29. March 2010 · 5 comments · Categories: Oboe

I’m watching a video of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. I can’t say it’s the most in tune performance, or the most musical, but the music is still glorious! They just zeroed in on a flutist and I’m watching as she re-places fingers. (No, I don’t mean “replace” … as in taking off fingers and putting on new ones. That would be … um … kind of painful, yes? That’s why I hyphenate the word.) What I mean by “re-place” is she lifts fingers that are down even though they are supposed to be down for the following note. She then has to put them down again. I discourage my students from doing this, aside from those few times we do it to try and “pop” a low note out. Even then I prefer to have a good reed and a well adjusted oboe; the the notes should be there as long as we believe they will be. Funny how, if we think, “I’m going to miss this note!” we do usually miss it. As I tell my students, our oboes are somewhat psychic! 😉

I believe “the less finger movement the better. But now I’m curious … is this re-placement technique common among my readers? Or is it common amoung my reeders? Or something! 😉


  1. Why the hell would you do that?

    (or: I’ve never heard of it :p)

  2. Sometimes it does help “pop” out a low note if you lift your fingers and then as you articulate the note you put the fingers down fairly deliberately. But I do this very seldom. I don’t know why the flutist was doing it. (It was a Baroque flute … don’t know if that’s part of the issue.)

  3. Speaking as a flutist, what you describe is pretty much a no-no, except for certain special effects. Reminds me of a problem that Michel Debost (flute prof at Oberlin) calls “slam and squeeze.” Obviously you could never play a smooth scale or arpeggio at any viable tempo doing that.

    You mention that it’s a Baroque flute–I wonder if what you were seeing was an abundance of forked fingerings? I can imagine how that would give a similar impression and, depending on the key of the piece, they could occur frequently. Without seeing the video in question, it’s hard to say.

  4. I’ll look up the video when I get home, but she wasn’t doing a forked fingering, as far as I remember. Thanks for commenting!

  5. One of my teachers, Raymond Dusté talked about ‘the law of Parsimony of Motion’.

    I’ve adopted the concept: it takes time and energy to move fingers, so don’t move anything you don’t have to, and don’t move fingers further than you have to.

    Marc Lifschey used to say, “Caress the instrument, don’t assault it.”