Saxophone Forum


by RobertD
(66 posts)
3 years ago

Fingering Fun

OK, fingering differences between the instruments I've played all my life and the sax, which I've played for about three weeks, are driving me a bit nuts. But in a good way. The fingerings of the three groups of instruments are all unique from each other. Additionally, some of the relationships between brasswind and sax fingerings are making this very interesting.

I played fingerstyle guitar. Guitar fingering is four fingers on the left hand fingering the notes and chord combinations on six strings (five fingers if you add the thumb reach-over, which I don't because years ago I broke my left thumb and it doesn't bend very well anymore) - with all five fingers on the left hand fingering separate strings and combinations. It gets quite complex. But it's still one hand fingering notes while the fingers of the other hand pick or strum.

Brass fingering is three fingers on the right hand, four if you have a compensating instrument. The left hand just holds the horn. Ah, simpler times! :)

Saxophone has been a mind-bender for me because both hands finger notes in multiple combinations, along with many different finger combinations pressing and releasing various keys (for example, Eb to E, G# to A - and back - I've never those types of combinations before), and even though the notes are fairly logically laid-out in two stacks, up and down, left and right, I keep finding myself occasionally interspersing brass fingerings on either hand! I've also noticed it becomes a little more complicated between brass and woodwind fingerings for me because of the relationships between fingering certain notes.

Low D on brass is the index and ring finger with the middle valve up. I can't tell you how many times I've lifted my right middle finger for a low D on sax. LOL But that's improving fairly easily. Hardly happens anymore.

On brasswinds, middle B is the middle finger. On sax middle finger is C, and even though it's the left hand I find myself occasionally fingering middle B with the middle finger of my left hand, sounding a C.

Same goes for middle Bb. On brass, it's the index finger. Even though it's the other hand, I find myself pressing the B key for Bb occasionally.

Fingering a middle G on brass requires no fingers. All valves are up. On sax, that's a middle C# - without the octave key.

Oh, yeah, the octave key. I've never had one of these before. I love it. I can get high range with fairly light pressure. My brass embouchure experience translated to sax regarding pressure, it seems. But sometimes I still forget to press the octave key when needed.

Low F on brass is the first finger of the right hand. F# is the middle finger. Great! Right? No. I occasionally transpose the brass fingering in my head by forgetting to close all of the top stack. That's a real hoot when it happens. Literally.

I'm trying to practice at least twice daily and usually succeeding. Sometimes three times. I'm beginning scales slowly and I'm sure with more practice I'll gain speed and confidence, and be able to overcome the persistent brasswind infection I've had all these years.

For instance, when I'm thinking about tunes I have memorized on brass, I'm beginning to find myself thinking of them in sax fingerings. I also notice that songs I have memorized on brass are easier to play on sax with or without the music. So I guess there is hope.

Anyway, the mental workout is fun (especially as one gets older) and when I get the fingering right through a whole exercise or tune, it feels really, really good. Like it felt when I played brass and guitar.

It's gotten so I'm afraid to play brass. I might reinforce those fingerings. :D

Practice, practice, practice. I'm going to make that my sig.

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  1. by bjroosevelt
    (47 posts)

    3 years ago

    Re: Fingering Fun

    Good grief!

    if the only challenge you are having moving to the sax is fingering, you are on lucky musician.

     

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    1. by RobertD
      (66 posts)

      3 years ago

      Re: Fingering Fun

      You know, I never looked at it that way. Thanks! :)

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  2. by historicsaxwhisperer
    (542 posts)

    3 years ago

    Re: Fingering Fun

    This is another fun post from this new member.

    I bought an old conn cornet  a few years back that had the quick change mechanism. I cleaned it up and sold it, but had some fun trying to figure it out. I was so impressed with what the brass players have to go through to move about the octaves.

    The saxophone is just so much easier to play..... Badly. All instruments require the time and dedication to become a good player. The sax is set up as an oboe. I have played many a classical pieces written for oboe on soprano saxophone. The fingering of the sax is much older than the instruments invention.

    As you improve on your Buescher 400 you will get into the altissimo for the saxophones. Sort of like fake fingerings, using harmonics to get to higher octaves. Like a brass instrument, the top is not necessarily limited (Maynard Ferguson). My range is up to C above the high F my horn is keyed. This is a lot of fun, figuring out the chromatic scale above the range of the instrument fingerings.

    As I have said before, ENJOY!!

     

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    1. by RobertD
      (66 posts)

      3 years ago

      Re: Fingering Fun

      My wife was an art student at the high school we attended. Art students understood music about as well as music students understood art. Until recently (about three years ago), I never realized she wasn't aware that brasswind players had to buzz their lips non-stop to produce notes. The standing wave and back pressure keep the lips buzzing once you get the whole thing started. But is a primitive (think people blowing into conch shells they found on the beach or dismembered rams' horns) method of sound production. And three valves make everything quite simple. But octaves are a challenge, unless you're one of those people gifted with a set of chops designed specifically for brass.

      I wasn't. I practiced trumpet until my lips bled. My tone was flawless but high range was always a challenge.  Sax is easier to play. Goodly and badly. Thankfully, I'm retired now. So, I have all the time I need (minus the demands made by the wife and my girl CoCo ((our Amstaff, not my girlfriend)) to dedicate the intricacies of the saxophone. And I'm having a blast doing it. :)

      I've worked my way up to high F but I won't try altissimo until I have the full standard range of the sax down solid. I can't wait to go there.

      Maynard Ferguson! I was in sixth grade when we were allowed to learn a musical instrument in public school. I wanted to play the saxophone. I wound up with the trumpet. I was with my mom shopping in this quasi-department store that had a music department with record albums for 99c. (You know, those vinyl discs that people used to spin on a turntable while a needle scratched the surface to produce sound.) And I saw an album with this cat sitting among all these brass musical instruments in a sombrero with a Mexican blanket slung across his shoulder.

      Si! Si! - M.F.

      I asked mom if I could buy the album and she said yes and I took it home and wore it out on my Sears turntable with a tone arm the weight of a battleship. I still have the original album. It's available on CD now but they mixed it up with Maynard '64.

      I recently read a brasswind forum discussion about the best Maynard album. They all mentioned what I like to call the "nuevo" Maynard. Some complained about his high-note fixation. They obviously never heard of his best work.

      If you haven't heard it, do yourself a favor and buy it. Not only for the best Maynard big band jazz ever, but for outstaning sax work from the likes of Lanny Morgan, Willie Maiden, Donald J. Menza, and Frank J. Hittner, Jr.

      It's the best work Maynard ever did.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Si!_Si!_M.F.

       

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