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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Dear all,

I am new here. I am a woodwind teacher who is looking to add the alto saxophone to the list of instruments I play. I have been browsing this site for information on mouthpieces and instruments.

How crucial is the high F# key for classical playing? I will be playing exclusively pieces for saxophone and piano, predominately French pieces by the likes of Françaix, Maurice, Milhaud and Bozza.
 

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High F# is normally quite easy to get with other fingerings, but I find that in some passages, particularly fast runs, the F# key comes very handy. I wouldn't do without it.
 

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There are only two reasons NOT to get a high F# key:

1. You are addicted to the sound of a particular type of vintage horn that doesn't have a high F# key.

2. After playing horns with and without the key, you have decided that for you, the high F# key is unnecessary, and may even negatively affect a horn's tone quality. Some experienced jazz players seem to feel this way. Few classical players do. This reasoning also seems to be applied to tenors more often than to altos, probably because altissimo is easier on tenor.

As a complete beginner, you don't fall into either of these categories, so your decision is easy: get a high F# key. Don't conclude that you can do without it until you've learned what it can do.
 

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There are only two reasons NOT to get a high F# key:

1. You are addicted to the sound of a particular type of vintage horn that doesn't have a high F# key.

2. After playing horns with and without the key, you have decided that for you, the high F# key is unnecessary, and may even negatively affect a horn's tone quality. Some experienced jazz players seem to feel this way. Few classical players do. This reasoning also seems to be applied to tenors more often than to altos, probably because altissimo is easier on tenor.

As a complete beginner, you don't fall into either of these categories, so your decision is easy: get a high F# key. Don't conclude that you can do without it until you've learned what it can do.
I'd hate to have to play altissimo G without an F# key.
 

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"Crucial" is not a term I'd apply to the high F# key. It is not really necessary, let alone crucial. However, if you like it, that's fine. I wouldn't pick a horn based on whether or not it has that key.

I don't find altissimo G to be a problem without the F# key; like any altissimo note, you have to learn how to voice it. And altissimo F# certainly does not require the F# key.
 

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Probably more classical music was played on saxophones prior to the high F# key than after it became standard. Some might argue its popularity was due to playing rock and roll in guitar keys such as concert E. My own personal view is that it's an impediment to learning altissimo, as being able to finger and blow an altissimo F#3 without the added keywork is an important bridge to the more difficult notes right above it.
 

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To hell with the high F# key. What we need more is a high G key which would truly be useful. Anyway, to second what Grumps said, Sigrud Rascher didn't have a high F# key on his True tone alto as they didn't have it yet. He seems to have done fine as did Marcel Mule who didn't have one either. Jackie McClean played like a demon on alto and that included plenty of altissimo without the aid of that key. Never heard that Bird complained about hitting that F# either because the fact is that, as said already, altissimo F# is one of the easiest notes to play on any sax without an extra key for it.
 

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"Crucial" is not a term I'd apply to the high F# key. It is not really necessary, let alone crucial. However, if you like it, that's fine. I wouldn't pick a horn based on whether or not it has that key.

I don't find altissimo G to be a problem without the F# key; like any altissimo note, you have to learn how to voice it. And altissimo F# certainly does not require the F# key.
Yeah, but once you start using the high B and F# key fingering for G all the others seem stuffy and weak. It's also the only fingering I can use to split the G consistently. With just the front F sometimes it'll split and sometimes it won't. Plus the resistence built into that note completely goes away when you use the High B and F#. You can also use the Front F and F# key if that's easier to transition to the other altissimo notes. It's almost the same. The one using front F is a bit stuffier.

Plus I use the F# key for scales. It's way faster in a lot of cases. Some no. Depends on the key and the scale. The only other fingering I use for F# is the Front F, Side Bb and the right hand index finger (the F key). That one transitions to the G really well if you use the standard G fingering.

I just know that if my horn didn't have one I'd miss it a lot. And probably end up getting one that had it again.
 

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I just know that if my horn didn't have one I'd miss it a lot. And probably end up getting one that had it again.
You find it useful, having got used to having it. That's fine, but my point is that it's not crucial or even necessary.
 

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But if the horn was made with one originally and then they started taking them away (the reverse of what happened) people would be saying "Hey, you're missing a key"

But since it came after folks harp on them.

I'd say the alternate F# key is the most useless key on the horn. 17 years and I don't think I've used it once.
 

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You find it useful, having got used to having it. That's fine, but my point is that it's not crucial or even necessary.
Whether the standard is "useful," "crucial," or "necessary," it must be remembered that the OP will be playing classical alto, not jazz/blues tenor.

To repeat what I said above, there is no good reason for this OP not to get an alto with a high F# key for the literature he wants to play. He needs to find out for himself what that key can do.
 

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I played high F#s for years before there was such a thing as a high F# key. I still do. So you don't need it to be able to play that note.

My guess, though, is that it probably can make that note easier to play. So it can't hurt.

One question: you don't play alto saxophone yet but you plan to play all the standard literature for master saxophonists? That sounds to me like a pretty tall order.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I played high F#s for years before there was such a thing as a high F# key. I still do. So you don't need it to be able to play that note.

My guess, though, is that it probably can make that note easier to play. So it can't hurt.

One question: you don't play alto saxophone yet but you plan to play all the standard literature for master saxophonists? That sounds to me like a pretty tall order.
Yes I am planning on playing these pieces once I have bought an alto saxophone. Tall order indeed, but it is good (for me) to have a lofty goal to push myself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
A few people here have mentioned the need for the high F# key for the classical repertoire. However, when I took a cursory look at some of the pieces I want to learn, I didn't see anything higher than F:

Bozza Aria
Françaix Danses Exotiques
Maurice Tableaux de Provence
Milhaud Scaramouche
Jolivet Fantaisie-Impromptu

Is the high F# only present in some of the more virtuosic (and more modern) classical pieces?
 

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as a non -classical saxophonist,i don't know about the use of highF# or not.....
for some strange reason i thought classical music was from centuries ago....?
yes,i really don't know....!
cheers,philip
However, when I took a cursory look at some of the pieces I want to learn, I didn't see anything higher than F....
Is the high F# only present in some of the more virtuosic (and more modern) classical pieces?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
as a non -classical saxophonist,i don't know about the use of highF# or not.....
for some strange reason i thought classical music was from centuries ago....?
yes,i really don't know....!
cheers,philip
I suppose "classical" refers to non-pop and non-jazz playing, while "Classical" refers to the period from around 1750 to 1810.
 

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I suppose "classical" refers to non-pop and non-jazz playing, while "Classical" refers to the period from around 1750 to 1810.
That's the narrowest range for classical music I've ever seen in my life. 1700-present.

People still make classical music.

There's nothing virtuoso related with the F#. With or without the key on your horn. It might have just not been written for sax very much because classical composers always referenced the range of the instruments to fit their arrangements. So since saxophones did not have F# keys on them they didn't write it for them.

I wonder though..... Because trumpets are notorious for being able to play quite high. What is considered the standard range for a trumpet? I'm sure there's many works that had incorporated an "extended range" even into the sections. Saxophone (being a much more modern invention) hadn't really had it's full potential discovered until some decades later.

I have a feeling composers just took the range of the horn very literally for a long time. 2.5 octaves. Nothing more nothing less. Low Bb to 2 Octaves and a Fifth above. Until extended techniques started to become commonplace and then they eventually added the F# key. And what do you know? More works started coming out with this key incorporated

I've seen a lot of modern classical works for Alto that have crazy altissimo. But I guess we're now splitting Genre's. Is it "Classical" Classical or "modern" "avant garde" classical.

Still though.
 

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"Classical" with a capital C means something different.
I'm going to assume you are not actually joking and will research. But I did laugh out loud and woke up my kid.

Edit: This is not something easily found with a google search or 7.

Hundreds of thousands of returns on Classic vs Classical though (non case sensitive)
 
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