I recently set out to try to make sense of the handful of bassoon high F-sharp fingerings that I was aware of. As it turns out, I had no idea what I was getting into. I looked at a number of online and offline sources, and ended up with about 60 fingerings (yes, you read that correctly). I have compiled them into a document for your reading pleasure, with sources listed.
A few points:
The sorting is fairly arbitrary; I tried to organize them into groups and orders that made some kind of sense to me. The indications “Legato” and “French” come from the venerable Cooper/Toplansky book; the rest are my own.
The numbering is strictly for convenience.
I mostly omitted fingerings that seemed to be specifically for individual trills.
Many of the sources indicated pitch characteristics; I have not included these since so much depends on the individual instrument, reed, etc. If you are looking for a good fingering for pitch alteration, there are plenty here for you to try out.
Some of the authors differentiated between half-hole, one-third-hole, etc. I have normalized all of these with a visual half-hole representation, since I find the exact amount of opening to require experimentation anyway.
I did try all these fingerings myself, and was able to produce approximately an F-sharp with virtually all of them, with varying degrees of difficulty.
I welcome corrections, and would be mildly curious if you have other good published or otherwise reputable sources (not anecdotes) that list fingerings I have missed here. I will update the PDF as needed. I’m much less interested in hearing which fingering is your personal favorite, unless you have something more to contribute to the conversation, but some of you will email me or leave it in the comments anyway.
I currently have over 400 woodwind-related blogs in my feed reader, and try my best at least to skim the new posts. In the past I’ve occasionally passed along recommendations about some of the blogs that I think are especially good. I’m considering moving toward something like a monthly list of some of my favorite individual posts instead.
Here are some from April (a few from late March sneaked in, too).
Stephanie Mortimore (of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra) offers a difference-tone-based approach to improving intonation over at one of the Powell Flutes blogs: Taming the Beast—Revolutionize Your Piccolo Intonation! (Part II). No reason this method couldn’t be used for flute or any other instrument. Part I is the usual boilerplate explanation of equal vs. just temperament.
Beginning woodwind players, including doublers, sometimes cheat a bit on fingerings, using fingerings that are almost right. If you’re doing this, it’s likely that you have notes with poor tone, intonation, and/or response. If you think you are getting away with it, you’re probably mistaken, and you may be cementing bad habits that are going to become even more apparent as aspects of your tone production improve.
The most common culprits at a beginning or intermediate level are the right-hand pinky and the left-hand first finger.
The pinky should stay down for virtually every standard fingering, with the exceptions being anything below the low D, anything above the high (4th-ledger-line) A, and the D in the staff. This is not only crucial to the pitch and tone of many notes (you’ll hear it as your embouchure improves!), but also helps to stabilize the instrument.
The left-hand first finger must lift for second-octave D and E-flat. You can probably make the notes respond without doing so, but you’ll sound better and struggle less if you do it right.
There has been some buzz (no pun intended) among US reed players about an announcement from the infamous Transportation Security Administration that some knives will be allowed in carry-on luggage starting next month. But make no mistake—your reed knife will still need to go in your checked bag or it will be confiscated at a security checkpoint.
There are a couple of catches to the some-knives-allowed rule that will eliminate virtually all common reed knives. One is that carry-on knives must be folding knives, with blades that do not lock into position. While there are some reed knives in common use that meet this qualification, the other catch is even more significant: the blade must be no longer than 2.36 inches (6 cm) and no wider than ½ inch (2.27 cm). Most reed knives fall somewhere in the 3–4 inch length range, and some push the width limit, too. (If you’re using a good-quality reed knife with a folding, non-locking blade that is small enough to qualify, I’m curious to hear about it).
As regular readers know, I have my university students (oboists, clarinetists, bassoonists, and saxophonists) each add a new recording to their library each semester. During the course of their respective degree programs, they should each accumulate a nice curated collection of recordings. Here are this semester’s selections:
Here are some sound clips from my faculty recital last month. I try to make a point of keeping myself challenged, and mission accomplished on this one.
The repertoire, selected collaboratively with my outstanding pianist colleague Dr. Kumiko Shimizu, was all pieces with some connection to jazz music. First up on the program was selected movements from Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano. Flute isn’t part of my teaching assignment at Delta State, but this piece was too fun to pass up and my flutist colleague Dr. Shelley Collins is extraordinarily supportive of my flute playing. Since I spend most of my work week living in reed land, however, my flute chops don’t get the attention I would like, and I’m a bit self-conscious about my sound and my control of the instrument. I hear a number of things on the recording that I am less than satisfied with, but overall I think it went okay, and it was well received by the audience (even the part of the audience whose grade doesn’t depend on keeping me happy).
Next was a new-ish piece by young composer Alyssa Morris, a fellow BYU alum. I had heard her Four Personalities for oboe and piano performed by Nancy Ambrose King a few years back at an IDRS conference, and it immediately sprang to mind when I started brainstorming jazz-influenced oboe pieces. We performed the first two movements (second, then first), which, to our ears, had the strongest jazz elements. The first movement (performed second) in particular has characteristic swing rhythms and figures, and it was strange but fun to tackle those things on the oboe.
At the John Mack Oboe Camp over the summer, I heard a fine performance of this piece by the Oregon Symphony’s principal oboist, Martin Hebert. I also got some reed help from Linda Strommen (of Indiana University), which has greatly improved the pitch stability of my reeds. I’m pleased with the improvement over last year’s recital. I’m not sure I have entirely adapted tone-wise to the change, however, and I was a little surprised by my sound on the recording—to me, I don’t quite sound like me.
Here, once again, are my required recordings for the new semester. These are recordings I select each semester for my university students, a different one for each instrument (I teach oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone), so that over the course of their degree program they build up a collection of great players playing great repertoire.