Three Fingering Diagram Builder tutorials

May 14, 2012

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.”

The Keywork details tab and custom keywork presets

Okay, now it’s time to get down to business. I need to create diagrams showing only the saxophone keys pressed with fingers of the left hand, and only the keys of the clarinet’s upper joint (which, in this case, will be played with the right hand).

The saxophone diagram already has three built-in presets: one for a “standard” saxophone, one for a baritone with a low A key, and one for a soprano with a high G key. I’m going to add a custom preset, which shows only the keys I need. Tricky, right? Nope.

  1. I’ll start with the saxophone, by making sure I’ve chosen the saxophone diagram from the dropdown list near the top of the menu.
  2. Then I’ll click over to the “Keywork” tab, and from there click the “Keywork details” tab. This is where I can pick which keys I want visible.

    By default, on the saxophone’s “standard” preset, the only keys set to appear all the time are the main keys belonging to the index, middle, and ring fingers, plus a little horizontal separator between the hands. You can find each of these in the “Keywork details” list, marked as “always.” (There are other keys marked as “always,” but they are in little indented groups, and the group’s setting overrides the individual key.) I can hide those keys by marking them as either “as needed” or “never.” “As needed” means they will still show when I hover the mouse over the diagram (they are always visible in gray on touch-screen iDevices), but they won’t be part of finished diagrams unless I click on them. “Never” means they won’t appear even when I hover. I’ll set them to “as needed” just in case for some reason I want to use one of those keys later on. The keys I need to set to “as needed” are: Separator, Right first finger, Right second finger, and Right third finger.

    Now the diagram looks like this:

    And when I hover, I can see all the “as needed” keys:
  3. Now I just need to click over to the “Custom presets” tab, enter a name for the preset, and save it.

    When I want to use this preset in the future, I can choose it from the “Custom presets” tab, or from the presets dropdown list near the top of the menu. This preset will only show up when I have the saxophone diagram selected.

And the saxophone preset is ready to go. Another few clicks and the clarinet preset is ready, too.

Dropbox integration

Now I’m ready to start cranking out some diagrams, but I will need a good place to keep them organized. Sometimes I work on stuff from my laptop at home, other times I work on stuff on my desktop computer at work, and sometimes I even work a little from my smartphone. Dropbox provides a great way to have all of my current projects at hand on whatever device I’m using, with zero fuss, for free. I’ve already created my account, but if you still need to create yours then head on over to Dropbox.com, get yourself situated, and then come on back.

With my Dropbox account set up, I’m ready to get going.

  1. First I’ll click over to the “File options” tab. Under “Save images to,” I’ll click Dropbox, and when the sign-in form appears, I’ll enter the email address and password associated with my Dropbox account and click “Sign in.”

    Momentarily, I should be notified that I am “Signed into Dropbox as Bret Pimentel.” Unless your name also happens to be Bret Pimentel, this small detail may differ when you try it yourself.
  2. Since I might like to get some feedback from friends on my fingering diagrams, I will check the “Use public folder” box.
  3. Now I can just create and save as many diagrams as I want. Since they are being saved to Dropbox, they are immediately available on all my computers. And since I chose to use a Dropbox public folder, the FDB gives me a link each time I save a diagram, that I can copy and paste into an email or Tweet or whatever so that other people can see what I’m working on.

All done

Here are the finished fingering charts:

New and improved right-handed clarinet fingering chart. Click for larger.
New and improved left-handed saxophone fingering chart.

 Let me know what you’re making with the Fingering Diagram Builder!

Comments

  1. Christel Rice

    You had me at Rahsaan Roland Kirk. This is quite helpful, and will be turning this over to a couple of my “doubler” colleagues/friends. thanks!

    Reply

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