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As I was practicing today, I started to notice that my fingers were super flat against the keys of my alto sax. I know that on piano you are meant to curve your fingers quite a lot, but I'm not sure so much about sax. I've been playing for 6.5 years so I'm not sure why this question only just came to me, but should I be curving my fingers so that I am pressing the keys with the very tips of my fingers, slightly curving them with a sort of natural position, or just leaving them flat. If I do need to change, is there anything I can do (like exercises or something) to transition more easily. Any help would be appreciated :)
 

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For every teacher that tells you that it’s something you need to work on there’s like five videos of someone ripping away at some ridiculous tempo with fingers flying all over the place, so I’m in the it’s a kind of stupid thing to obsess about camp. If it bothers you, fix it, if not it really doesn’t matter a bit. Play, have fun.
 

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I'm with swperry1. Do what feels comfortable and what works for you. Over 50 years of playing, I have to admit I've never once thought about how much my fingers are curved, or not, when playing!

No doubt some will come on here with all kinds of tips about taping your fingers to the keys and/or various rules about just how much to curve the fingers, how hard to push the keys, etc, etc. Much of it will no doubt be good advice...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
thanks for the help. I just had the thought because I know that when I changed my hand position on piano it did make a difference. that said, it has never actually bothered me on sax, so probably best just to stick with what I'm doing.
 

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thanks for the help. I just had the thought because I know that when I changed my hand position on piano it did make a difference. that said, it has never actually bothered me on sax, so probably best just to stick with what I'm doing.
Piano and keyboard players use their fingers for expression where we use our voices. Having generally good hand positioning and technique playing a sax is fine while on pianos and most keyboards you not only have to push the right buttons, but also use the pressure on the key(s) as the way to shape your sound. Curved fingers definitely give a person more control percussing the keys while a “flat” approach would be limiting. On sax we also don’t have to travel across a keyboard because we have octave vent to allow a larger range, so as long as you’re in a good position to get your pinky and palm keys in good time at a reasonable tempo I’m sure you’re fine. Unless you’re doing something abnormal your efficiency (quieting of your hands) should improve naturally as you gain more technique. If you feel like you need to work on it, every exercise I’ve ever seen involves playing a line and maintaining key contact while you increase the tempo...so really nothing worth spending extra time on, you can just focus on your fingers for a minute or two while doing any type of scales or other repetitive work.
 

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As I was practicing today, I started to notice that my fingers were super flat against the keys of my alto sax. I know that on piano you are meant to curve your fingers quite a lot, but I'm not sure so much about sax. I've been playing for 6.5 years so I'm not sure why this question only just came to me, but should I be curving my fingers so that I am pressing the keys with the very tips of my fingers, slightly curving them with a sort of natural position, or just leaving them flat. If I do need to change, is there anything I can do (like exercises or something) to transition more easily. Any help would be appreciated :)
I think Stay flexible, but not curved as much as for the piano. And not bending the joints and playing "flat-fingered" requires more energy than if you keep the finger joints curved slightly, in a more ready position.
 

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As I was practicing today, I started to notice that my fingers were super flat against the keys of my alto sax. I know that on piano you are meant to curve your fingers quite a lot, but I'm not sure so much about sax. I've been playing for 6.5 years so I'm not sure why this question only just came to me, but should I be curving my fingers so that I am pressing the keys with the very tips of my fingers, slightly curving them with a sort of natural position...
Some curvature is good if it can help keep your hands relaxed. If you hang your hands at your side, do they tend to be straight or have some curvature? There are mechanical reasons to use curved fingers, but I won’t go into that.

I often suggest to new students to imagine they are gripping a tennis ball or similar, but if you’ve been playing this long, just some awareness on your part is a good thing. Find what is comfortable and efficient, and play.
 
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I don't know if mine are curved or not, and I've been playing pro since 1964. Unlike piano, I don't think it matters as long as you are comfortable.

What I do notice is from years of making a living playing tenor sax, the fingers on my right hand are curved to the right. Decades of reaching for the low E, D, & C/Eb have reshaped my right hand.

Insights and incites by Notes
 

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The shape of the fingers is more important when playing clarinet or open hole flute in order to cover the holes. On saxophone the only advice I give my students is to keep the fingers of the left hand curved to avoid accidentally hitting the palm keys and to keep the RH pinky curved, and the LH pinky flat in order facilitate moving between those keys. However those are just suggestions and students are encouraged to find what works best for the size of their hands and the lengths of their fingers.
 

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Playing flat fingered/not bending the joints seems to belong in same playing level as slap-tonguing(not for effect) rather than the 1/4 or 1/2 inch of the tip of the tongue. [:D]
 

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Yeah. The most relaxed, natural position is best. Good to keep the fingers on the keys almost all of the time too.
No matter what you see other folks do. Just opinions ...
 

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As I was practicing today, I started to notice that my fingers were super flat against the keys of my alto sax. I know that on piano you are meant to curve your fingers quite a lot, but I'm not sure so much about sax. I've been playing for 6.5 years so I'm not sure why this question only just came to me, but should I be curving my fingers so that I am pressing the keys with the very tips of my fingers, slightly curving them with a sort of natural position, or just leaving them flat. If I do need to change, is there anything I can do (like exercises or something) to transition more easily. Any help would be appreciated :)
If your hands and wrists aren’t hurting you, don’t worry about what your fingers look like or what others think they should like while you’re playing. If you need assurance that straightened fingers are ok just which footage of Phil Woods playing.
 

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My cranky old sax teacher was able to make a lot of his lessons automatic in my playing. I developed some very good habits and after 30+ years, they persist. However, the one bad habit that "WE" failed to fix was my flat fingers. I don't think I will ever unhear his weekly rant that went something like ... "Well. If you had started on clarinet first, you wouldn't play with flat fingers!" It's one of the reasons I didn't do well learning clarinet at age 25. Correct it if you can.
 

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I started on clarinet and I played saxophone with flat fingers for a long long time - until I bought a back-up sax with a high F# key. My flat fingers kept hitting that key ... with undesirable results. It took a couple months for me to stop doing that completely, though the first week was definitely the worst.

But I played with flat fingers for 40+ years, doubling on clarinet and flute (open-holed), so I wouldn't give it a second thought if I were you. Only change if you have to (as I did).
 

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Search "images" for Charlie Parker.

That's the hand and finger position used by the saxophone's greatest virtuoso. Sure, you can get good results doing something different, but why not just start out with the hand and finger positions used by Bird? (relaxed with slightly curved fingers located right over the key buttons)
 

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... why not just start out with the hand and finger positions used by Bird? (relaxed with slightly curved fingers located right over the key buttons)
Yes, this is what makes sense and luckily it's what tends to come naturally for most players, I would think. I just checked (since I've never really given it much thought) and what turf describes is pretty much how my fingers are positioned; fingers curved just enough to place them right over the key touches.
 

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I agree with most everything said here, Babushka. I'll only add, that from a physical standpoint, the more flayed our fingers get when actually playing, the further the distance to have to come back down to the key pearls/touches. For myself, being weaker/less coordinated in my left hand than my right, I let my fingers curve naturally and pay attention to not lifting far off the keys. I notice that the less secure I am when soloing, the more I flay! Do what's comfortable, but since you're asking, I think a slight curve is more efficient and natural than 'super flat.' Thanks! FWIW, I'm a 45+ year pro player, but always working towards improvement!
 

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Side note: famed UK sax player John Harle recommends curved fingers in his book, for the reason that the further you get from centered vertical pressure on the key touches, the higher the chance of a blurred pad landing. At least that gives one an issue to check for.
 
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