Flute Finger Hole Comparison

 

People often ask me whether they will be able to finger my flutes. In general, my pvc low D flutes have rather large finger holes, and the distance between the finger holes can be an uncomfortable stretch for someone with small hands, someone who is not used to stretching their fingers, or someone with arthritis or a hand injury.  Also, a person with small fingers may find the larger finger holes on my flutes harder to cover than smaller finger holes, although larger finger holes do produce a clear tone, facilitate slurs, and make half-holing more possible. I give the finger hole layout of my large-bore flutes at the bottom of this page. My feeling is that someone with average adult size hands can learn to comfortably finger my low D flutes. For smaller hand sizes I recommend smaller flutes in higher keys or conical flutes that have been especially designed for small hands. Please inquire for my recommendations. With a conical bore flute (wood and polymer), as opposed to a cylindrical-bore flute made from pipe, the flutemaker usually can compress the finger hole placement somewhat, so that the flute may be easier to finger.  However, the differences between cylindrical and conical flutes may not be very great, as evidenced by the data below, where I am comparing the finger hole sizes and placement of four modern, high-quality, conical-bore wooden flutes and two popular conical polymer flutes with my cylindrical-bore low D PVC flute for small hands.  My conclusion from the comparitive data is that, while the diameter of the finger holes may be slightly larger on my cylindrical flutes,  the placement of the finger holes is very similar to that of the conical flutes. I think that the playability of the flutes should be similar, as well. Thanks to the members of the Chiff & Fipple flute forum for the measurements of these new wooden flutes.

 

The wooden flutes that I have chosen for this comparison are the Terry McGee Grey Larsen Preferred in D (2006), the Sam Murray Blackwood in D (2007),  the Maurice Reviol Pratten-style D flute (2007), and the Casey Burns 2-piece folk flute (2008). The polymer conical flutes are the 3-piece Tony Dixon (2009) and the 3-piece Rob Forbes (2008).  In the data below the numbers (1 through 6) refer to the finger holes on the flute, with (1) being the finger hole closest to the embouchure and hole (6) being the finger hole nearest the end of the flute. All measurements expressed below are in millimeters. Distances between the finger holes are measured from center to center. For reference:

1/4 inch = 6.4 mm, 5/16 inch = 7.9 mm, 3/8 inch = 9.5 mm, 7/16 inch = 11.1 mm.

 

 T=Tipple, Mu=Murray, Mc=McGee, R=Reviol, B= Burns, D=Dixon, F= Forbes

1. T9.7, Mu7, Mc8, R9, B8, D7, F8.6 (diameters of finger hole #1)
D. T39, Mu36, Mc39, R38, B35, D36, F37 (distance between finger hole #1 and #2)
2. T9.7, Mu9, Mc9, R10, B8.3, D7, F10.2 (diameters of finger hole #2)
D. T33, Mu35, Mc34, R35, B34, D36, F35 (distance between finger hole #2 and #3)

3. T8, Mu7, Mc7, R8, B6.2, D6, F7.6 (diameters of finger hole #3)
The Tipple, Murray, McGee, Dixon, and Forbes flutes have joints between the hands. The Reviol and Burns do not. 
4. T9.7, Mu9, Mc8, R9, B7.9, D6, F9.4 (diameters of finger hole #4)
D. T27, Mu32, Mc32, R35, B31, D34, F31 (distance between finger hole #4 and #5)
5. T11.4, Mu10.5, Mc8.5, R11, B9.5, D8.5, F10.9 (diameter of finger hole #5)
D. T38, Mu37, Mc32, R38, B33, D36, F37 (distance between finger hole #5 and #6)
6. T6.8, Mu6, Mc6, R7, B6, D6, F6.3 (diameter of finger hole #6)


 

The following table shows the finger hole layouts for my large-bore flutes. The measurements are in milimeters and are measured from center to center of the finger holes. In order to make the largest flutes more-easily playable, I have compressed the fingering by placing larger and smaller holes in each hand layout pattern. That is the reason for the non-linear progression of the space between the finger holes from key to key. I recommend at least average men-size hands for the largest of these flutes (low Bb, low B, low C, low Db).

Large bore (20 mm bore diameter) three-piece flutes:

Low Bb: emb--(1)--44--(2)--39--(3) joint (4)--35--(5)--47--(6)

Low B: emb ---(1)--42--(2)--36--(3) joint (4)--32--(5)--48--(6)

Low C: emb ---(1)--40--(2)--32--(3) joint (4)--31--(5)--44--(6)

Low Db: emb -(1)--41--(2)--36--(3) joint (4)--29--(5)--41--(6)

Low D: emb ---(1)--39--(2)--33--(3) joint (4)--27--(5)--38-(6)

Eb:       emb ---(1)--38--(2)--29--(3) joint (4)--26--(5)--33--(6)

E:         emb ---(1)--35--(2)--28--(3) joint (4)--32--(5)--29--(6) 

F:         emb ---(1)--30--(2)--35--(3) joint (4)--30--(5)--27--(6)

Small bore (15 mm bore diameter) two-piece flute:

G:         emb ---(1)--26--(2)--30--(3)xxxxx(4)--25--(5)--33--(6)

 

Bore diameter for Tipple large-bore flutes = 20 mm cylindrical bore
Circumference = 3.14 X 26 OD = 81.7 mm