(Below is a slightly revised version of a previous post.)
ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Fingerings for F# and Eb
Fingerings for F# and Eb. I want to discuss two common fingerings that are (or should be!) taught to beginning clarinetists.
First space F#/Gb. Beginners are often taught to play this note in a chromatic scale with thumb and right bottom 2 side (trill) keys. I strongly suggest that teachers teach the standard fingering of left hand index finger instead. Have students use it all the time, even in the chromatic scale. In actual music it almost always is the preferred fingering for F#/Gb. Learning to “flip” between thumb F and index F# is an important technique for all clarinetists.
I was taught to introduce alternate fingerings early and often – and I agree. However, I would make it clear to the students that the basic (or guide) fingering is index finger. FYI, the great Robert Marcellus said in an interview, “…the two side trill keys are not chromatic ‘F#’ like a lot of people play. The chromatic of “F#” is just the index finger in the left hand.”
First line Eb/D# (also Bb/A# second space above the staff). Beginners are often taught to play this note with the left hand fork key (also called the “sliver” or “banana” key). Instead, teachers should teach the students to use the usual fingering of the top two fingers of left hand with right bottom side key. And, as above, I strongly suggest this fingering also in the chromatic scale. Again, this fingering is almost always the preferred fingering in actual music. Further, the left hand fork key is very difficult to use if a student’s fingers aren’t slender. FYI, one of my teachers told me a story about a pro clarinetist who disliked the left hand fork key so much he had it taken off the clarinet and its hole plugged up!
I want to restate that I think alternate fingerings should be introduced early and often. The more fingerings a clarinetist knows, the better he/she can solve technical problems in music. However, I’ve seen way too many young clarinetists (and clarinet teachers!) who don’t know the standard fingerings. This obviously hinders good technique.