Today we look at the little finger. Not the one on your left hand. “The” little finger. The one on your right hand. This is an often overlooked part of flute technique. Indeed, the little finger on your right hand has one of the most important jobs in flute playing. It presses down the E♭, C#, C and B keys and if it does not do that with enough downward control, all you get is air.
Considering this, the secret to being able to navigate even the most difficult low passages is applying sufficient downward force with the little finger. Downward force is best achieved by keeping the little finger slightly curved. Adjust the foot joint far enough back so that the little finger will maintain a slight curve over the keys. On one hand, if you turn the foot joint back too much, it will limit mobility of the little finger. On the other hand, turn the foot joint too far forward and the little finger flattens out into a paddle with no leverage.
With this in mind, Add low note practice to your daily routine. Play specific low note studies. Seek out difficult low note passages and practice them to perfection. Adjust the position of your foot joint if necessary to find the perfect curve.
Rewrite scale studies that do not start on low C or B or start the study at C above middle C and transpose down an octave. For example, in Taffanel and Gaubert’s 17 Daily Studies, start on line 7 of page 4 an octave lower.
As with anything, it takes time to develop good little finger control and strength. Understanding that the little finger is a key to good flute technique is the first step.