Posture & Grip
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Flute Grip and Posture

These photos represent one possible way to hold the flute.  The same grip is used whether the flute is keyed or keyless.  Note that there are other ways to hold the flute; this is merely the one that works for me. 

Some posture rules to follow when playing flute to avoid discomfort and injury:

bulletSit or stand with the back straight, not slumped.  When first learning to play, I recommend being seated, as beginning flutists, no matter how good their physical condition, are going to become very dizzy while learning to play.
 
bulletThe head should be turned slightly to the left so that you don't cramp your right shoulder.
 
bulletDon't hold the flute exactly level with the floor; angle it slightly down for increased comfort and better tone control.
 
bulletThe elbows  are held well away from the body, with the wrists essentially straight.  The helps both your breathing and helps prevent pain in your wrists.  Remember to breathe with the belly, not the shoulders.
 
bulletThe head is held up or angled only slightly downwards.
 
bulletThe whole body is in balance; you should not have to grip the instrument tightly to feel it is well under your control, neither should any muscles be very tense or feel uncomfortable.

 

Note the left hand fingers lie flat against the flute so that the fleshy pads, and not the tips, seal the tone holes.  The wrist is fairly straight, and the thumb is straight to the wrist, and just rests against the side of the flute instead of actually holding it up.  This frees up the thumb to work the B-flat key's touch.

 

The back of the left hand showing the little finger on the long-F touch.  Notice again that the fingers lie flat on the flute.  Any bend is in the proximal joint (closest to the hand) and not the distal (closest to the end of the finger).

 

OK, this picture shows the "magic" that lets someone with arthritis (me) play the flute.  The right thumb doesn't rest under the instrument to hold it up; it pushes forward on the flute from behind.  The right hand fingers are flat on the flute so that the fleshy pad of each finger seals the tone hole, and the right wrist is straight.  The right thumb is also straight to the wrist.

The flute rests against the side of the first finger left hand very close to the knuckle and not on the thumb at all.  This finger is a fulcrum and so presses against the side of the flute and not up from underneath it.  The chin presses out, providing the third contact point and stability without pain.

If you've ever heard someone speak of the "Rockstro grip," this is pretty much it.

Here's how it looks with the Gemeinhardt Boehm-system flute.  Note that the right thumb is pressing forward on the flute wall just underneath the keywork.  This allows the fingers to relax so they can be at their fastest and most accurate.

 

Psoriatic Arthritis

For any with curiosity of a medical kind, the arthritis I speak of above is a form of psoriatic arthritis and mainly affects my right hand and the thumb of my left hand.  It also affects my knees, right shoulder, left elbow, and ankles, but these don't directly affect my ability to perform and the disease seems milder in these joints than it does in the hands.

right hand                                                    left hand

For more information on psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis, please see The National Psoriasis Foundation website.  For personal accounts of this chronic, non-contagious, incurable skin and joint disorder, please see Ed Dewke's wonderful site, FlakeHQ.