Introducing the Fingering diagram builder

December 5, 2010

I’m pleased to present something I’ve been working on, on and off, for a while now. I’m pretty excited about it, and I hope you will check it out and let me know what you think.

This project developed from my own need to quickly and easily create fingering diagrams for the woodwind instruments that I play and teach. Frequently I find myself scribbling saxophone altissimo fingerings onto a scrap of paper during a private lesson, cutting-and-pasting at the photocopier to put together simplified charts for a woodwind methods class, or penciling cryptic markings into musical scores to remind myself which pinky finger to use.

And so, I’m pleased to introduce the Fingering diagram builder. I hope you’ll take it for a spin.

[One caveat: it currently doesn’t work in any version of Internet Explorer, due to IE’s lack of support for SVG graphics. If you’re an IE user, I hope you’ll consider downloading an excellent, free alternative browser and give the Fingering diagram builder a try anyway.]

Here’s a taste of what the Fingering diagram builder can do.

I created and downloaded this array of some of my favorite F-sharp fingerings in under two minutes (really). Click to see them larger.

flute oboe clarinet
bassoon saxophone recorder

These six instruments are immediately available, but I hope to add a few more soon. Hit me up with your requests.

Some of the instruments have cool options if you mess around with the “Keywork” toolbar. Here are a few of the most obvious examples:

The oboe chart has English horn keys, too. The clarinet chart can do bass clarinet. And the saxophone chart can accomodate a baritone’s low A (or even a soprano with a high G).

The “Options” toolbar lets you resize or customize the look of the diagrams:

Change the line thickness. Use colors to show trills or optional keys.

The downloaded images are in .PNG format, which means they are compatible with virtually all current word processing, graphics, and music notation software. Plus the file sizes are small, so they can be easily dropped into an email or blog post. (You may have seen some early versions of these fingering diagrams appearing in my own blog over the past year or more.)

I’m interested in your feedback, so let me know if you run into any problems, or if you have an idea how the Fingering diagram builder can be more useful. Leave a comment below, or send me email.

And, be sure to subscribe to the feed so you won’t miss upcoming articles with tips and tricks on using the Fingering diagram builder.

Comments

  1. Eddie Rich

    This is a great idea and it’s all put together very nicely! Good job, Bret!

    Reply

  2. Timothy Owen

    This looks like a great utility, Bret. I look forward to using it when I am no longer tethered to IE at my work computer.

    Recent blog post: The Recital Is Over ... What Now? (November 5, 2010)

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Thanks, Tim. I regret that it doesn’t work with IE. I’ve worked a few different angles to try to solve this, but haven’t been able to come up with a solid solution. I wrestled with the issue of whether to release this to the public while it still has the IE problem.

      The upcoming version 9 of IE is expected to have SVG support. I’ve experimented a little with the beta release, but in these early stages there still appear to be significant glitches—hopefully these will be ironed out at some point.

      Reply

  3. Richard Krishnan

    This is great and very easy to work with. I would like to request the option for contrabassoon as a set of keys for bassoon in addition to standard and student. This does entail adding another key option as some contrabassoons do have low A keys even though the one I’m currently playing on does not.

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Thanks, Richard. Contrabassoon is definitely part of the plan. I didn’t get it done for this initial release because there’s some variation in keywork and I wanted to research it a little more thoroughly first. Keep your eyes peeled for it, though!

      Reply

  4. Timothy Owen

    I’d like to see some option to generate a reverse image. I find it easier in many cases to conceptualize the fingering as if I am looking in a mirror (or through the instrument a la x-ray vision). For the bassoon, it would probably be prudent to allow the thumb quadrants to be reversed independently (if at all) since those keys are directly visible but not in the mirror. More to follow as I have fun playing with this excellent tool…

    Recent blog post: The Recital Is Over ... What Now? (November 5, 2010)

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Hey, Tim, that’s an interesting idea and one that I will think over. I do want the selection of available fingering charts to grow, and it’s certainly a technical possibility to have multiple diagrams available for each instrument, to suit various tastes or needs.

      Reply

  5. Ericdano

    Most excellent sir!

    Recent blog post: Clarksdale Jazz Band joined the group CDs (December 1, 2010)

    Reply

  6. Andrew

    Dear Bret,

    This is excellent! Thank you very much for all of your work on this. I will now be able to email my students clear diagrams of bassoon fingering without having to make silly drawings for them every lesson.

    Andrew

    Reply

  7. Neal

    That’s awesome Bret, thank you very much for building this, can think of a few ways it would be useful for woodwind players.

    Recent blog post: How An Experiment in the Gym Can Teach You About Saxophone Technique and Practice (December 9, 2010)

    Reply

  8. Jerry Pritchard

    Very nicely done, Brent. I would ask for only one more feature. Would it be possible to show also the actual holes that are not touched by the fingers but operated by levers via depressing another key?

    For example the Bb key hole operated by the Bis key on sax or the Bb hole on top of the left hand of flute that is operated by the thumb or right hand 1 or the right hand above the F key.

    There are many non-standard, alternative fingerings used for pitch control or change to timbre that need to notate these keys that are usually not touched.

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Thanks, Jerry, that’s an interesting idea. If you (or anyone out there) have a good example of a fingering chart that shows those kinds of techniques, I would be interested in seeing one.

      Reply

  9. Sarah Dale

    Hey Bret,

    As always your website continues to astound me with the scope of the content offered!

    I was just checking out your fingering chart builder – looks great! – and had a thought for a possible future update. It would be great to have the option to attach notation for the note you are fingering to the diagram.

    For example, build a clarinet E fingering first line and then open the “notation builder” window and attach the staff/clef/note/necessary accidentals for that particular fingering.

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Hi Sarah,

      That’s an idea that I had toyed with for initial release, but I have abandoned it for now. The trick is that I want the FDB to be useful to people doing unusual fingerings—trills, tremolos, multiphonics, etc., which could mean having to show multiple notes on the staff, and it started to seem too much like writing a full-blown notation program. I’ve still got the idea in the back of my mind, and will continue to consider it for future versions.

      Thanks for the suggestion and the kind words!

      Reply

  10. Harlequin

    I am working on a research paper, and this fingering builder is exactly what I need for it! Thank you!

    Reply

  11. Anders Torgunrud Røshol

    Hi Bret,

    Just wanted to let you know how fantastic this tool is! I’m a composer and whenever I use mulitphonics, timbre trill etc. I like to notate the fingerings in the score and parts. This tool makes it’s so much easier both for the composer and the musicians! Thank you so much!

    I love that you can use colors to show the trills but would it be possible to have the option to show a trill sign as well/instead? I’ve seen this in a lot of scores and although using colors is great in educational settings (fingering charts and so on) scores are usually printed in black/white. This is just a future suggestion as it’s fairly easy to achieve this by adding a trill sign in Sibelius or Finale, but I would be great to have it in your fantastic tool as well!

    Thanks again,

    Anders

    Recent blog post: Textures & Patterns (July 14, 2012)

    Reply

  12. Stephen

    Thank you. This works a treat and is making the flute score I’m composing much easier to put together. Congratulations!

    Reply

  13. Till

    Hello Bret,

    came across your tool via FB. Your tools seems to me a great thing to have, thank you for this!
    A suggestion that might be easily to build in as you mention svg already:
    How about adding an svg export option to the system? All your export features for now (png/tiff) are pixel-based, i.e. resizing them will result in blurry graphics. With a vector-based format such as svg, it would be possible to generate resizeable (and therefore also properly printable) charts.
    svg can easily be converted into eps and pdf format ,something IMHO you do not necessarily have to provide as people can do that by themselves.

    Another suggestion would be to look at differences in european and UK fingerings on e.g. clarinettes; might be interesting for people to even be able to convert between. (no idea how easy that’d be though and I like your tendency to provide a simple tool rather than an feature-laden beast).

    As a third suggestion, I’d like to point you to my controller booklet, an attempt to graphically represent various MIDI controllers. There’s a PDF with all of them available, maybe you want to add them to your tool as well :)

    cheers from Helsinki!

    Till

    Reply

    • Bret Pimentel (Your host)

      Thanks for the comments and suggestions. Vector export is a possibility for future releases, as is expansion into additional keywork systems (such as various European clarinets). Conversion between keywork systems is unlikely because the FDB contains no fingering logic—it doesn’t “know” fingerings for specific notes.

      Reply

Leave a comment

Commenting policy