Is Recorder Fingering The Same As Saxophone?


Recorders are not as similar to saxophones as transverse flutes when it comes to the keywork. However, you could still find comparative traits between the two, such as playing position and sound delivery method.

Is recorder fingering the same as saxophone? The recorder has a similar fingering to a saxophone for natural notes. However, considering that the recorder operates in a radically different system (no keys or rods), you should expect variations in how fingers are placed, sometimes requiring holes to be covered halfway.

In this article, we'll discuss the basic differences in fingering between a saxophone and a recorder, highlighting the different approaches they have in light of their keywork system.

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What Makes A Recorder's Fingering Different From A Saxophone's?

To give some context, the recorder is a much older instrument, meaning that the technology employed for its keywork is highly primitive. The instrument is built in wood or similar material, with small holes drilled on the hollow body, including one hole located at the back primarily for the low notes.

Since the recorder does not have an intricate mechanism comprised of keys and rods, some notes are played through various tricks, such as partially covering the thumb hole or the other front holes. Glissandos are also achieved by way of finger swipes or pulls.

In this regard, the recorder has a different approach to most other modern woodwinds and can get overly demanding for performers not used to playing without flaps. More recent tenor and bass recorders include keys that allow the player to deliver low C and C# (and, on some models, D and D# as well), but they're still not comparable to what is usually found on a saxophone.

Moreover, recorders lean heavily on “forked” fingerings (by which notes are conveyed through a combination of closed holes with opened holes in-between). Fork fingerings are reminiscent of earlier days before vents and flaps were introduced. The holes were small enough to allow the air column to not completely deplete when passing through them, allowing further shaping down the line.

On the other hand, the saxophone has an entirely different mechanism, which relies solely on the use of keys distributed across the side and front of the instrument and those operated with the pinky finger.

The layout is highly complex and technical. It operates in a similar manner to the transverse flute, which uses a network of rods and interconnected pads called the “Boehm system”.

Under this framework, you will be pushing keys and levers that, in turn, would cover one or several holes through pads attached to each other and located at different heights across the instrument.

This venting system favoured a more linear approach, and players could easily memorize fingerings. Keep in mind that saxophones have roughly 20-23 tone holes that allow for far more versatility in fingering variety. This means that you can use a far wider assortment of fingerings and combinations to adapt to different phrasing patterns and scales.

For more information on saxophone tone holes and keys, check out my article How Many Keys Do Saxophones Have? (4 Different Sax Types).

On the flip side, a recorder barely has 8 tone holes on average (some models will sport pairing holes at the bottom). Hence, the need for forking is far more evident in these types of instruments, for they would have been rendered unplayable in the event of having to drill more holes.

It should be noted that saxophones are generally far more ergonomic than recorders. Recorders will demand greater accuracy on the part of musicians so that the air doesn't leak through the tone holes. Likewise, you will likely suffer finger strain quite often, for you're directly interacting with the holes without the aid of a key as support.

Finally, on a slightly related note, recorders are traditionally designed in both C (concert-pitched) and F. The ones designed in concert pitch are the soprano and the tenor. At the same time, the alto (treble) and bass are made in F. Naturally, the soprano and tenor would not be transposing, so they can easily be used to read and play melodies written on a piano staff, to give one example of another concert-pitched instrument.


Are There Any Similarities Between A Recorder And A Saxophone?

A notable similarity between saxophones and recorders is the identical fingerings for natural notes in the first and second registers. Also, you would use the thumb hole for changing octaves, similar to how the octave vent is placed on the saxophone.

However, this is where the similarities end. When dealing with a saxophone, the octave key operates two different octave holes. Pushing the octave key will open the neck or body octave vent, depending on how the rest of the keys are pushed.

To learn more about saxophone alto keys, check out my article What Is The Octave Key On Alto Saxophone?

On a recorder, you must manually cover the thumb hole for the lower notes and uncover it as you move upward. A great number of notes in the second and third octaves will require that you cover the hole halfway, which increases the difficulty by a significant degree.

Aside from these notorious contrasts, a saxophone player may feel “at home” playing the recorder because, just like the saxophone (especially the soprano saxophone), it is held vertically and straight, having both hands facing the upper body. Yet, the embouchure is largely different.

In the case of the recorder, the air input is directed through a narrow channel located inside the head joint that projects air against an edge called labium, creating thus the air column that would produce a different pitch depending on the holes covered.

The saxophone forms its air column by virtue of a combination of our input, the shape of our mouth relative to the mouthpiece, and the vibration of the reed as it interacts with the mouthpiece's upper lip.

Related article: Is Flute Fingering The Same As Saxophone?


This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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