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Beginner Keys that are hard to reach


Swadlincote, Derbyshire
Hi all,

I'm just learning the sax as some of you already know and really enjoying it so far. I've hit a couple of stumbling blocks so far, one of which I have already posted about! but I have another one...

Recently while practising, I have tried to listen to songs that have sax sections in them and then tried to copy what is being played without any notes. I don't do too badly and I can pick up the short simple passages within 10-15mins and hit the right notes, it obviously doesn't sound as good as the original player but here's hoping in a few years!

Anyway back to the point! some of these passages use keys that I haven't specifically learnt yet and I have to reference my key chart, I'm fairly good at remembering the keys and what note it plays so I'm not too worried about learning too many keys too soon, however, I am having problems physically with some of the keys in the fact that I cannot reach them properly. The low Bb key I have a problem with and then I also have problems going from low B to low C#, do you think my fingers will adapt to these problems or could it be that my sax is not very ergonomic (for me at least) and that I should maybe look at getting another sax? or maybe finger transplants to get longer ones!

Any words of wisdom appreciated!

The notes you mention rely on the strength and dexterity of your baby finger and that there are no leaks anywhere on the horn.
Everyone has problems with these at first-I still have trouble with them- but you just have to persevere.

If you are still haveing problems get someone else to play your horn just to make sure it is not a problem with your sax

Hi Mamos,

I probably didn't make myself perfectly clear but the notes themselves play fine so I don't suspect a leak or anything, its just the fact that my baby finger as you say has trouble reaching and pressing them properly. If you say you are still having trouble and been playing a while then I guess I'll just have to live with that, which is fine but I just thought it could be that my sax is not ergonomic enough for me.

I haven't had the chance to try out different saxes yet so I'm not sure how much difference there could be between them regarding button positions. I have the Haynes manual on order so maybe if I'm brave enough and experienced enough in a couple of years I could always re-locate the buttons myself!

Many thanks.
There can be quite a difference in the positioning of keys. On my Trevor James, I had to move my whole left hand about 1cm to reach the low Bb key, on my BW it's a simple stretch. You'll be surprised how much your hand stretches sideways given time. If you can reach the button now, you'll reach it much more easily soon. Try just sliding your finger from Bb to C#; the rollers are there to help.
I think the lower thumb rest is adjustable but I'm not sure about the top one as the octave key is positioned right next to it.

1cm distance probably isn't too bad but the low Bb key is probably at least 2cm lower for me, my fingers must be shorter!

I'll have a try of some different saxes when I'm at and see if there is any better ones for me, otherwise I'll just persevere and get my fingers stretched out as far as possible.

Thanks for your replies.

After visiting today I found that pretty much all of the saxes have the same ergonomics and would not help me at all. I didn't play them all but I held a lot of them to see what they were like, some of them felt very well made compared to mine! but they were a lot more expensive so I would expect it.

I guess I'll just have to get the finger stretching machine out :w00t:

Thanks for your help
It's sometimes possible to have the bell spatulas moved slightly. A lot depends on the design of the keys and the placement of the compound pillar, but you can usually eke a couple of millimetres out of them.
That said, I wouldn't recommend such a job until the player has had time to become accustomed to the horn's layout - which takes time.

If you look at how your fingers are stretched when playing you'll see that it's not so much an issue of how long they are, rather it's how far apart you're able to stretch them. You can't grow longer fingers ( generally! ), but you can increase the stretch using very simple exercises.

Thanks Stephen,

Yes I think I will try some exercises to get my fingers spread apart more first before I get my Sax mutilated! It is good to know that it may be possible to get the keys moved slightly though if all else fails :)
I think it's exercise as well, Jason. I was having the same trouble some months back. I have quite small hands. My teacher said it was just lots of practice and exercise and eventually I'd have enough strength in my little fingers to pull a lorry. I'm not quite there yet, but using the little finger keys is now pretty well second nature, certainly with the right hand. Just have to think about stretching the left for the low Bb still a bit. For us olders it's good for warding off the arthritic joints as well.

Similar threads... or are they? Maybe not but they could be worth reading anyway 😀

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