How To Hold A Flute Properly For Optimal Posture & Technique

After enrolling in flute studies, a beginner must first learn how to maintain proper posture. A good posture not only allows us to master the instrument but also helps us avoid potential health issues in the interim.

In short, here's how to hold a flute properly for optimal posture and technique:

  • Make sure your back is straight and upright
  • Your fingers on both your right and left hand should not be excessively stretched but should be able to reach the keys without strain
  • The flute must be held parallel to the floor for optimal airflow

In this article, we'll discuss these postural tips, but first, let's go through some preliminary statements about posture relevant to flautists.

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Why Is It Important To Maintain Good Posture When Playing The Flute?

It should go without saying that postural health is important for general wellbeing. If your posture is poor, your body may not undergo its processes as it should. Poor posture, in turn, creates deficiencies that could potentially lead to major health issues down the road.

Some complications stemming from lousy posture include spinal dysfunction, back pain, and joint degeneration. For the record, bad posture can also lead to mental health issues, as seen in this study. I'm not a doctor, but we would want to avoid instances of these issues occurring to the best of our abilities.

All of this is relevant for playing the flute but also for other activities and chores. For the purposes of this article, we will only be focusing on good posture for flute playing, but it's important to keep these facts in mind for life in general.

Our bodies are not naturally designed to play the flute, and the instrument is not ergonomic by any stretch. In fact, it is argued that it's one of the least ergonomic musical instruments because of the location of its headjoint and its overall distribution. Furthermore, since it's meant to be played off-center, you would have to stretch a part of your body, and the weight is not handled equally.

Fortunately, the flute is not a heavy instrument when compared to other woodwinds (there are larger flutes, but they're less conventional). However, you're still bound to feel discomfort when playing it for long periods, especially if your positioning is wrong. You could circumvent some of these drawbacks by following the recommendations below.

How Should I Hold My Flute?

After explaining why it's important to hold the flute properly, let's discuss how to achieve proper posture. To that effect, we'll go over the instructions laid out at the beginning of this guide:

1. Sit Or Stand Straight

Sitting and standing straight should go without saying. If you slouch, your spine will suffer, and spine damage can be potentially irreversible.

It doesn't matter if you are sitting or standing; you should pay close attention to your back and ensure it is aptly aligned. By doing this, you're not only eluding back problems in the short and long term, but you'll also remove the unwanted curvatures that may hinder the passage of air from the lungs all the way to the foot joint.

If you sit, ensure your abdomen is free to move and is not compressed. As you correct this, you optimize airflow and enhance comfort. To attain this, try to keep your legs straight and remain at the edge of the seat so that the thighs create a downward slope. If available, try sitting on a high stool.

Your neck should also be reasonably straight relative to the flute. Position your head straight above your shoulders whenever possible. Avoid hunching forward or leaning back (which is tempting for those striving to maintain good posture).

2. Your Fingers Should Rest Naturally On The Keys

Finger positioning is not to be overlooked, for this could make or break your action. Before all else, it's of utmost importance that your fingers feel relaxed on the keywork.

Understandably, owners of open-holed flutes will be met with an additional challenge. Greater precision in their fingerings is required than those players with close-holed flutes. However, you may have to rethink your strategy if you feel strain while attempting to cover the holes. Ironically, open-holed flutes require you to adjust your positioning, so they should make following these guidelines easier.

With that said, one of the first aspects to look after is the shape you produce with your fingers as you lay them on the flute. Try to figure out a way to keep all your fingers slightly curved as you play the notes, avoiding instances of stretching. All the keys should be reachable without having to perform significant shifts.

Related article: Is Flute Fingering The Same As Saxophone?

Let's now go over the positioning of each hand:

Left Hand Position

The left hand is commonly the closest to the embouchure and the one that could present the most challenges. That's because the wrist would have to remain at a forced angle relative to the arm for you to maneuver the keys. The instrument's weight should be supported by the region between the thumb and the index finger.

These are the positions for each finger:

  • The thumb should rest on the first key on the bottom insofar as it allows the rest of the fingers to remain curved on the other side.
  • The index, middle, and ring fingers would be over the 2nd, 4th, and 5th keys, respectively.
  • The pinky finger would remain relaxed and in close proximity to the side key.

Right Hand Position

The right hand is responsible for holding the tail end of the instrument, also known as the foot joint. This hand sits barely more comfortably and naturally on the flute. Just as with the left hand, ensure that the right hand creates a C shape at all times and that the fingers are curved and relaxed.

The fingers should be in the following positions:

  • The thumb ought to be tucked underneath the flute for weight support.
  • The pinky would have to be over the first key near the foot joint's end.
  • The index, middle, and ring fingers should lie above the three bottom keys sitting on the body section just before the foot joint.

3. The Flute Must Be Held Parallel To The Floor

Holding the flute parallel to the floor will enable better airflow, as air goes directly from the mouth across the embouchure hole without unwanted rebounds, resulting in a brighter and clearer output (thus, devoid of unwanted squeaks). To do this, keep your elbows out (not close to the body) to retain proper posture and maintain the flute at a 90º angle relative to your body.

This practice is also called “holding the flute level” and is particularly important for classical flutists because they are demanded to play with greater tonal purity.

Notably, this is one of the least heeded pieces of advice in non-academic settings. Oftentimes, jazz musicians like to tweak their flute's angle to produce “unorthodox” effects. The same can be said of flutists in the rock scene (Ian Anderson comes to mind). Seemingly, a freestyle approach to flute playing is far more tolerated around these musical circles.

Nonetheless, even if you're less inclined to play “clean” tones, the habit of holding your flute level is still encouraged for postural reasons. Not only will it improve your playability, but it would also aid in preventing long-term injuries as you won't create tensions on your back or neck. A crooked flute will force you to tilt your head often to find a workable embouchure, which is not an ideal situation.

Some Final Thoughts On Correct Posture For Flute Playing

The guidelines outlined in this article are useful, but they should not be grounds for further tension and strain. Playing an instrument should not be a burden. Rather, the instrument should feel natural to the player.

For these reasons, I feel compelled to point out that these recommendations are not to be heeded 100% of the time. Our bodies need a degree of movement and flexibility. However, in more demanding contexts, you should be prepared, which is why we must develop the correct postural habits with our flutes.

Alas, these habits take some time to form. With that in mind, the earlier you start creating them, the faster your technique will improve. As was explained above, your comfort and technique will increase, along with long-term benefits to your overall health.

Some teachers swear by practicing in front of a mirror. This is an excellent self-troubleshooting method that gives you a general awareness of how close or how far you are from accomplishing your postural goals. Filming yourself playing, and critiquing your posture is another effective strategy.

With time, you'll be able to adjust your playing style according to these good postural habits so that they flow instinctively.

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement ( or producing music. Check out his music here.

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