The Flute Show - flute expert

Alternate Fingerings on the Flute

What does "Alternate Fingering" mean?

In this video, Florence and Robert Estrin talk about "alternate fingering" on the flute. What is this, and how can you apply it to the flute repertoire?

Released on November 4, 2015

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Robert: Hi, and welcome to the Flute Show with Florence Estrin. I'm your host, Robert Estrin. Today's subject is Alternate Fingerings on the Flute.

You may have heard of fake fingerings. It almost sounds like something's wrong with that, and I'm sure there's a lot of differing opinions about using alternate fingerings on the flute. We're going to discuss that today, explore this topic. Thanks so much. And welcome, Florence.

Florence: Hi. Well, fake fingerings, or alternate fingerings, can be very useful if you have a passage that goes much faster suddenly, and it would be very, very difficult to be able to play with the normal fingerings. And I'm talking about, in the third octave, we have some very, very difficult fingerings, whereas the rest of the flute, the fingerings are a little bit more like one or two fingers move.

The third octave, you're really changing around, and it's very tricky. And so suddenly, in a piece like say, Carmen Fantasy, we have a section where we have six notes to the beat, and then suddenly it's eight notes to the beat, and it's a little tricky. But it's in a big, exciting part, and so if you switch to the alternate fingering, it works very well.

Now, let me tell you how these particular alternate fingerings work. What I am doing is, I'm actually going up a fifth. Actually the notes that are written are up a fifth from what I'm fingering. And then I adjust my lips and my air to get out a fifth higher, and it works nicely.

Robert: So if you had a G, you'd be using the fingering for a C below that?

Florence: Yeah, yeah.

Robert: Okay, got it.

Florence: So here, this particular section starts on an F, and I use my thumb B flat, also, which makes it even easier for the B flat that I'm fingering there. And then the E, I'm fingering an A. Then the D sharp, I'm fingering a G sharp, and so on. So you'll see.

Robert: All right.

Florence: It's where it gets faster.

And so you see, that would be very tricky with the real fingerings F, E, D sharp, E, F, E, D sharp, E, doing that, instead of just using my thumb B flat for a B flat that I'm over-blowing to an F. Much easier.

Robert: Well, that makes perfect sense.

Florence: Yes.

Robert: And at that speed, I guess you really can't hear the difference particularly?

Florence: Right, and that's really the main issue if you can pull it off and it's not super obvious to your listeners that you're using an alternate fingering like that. So if it's going fast enough, usually it's not that obvious. Or a lot of times in orchestra, it's a very thick tutti passage. You can hear the notes, but you can't really hear the quality of the tone as much. It's very useful. A lot of opera literature sometimes just goes crazy at parts, and it's very useful to use this technique.

Robert: Of course, I play french horn, and french horn, there are a lot of purists. After all, you only have four valves on a double horn, the three plus the thumb trigger, and yet, there are books written on alternate fingerings. Louis Stout, for example, his whole method is coming up with all these creative fingerings for different passages. And there are others who are total purists, who scoff at that idea.

The french horn, I don't believe it's necessary to use alternate fingerings very much because it's not nearly as complex as the fingering on the flute. But even then, there are a few passages that it really does help, just for the ideas you're talking about. But if you were to play a slow passage using these alternate fingerings, I imagine the tone would be compromised?

Florence: Absolutely. No, it would just sound awful. You just can't use it that way.

Robert: Are there some people who try to do that?

Florence: Not that are working.

Robert: I guess that would be, "You're fired."

Florence: And this is just one type of fake fingering because there's different fingerings to use for different types of applications in slow passages too, and I will address those in later shows.

Robert: Some of them for different intonation? You get to pitch higher or lower or something like that.

Florence: Exactly, exactly.

Robert: Interesting.

Florence: Or just to make a note speak up.

Robert: So we've got some other flute shows coming up.

Florence: Yes.

Robert: Thanks so much, Florence. It's been a real pleasure and enlightening, as usual.

Florence: Thank you.

Robert: Thanks for joining us here on VirtualSheetMusic.com, Florence Estrin, and I'm Robert Estrin. See you next time.
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