Three Fingering Diagram Builder tutorials

Back in the olden days (2002), I wrote a paper for a college class on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s simultaneous playing of clarinet and saxophone on “Creole Love Call” from the 1967 album The Inflated Tear. (When I started up this blog, the paper retroactively became a blog post.) In my paper, I included two fingering charts—one for right-handed clarinet, one for left-handed saxophone—that I thought looked pretty good and only took me a few hours to make. Ah, how young I was.

Right-handed clarinet fingering chart. Click for larger.
Left-handed saxophone fingering chart.

Clearly, the time has come to update these sad old charts, and the Fingering Diagram Builder makes it fast, easy, and, dare I say it?—fun. I’ll show you how it’s done, using three particularly cool features (if I do say so myself) of the FDB. We will take a look at the FDB’s custom styles, custom keywork presets, and Dropbox integration.

Custom styles

For now, my plan is just to create enough diagrams to replace the ones in these old fingering charts—just the fingerings I figure Kirk must have used. But I don’t think Rahsaan would want me limiting myself to just those fingerings in the future. I’d better set up this project in such a way that I can come back later with new one-handed fingerings I’ve discovered, and add them to the charts with a minimum of fuss.

The problem is that, what with the FDB’s highly customizable diagrams, I may not remember tomorrow whether the ones I made today have lines that are “medium” or “thick” or “heavy,” or whether I sized them “small” or “tiny,” or whether I was saving the diagrams as .PNG files for onscreen use or .TIF files for better printed results. The FDB does, of course, remember my current settings between sessions all on its own, but I like to work on several projects at once (Rahsaan would approve, I think) and I’ll use the FDB’s “custom styles”  to keep each project’s configuraton a click away. Here’s how:

  1. First I will set up things just the way I want them. Currently, settings that can be saved as part of a custom style are: diagram size, line thickness, color, file naming procedure (let the FDB name them automatically, or specify each filename myself), file format, save-to location (my computer or my Dropbox), and, if I’m using Dropbox, which folder to save the files in.
  2. Once everything is just right, I’ll click over to the “Custom styles” tab in the FDB’s menu to review my choices, and select which ones I want to save.

    As you can see, I’ve set the diagrams to be small, heavy-lined, colored in gray, .PNG-formatted, and saved to Dropbox in a folder called “kirkismyhero.” I have un-checked the box for “File naming,” since I don’t want the FDB to remember that for my purposes on this project—I’ll just go ahead and use whichever system I’m already using that day.
  3. I’ll type in a name (“kirk project”) for my custom style, and click the “Save current settings” button (or press Enter).

    I’m done—that’s all there is to it. In the future, whenever I want to create more diagrams like the ones I’m making today, I can just go to the “Custom styles” tab and click on “kirk project.”

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Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.4

Hello, friends. I’m excited to share the latest round of improvements to the Fingering Diagram Builder. Thanks to all for your suggestions and bug reports, for your donations (every little bit helps), and for sharing with me some of the cool things you are making with the fingering diagrams.

A few names that need mentioning for recent extra-awesome support and/or ideas are bassoonist Dave Wells (check out his high-quality and handsome bassoon fingering charts), saxophonist/doubler Evan Tate, saxophonist Bart Walters (who blogs over at Music Collective), pianist Jason Gray, and clarinetists Kellie Lignitz and Rachel Yoder (who included the FDB in their column in The Clarinet and on Clarinet Cache). You internet people sure are nice!

Check out version 0.4 of the Fingering Diagram Builder, or read on for a guide to what’s new and improved.

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Fingering diagram builder, version 0.3

I’m pleased to announce some updates and improvements to the Fingering diagram builder. Thanks to all who have used it, and especially to all who have reported bugs, made suggestions, Tweeted or blogged about it, or offered compliments. And a very special thanks indeed to those who have used the “Send me reed money” link to support the FDB financially.

Go poke around the new-and-improved FDB, or read on for the full scoop.

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How to make a bad fingering chart

The fingering diagrams I’ve provided in the Fingering diagram builder came into existence gradually over the last several years. As part of the process of developing them, I’ve looked at a great many fingering charts.

I’d like to share a few of the most horrifying examples, and tell you why I’ve tried to make mine the opposite of these. I’m not naming names on the sources, but many of them are well-known and recognizable. Many come from players and pedagogues who I deeply respect for reasons other than their fingering-chart-making skill. (Please don’t identify them in the comments. I’ll edit you if you do.)

Case study no. 1

Here’s a partial saxophone fingering chart from my collection:

Commentary:

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Fingering diagram builder, version 0.2

Two months ago I introduced the Fingering diagram builder, something that I hoped people would find useful for quickly and easily creating fingering diagrams for woodwind instruments. Since then, something over 1,000 fingering diagrams have been downloaded, which I think is a nice start.

Many of those have been saxophone fingerings, and I attribute this to some kind mentions among the saxophone-blogger community (thanks Doron, Eric, David, Neal, Alistair, and Anton!).

Now I’m pleased to announce the new-and-of-course-improved version 0.2. Go take it for a spin, or read on about the new goodies:

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Introducing the Fingering diagram builder

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.

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