Rigid saxophone harnesses seem to be popping up from several makers lately. Barry Caudill tries one on for size. (Inclusion here isn’t an endorsement of this particular model; I’m just glad to see a nice thoughtful review of this type of product. I would like to see Vandoren sending some of theirs out for review—hint, hint?)
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 observe that many woodwind players, when learning a new fingering—whether a beginner learning a standard fingering or an advanced student learning a new alternate fingering—tend to think of them as sequences: “This finger plus this finger and this finger and this key over here.” Sometimes my students even want to recite the fingering aloud as they add one finger at a time, and then finally play the note. The problem with this is that there is obviously no time for such a procedure when playing music.
I now occasionally find that I have the opposite problem: a student will ask about a fingering, and I will discover that I am not prepared to verbalize it. I need to pick up the instrument, do the fingering, and then explain which keys I am pressing. My fingers know how to make the right shape, even if I can’t immediately recall the list of keys involved.
To learn new fingerings in the most efficient and practical way, move as quickly as possible to the “shape” stage. I suggest this method:
With instrument in hand, think through the fingering, referring to a fingering chart if necessary. If you need to, think in sequence about each finger that will move and where it will go, but don’t move yet.
When ready, move the fingers all at once, in a crisp and snappy way.
Freeze, and think through the fingering again. Did you form it correctly? If it is incorrect, don’t fix it “in place,” by moving a finger or two into place; release all fingers and start over. Fixing it in place habituates a sequence of events, rather than a single shape.
Put the fingering into context (a scale, a musical passage, etc.) using a metronome set on a very slow tempo. The object at this point is to succeed at forming the fingering shape accurately and on cue. Speed up only as you are certain that you can maintain 100% accuracy. If your fingers don’t move simultaneously, you are wasting time cementing a sequence.