THE FLUTE NERD blog

Beginner Flute Crash Course: #2 How to Hold a Flute

In your second lesson, learn how to hold a flute. Perfect your posture to improve your technique and create beautiful tone!

Beginner flute crash course how to hold a flute

Learning how to hold a flute can be one of the most important lessons you learn as a beginner! The way we have to hold the flute is extremely unnatural and that means the risk for injury is high. 

How we balance and hold the flute can affect not only our technique, but our quality of performance, our breathing, our tone, and our body! So in this blog we’ll have a look at how to balance the flute, ideal hand positions, and how everyone is shaped differently and what that means for our playing. 

What’s in this blog

Proper posture is crucial!

Figuring out a healthy, balanced flute posture is surprisingly difficult! Even flute players who have been playing for many, many years still don’t always know how to hold a flute in a way that frees up their technique and avoids injury. 

And the reasons for that is because the way we hold the flute is… weird… to put it nicely. As much as I love this instrument, it’s a strange way to hold your body. You don’t hold yourself like this for anything else, right?

Making sure you pay attention to your posture from the very beginning will set you up for a lifetime of better flute playing and overall well-being.

Putting the flute together

While this might seem like an obvious thing to say, putting the flute together properly will help us balance it correctly. The three pieces of the flute are put together as illustrated below. 

Most players align the centre of the embouchure hole with the body joint keys. However, some may be slightly more rolled in or out depending on their body shape, but it is best to check this with a qualified teacher.

The rod of the foot joint should point to the middle of the last key of the body joint (the D key). Some players with small pinkies may find that the rod will need to align closer to the back of the D key, and others with long pinkies may find it more comfortable to alight the rod with the front of the D key. Experiment and work with a teacher to find what suits your hand shape best. 

Body position

Even though holding the flute is a pretty unnatural position, we want to make sure that we are as natural and neutral as possible in every way possible.

Stand or sit tall with your head aligned on top of your spine. Your neck should be relaxed and neutral. Don’t bring your head forward to the flute. Your back should be straight but relaxed, avoiding tension or hunching over as these could restrict airflow and cause fatigue.

Your chin should be parallel to the ground. Do not allow it to tuck into your chest. 

Your elbows should be relaxed and as natural as possible. They should feel floaty – neither tucked in close to your body or held too tensely upwards.

The shoulders must remain levelled and loose. Watch out for tense shoulders that rise up towards your ears!

flute body position

Your shoulders should be at roughly at 45-degree angle from your flute when you hold it, pushing the end of the flute away from your right shoulders so that there is space between your chest and flute. This will give you space to breathe, allow your right hand more freedom, and help bring the flute closer to your left hand so it doesn’t have to stretch very far. 

Angle of the flute to the shoulders

Standing while playing is the best way to ensure great breath control, but we should practice both sitting and standing as you will often find yourself sitting in ensembles. 

When standing, your feet should be hip-width apart. Take a slight step back with your right foot to allow for a more comfortable angle between your shoulders and flute. Try to feel grounded.

When sitting, you should sit on the edge of the chair to avoid slumping. 

Key Takeaway: 
While this might sound counterintuitive, try to stay loose and fluid in your body. Allowing tension and stiffness to creep in anywhere could at best slow down our technique, and at worst cause injury.

Hand position

Left hand position

Your left hand will control the keys closest to the head joint. It will wrap under and around the flute so that the palm of the hand faces you. The flute should rest on joint at the base of your first finger. The thumb will control the two thumb keys at the back, so must be free to move.

Left hand position

To help find the right position, imagine holding your left hand out as if to shake a hand. Rest the flute on top of the base of your first finger (should rest between the thumb and first key), and then wrap your fingers around to find the keys. 

Left hand placement on the flute
Left hand placement with flute on index finger knuckle

Right hand position

The right hand controls the keys closer to the foot joint and the grips the flute from behind (so the palm of the hand faces away from you). The thumb sit under the flute, under your index finger. 

You may find using a Thumbport helpful, as this acts as an extension and allows for greater balance with the right hand. The Thumbport is placed below the F key in a position that suits your hand. When relaxed, does your thumb sit to the left, right or right underneath your first finger? A Thumbport should be placed in the same place. 

Right hand with a Thumbport

Gripping

You should aim for a grip that has gentle control of the flute – not too tight, but also not too loose. You should cradle it gently between your fingers rather than clutching at it desperately like you’re wrestling an alligator. 

There’s no need for a death grip. A light touch and relaxed fingers can make all the difference.

Finger position

Your fingers will be placed on the flute as follows:

Positioning the flute on the lip

The centre of the embouchure hole should be just in front of the centre of your aperture (the hole where the air comes out of your lips). For many, that will be right at the centre of their lips, but some people have slightly off-centre apertures, and that’s totally cool too! Just make sure that the centre of your aperture lines up with the centre of the embouchure hole. 

Your bottom lip should cover a tiny bit of the embouchure hole. The rule of thumb is that two-thirds of the embouchure hole should be still open, so don’t cover too much! You should be able to feel the inside edge of the embouchure hole against your bottom lip.

Balance points

Now let’s chat a bit about how to balance the flute between the body, hand and finger positions. Again this is a very strange instrument, so finding the right balance may take a while, but it’s worth putting in the time!

There are three balances points that we use when we play and finding that perfect stasis between those three points will make sure that our movements feel free. 

The first balance point is in the left hand. The flute should rest near the base of the left index finger, which either holds the flute up or pushes the flute gently towards you depending on the shape of your hands. 

The second balance point is the right thumb, which gently pushes the end of the flute forward. 

The third balance point is where the flute rests on our face, which gently pushes top of the flute forward. 

These balance points should allow you to hold the flute without pressing any of the keys.

flute balance points
The flute’s balance points

Importance of learning how to hold a flute properly

Maintaining a correct posture is more than just sitting straight. It’s about trying to make the flute feel as much a natural extension of yourself as possible. Making sure you have good posture and balance will help your technique and avoid injury, so it is worth spending time on finding a proper position. 

Even if you’re teaching yourself, it is recommended to visit a qualified teacher for at least one or two lessons to focus on posture. They will be able to help you find a posture and balance that works for your unique physicality and set you up for success!

Key Takeaway: 
Playing the flute beautifully isn’t just about nailing the notes. It’s also about finding that sweet spot where your body and instrument sync up perfectly. Adopt a posture that gives you wiggle room, keeps everything lined up, and lets both you and your tunes breathe easy. Get comfy holding your flute with an easy-going grip, back straight but chilled out, shoulders nice and even.

Share your progress

Why not let me know how you’re getting on in the comments? If you’re struggling, let me know what’s happening and maybe we can try some other tricks. Or get in touch if you think you might be interested in some one-to-one lessons to help get you started!

Keep going!

Now that you’ve experimented with how to hold a flute, why not check out my blog full of beginner essentials – from tips on breathing to buying a flute.

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Alexandra Petropoulos

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