute fingering options

Are you playing to a tuner?

Do you want an equal tempered or a well tuned Fsharp?

Posted .

Re: F# flute fingering options

No.

Not sure which, probably equal tempered since I usually play solo un-accompanied on that old flute, and I usually stick to melodies in D or G and thier relative minors.

The F# is flat enough with the f key closed that it cannot be "lipped" into pitch. (an it sounds to me that it tends flat even with the Eb and F keys open).

One of my problems is that I often correct pitch with embouchure subconsciously and end up mask ing tuning issues with the instrument itself. In this case, the note is so far out, I can’t get it back in with embouchure.

Re: F# flute fingering options

Oops, I meant "… probably well tuned (or just tuned) …", my bad.