Barbara Hopkins, Flutist




Rosewood Ensemble
Flute Studio
Wion Opera Excepts
Contact Barbara




Current articles I have written include:

  Tips for Successful Video Auditions
  Andersen Opus 15: translations of Italian expressive subtitles
  Basic Flute Repertoire
  college auditions
  corrections and controversies
  ear plugs
  Modified Rockstro Position
  Piccolo Fingerings

I have also written a feature article on Early Connecticut flute makers, which was published in the Summer 2015 volume of The Flutist Quarterly. Please contact me if you would like to read this.

My favorite piccolo fingerings

In my job at the Hartford Symphony, I play a great deal of piccolo. Here are some of my favorite fingerings that I have learned over the years. My fingering system is:  {thumb} 1234/1234

Bb's (low and middle): the thumb Bb fingering sounds better than the regular.

Middle C#: using 23/234 will make this note lower.

2nd Octave B: 123/123 is higher than the regular fingering. It's good for soft passages.

2nd Octave C:  123/1  4 (F without the thumb) Another high fingering for soft passages.

3rd Octave C#: using 23/ 234 will give you an easy blowing, sharper C# for soft music.

3rd Octave D:  many people use: {thumb} 234/1  4, but this doesn't work on my piccolo. I just lip up.            

3rd Octave Eb, E, and F:  adding the second trill key will make it easier to attack these notes softly.

High F#: try {thumb}1 3/  3 (regular without the r.h. pinky or {thumb}1 3/ 23.

High G: 1 3 / 234

High G#: use the "long G#" fingering: 234/ 234

High A: Try using the right ring finger instead of the pinky.

High Bb and B: No r.h. pinky for either note! For soft Bb's, use
{thumb Bb}1 3/ 1st trill, 3

High C: Practice!

Modified Rockstro Position: Is it for You?

"You have a nice sound, but what would happen if we turned your headjoint in a little?" Tom Nyfenger asked me this question at a lesson many years ago, and I switched to a modified Rockstro position which I still use today.

What is the modified Rockstro position?

In the Rockstro position the head joint is turned inward, aligning the back wall of the embouchure with the center of the keys. With the balance of the flute shifted, the left index finger can come more under the flute, forming a "crutch" to balance the flute on, and the right thumb can slide back, pushing out a little rather than straight up and down. The support of the flute becomes a triangle between the left index finger, right pinky, and right thumb.

Whatís in it for you?

Aligning your headjoint in the Rockstro position can help you focus your sound. It brings the back wall of the embouchure hole closer to your lips, making it easier to aim the airstream. This produces a more centered sound. The smaller embouchure changes necessary can be made more quickly. Balancing the instrument as a triangle means that you donít have to push the lip plate into your lower lip to balance the flute. This increases your embouchure flexibility. Your hand position will have less pressure on the right pinky, and you will be able to move any finger without shifting the weight of the flute.

A few caveats

If you tend to play on the sharp side of the pitch, the modified Rockstro may help you play better in tune. If, however, you tend to play flat, beware of the temptation to turn the headjoint in and use very little air speed. This will make you even more flat! Itís possible to play by turning the headjoint in and using very little air speed or embouchure. This will produce a pretty, but small and flat sound. This is not the intention! Rockstro works well if you use a lot of air to produce a big sound, and use the embouchure to aim the air accurately. Be careful not to pull the corners of the mouth back in a "smiley" embouchure. This will produce either a buzzy, forced tone or a very small sound if you donít use much air.

Teaching the Rockstro position

I believe that embouchures are very individual, and must be tailored to the lips, teeth, and needs of each player. When considering switching a student to the Rockstro position, some things to look for include:

1. The studentís embouchure looks good, but the sound isnít quite focused.

2. A studentís jaw and/or lip structure causes the back wall of the embouchure hole to be too far away to efficiently aim the air.

3. The studentís sound is sharp and "airy" sounding. This may also be improved by placing the lip plate lower on the bottom lip.

There are two resources which I highly recommend: Music and the Flute by Thomas Nyfenger, and Walfrid Kujalaís The Flutistís Progress. Their approaches differ slightly, and each describes his concept of a modified Rockstro position. In addition, Mr. Kujala devotes several pages to explaining the original Rockstro position. Kujalaís embouchure concepts, which are described elsewhere in the book, develop the flexibility needed to fully take advantage the modified Rockstro position.

A change in headjoint position can produce dramatic results. Donít be afraid to experiment! You can always return to the old position if you donít like the results.

For more information

Walfrid Kujala, The Flutistís Progress, Progress Press, 1970

Thomas Nyfenger, Music and the Flute, self published, 1986

Web site of Jen Cluff, a Canadian flutist:

This article was originally published in The Flute Rag, January 2005.


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Barbara Hopkins, Flutist
This site last modified on 1/31/17