Alternate Saxophone Fingerings


Alternate or Alternative?

The fingerings we are looking at here, and shown in the chart below, are alternative fingerings, either for ease of fingering or preferred sound. These are different to “false” or alternate fingering which actually alternate from one to the other and back again and are used to create a special effect.


Christmas

When to use alternative fingerings

  1. When it would be too difficult to use a regular fingering, use the alternative. This often applies to trills but also to different scales and interval jumps. We show some examples below of musical passages, but once you know the alternatives then you can just have a go at each one and decide which to use by rial and error.
  2. In some cases there are very slight differences in sound and/or intonation so you may just decide to use a certain fingering for its sound, e.g. the side C is sometimes called the “ballad C” as some people consider it to have a better tone than the regular (front) C.

A chart of common alternatives and when to use them

In the fingering chart below the top F and top E need to be used with the octave key, all the other fingerings apply to both upper and lower register of the saxophone.

 

NOTE
REGULAR
ALT.
Top F Top F alternative top F Auxiliary F (AKA “Front” F) fingering useful for arpeggio F. Also the basis for many altissimo fingerings. This fingering is better than the F palm keys for making a fast interval between C and top F (or any of the left hand fingerings). If you don’t have that key you can fake it
Top E Top E alternative top E Auxiliary E (AKA “Front” E) fingering, useful for arpeggio F maj7: F A C E F C A F
C (Both octaves) C fingering alternative Side C – You may find that this may have a clearer tone and better intonation, so is often used in slow tunes. AKA the “ballad C.”
Bb (Both octaves) Bb fingering bis Bb fingering Alternative 1: Bb bis. Useful for most cases that do not involve fast transitions from Bb to B or C. Very good for things like interval jumps from Bb to Db or G.
Bb fork fingering
RH1

Bb fork fingering
RH2
Alternative 2: Fork or long Bb. Good when jumping to F, or for Bb arpeggio: Bb – D – FRH2 is similar and useful for jumps from Gb to Bb.
You can actually use RH3, but I haven’t yet found a use for it yet, although it could be used as a false fingering
G#/Ab (Both octaves) G# fingering articulated G# fingering Tabbed G# (C#/G# link). This allows you to use the same fingering for low C# as for G#, which can help a lot with scale passages and interval jumps in many sharp keys.
Gb/F# (Both octaves) Gb (F#) fingering Side Gb(F#) fingering Side Gb/F# – Useful for trilling F to Gb. On most instruments these days (at east since the 1920s)  the articulated G# allows you to finger the G# while playing F#, which makes F# – G# passages more fluent.

Top F

Alternate fingering top F example 1The alternative top F is probably more common than the regular fingering. For example try a basic F  arpeggio in the upper register: it’s much easier to use the alternative than the palm keys. Again in the Db arpeggio the alternate fingering works very well. Try both of these with palm keys and notice the difference.

So lets look at when we might use the palm F. Unless you are using it purely for the better sound, only two scenarios come to mind.

1. A chromatic run up and/or down to top D.

Top F chromatic run

The palm keys make the most sense here as the transition from D# to alternative E is quite clumsy.

2. From or to Eb. In the next example we would use the palm key F when going from Eb to F, however in bar 3 where we have a C to F, it makes sense to switch to the alternative F.

Top F example with alt and palm keys

If you are reading music, this is a scenario where it’s very important to be looking and thinking ahead, otherwise it’s easy to be caught out.

Best Sound

You will probably find that the palm key fingering sounds better, so for long notes you should probably use this, but do experiment and make up your own mind.

Top (Front) E

This really only works well between E and C or E and F so it works well on an F maj 7 arpeggio:

When the only notes involved are E and F, then either the front keys or palm keys can be used, the decision to use one or the other should be based on what nots come before or after.

You could use either the palm or front F for an E to F trill, but a tremolo between C and E is better with the front E:

Otherwise, for most other high E fingerings you would use the palm key, so in this example, it is awkward to use the front E after the A:

Best Sound

Again, the palm key fingering usually sounds better.

C

The regular C fingering is fine for most cases, but the side key fingering is very good when fast passages, e.g. trills, between B and  C are required.

Best Sound

Many people think the side key fingering has the best sound and so use this when there are sustained long notes. I think it may just sound better to the player die to the fact that the side key tone hole is nearer the player’s ears than the front tone hole.

Bb

The mother of alternative fingerings – there are so many choices.

The regular (side key) fingering can be awkward for many intervals due to the fact that you need to apply or release two fingers of opposite hands at once. In most cases the bis fingering is a lot easier.  For this reason it’s best to look at when the bis does not work so well i.e.  when to use the side key Bb or the fork Bb.

Bis key example 1When not to use the bis key #1

The bis key is mostly a disadvantage when going from Bb to C, so this is good time to use the side key, for example in the key of Bb the opening trill from Bb to C is best using the side key. However the descent back from the D is good on the bis, provided there is not a C immediately after – again when reading music it’s important to think ahead.

Note that it may be possible to trill from Bb to C by using the bis and the C side key, but on may instruments this is not as well in tune as using the side key Bb and trill to standard C.

When not to use the bis key #2

When you have passages involving A# to B:

Fork or Long Bb

You can use either the first or second finger of your right hand as shown in the chart. The final note of this example could be a fork or bis, you will notice that if you play the fork fingering and  then apply the bis key, it is already held down automatically anyway.

Example Combining Bb Fingerings:

Alternate B Fingerings
bis = bis, S = Sidekey (regular), RH2 = Fork with RH2)

 

In the above example (from Taming The Saxophone Vol III – Exercises & Patterns) you could use the regular (sidekey) fingering all the way through, but you can see here a good example of how three different Bb fingerings can be used in the same passage to facilitate the fingering.

This is also a good example of when to use the RH2 fork fingering. You could use RH1, but as your 2nd RH finger is already in place for the F#, this makes total sense.

 Best Sound

Most people consider the regular or Bis to be better than the fork fingering

F#/Gb

The alternative F# is usually referred to as the F# trill key, and that is its primary use. Just try trilling from F to F# with the regular F# and you’ll get the point.

It is also useful in various scale passages, especially in the key of F# and C# (Gb), e.g. in C# or F# play from C#, up to F# and down again.

In this example, start with the regular F# and  use the side F# at the top of the scale:

Example of side f sharp key

However as this scale is continuing on the to the G#, the alternative F# is awkward and in this case it’s best to use the regular fingering:

Example of regular f sharp

Tabbed G#/C#

This is a very very useful fingering and applies to any sharp keys with 3 or more sharps (A and onwards). The connecting mechanism means you can hold the G# key down while playing any other note (except G of course). For example while playing an A major scale you can keep your finger in the G#, which obviously makes your fingering life easier.

It is important to understand this mechanism as it is one of the main sources of saxophone leaks, and is very easy to adjust.

See Leaking Articulated G#

There also a link mechanism on modern saxophones that allows you to use the C# key for G#

Try this passage with the regular G# and switch to C# at the lower end of the scale:

Articulated G sharp

Now try it but hold down the C# key for the entire passage and see how much easier it is than switching from G# to C#.

You may find that doing this a lot is rather a strain on your left hand pinky, especially with some older instruments, so it’s important to make sure your saxophone is well regulated and oiled.

Subscribe To Our (very occasional) Newsletter
Subscribe to our email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, tutorials and special offers!
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Our
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.
×
×
Frequently Asked Questions
I did not receive the email with with my download link

Please check your spam folder.

NB: Purchased downloads are also available to download directly from your customer account area.

I am having a problem downloading to iPad or iPhone

This is a common issue and affects all downloads, not just our products. In order to download anything to iPad etc. you will need an app that can handle .zip .pdf and .mp3 downloads.

See this article and/or this app

It may be easier to download to your desktop and then transfer to your tablet.

Download expired, reached its limit
  • The download may actually have  expired. Download links are valid only for a certain number of days and have a limit on number of downloads - please contact us with your order number and date of purchase to reset it. (Ideally reply to your order confirmation email)
  • Download manager/accelerator  software or browser plugin is interfering with the download. If so try disabling it.
  • The files did actually  download, but very quickly and you did not realise. Please do a search of your download destination directory before contacting us.
Do you sell outside the UK?

Yes, we sell internationally. Your currency will be automatically converted at the current exchange rate.

Saxophone Instruction DVD region compatibility

This is a PAL all region DVD so will not require you to reset your DVD player/computer region.

However as it is PAL format it may not be compatible with some older U.S. TV sets which are NTSC only, please check if your TV and/or DVD player is compatible with PAL format.

If not, it should still work on any computer with DVD drive (anywhere in the world). Please note we have only tested the DVD by playing on DVD systems or playing on computers with standard DVD hardware and software. We cannot guarantee that files extracted (ripped) from the DVD will play successfully. Sharing of copied DVDs or ripped files is illegal.

How much will postage cost?

After adding an item or several items to your cart, click on the Calculate Shipping button and choose your location from the dropdown menu. This will give you the postage options available to your country.

When will I get my stuff?

Products in stock

We usually post within 3 days of receiving an order. We are unable to give exact delivery times, but generally packages to Europe can take 2 - 7 days, outside Europe 4 - 14 days. Under exceptional circumstances (weather, strikes, customs delays) it can take longer.

Out of stock (backorders) or special orders

Out of stock books and DVDs are generally restocked within a week. Out of stock or special order mouthpieces can take between 6 and 10 weeks for manufacturing.

From time to time we have a holiday, in which case items will take longer, look out for any noticesd at the top of the page re:holidays.

How do I find out the price in dollars, yen, euros, dirhams etc?

The checkout pages shows prices in GBP (£). Your bank, credit card company or Paypal take care of the actual conversion, so you can pay with your normal account in your own currency. We don't publish actual rates in different currencies as this is constantly changing so we advise you check with a live currency conversion site such as xe.com

Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
×
×