Open Hole Flute or Closed Hole – What’s the Difference?
When choosing whether to play a closed hole or open hole flute, it is essential to understand the difference between the two types, their capabilities and their challenges.
A closed hole flute is used primarily by beginners and students. These flutes have a solid keypad, so that when the key is depressed, the pad completely covers the hole in the flute, even if the finger placement is a little off, or the finger itself doesn’t fully cover the hole.
An open hole flute, however, has a hole in the center of the main five keys on the flute (A, G, F, E, D keys), which must be fully covered by a correctly placed finger. As you can imagine, an open hole flute can require much more precision and dexterity to play correctly than a corresponding closed hole flute. They are much more difficult play correctly, requiring more precision with hand placement.
Most student flutes are closed hole where they have the safety of the keypads to fully close the holes while most professionals play open hole flutes.
While more difficult to learn to play, there are some additional advantages to the professional flautist or advanced student who chooses to master the open hole flute.
The flesh of your finger, when properly placed on an open-hole, can improve the instrument’s tone giving it a warmer and sweeter and richer sound. Since you can also feel the air going by as you play, you may develop tighter, more intimate connection with your instrument.
With an open hole flute, a wide range of effects are also available. These effects include quarter tones, warbling notes, slides from note to note (glissandos). It is even possible to have multiple notes sounding at once (multiphonics), and more. When playing any flute loudly, the tone can become sharp as the volume increases. Using an open hole flute, it is possible to compensate for this sharpness in tone by partly closing a tone hole – a technique that is possible only with an open hole flute.
While some of these techniques can be done on closed hole flutes, they can be executed more successfully on an open holed flute.
If you are ready to take the next step, acquiring and playing an open hole flute can be a challenging – yet rewarding – experience, increasing your confidence with mastery.
In addition to choosing the best flute, you should be aware that having the appropriate accessories for your flute is important. Keeping your instrument safe, clean and in good repair will have your instrument making the best it can. When acquiring your instrument, be sure that you also get a high quality case cover, an extra cleaning rod, pad papers and cleaning clothes. Other accessories such as a metronome, music stand and great lighting are must if you don’t already have them in place.
Remember that when choosing your flute, most student flutes are closed hole while professionals generally choose open hole flutes – though some teachers do start students out with open hole flutes in order to make sure that finger placement is good from the beginning.