I was recently watching a video of Jethro Tull performing, with Ian Anderson on flute.

His right hand appears to use the pads of the medial, rather than distal, phalanges.
I.e. the left hand uses the end joint of each finger to cover the holes, but the right hand uses the second finger joint instead.

Is this standard technique for flute?

(I've found that it is standard for bagpipes, but can't find anything specifically for flutes.)

  • Watch a video of an orchestra playing Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune, and observe. The ends of the fingers are used. Also the video shows a flute where the keys fully cover the holes and those used by top classical flautists have holes which must be sealed by the fingers.
    – Peter
    Jun 27, 2020 at 7:17
  • You should be able to find a couple dozen "how to ... flute" websites which will explain proper finger positioning. Jun 29, 2020 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


On the western C-flute it's standard to use the pads on the tips of the fingers, in fact on the open-hole flutes played by a lot of professionals that's the only way possible. The second joint is used on bagpipes and a lot of ethnic flutes Irish whistles, bansuris, neys etc. Ian Anderson developed his style of playing without any musical training and it wasn't until the 1990s when his daughter started taking flute lessons that he discovered his flute technique was 'wrong'. He always played the cheapest Yamaha student flutes. When he was going on tour he would order a box of about 20 flutes, and throw his flute into the audience at the end of each concert.

  • In the Irish tradition the use of the pads of the second joint to cover some holes is called ‘The Pipers Grip’, because of its use on the bagpipes. Jun 28, 2020 at 12:38

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