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Lack of precise finger control!


New Member
Ormskirk, United Kingdom

Wondering if anyone can help me? (Slightly long post! sorry :)

I've been playing (jazz) alto for a number of years, and think I play pretty well. Had a couple of years off and am now really getting going for the first time with some serious practice.

But - i'm really frustrated with my finger control. I have problems coordinating the pads *precisely*. There's sometimes a slight disturbance/overlap between certain notes, which causes particular problems with switching between B and C, F and F sharp (index/middle finger) crossing the 'break' (c/d) etc.

Firstly: is this a common problem or am I just malfunctioning?

And secondly: does anyone know any exercises/routines that I can play to help that aren't horrendously frustrating? I'm currently trying some Marcel Mule studies and playing scale patterns.

Thanks very much in advance. I feel I can't really move on until I get this right!

I don't think it's uncommon Jon. I've been through the same, and probably still hit it sometimes. My teacher's recommendation is to finger and say the notes in scales, rather than playing (which lets you out of thinking about embouchure and breath control for the moment) and get the keys down firmly. Start slowly and gradually speed up. Also think about where alternative fingerings would helpful in particular passages for notes like C and F#.
I'm with YC on this. I'm going through the same problems. Frightfully fearful that practise, time and a solid dollop of patience is the only remedy.

For exercises I use Pete Thomas' Taming The Saxophone and various play along (those arranged by Carl Strommen are brilliant) in different keys to make it more interesting.
Sometimes helps to just play slowly from one note to the next, thinking about the finger timing. One thing I've done (probably not recommended) is to finger notes towards the mouthpiece for a while, this breaks the pattern, then adjust the timing a little to get them all moving together.

Probably also worth looking at the sax - are all the key heights on each hand the same, this can give a lot of problems, not just fingerings. Also worth loking at how far off the keys your fingers come. They shouldn't really come off the keys, but should be in contact all the time. One finger high can cause timing problems.
String players have similar issues - co-ordinating changing the fingering with the change of direction of the bow. It's break process down into constituent steps and do it slowly so that you get everything co-ordinated then practice gradually getting quicker... My (inexpert) guess is that the sax is going to be very similar....
Thanks very much for all your help. Greatly appreciated! Great advice. I've taken out my old method books, and I'm breaking it down and am going to spend some real time over it.

May I ask kevgermany - what do you mean exactly by "finger notes towards the mouthpiece for a while"? Sorry - i'm new to this forum and don't quite understand!

Thanks again.
I was worried about that.....

Lets say you play G then D. Temptation is to close F, E, D keys instead of all together. Making a fast arpeggio. But if you close D, E, F the note really only changes as the F closes.

Ideally all keys should close at the same time. But consciously going against the problematic fingering breaks the habit, allowing you to then work on bringing all fingers down together.

Thanks for clarifying! I get it now! a good idea! I'll try it out tomorrow. Cheers.

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