How to Master Tricky Fingerings

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There Are So Many Keys!

With so many keys on the saxophone it can be overwhelming to consider learning all of them. And then you learn that there are different combinations with all these keys, too!

Explore the Fingerings

Learning the notes on the saxophone is an experience that can seem intimidating at first, but once you get going, the intimidating feeling will go away. In fact, you may begin to feel excitement as you begin to explore the different notes and their combinations. We hope you have fun exploring!

Notes Made Easy

If you’ve found learning notes difficult in the past, try our free lessons. We don’t just slap up a fingering chart and leave you to deal with it on your own, but we systematically teach the fingerings at specific times to escalate your likenesses of success. You can find the free lessons below.

Learn All Notes

We teach all the notes in a systematic order to help you succeed. See the process in our free lessons!

Mastery Through Memory

Have you ever watched a newborn horse or deer try to walk for the first time. It’s a clumsy event, but no one thinks negatively of the animal. We all understand that over time the muscles will develop strength and the animal will begin to gain balance. Soon, the animal will be walking successfully.

Humans are the same way, and we become so good at walking that we can do other things at the same time. We can walk as we:

  • Talk
  • Eat
  • Text
  • Laugh
  • Some of us can juggle
  • Kick a rock down the road as we walk

Watch Out for the Curb!

When walking, if we approach a curb while speaking to someone, we don’t stop the conversation and say, “Wait, I have to focus on stepping up on this curb.” We can successfully do two things at once when we have truly learned a process (in this case, walking).

Building Strength & Memory

Over time, playing the notes on the saxophone can become just like walking. We build strength, balance, and develop correct muscle memory. That’s why people can play so many notes and still play musically.

However, there are some tricky combinations with the saxophone fingering system that can give everyone problems. In this post, we’ll go over what some of these tricky fingerings are and how to master them. Then, we move past the stage of an awkward horse or deer and take one step closer towards playing confidently.

Mastering the Timing

Even after we know all the notes on the saxophone, there are some tricky combinations. One result is playing three notes instead of two.

For example, if you’re trying to play from C (without the octave key) to D (with the octave key), we’re going from a note with one finger down to a note with six fingers down (and the thumb).

For a beginner, this can result in playing a C, and then another note (really briefly), and then the D. Where does the “brief” note come from? It comes from a timing issue. If all the fingers don’t come down at the same time, you’ll get an extra note between the C and D.

This may sound complicated, but if you follow the process below, it will be much easier.

The Process for Mastering Notes

All we need to do is develop the muscle memory correctly. For each tricky fingering combination, we will do the following:

  1. Set the metronome to ♩= 52 (quarter note = 52)
  2. Play each note as a quarter note
  3. Play the 2 note pattern 10 times
  4. Focus on doing your best

Notice step #4

Your results won’t be perfect the first few times (just like the fawn walking), but after time, you’ll develop the correct muscle memory to succeed. Then, you won’t need to focus on it as much, as it will become a learned habit. Just make sure you focus on developing solid timing, even if the desired results do not occur at first.

Tricky Fingerings

Here are the fingerings to work on. Take the 4 step process from above and apply it to the two note combinations below:

  1. C to D
    • Play middle C (no octave key), to middle D (octave key), and back to C
  2. C# to D
    • Play middle C# (no octave key), to middle D (octave key), and back to C#
  3. Side Bb (A three note combo)
    • Play A, then, Bb, then C
    • Go back down each note to A
  4. Bis Bb
    • Play bis Bb, then G, and back to bis Bb
  5. D to Eb
    • Go back and forth between these two notes
    • It’s a great pinky workout
  6. G# (A three note combo)
    • Play G, then G#, then A.
    • Go back down each note to G

Saxophone Fingering Chart

To help with the fingerings above, I’ve provided a fingering chart below for each.

  • G
  • G#
  • A
  • Bb
  • C
  • C#
  • D
  • Eb
  • Bis Bb

    Push the 2 red keys (at the same time) with your index finger.

How to Master These Tricky Fingerings

Follow this process as often as you can (daily is the most effective) and you’ll soon have all these tricky fingerings down.

You’ll not only be able to play through notes easily, but you will have technique that is clean and clear; this will produce a mature saxophone sound. Just a little bit everyday will do the trick. And just like we have patience with a child learning to walk, have patience with yourself too. Get those repetitions in, and the rest will follow!

Can you think of any other tricky fingering combinations not listed above? If you can, please share in the comment section. I can provide tips to help out!

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it with the social media buttons below. We appreciate it. Happy practicing!

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Comments 4

  1. I enjoy everything you post. Been a long time since I played a tenor sax, and enjoy trying again, with your help.
    Thank you for everything.

    1. Post

      Hi Harold,

      I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying the posts and that you’re playing the tenor again. If you have any questions about, just let me know!

    1. Post

      Hi Corrina,

      Yes, that is a tricky combination and a great one to practice. There are many tricky fingerings and anytime you come across one, insert it into your daily warmup. The more this is done, the easier the saxophone becomes. Thanks for bringing this one up!

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