How Wobbly Trills Led Me to a Revelation About Flute Stability

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While teaching a student recently, we noticed that certain trills had a tendency to cause the flute to wobble on her face.

I asked her how much her left hand was anchoring the flute onto her chin - she was using as much left hand anchoring as possible, but the wobble was still happening, especially during the right hand trills.

Later that week while practicing with a mirror, I noticed something similar happening to myself.

No matter how much I anchored with the left-hand-to-chin balance point, there were still some finger patterns that caused the flute to move on my face.

Just like my student, it was especially the right hand finger movement that was bouncing the flute.

I realized then that when my fingers closed the keys, they were also pushing the whole flute down, and my right thumb was doing nothing to counter the motion.

My right thumb doesn’t operate a key, so I had forgotten that it has an important job!

I decided to push up with the right thumb to counter the motion, and BOOM. Stable trills.

It seems so simple now, but the effort level of the right thumb just wasn’t something I was taking note of in this way before. 

At our next lesson, I instructed my student to “push the right thumb up” to counter the motion of the fingers closing keys in the right hand, and it made all the difference in her wobbly trills!

Not only has this helped trills, but it’s helped finger technique in general!

  • Do you notice the action of the right thumb while playing?

  • What is it like to trill with the right hand while bringing the right thumb closer to the tube?

  • What is it like to bring the right hand forward and up toward the tube?

  • How much effort is necessary to maintain stability, and is it needed at all times?