Switching to Intermediate Flute

Mary Karen Clardy

Advancing from a beginner to an intermediate flute is an exciting transition, but the new instrument can present challenges. Here’s how to approach some of the instrument upgrades.


Beginner flutes are sturdy and durable while the intermediate flute mechanism is lighter, designed for speed and smoothness. Try a lighter finger action for faster technique.

Tone Hole Placement

Each company determines tone hole placement for the best intonation on their instruments with considerable variation in different models. Slow practice in front of a mirror helps with the transition of hand/finger placements to new key locations.

Head Joint Design

The most important part of a flute is the head joint. Innovations first used in professional head joint design are now found in beginner and intermediate instruments. Use a small, round aperture in the lips and direct the air stream forward to focus sound and benefit from a well-designed head joint.

Open Holes

Most beginner flutes have closed keys to help young players develop technique when fingers and hands are still growing, but the majority of intermediate flutes have open holes in five of the keys. Even the smallest leak causes a note to crack or squeak. Use plugs in the open holes and remove one at a time to retrain fingers for the responsibility of closing the open holes.

New or Added keys

Intermediate flutes may include several new keys: A C# trill key is used to improve many trills including B to C# and high register trills from F# to G#, G to A, and Ab to Bb. A low B key added to the foot joint is frequently used in harder solo, band, and orchestral repertoire. The “gizmo” key, also called the high C facilitator, closes the low B key for ease of response with top register C.

To learn the new keys, add a new trill each week to build technical skill. In addition practice exercises using foot joint keys in different combinations, for example from C# to C to B and from B to C to C#.

With these tips, you’ll master your intermediate flute in no time.

About author

Mary Karen Clardy

Mary Karen Clardy, professor of flute at the University of North Texas in Denton, appears as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. A renowned author, she has published more than 10 books from European American Music, Leduc, Schott and Universal Edition. Her students are consistent prizewinners in international competitions and occupy prominent orchestral and faculty positions throughout the world. Visit www.mkclardy.com.

Share Your Story

Publisher and editor-in-chief Christine Ngeo Katzman shares her musings. In this issue, she invites you to share her story and to check out a fascinating ...