Fingering Charts

Update (6/25/2014): Find the latest version of my fingering charts here: http://davidawells.com/resources/fingering-charts/

E-flat fingering

My favorite fingering. No, really...

A couple of weeks ago, I started teaching a high school violist who decided that she’d like to play the bassoon. Not knowing if she’d gotten her hands on a fingering chart or not, I decided to take one to her lesson. I have quite a few charts lying around, but as I looked through them, I realized that I didn’t completely agree with any of them, at least not for use by a beginning student. I ended up taking her a copy of a chart that I’d gotten from the Conn-Selmer web site, but only after I’d marked it all up with a pen. It turned out that she did have a fingering chart already, but I didn’t completely agree with it, either. As I was driving home from her first lesson, I thought to myself how silly it is to give a student a fingering chart that I’ve marked all over, especially since this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve done so. I resolved then and there that I’d make my own fingering chart.

Awhile ago, I’d come across the very cool and well-thought-out Fingering Diagram Builder built by Bret Pimentel, multiple-woodwinds teacher at Delta State University. (You can read more about the FDB here). But until now, I hadn’t done any more than just play around with it. I used Bret’s FDB to crank out an image for each of my basic fingerings. I included my most common alternate fingerings, but didn’t get into slur, muted, trill, or other variations.

Once I had all of the images, I had to decide how best to lay them out within a score. I’ve been using Finale for years, but I’d recently started playing around with LilyPond. LilyPond is an open-source music engraving program that produces very nice-looking scores – far closer in appearance to good old-fashioned hand engraving than Finale’s often jagged and weirdly-spaced output. The downside (if you choose to see it that way) is that LilyPond has no graphical user interface; it generates scores from specially formatted text files, and is in that way more like a programming language than a traditional notation program. But, I’d been looking for a project to undertake with LilyPond, and this seemed like just the thing.

It took awhile to get the hang of LilyPond, and some formatting things I only ever got by trial and error. But, I finally ended up with two versions of my personal fingering chart. The first is the one I’ll hand students. It covers the more-or-less standard range of the bassoon (Bb1 – E5), uses only bass and tenor clefs, and includes a diagram with key names. The second, which I’ve dubbed my “Pro” chart, discards the key diagram and switches to treble clef at the top end. Oh, it also goes up to Bb5 (although I don’t yet have a reliable fingering for A5 – anybody?).

Since Bret has made the diagrams generated by his FDB available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) license, I’ve done the same with my charts. Please, take a look and let me know what you think. Is there anything I could do to make them easier to read, easier to use, or just plain look nicer? Or do you spot any fingerings that I’ve rendered incorrectly?

  • Bret Pimentel

    February 1st, 2012

    Reply

    Great post! I always love to see people making good use of my fingering thing. I had a similar story with a particularly bad bassoon fingering chart that I was trying to use for a woodwind methods class–that experience led directly to the creation of the fingering diagram builder.

    I have also been experimenting with Lilypond lately, so I was especially pleased to see you get such nice results using the diagrams. Lilypond is an incredibly powerful tool (and multi-platform and FREE), but a challenge to use.

    These charts look great–I’ve downloaded them for my own use and for sharing with my students. Thanks so much for making them available!

    • David A. Wells

      February 1st, 2012

      Reply

      Thanks! Hope you get some good use out of them.

      I’ve often heard people comparing Finale and Sibelius by saying that Finale is much more powerful, but harder to use as a result. I think the same thing could be said about LilyPond compared to Finale. LilyPond can produce just about anything you’d want in the realm of musical notation, and do it beautifully, as long as you’re willing to spend time figuring out how it works.

      Two current limitations of LilyPond that I ran into with this project are limited support for embedding graphics files and precise alignment of notes. For instance, there’s no way to simply center a whole note in a bar – some of my spacing is a little odd as a result. Nothing that really offends the casual eye, but it’s enough to bug me :-).

  • Paul

    February 19th, 2012

    Reply

    Found this post on Reddit – thanks for the resource! I played bassoon for six years in university and high school and am planning on returning to the study soon but my resources will be limited by my situation, so things like this are a real help. I’ll need to check out the links in your sidebar too :)

    • David A. Wells

      February 20th, 2012

      Reply

      Glad to be of help!

  • Nadya

    July 11th, 2012

    Reply

    Thank you for posting the fingering charts. I’m a third year bassoonist but I forgot how to play some of the higher notes and I lost my chart. All the other chart’s I found had wacky fingering for the notes I can remember, so they were no help but yours helped.

  • Lindsayheesom

    October 26th, 2012

    Reply

    Can anyone assist me with a good quality trill c# 2nd space bass clef to d natural ie the fingering

  • Kevin Raftery

    July 10th, 2014

    Reply

    Probably too late to help — and you may disagree — but Lindsayheesom, you might simply use the C# trill key on top of the C# fingering.

  • Amazing1Der

    July 18th, 2014

    Reply

    Hello Sir,

    Grazie! I am an aspiring junior at college and consulted the web for excerpt woes :).

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