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Saxophones Saxophone & Clarinet Compatibility?

MellowD

Lost In Theory
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544
Ok, so I'm very very new!

Do you have coffee? Are you sitting comfortably? If so, I shall begin ....

I've begun to learn Sax after being told its the same fingering as the recorder which I'm more than familiar with as my parents wouldn't let me have anything else aged 8yrs despite my pleas for many years to follow.

At 48yrs, "I LOVE IT" is an under-statement after a friend put one in my hand and said "now blow".

The myths?

I've been told that the finger positions for each type of Sax is different.
Recently I've been told, if you can play the notes for one sax you can play them all - it's the breath work and mouthpieces that make the difference for adjustment.

Reading through the thread regarding Soprano Sax for beginner, I'm now asking "are the finger positions for sax the same as clarinet also then?"

Would anyone please take time to clear some of this urbanism up for me?
Or have I now driven you to Gin/Whisky/Insert-Choice-Here?
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,904
This site has all the woodwind fingerings you could want, and a lot more besides:

http://www.wfg.woodwind.org/index.html

But here's a summary. Fingerings on the second register of the clarinet are somewhat similar to the upper register (ie with the octave key) on the sax. Not quite the same, though, for instance there is a thumb hole like on the recorder and the little finger keys work quite differently. In the lower register they are also similar, but they give you different notes, because the clarinet overblows at a 12th instead of an octave. So, eg, if you play a second-register G (above the stave) and close the speaker key (you can't call it an octave key any more!) you get a middle C. This leaves a gap between the lower register G (open fingering) and the lower of the two upper-register B's (worked by either the left or right little finger). This gap is filled by using the keys which are in similar positions to the palm keys on the sax. Above the upper of the second-register C's you have to learn some weird cross-fingerings, a bit like on the flute.

Blowing a clarinet is more different from blowing a sax than you might think (it certainly was for me, coming the other way). The angle of the reed in the mouth is different and the tip opening usually smaller so that the whole setup feels a lot tighter and more resistant.
 

MandyH

Sax-Mad fiend!
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3,552
Like you MelRSB, I learned recorder at a very young age. Then took up sax playing just under 4 years ago.
It was relatively easy to pick up the sax fingering, because, as you say, there is very little difference between the fingerlings in the lower 2 octaves. So just a few notes at the top to learn the fingerlings for.

And like you, I have loved playing the sax from day one.

As for clarinet, I can't comment. My daughter plays clarinet, and I have learned from her that the fingering of the clarinet above the break is the same as the saxophone. But I'm guessing the mouthpiece is different, and the angle of the mouthpiece into the mouth is definitely different.

All saxophones have the same fingerings though.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
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8,007
It it true that all saxophones in the saxophone family have essentially the same fingerings. A few exceptions would be the notes unique to one size or another such as a high G on soprano or a low A on baritone.

It is also true that all members of the clarinet family have essentially the same fingerings. The bass clarinet that goes below written low E is an exception in this family.

The piccolo has essentially the same fingerings as the flute, alto flute, and bass flute.
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
So, eg, if you play a second-register G (above the stave) and close the speaker key (you can't call it an octave key any more!) you get a middle C.
I've clearly missed something on my theory learning. Is this something peculiar to clarinet - Speaker Key instead of Octave Key since it is in a different range? Or is this a new politically correct international music speak?

As my main theory and practical learning prior has been for recorder, guitar and mandolin, I haven't heard the expression "speaker key" at all before.

Overall, your reply has been very comprehensive and useful though, so thank you very much for taking the time out. Unsure that I understand it all, but I can go away and expand on that now through experience. Very much appreciated!
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Thanks MandyH - picking up four years ago gives me inspiration.

I see you have a very nice collection there and have been checking out your set-up list. I have a Yani Tenor at the moment, and hope to have some money to get a Bauhaus Walstein Alto shortly, so I will be opposite way around to yourself. Also considering Soprano at some point, although when my money comes, I may just get both at the same time before the pennies get lost in the recession? Then at least I have it ready for action when I'm ready for new action :-0
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
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21,947
It it true that all saxophones in the saxophone family have essentially the same fingerings. A few exceptions would be the notes unique to one size or another such as a high G on soprano or a low A on baritone.

It is also true that all members of the clarinet family have essentially the same fingerings. The bass clarinet that goes below written low E is an exception in this family.

The piccolo has essentially the same fingerings as the flute, alto flute, and bass flute.
Beware - there is more than one fingering system for clarinet - the main distinction nowadays being Boehm and German system (aka Albert), but within the German system there are many variations.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,904
Beware - there is more than one fingering system for clarinet - the main distinction nowadays being Boehm and German system (aka Albert), but within the German system there are many variations.
I was forgetting that. I was talking about the Boehm system, which is the only one I've played.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
I've clearly missed something on my theory learning. Is this something peculiar to clarinet - Speaker Key instead of Octave Key since it is in a different range? Or is this a new politically correct international music speak?

As my main theory and practical learning prior has been for recorder, guitar and mandolin, I haven't heard the expression "speaker key" at all before.
Maybe "speaker key" is a Brit thing. The website I pointed to calls it a "register key". It can't be an octave key because it gives you a 12th rather than an octave.

The clarinet family overblows at a 12th because it has a cylindrical bore and is open at one end but essentially closed at the other. So (if you care about the physics) you get odd numbers of half waves resonating in the tube. So the basic frequency is half what it would be for a flute of the same length (flute is open at both ends so you get any whole number of full waves), ie an octave lower. Next harmonic up is three times that frequency, an octave plus a fifth (ie a 12th) higher (eg C below the staff to G above).
This accounts for the distictive sound of a clarinet and for the fact that you can play such low notes on a relatively small instrument. Sax is different again because the bore is conical so the waves spread out sideways as you go down the tube.

Overall, your reply has been very comprehensive and useful though, so thank you very much for taking the time out. Unsure that I understand it all, but I can go away and expand on that now through experience. Very much appreciated!
No trouble. Brought back some happy memories.
 

jbtsax

Well-Known Member
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8,007
Beware - there is more than one fingering system for clarinet - the main distinction nowadays being Boehm and German system (aka Albert), but within the German system there are many variations.
Thank you for that clarification. Those of us in the U.S. tend to think in terms of the Boehm system only because it is the system most commonly used.
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Maybe "speaker key" is a Brit thing. The website I pointed to calls it a "register key". It can't be an octave key because it gives you a 12th rather than an octave.
I AM a Brit, only two hours away from you. Just don't know enough to know all the lingo yet :)

The clarinet family overblows at a 12th because it has a cylindrical bore and is open at one end but essentially closed at the other. So (if you care about the physics) you get odd numbers of half waves resonating in the tube. So the basic frequency is half what it would be for a flute of the same length (flute is open at both ends so you get any whole number of full waves), ie an octave lower. Next harmonic up is three times that frequency, an octave plus a fifth (ie a 12th) higher (eg C below the staff to G above).
This accounts for the distictive sound of a clarinet and for the fact that you can play such low notes on a relatively small instrument. Sax is different again because the bore is conical so the waves spread out sideways as you go down the tube.
Ahhhh now this I understand - conical, cylindrical, straight bores etc. Come from a game keeping family, and also had my time as a petrol-headed girl. I also understand about the physics of wave-forms, so yep, you got my attention big time.

Overall, it sounds like I'll stick to sax for quite some time before contemplating a time share with clarinet. I guess there are some tunes that I so love with clarinet, thats the real reason I'm tempted if the fingering weren't too different to cross over to (Aker Bilk fan even though I'm still relatively young - yes I am!!!)
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
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3,904
I AM a Brit, only two hours away from you. Just don't know enough to know all the lingo yet :)
Yes (although you must drive faster than I do), but a lot of the online info out there comes from the US.

Overall, it sounds like I'll stick to sax for quite some time before contemplating a time share with clarinet. I guess there are some tunes that I so love with clarinet, thats the real reason I'm tempted if the fingering weren't too different to cross over to (Aker Bilk fan even though I'm still relatively young - yes I am!!!)
Learn to love the soprano sax (and Sidney Bechet).
 

old git

Tremendous Bore
Messages
5,545
Can I butt in here?

Tough, I have.

Did Böhm design a key system for the clarinet that was better than the existing simple system or is it an adaption of his flute ideas?

One must be careful when discussing flutes as they exist in conical and parallel bores and some even have peculiar adaptions or tapers in the head..
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Yes (although you must drive faster than I do), but a lot of the online info out there comes from the US.


Learn to love the soprano sax (and Sidney Bechet).
I can certainly be at Manchester Airport, in January, in 2hrs without breaking any speed limits, early afternoon. Maybe time of year and less traffic had something to do with it?

Thank you for the soprano recommendation. Will certainly look to get some Bechet pretty shortly. Are you suggesting I can get close tones from the Soprano to quell my wish to play clarinet purely so I can play Strangers on the Shore?

As I've said in a couple of postings, I have a compensation payout coming soon and plan to first get an Alto to go alongside my Tenor, however if there is enough I would like to get a Soprano as well, simply whilst the money is there to do so instead of disappearing into the abyss that is Utilities.
 

MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Can I butt in here?

Tough, I have.

....... some even have peculiar adaptions or tapers in the head..
Isn't that a medical condition that is treatable by a simply visit to the GP?

No apology - just had chance to be naive and silly because I have nothing technical to offer!

All this information is great and much appreciated, and I feel my understanding is growing so much faster on this forum than it would have otherwise!

Thank you all!!
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Can I butt in here?
Oh, go on, then.

Tough, I have.
Oh.
Did Böhm design a key system for the clarinet that was better than the existing simple system or is it an adaption of his flute ideas?
The latter. By Klosé and Buffet, who must have been modest chaps, as they didn't name it after themselves.

One must be careful when discussing flutes as they exist in conical and parallel bores and some even have peculiar adaptions or tapers in the head..
OK, for future reference:

When I say "flute", unless otherwise specified I mean "western concert C flute". Will that do, or have I left any more loopholes?

As for tapers in the head, I'm saying nothing.
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,947
Can I butt in here?

Tough, I have.

Did Böhm design a key system for the clarinet that was better than the existing simple system or is it an adaption of his flute ideas?

One must be careful when discussing flutes as they exist in conical and parallel bores and some even have peculiar adaptions or tapers in the head..
The Frenchman Hyacinthe Klosé adapted Böhm's system to the Clarinet.

Flutes, being open at both ends, overblow on the octave, whether conical or parallel bore.
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
I can certainly be at Manchester Airport, in January, in 2hrs without breaking any speed limits, early afternoon. Maybe time of year and less traffic had something to do with it?
Interesting. Never been to Lincoln, so I was just guessing.

Thank you for the soprano recommendation. Will certainly look to get some Bechet pretty shortly. Are you suggesting I can get close tones from the Soprano to quell my wish to play clarinet purely so I can play Strangers on the Shore?
Just meant that it plays in a similar range (except for the bottom half an octave of the clarinet) but it's a saxophone. And Bechet plays a similar kind of old-fashioned jazz but (IMO) does it better than Bilk. For example:
 
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MellowD

Lost In Theory
Messages
544
Learn to love the soprano sax (and Sidney Bechet).
WOW - thank you for this insight - went to check out about this chap and his sound, and you are so right - it would compensate me greatly instead of going down the Clarinet route, and the mood is spot on for my tastes. Going to have to get hold of some of those albums.

Anyone else you can suggest for Soprano listening please?
 

BigMartin

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,904
Johnny Hodges made some soprano recordings in his early years. Well worth tracking down. Eg...


I've never been able to get into John Coltrane's soprano playing (much prefer him on tenor), but you could give it a try.
 
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