Coffee Noodle 4

Gentle Warm-ups To Start The Day, Coffee Noodle 4.

Coffee Noodle 4 is once again something of a morning marathon, this time working extensively on the fourth and fifth fingers in each hand.

It is well worth keeping in mind that our hands were not originally intended to be used to play flutes and in particular, flutes with multiple keys and rod mechanisms! Sadly, our hands do not naturally live up to these demands. 

To this extent, if we are to improve to meet the technical challenges that composers old and new throw in our direction, then we have to establish a reliable technique to guarantee that they will not be let down. 

I firmly believe that fourth and fifth fingers in both hands, have been sent by creatures from the dark side, to sabotage our technical abilities and hinder our progress.

Out of our vision and off to the right, the flute is an awkward instrument to hold (in particular for young people, who still have a way to grow). Until we look in a mirror whilst playing, we really have no idea as to just how unruly our fingers can be.

In terms of how they operate, in relationship to the flute, there are two very important (and profoundly logical) points about fingers, that are worth remembering.

Firstly, it is advisable to keep fingers as close to the key work as possible, at all times. This is about economical use of fingers, which will be crucial if a flawless technique is desired. The further a finger travels away from a key, the greater the distance it will have to travel to come back again. At slow tempi, this doesn’t necessarily create many problems, but at fast speeds, if you are hoping for accuracy, fingers will need to be very neat, close and tidy.

Secondly, our fingers should reflect the style or mood of the music we are playing. If the music is legato (as in the first section of the second movement of the Poulenc Sonata), our ability to express will be dramatically improved if our fingers also move in a legato or ‘flowing’ manner. If fingers are aggressive, it will be impossible to create a true legato line and every new note will start with a thump or bump. 

Equally, if the musical demands are of a more percussive nature (for example the first section of the third movement of the Poulenc Sonata), then our fingers too can be more lively and on the attack.

It is pertinent to remember that the muscles that close the hand, or grip, are stronger than those that open the hand or release held objects. The only time when hands are likely to open rapidly, is if something hot or sharp is accidentally picked up and the presence of pain triggers a reflex reaction. In our flute playing, we need to focus on lifting fingers precisely, swiftly and neatly.

Coffee Noodle 4 should initially be practised slowly and in particular in the top octave, where awkward cross-fingerings are added into the mix. Once sufficient strength is in the fingers, allowing them to respond quickly enough to messages sent from the brain, then that is the time to gently increase the tempo of the exercise.​