Playing on the Curved Headjoints
The Curved Alto Head Joint
Over the years I have been asked about the 'correct' positioning for the curved headjoints on the alto and bass flutes. My response is simple and quite clear, "the correct position, is the position that works best for one's sound, finger technique and balance of the instrument." First out, I do not endorse the use of the curved alto head joints. It is my humble opinion that these curved alto flute head joints may play out of tune and distort the lower partials of the overall quality of sound. This said though, many flutist need to work on the curved head, as their arms may not stretch efficiently to the lower end of the instrument, and the straight heads can cause back, neck and hand pain. So the curve in the head does provide a closer hand set up, and provides a relaxation of shoulder and neck tension.
I have seen all types of curved head set ups, from in-line with flute body, to the head positioned over the the top of the body, and played in a downward blowing position. I find that placement of the headjoint halfway between these two extreme positions, so another words, just above the thumb plate, yet not over the keys, is a somewhat optimal setup. This position is roughly over the rods. There are two mechanical reasons for this placement.
1) the flute can now be supported from underneath, and the LH can provide a slight upward force to counter balance the weight of the larger body and tube, ' gently' pushing the headjoint into a solid and stable embouchure position.
2) This angled position allows for 'pitch manuvering' which is a realistic truth on the low flutes.
What is often the problem with this position, is that flutist then counteract themselves by turning the position of the head joint in (towards the lips), which can negate their efforts made to get the air source through the longer, larger pipe. A more open position tone hole set up, will provide deeper, richer low partials , creating a clearer, cleaner, projecting tone.
To recap, the position of the curved head has to work for the weight-balance, freedom of fingers and best tone production on the instrument. With aware self-observations in the mirror, one can solve numerous problems and create new methods of self expression through this unique relationship of the curved headjoint. This curved type of headjoint has many more choices that the normal straight headjoint and can be a wonder to explore. The best advice I can give is: make the darn thing work for you. There are some many positions, yet the 'correct' one is the one that works best for your sound, and comfort.