The Flute Show - flute expert

Three B flat fingerings

Learn this useful technique on your flute

In this video, Florence tells you how to apply this important flute technique to special passages found in the flute repertoire.

Released on September 2, 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: Welcome to the Flute Show with Florence Estrin here on VirtualSheetMusic.com.

Robert: I'm Robert Estrin. Today's subject is the three B-flat fingerings.

Robert: Now, are we talking about three different B-flats, or are we talking about three different fingerings for one note? That's what I wanna know. And what's this all about? Maybe you can tell us.

Florence: Okay, well, it's actually two notes because it's B-flat in two different octaves, low octave and the middle octave, but we have your basic fingering, which is the thumb, the first finger. Oh, I know, that's not the first finger on piano. And then the first finger in your right hand and the pinky down. And that is the first B-flat fingering I like to teach my students, and I'll tell you why in just a moment.

Florence: The next one that most people are aware of is, instead of having to put your first finger down, you can just use your B-flat key which is called the thumb B-flat. And the thing that's great about that is you can keep your finger in that position for almost all the other notes, with the exception of B-natural and high F-sharp. So that's a very useful fingering. And here's where I tell you why I like to teach this one first. Because, as a teacher, I have known students who are either thumb B-flat addicted or thumb B-flat phobic. But I can tell you, the thumb B-flat addicted ones are much harder to de-train.

Florence: What generally happens is a lot of kids start in a band, and many bands start in flat keys. So the thing that's tough about that for some kids is that it doesn't make sense to them. They don't even understand what a flat is because they just know that they're playing this and they call it, they say "Write the notes above the notes" as they write in the letters. They're not putting in a flat, they just say B, which shows you they are not understanding what they're doing. And these are the kids that haven't had piano background or violin background, something where they understand half-steps and whole-steps. So with these addicted kids, the problem is that the thumb B-flat makes playing so many passages so much easier than using this B-flat fingering that's ...

They cannot use this fingering when they absolutely have to because, as I said, if you are playing around with a little chromaticism and you have a B-natural next to it, you have to be able to use the other fingering. And, of course, there's that high F-sharp, of course, or G-flat for the band kids. But maybe they're not even up for that yet. So for them, they can't imagine why this is such a problem for a long time. So as a teacher, you try to convince them "Let's just make sure you play your scales using ..."

Robert: Do they sound different, these two fingerings?

Florence: Well, they sound very much the same, slightly better with the thumb B-flat.

Robert: Can we hear the difference?

Florence: It's a very subtle thing.

Robert: The second one was a little louder and a little higher, slightly.

Florence: Right.

Robert: Okay.

Florence: Yeah, if you play them exactly the same way, that's what it comes out to be.

Robert: That's very close.

Florence: Yes, so ...

Robert: But you said there were three fingerings. I'm dying to know what's the last one.

Florence: There's three. Okay, the third one is the B-flat shake key which instead of putting this down, you put this down. And what's nice about this is that if you have a particularly slow passage and you wanna have a nice, smooth line instead of all these, see? There's three keys going down, with this one there's only one key going down which is the same key that the thumb B-flat puts down, if I put my thumb B-flat down.

Robert: So what? They have two keys that do the same thing?

Florence: That's correct.

Robert: Wow, I didn't know that.

Florence: Yeah, so what's interesting is, you know, if I can get students to practice with this fingering for their scales so that they are skilled at this, then I don't care if, in their music, the same scale ... It's not even an issue for them to switch over to the thumb B-flat. That's just fine.

Robert: So it creates exactly the same sound, then.

Florence: Right.

Robert: It's just a different key you press to get that.

Florence: Right, well, you're talking about the B-flat shake key now.

Robert: Yeah.

Florence: Now, the B-flat shake key has more limited function. I once had a student come in, and she was using this as if it was this fingering. I mean, she was using it for everything and I was like "What are you doing?" It turns out that, for a while there, her flute was broken and this B-flat didn't work so she started using this one.

Robert: There's keys you don't even need them there, right?

Florence: It's obviously not as ergonomic.

Robert: Yeah, yeah, right.

Florence: And, you know, so she was working way too hard to play all her fast passages and, you know, I mean, it was kinda funny. That was a real extreme situation, but that was only one that ever happened. But what I'm gonna show you is that in even, like a short passage you may use all three of them. You know, in one phrase. And I'm gonna play the second phrase from the second movement of "The Poulenc Sonata." And the first part of it I start with the thumb B-flat down because that's just fine.

Now, I'm going to have a high G-flat which, as you know, is the same as the high F-sharp which you cannot keep the thumb B-flat down. But while I'm holding this dotted quarter-note E-flat, It's very easy to just slip over out of the the thumb B-flat in a situation like that. And then I use, over here, with the next B-flat, I use the shake key because I wanna keep it smooth.

Robert: So it's all about context, huh?

Florence: Yeah, I lied. I'm only using two out of the three.

Robert: Okay.

Florence: So yeah. It's all about context. You know, because ...

Robert: And the two of them sound exactly the same because basically the same holes are covered.

Florence: Exactly.

Robert: Okay.

Florence: Right.

Robert: Well, it's certainly very smooth. I suppose you used like the absolute worst possible combination of B-flat fingerings for that passage.

Florence: You mean, just used the other B-flat fingering?

Robert: Yeah what would ...?

Florence: Because that would be my... because that's the one I didn't use for any of this.

Robert: Okay. Suppose you use that for all of it. Would it be horrific or ...?

Florence: No. It would just ...

Robert: Would we hear the difference?

Florence: You might, you might not. It's probably more something I would hear, because, you know. When you're really close to it, the difference between this and this, you feel it more, you know. And ...

Robert: Is it more comfortable the other way? Is that what it comes down to?

Florence: It's more comfortable and also, as we pointed out, the other one is not as well in tune.

Robert: Yeah, yeah, right.

Florence: It's a little lower.

Robert: Yeah, yeah.

Florence: So therefore, it's, you know, not the best choice. However, I mean, for something like this.

Robert: Yeah, in a fast passage whatever is gonna work.

Florence: Fast passages, if you have a situation where thumb B-flat works for you, absolutely use it, absolutely. But my reasoning behind practicing your scales with this B-flat, which is, the one we just said, is clearly the least good one is because there are times that you have no choice but to use this fingering in a passage because of the surrounding notes. And if you're not skilled at using it, it's like hitting a brick wall.

And it's very interesting because I had a student years ago, and he was adamant about using thumb B-flat, and he was very good at sliding around even at pretty quick passages. But what I was trying to explain to him is that even though he could play fast, he was going to be expected to play even faster and that there would be the time where it was absolutely impossible to use that thumb B-flat.

Florence: It's really funny because I was harping on this with him for a few weeks, and in one particular lesson I made a pretty big point about it. And then he said, "Okay, well, now we need to work on my piece for chair tests in band" and he pulls out this piece and there was the brick wall. And it was really funny because this is a kid that had a lot of dexterity on the flute and it had, in several places of this passage he had learned for his chair test, it had places where he absolutely had to use this B-flat and it was like he was a beginner.

Robert: Oh my God.

Florence: And it was really... I mean, I felt bad for him, but it was like the best thing for him.

Robert: You warned him.

Florence: It was the best thing for him because he was also very, very focused on getting a good chair. It meant a lot to him, so he worked his tail off. And, you know, he didn't get first chair but he did well and he didn't have that phobia problem with this B-flat anymore.

Robert: Well, that's a very enlightening three B-flat scale. It's been a pleasure hearing about this. I hope this has been helpful for all you flutists out there.

Robert: Thanks so much again, Florence Estrin, here at the Flute Show. I'm Robert Estrin. We'll see you next time on VirtualSheetMusic.com.
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Paula * VSM MEMBER * on September 2, 2015 @9:37 pm PST
That was very helpful. Thankyou
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