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I've been playing my Antigua 590 soprano since 2004, and I've finally run up against a bit of a technical limitation:
View attachment 239538

It's from Philip Glass' Violin Concerto No. 1, arranged for soprano by Amy Dickson. When trying to move from B to front E a couple things tend to happen: I either pinch my finger between the front F and the B key, and/or I can't press the key fast enough and the note doesn't speak. It's a very uncomfortable, unreliable transition. I've tried adjusting the angle and height of the key, and adjusting its position in relation to the B key, but I still can't make the transition with fluidity. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to improve this?

Here's the key:
View attachment 239540 View attachment 239542

Looking at some current production horns, the front-F key on the Yanagisawa WO is flatter, the Yamaha is contoured around the top of the B key, and the Rampone slopes down below the height of the B key touch when closed. Would replacing the key with something shaped more like one of these improve performance? Is there something I can do to the stock key?

Thanks!
 

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Going from first finger B to the front F key is problematic regardless of the shape of the key. The possibility of "rolling" the first finger to open the key as is done on a clarinet A key is not an option due to the fact that LH 2,3 must go down at the same time and those fingers will want to go up with the rolling back of the first finger. I would suggest using the palm key fingering and get it as fast as possible.
 

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Yep. B to front F is the wrong choice for a fast passage like this and is never going to work. You've got to use palm keys.
 

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Ditto to posts 2 and 3. The front fingering for high E tends not to speak as readily as front F, and therefore can be problematic in a rapid passage. Going from B natural to high E with the palm keys is not that hard. The RH is free to move quickly. With practice, the transition should become pretty smooth.
 

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Don't use the front high E.

Try this fingering instead:

LH 123 and G# key
RH side high E

The high E should pop right out on this and the transitions to B, G#, G are easier. It's just an overblown G#. I haven't found a sax yet that this fingering didn't yield a good clear high E.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Drat, I really wanted to make the front E work!

Don't use the front high E.

Try this fingering instead:

LH 123 and G# key
RH side high E

The high E should pop right out on this and the transitions to B, G#, G are easier. It's just an overblown G#. I haven't found a sax yet that this fingering didn't yield a good clear high E.
That's an interesting fingering. I'll give it a blow in a bit. I tried the fingering that one would use on horns without front F and high E keys, e.g. palm Eb, 123, and G#, and could hit that more reliably than with the front E, but it was tricky playing through the first half of the passage with the G natural as I wanted to keep the G# key down. A little more practice and I could possibly get it. The fingering you suggest would remove the awkwardness of having to hit the palm key, so that's definitely a plus. Thanks!
 

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One final suggestion: Email Amy Dickson and ask her which fingering she uses. I bet she'd answer. Her arrangement of this concerto has become her magnum opus. Maybe ask if she has any other tips as well.
 

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One final suggestion: Email Amy Dickson and ask her which fingering she uses. I bet she'd answer. Her arrangement of this concerto has become her magnum opus. Maybe ask if she has any other tips as well.
Yes... and tell us back if indeed she doesn't use the palm keys fingering!
 

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1. Bend the Front F Lever lower. If the same travel is necessary, then you will need to reduce the cork thickness.
2. Reluctance to be pressed down:
a) It could be that it is set up so that it is trying to open the High F key past fully open. (This can be dealt with in a variety of ways depending on the exact situation.)
b) There could be too much friction in any of the sliding linkages that are involved. Incorporate Teflon into the silencing material and make sure no linkage material is deeply dented.
c) The Front F Lever could be trying to open the High F key more than is necessary. Travel can be changed by the altering the contact point of linkages, including where the Front F contacts the B key cup.

Improving this area can be tricky, because it can involve several related parameters and modifications to contact points and fulcrums of the lever systems. And there are quite a few subtly different lever systems used on different models.
Many saxes have a sliding adjustment incorporated, held by a screw. Often this is badly designed such that the best adjustment is beyond the end of the slot provided. Modifications are often possible.
 

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All of those things can be adjusted, but the fact remains that the front E fingering is a suboptimal choice for the passage shown. Remember, too, it's Philip Glass, which means most likely that this pattern repeats, over and over, and the tempo is probably pretty fast. That's exactly the kind of situation where you want to avoid sliding back and forth and back and forth. Which either my proposed fingering, or the palm key fingering, does.

I would hie thee to the woodshed and re-learn the passage using a different fingering, myself.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
One final suggestion: Email Amy Dickson and ask her which fingering she uses. I bet she'd answer. Her arrangement of this concerto has become her magnum opus. Maybe ask if she has any other tips as well.
That's a really good suggestion. I'm so used to listening to, or playing the works of, dead people that I sometimes forget that not all my musical heroes are dead.

1. Bend the Front F Lever lower. If the same travel is necessary, then you will need to reduce the cork thickness.
2. Reluctance to be pressed down:
a) It could be that it is set up so that it is trying to open the High F key past fully open. (This can be dealt with in a variety of ways depending on the exact situation.)
b) There could be too much friction in any of the sliding linkages that are involved. Incorporate Teflon into the silencing material and make sure no linkage material is deeply dented.
c) The Front F Lever could be trying to open the High F key more than is necessary. Travel can be changed by the altering the contact point of linkages, including where the Front F contacts the B key cup.

Improving this area can be tricky, because it can involve several related parameters and modifications to contact points and fulcrums of the lever systems. And there are quite a few subtly different lever systems used on different models.
Many saxes have a sliding adjustment incorporated, held by a screw. Often this is badly designed such that the best adjustment is beyond the end of the slot provided. Modifications are often possible.
Thanks for that! Everything seems like it's working fairly optimally. I've tried making adjustments where possible, but nothing helped with this particular passage. I think it's really just too awkward to hit front E at speed in this context.

All of those things can be adjusted, but the fact remains that the front E fingering is a suboptimal choice for the passage shown. Remember, too, it's Philip Glass, which means most likely that this pattern repeats, over and over, and the tempo is probably pretty fast. That's exactly the kind of situation where you want to avoid sliding back and forth and back and forth. Which either my proposed fingering, or the palm key fingering, does.

I would hie thee to the woodshed and re-learn the passage using a different fingering, myself.
The short snippet above appears a few times in the piece, but fortunately doesn't repeat itself in quick succession like other patterns in the piece do. Unfortunately, it does occur more than once, at a fast tempo, and the piece as a whole is very repetitive, so it's very easy to flub. I did, however, really like the fingering you suggested above, but I haven't put it into context with the rest of the piece, just messed around with the pattern before church this morning to see if I could play it. The high E came out a touch flat, but that can be corrected with a little more focused practice.

Next up on the piece, some terrible, awkward leaps (not really arpeggios, but kind of) from low to high, especially in the third movement, and the whole matter of circular breathing. It's definitely worth contacting Amy Dickson for help on this thing. It's a beast!
 
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