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Per title, how does a flutist maintain a grip on the flute when the stops are open?

If the note requires holding down the stops, I would think that grip is between the closed fingers and the thumb, but if all the stops are open (or the note otherwise requires all fingers to be lifted), then how can the flutist maintain a grip on the flute?

(PS to readers in the UK: please don't change my spelling of flutist, I am using the American spelling)

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I apologise unreservedly. Didn't know you had your own spelling over the pond. –  Tim Apr 4 at 18:05

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The support of the flute is primarily a balance between the lip plate as it contacts your face and the rest of your fingers on the keys, using the heel of the first finger of your left hand as a fulcrum.

One of the "key" things to understand about this is that there are no notes on the flute with a completely open fingering. The right hand pinky rests on a lever which opens a key when the lever is depressed. This means the "resting state" of your fingers involves depressing the right hand pinky key, which is enough to keep the flute in place against the other two balance points. When the right hand pinky is lifted for a fingering, there are enough other keys depressed that the instrument will stay steady.

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A responsible textbook answer, but what about when you hold the flute away from your face? I was always taught that you only needed to fingers to hold a flute: the right pinky and the left thumb. –  jjmusicnotes Apr 4 at 3:23
@jjmusicnotes The right pinky isn't the only finger with a "resting state" that depresses the keys. The left hand first finger and thumb both rest on keys that close tone holes on the instrument, and this, with the addition of the heel of the 1st finger, is enough to grasp the instrument (though not enough to counterbalance the lip plate). If one is not playing, you can also just close some of the other keys on either hand to get a grip--this is enough to hold the instrument securely with either hand alone. –  NReilingh Apr 4 at 17:52

Per a tutorial on Youtube, "How to Hold the Flute" (by OnlineBandTeacher):

...hold the flute with your right pinky, right thumb and left thumb...

You can see him demonstrate this right around 4:05 in the video (though, it looks like he is holding it with both thumbs and both pinkies).

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