French Flageolet Fingering Charts

Although the French flageolet was remarkably consistent in its fingering over a period of nearly 450 years, a number of subtle differences are present between the different types of French flageolet made over the Centuries. I have therefore suggested several different fingering charts: for the keyless French flageolet (which includes recorder-style and bird flageolets); for the classical flageolet with keys; and for the Boehm-system flageolet.

Before the 19th Century, French flageolets were made in a number of different keys. Eventually an instrument with the lowest note of A, a sixteenth above middle C became standardised. Despite, this, however, the flageolet was often treated as a transposing instrument in G, with its lowest note being written as a D.

The range of the French flageolet is a little larger than that of the English flageolet. Placing a finger in the bell of the instrument to bend the lowest note down to a G♯ or G was a standard technique and most instruments will speak into an (ear-splitting) third octave. However, since fingerings for the third octave can vary significantly between instruments, I have limited my charts to a more conservative two-octave range.

The middle A (sometimes written as a D) can be played in a number of different ways on the French flageolet. I find that leaving all holes open: ○○○○○○ produces the most in-tune note on almost every instrument I own. However, in faster passages, and on some flageolets, it might be preferable to play it as ○●●●●●; ◐●●●●● (half-pinching the top hole); or ●○●●●●.

Keyless French Flageolet

These fingerings should work on all recorder-style flageolets, bird flageolets and other French flageolets without using the keys.

Chart

Each space represents one hole, arranged from the top of the instrument to the bottom. The bottom–most space represents the bell of the instrument.

Example of the above.
Fingering chart for the French Flageolet.

Interactive Chart


 

Keyed French Flageolet

Keyed French Flageolets had quite a large number of different keys. On the body, up to four keys was possible, with one or three being more usual combined with, from the 19th Century onwards a further three keys on the top joint.

The keys on the different parts of the instruments served different purposes. The keys on the body were primarily for playing accidentals, whilst those on the head joint were trill and speaker keys. I have therefore separated them into separate sections, below.

Body Keys: Chart

As above, each space represents one hole, arranged from the top of the instrument to the bottom. The bottom–most space represents the bell of the instrument.

Fingering chart for the keyed French flageolet.

Interactive Chart: Body Keys


 


Trill and Whistle / Speaker Keys

A distinctive feature of many 19th French flageolets is that they have three keys located close to their windways on the higher of the two sounding joints of the instrument. Two keys are located on the player’s right and one on the left. The pair of keys on the player’s right have their pivots set in an usual and slightly decorated box; the uppermost of these keys is also fitted with a wider guard so depressing it activates the lower one two.

The orthodox use of these keys (which are played using the sides of the first fingers) is to the use single key as a speaker or whistle key to help the instrument player higher notes. It can usually assist from the high D (sometimes written as a G) on the instrument and above.

The two keys on the other side of the instrument are trill keys. The lower of the two is designed to raise the pitch of the note being fingered by a tone; the higher is designed to raise it by a tone. On a good flageolet, the semi-tone key should produce in-tune notes over a wide range of the instrument. It can therefore be very useful alternative to the “proper” fingering for some accidentals.

A line drawing showing the trill and speaker keys on a French flageolet.

Unorthodox uses of these keys can include: using the speaker key as a trill key (which can sometimes help intonation); using the keys as piano key (by raising the pitch of the instrument to compensate the general lowering in tone that results from playing quietly); and using all three keys as speaker keys for the very highest notes of the instrument.

Boehm-System French Flageolet

Chart

Whilst the additional keys from the Boehm-System French flageolet makes the instrument easier to play, it does complicate the fingering charts. For this reason the interactive chart, below, might be easier to understand than the traditional diagram.

In the diagram below, WK refers to the whistle keys played on the left-hand; and TK refers to the trill keys played with the right hand. The Boehm-system flageolet has two whistle keys. One is in the same place as more conventional French flageolets (and is used alone for the lower high notes); the other is activated by complex keywork lower down the instrument (and is used with the other key for the higher high notes).

The two trill keys on the Boehm-system flageolet operate in the same way as on a more traditional French flageolet: the lower of the two is designed to raise the pitch of the note being fingered by a tone; the higher is designed to raise it by a tone. They can therefore be very useful alternative to the “proper” fingering for some accidentals.

Fingering chart for the Boehm-System Flageolet.

Interactive Chart


Due to the complexity of the keywork on the Boehm-system flageolet, the interactive chart may take longer to load between notes compared to other, simpler flageolets.



Interactive Charts: Technical Notes

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  1. thank you very much! i am discovering j t l instrument that lacks the 'barrel'i hope to have one made; brown
    TAD, posted on: 18th November 2015 at 9.53 AM