What Are Tenor Sax Fingerings?


Having to learn all of the fingerings on the tenor sax may seem to be an insurmountable task; however, with the proper practice technique and the right fingering chart, you can learn the fingerings and improve your skill. There are five ranges the saxophonist must memorize to become competent. Learn each of these ranges by practicing major and minor scales each day along with a fingering chart.

First Octave

  • The first octave tenor sax fingerings are most often used in music. They range from the written A below middle C to the C sharp an octave above middle C. To play the lowest note, hold down the first three main keys of the left hand and the first three main keys of the right hand in addition to the low C side key. From this basic position, you can use a fingering chart to learn the rest of the pitches.

Second Octave

  • The second octave is less common; but is an important octave to learn. Using scientific pitch notation, middle C appears as C4. Each C above or below that gains or loses a number. In this case, the second octave begins on D5 and extends to F6. To play the notes in this range, you will need to use the left thumb or octave key. It is located at the top of the instrument on the side. The first note uses the left thumb key, the first three main left keys and the first three main right keys.

Lower Altissimo

  • The first note above the second octave is F sharp 6. This note may be played most easily use the octave key along with the first and third left main keys and the first main right key. You may find that you have to depress the lower Eb key as well if it is out of tune on your saxophone. The range of the lower altissimo is a minor third and stretches from F sharp 6 to A6. Using the tenor saxophone-fingering chart, you should experiment to see what key combinations sound best.

Middle Altissimo

  • The middle altissimo range starts with A sharp 6 and ends on C sharp 7. The fingering for A sharp 6 is less straightforward than the other fingerings. It requires the use of the octave key, the third key of the left hand and the right hand C side key. The C side key is located in the middle of the set of three smaller keys. Practice scales that extend into the altissimo register to learn your fingerings; scales help to memorize the pattern of fingerings.

Higher Altissimo

  • The upper altissimo is the highest range of the tenor sax. Upper altissimo notes rarely appear in music, and require the use of the octave key for each pitch. The range extends an octave and one-half step from D7 to D sharp 8. The first note of this register uses the octave key, the left F key, the C side key and the third right main key.

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