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Getting Flat Keys under my fingers!

Halfers

Halfers

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As part of my current self-imposed training schedule, I'm using the Warm up and and chord tone exercises from the beginning of TTSiii. These are chord exercises in all keys.

I'm starting simply and going through the exercises in C Major, E Major and Ab Major. I'm finding the exercises on C and E Major to be relatively easy and I'm able to play around with these exercises by skipping between chords shapes, rather than just following the chords through in sequence.

However, I'm really struggling getting the Ab Major scale down. I think this is because I'm just not used to thinking in flats. Even while standing over my Piano, looking at the relevant keys, I struggle to get my fingering right.

I guess as with so many things, perseverance and practice will pay off, but just wondered if the more experienced players and teachers could share any advice and tips getting into the mindset of 'thinking in flats'?
 
Veggie Dave

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Try thinking of it as Fm instead.
 
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Veggie Dave

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Im afraid I disagree, Dave.

Fm is different from Ab major

Exactly.

and has different notes.and these notes are important in different ways

Not in this context it doesn't. The problem appears to be physically fingering the scale rather than understanding the theory. Knowing you can do something can be a big breakthrough when you're struggling, so if playing Fm rather than Ab gets you going then use it. Once you can play Fm all you're then doing is starting the scale from a different point, but now you're not encumbered with the worry that you struggle with flat scales.

I've used this idea numerous times when I've been struggling and it works for me. To be honest, what works for you would have had me running for another instrument as it would have just drowned me in complex concepts when all I'm trying to do is get my fingers to move the way I want them to.

We all have to find a way that works for us. The more options we have the better ... well, assuming you're not teaching bad habits, anyway. ;)
 
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Veggie Dave

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Okay, which notes are physically different?

There a few versions of the F minor scale.

No, there aren't. F minor is F minor.

F harmonic minor is not F minor. F melodic minor is not F minor.
 
kevgermany

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F natural minor does have the same notes as Ab major. It's the relative minor of Ab major, a minor third down.

What differs is the functions of the notes within the scale. But Dave has already said that. If it helps with fingering, great. I found this method of playing minors helps.
 
kevgermany

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What usually helps with learning scales is to work up in the count of flats or sharps. So if flat keys, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, etc. This sequence adds 1 flat to what you know already.

The trouble with Ab major/F minor is that you've got 4 flats in both cases. But if you're learning minors by adjusting the major (flattening the third etc.) it may help.
 
Colin the Bear

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Are we talking saxophone? Just play G# and lip it in:rolleyes:

Alto starts with 3 flats so players mostly are playing in sharp keys.

The awkward keys are only awkward because of lack of practice and familiarity.

I find adding chromatic top to bottom helps with fingering problems. Also finding a familiar piece in the key you're working on helps with pitching it.

I'm quite lazy. I only work on the stuff I'm going to need for performance. For most jazz work numbers C F Bb Eb Ab covers it. For alto A D G C F.

Of course if you're aiming at being a proper musician then you'll need to be fluent in all 12 major keys, their relative and unrelative minors, all the exotic modes etc.

It gets a bit confusing when switching between Bb and Eb instruments. Your fingers know how to get on with things but your ear tells your embouchure your fingers are wrong:confused:
 
Jeanette

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As far as getting scales under your fingers goes working clockwise and anti clockwise around the circle of fifths,/fourths helped me.

My tutor also had me play certain scales and then play them starting on each note of the scale, this really helped me with finding the notes :)

It takes time though and some brain power the more sharps and flats you add :)

Jx
 
fibracell

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Take you time !! Do Bb then Eb scales and be methodical. Go slowly and progress to Ab.

Play your scales like a performance - with mixed articulations etc.

One thing you can do is play the C scale 1 or 2 octaves (up/down or both) and then start to add flats (or sharps) - always starting on the C. Go slowly - and make sure you think about the notes before starting to play them. Don't assume your muscle memory will be correct. Visualize the notes, when you are away from the instrument too.
 
jbtsax

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I think there may be two issues with playing in keys that involve flats. One is reading the music, and the other is becoming familiar with the fingering patterns. In my experience, the answer to both is the same. As others have stated, start with the key of F, then go to Bb, then Eb etc. In other words the scale of 5ths counter clockwise.

When approached in this fashion both memorizing scales and reading scales and exercises in that key, when going from one scale or key to the next, only one note changes. This is most effective when the previous key or scale is fully mastered.
 
Halfers

Halfers

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I found it helpful to think about the theory of it away from the sax. Anywhere/anytime
Try spelling the scale out inside your head, often

I've been giving this a go. I think the thing I've been struggling with is that whereas the piano is such a visual thing, the Sax is about feeling the keys going down, without any visual queues (unless you look in a mirror, which might be a bit off putting in itself).

I guess I can get away with some sketchy theoretical knowledge at the piano, because it's easier to pick out the patterns of keys without having to worry about any of the keys being labelled either a flat or a sharp. My mind is getting a bit bogged down with translating the notes into finger positions on the sax. For whatever reason, multiple sharps are easier for my tiny mind to get around, than multiple flats! I guess the key, as others have suggested, is to take a step back and introduce flats one at a time.
 
Halfers

Halfers

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Just be patient it will come :)
Jx

The good news is that with the C Major and E Major keys I can hear and feel some real improvement. It's a small mystery why E major with 4 Sharps is a relative breeze compared to Ab with 4 flats. Probably just one of those odd learning things. If you could just point me in the direction of where I could buy some of this... patience, you say? :)
 
Jeanette

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The good news is that with the C Major and E Major keys I can hear and feel some real improvement. It's a small mystery why E major with 4 Sharps is a relative breeze compared to Ab with 4 flats. Probably just one of those odd learning things. If you could just point me in the direction of where I could buy some of this... patience, you say? :)

:rofl:

Join the queue!

Unfortunately not, my husband often says when they were handing out patience I didn't have the patience to wait in the queue :)

Jx
 
Colin the Bear

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The saxophone is designed to play in sharp keys imo. F# is just a different finger, C# is all off, G# is designed to let you park there and forget about it, D# add a pinky, A# has a Bis to park on, long or side.

Second instrument is always a problem because the mind set is different. You know you can play but apparently you can't. So frustrating.
 
jbtsax

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The saxophone is designed to play in sharp keys imo. F# is just a different finger, C# is all off, G# is designed to let you park there and forget about it, D# add a pinky, A# has a Bis to park on, long or side.

Second instrument is always a problem because the mind set is different. You know you can play but apparently you can't. So frustrating.
Hmmm. . . I could argue that the saxophone is designed to play in flat keys. Gb is just a different finger, Db is all off, Ab is designed to let you park there and forget about it, Eb add a pinky, Bb has a Bis to park on, long or side. :) :) :)

It is all how you look at it. The only reason sax players think the sharp keys are easier and fit their instrument better is because they spend more time playing in those keys. Common keys for band music are C, F, Bb, and Eb concert. Take a trombone or flute player and show them B naturals, E naturals and F sharps. They have the same reaction.
 
Tenor Viol

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I suspect as alluded to elsewhere that you may be having fun dealing with enharmonic names such as F# and Gb etc. That's just a matter of practice.

As a string player I can tell when the arranger is a wind player as I end up with 5 or 6 flats in the key signature
 

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