Over the past couple of months, I have had several questions about adaptive mechanisms for keys, usually related to making the Ab key easier to reach. We all know that the flute is not the most ergonomic instrument, and many players find at times that some keys can be harder to reach, especially those with small hands or arthritis or other issues. Here is some helpful information about solutions to alleviate this problem.
In recent years there has been a growing awareness of things both ergonomic and not-so-ergonomic. There have been some radical changes in musical instrument designs reflecting this. For those flautists who understand what will suit them individually, most makers of handmade flutes willingly and expertly accommodate special requests in key designs to suit individual hands. But what about those of us who do not play on fully handmade flutes? Well, for example, Brannen Brothers Flute Makers of Boston Inc make the top-of-the-line key extensions. These are for open-hole flutes, although two of them work on closed-hole models too. Made of sterling silver, they come beautifully presented in a velvet bag with a smooth shaped wooden spatula to aid removal. The left-hand index finger extension key is actually plastic, and it easily snaps into place on most flutes (depending on the positioning of posts supporting the keywork). The other extensions plug into the open holes. Similarly, Powell makes a Plug-O key extension functions in a way that helps “mimic” an offset style on an inline flute.
For those of you looking for something a little less permanent, Bopep hand or finger rests do not extend a key, but by making the barrel dimension wider and providing a broader contact surface, they help alleviate some of the ‘scrunching up’ of the hands. These black plastic snap-on fittings have been in use for a long time, and can be viewed at any flute supplies retail outlet. Thumbports can also provide some extra comfort.
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