Flute Punch

Right-hand Thumb Position

Posted on: November 3, 2008

The right-hand thumb is commonly placed too far forward, so that it hooks around the underside of the body of the flute. Reasons you should care about the placement of your right thumb are:

  • Correct placement of the right thumb enables your fingers to move freely (aka, faster)
  • To prevent tension that is caused by poor placement of the right thumb — bent right wrist, fingers having to support the flute to keep it from rolling inward, shoulder and/or elbow in uncomfortable position, etc.

How do you know if you are achieving correct thumb position?

  • You should be able to hold the flute up with only 3 balance points: 1) the lip plate, 2) just above the first knuckle of the index finger on the left hand, and 3) the right thumb. If you can wiggle all of your fingers without the flute rolling toward/away from you, then you probably have the right thumb in the appropriate place (or at least close to it).
  • Set a pencil on a table and pick it up with your right hand. Notice the gentle curving of your fingers and the relative straightness of your thumb. If your thumb is too far forward on the flute, your fingers will most likely be more claw-like rather than gracefully curved.
  • Your wrist and the back of your hand should be generally in a straight line. If your thumb is too far forward (the flute resting directly on top of it, or it’s hooking around the underside of the flute body), your wrist will probably be bent down, and that will likely throw many other aspects of your playing position out of whack as well.

Now there are always exceptions to the rule, and I suppose, for example, that there might be some people out there who have a longer thumb that may require them to place the thumb more forward (ie, more directly on the underside) of the flute than others. Examine your own position as objectively as possible, keeping in mind that we human beings generally resist making changes to fundamental habits such as embouchure and position, because it takes patience and persistence.

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