ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Fingerings for F# and Eb

ClarinetMike says, “Teach good fingerings.”

ClarinetMike says, “Teach good fingerings.”

ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Fingerings for F# and Eb

Fingerings for F# and Eb. Below I discuss two common fingerings that should be taught to beginning (and all) 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 for F# is index finger. FYI, legendary clarinet performer/teacher, 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.”

[However, if for some reason you simply MUST teach trill key F# in a chromatic scale, I plead with you to make sure your students also know regular index finger F#. I’ve seen far too many clarinet students use trill key F# all the time as their usual fingering – I suspect their junior high band directors never taught the standard fingering to them.]

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 normal fingering of the top two fingers of left hand with right bottom side (trill) key.  And, as above, I strongly suggest this fingering be used 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 famous 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. As John Wooden said, “Little Things Make Big Things Happen.”

(Above post is a slightly revised version of a previous post.)

About ClarinetMike

American Clarinetist Michael Dean “ClarinetMike” performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise and acclaim such as, “world-class clarinetist and pedagogue,” “consummate performer,” “inspirational,” “outstanding teacher,” “super,” “brilliant performer,” and “one of the best clinicians I have ever seen.” Dr. Michael Dean’s career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Royal Northern College of Music, and Eastman School of Music, with recent recitals and master classes in Italy, Canada, Spain, Michigan, Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas. He is currently planning an international recital and master class tour of Israel for spring 2022. He is on the faculty of the international Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence. Michael Dean performs as principal clarinetist with the Dallas Chamber Wind Ensemble and Duo 35 with saxophonist Todd Oxford. He performed with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra for 11 years and has also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Abilene Opera, Southeast Chamber Players, and Red Mesa Trio. As a clarinet performing and recording artist, he has commissioned, premiered, edited, toured with, and recorded new and lesser-known clarinet works. He is featured on 6 commercial CDs, including the soon-to-be-released Postcards from Silver Lake CD. He is also prominent on New Media, such as YouTube and Facebook. He has given more than 600 master classes, clinics and performances at universities, colleges, conservatories, festivals, conferences, and high schools. His ClarinetMike Blog and ClarinetMike QuickTips are widely read on the internet and social media and viewed in more than 150 countries on 6 continents. His articles also appear in professional journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, The Bandmasters’ Review, and NACWPI Journal. He is a past president and former National Board Officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). A committed teacher and noted pedagogue, Dr. Dean’s students enjoy successful careers as professional performers, educators, and administrators and are consistently accepted into prestigious university music schools. They consistently win awards and distinctions at competitions and festivals including solo & ensemble, all-region, all-state, and various concerto and other competitions. After a successful 20 years of teaching the clarinet and music at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is currently an active clarinet and woodwind performer, teacher, clinician, and consultant based in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Colorado at Boulder, and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Philip Aaholm, Carol Jessup, and Jesse Youngblood. He is a BG France Performing Artist and his professional website is clarinetmike.com. Mike and his family live in Hurst, Texas. His family’s new Golden Retriever, Nimbus, is a relative of Andy.
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4 Responses to ClarinetMike’s Clarinet Teacher Tips: Fingerings for F# and Eb

  1. Greg Shirer says:

    Thanks Mike,
    As a beginning clarinet player, I appreciate your insight.

  2. Karl Krelove says:

    I agree about RH Eb. But I think pushing a small piece of cork under the LH “sliver” key so it won’t open is a lot easier than filling the hole if you actually remove the key.

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