Many times I've been asked by students about the optional keys on the flute, and their pros and cons. Since many companies use different names for the same key, deciding what optional keys to choose when ordering a flute can be pretty daunting.

Here is a list of the most common optional keys for the flute and some less common ones, as well.

Most Common Optional Keys

Footjoint & Footjoint Rollers
Although the preference of footjoint is mostly a matter of preference, there are some things to consider when choosing a footjoint. 

  • C - provides a more open and louder lower register
  • B - extends the range to a low B. It tends to lower the pitch of some sharp notes in the high register.
    ♦ Gizmo or High C Facilitator
     It's an extension to the low B key to be able to press that key independently from the other right hand pinky keys. When depressed, it facilitates C4, which on B footjoints tends to speak less readily than on C footjoints.
  • Convertible B/C - provides the best of both worlds when you need it (designed by Brannen Brothers).
  • Duncommon, but some companies still offer this option in their catalogs, or upon request. 
  • Bb - very uncommon. Provides a low Bb.
  • D# Roller - makes easier sliding the pinky from Eb to C#, C and B. 
  • C# Roller - same as above. A few companies offer this key, most often in combination with the D# roller.

High E Facilitators

  • Split E Mechanism - adds an extra mechanism that closes the lower G key when playing E3. It provides an easier and more in tune E3 without affecting any other notes.
  • Lower G Insert - makes the production of E3 easier, but also lowers slightly the pitch for the A1, A2 and A3. One of its advantages is its lower cost and less added weight. It's also called by some companies High E Facilitator or G Disc. On most flutes this insert can be removed easily. Prima Sankyo calls it NEL, and in their case it's not an insert, but rather a smaller sized tonehole.

C# Trill/G-A trill

  • C# Trill - It provides an easier way to trill between B-C# and C-Db in the second and third octaves. It also provides an easier and more accurate G-A trill in the third octave. There are several charts that show many of the trills and tremolos that this key facilitates. The C# Trill key is located next to the Right Hand Bb lever, but some flute makers place it next to the first trill key, where the G-A trill key would normally be placed (see below). Brannen C# Trill Page
  • G-A Trill - It provides a more accurate and easier G-A trill in the third octave, and a B-C# and C-Db trills in the second and third octaves. This key is located to the left of the fist trill key and it's smaller in size than the aforementioned trill key. It has become less common to find this trill key on the list of options by flutemakers since most of them have switched to the more popular C# trill key, but it was somewhat popular in Germany in past decades.

Less common optional keys

Half-Closing Thumb Key, High G# Mechanism or High G# Facilitator
Improves high G# by partially closing the thumb key when the G# key is pressed. It's being popularized by some piccolo makers.

Open G# Key
It reverses the action of the G# key. Mechanically speaking, it has only one G# hole, as opposed to the commonly used closed G# which has two. The advantage of this key is that since the G# operates independently from the G key it provides a built in Split E. 

Brossa F#
It's a key located by the D key that is depressed by the ring finger of the right hand. It produces a more accurate F# in all 3 octaves and it allows for an easier transition between E and F#. It's currently offered by Keefe Piccolos. Some old Rudall Carte flutes also have this optional key.

Right hand footjoint extension Key
It provides a way to access a footjoint key, most commonly the low C# key, with the left hand pinky. It lies next to the G# key. Some companies used to offer a way to change which footjoint key this extension would depress. It's very uncommon nowadays, but it was popularized by James Galway since his first gold flute made by Albert Copper had one.

High F# facilitator
It allows for a better high F# by closing the A# key partially. This key is very rare. 

B Lever
It replaces the Bb Lever and provides a way to access the left hand thumb B key with the index finger of the right hand. It's uncommon, but I've seen this key in some old flutes.

Piccolo Exclusive

Low C foot
adds the low C# and C to the range of the piccolo. Currently only Braun Flutes makes piccolos that go down to low C.

Briccialdi Thumb Key
Has just one tone hole for the thumb key, rather than two, as is customary on most piccolos. It improves the intonation and stability of G#3.

Combination C# Trill and GA Trill key
It's a fairly recent optional key offered by just a few piccolo makers.