#06 - D# or Eb? It's Enharmonic!

How (and Why) To Use the D# Key on your Wooden Flute

A lot of people wonder about the Eb (or D#) key at the end of their flute and whether they should use it or not. I think everyone should make an attempt to learn how to use this key. To me, it almost always improves the intonation and tone color of the Eb note (or D#) of every flute I've heard played. Irish pipers use this technique of passing through the Eb (or D#) to get to low Ds, and it really freaks them out when you do it along with them on the flute!

Some people think it doesn't make a difference on their particular flutes but this may be because the key is not lifting high enough to properly vent the tone hole. Others may find that it is very difficult to press and hold this key down. It should be a little difficult if you haven't done this before. It's like learning the fingering positions of a new tune. It just takes some time. It could also be that the spring on your flute is a heavy gauge because the maker wanted to ensure that the key properly closes the tone hole.

Developing the technique of using the Eb or D# is a matter of some finger strength but more one of coordination. Here are a couple of exercises to help develop both.

Without The Flute Put your right hand (presuming you're right handed) flat on a tabletop, spreading your fingers the approximate distance of the tone holes, and practice just lifting the E finger slowly up and down. Tap out quarter note, then eighth note, and then sixteenth note rhythms at a slow, perhaps 90 beats/minute, tempo. I suggest doing this series of taps as follows:

:: 4 quarter notes
:: 8 eighth notes
:: 16 sixteenth notes
:: 8 eighth notes
:: 4 quarter notes

Now do this exercise with the pinky finger, being sure that you keep your hand flat and don't move any of the other fingers. Don't do this exercise fast to begin with. The idea here is first developing a clear line of communication between the brain and hand. The repetitions themselves will actually build up enough strength to manipulate the keys. If you want to laugh sometime, go up to an unsuspecting friend and try to get them to just tap their E finger (it's even funnier if they're drunk).

The next step is to alternately single tap the E and Eb (or D#) finger. Again, do this slowly. This step is the movement from going to an E note with the key vented, to a low D with the key closed. This is the move to eventually transfer to the flute itself. Now, you can practice playing D, Eb (or D#), then E, and back down. Congratulations! You are now playing chromatically on your flute. You can also use this technique to build coordination for your left hand keying positions. Remember to go slowly and do many repetitions of this involving both the notes below and above the half tone. Soon you will be able to play complete chromatic runs on your flute.

Shamrock and roll, baby! It's what's happnin'!

Anybody know what enharmonic means? It's basically two different names for the same tone. For example, D# means D up one half step. While Eb means E down one half step, which brings you to D#...I mean Eb...I mean D#.... Oh, you know what I mean...
(see also: wikipwdia, enharmonic)