How to Play the Alto Saxophone With a Key Chart

Written by steven j. miller
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How to Play the Alto Saxophone With a Key Chart
The alto saxophone has several keys to play chromatic notes. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Knowing how to use a fingering chart will make it possible to play the saxophone effectively. The saxophone has several main keys and smaller subordinate keys that must be depressed through the use of the index, middle, ring and pinky fingers. Some notes also require the use of the palm to depress keys. Learning the basic fingering positions first will enable you to effectively play major and minor scales, and music written for the alto saxophone.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Fingering chart

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  1. 1

    Position your left hand on the top portion of the sax. Place the thumb on the back thumb rest. The index, middle and ring finger go on the top three large keys. The pinky hovers over the four small buttons attached to the roller at the end and is used to play combinations of the four buttons.

  2. 2

    Place your right hand on the bottom of the sax. The thumb goes on the thumb rest on the bottom. The index, middle and ring finger go on the three large buttons on the bottom. The pinky hovers over the two, small, gold keys attached to a roller.

  3. 3

    Use your fingering chart, also known as a key chart, to identify the pitches for each note you must play. Practice playing all your major and minor scales to learn the fingerings.

  4. 4

    Analyse the key chart, the key chart has a series of holes that show all the keys on the sax. Simply match the chart with the keys on the saxophone. The keys that should be depressed are marked in black ink. Those that are not depressed will be hollow, with just the outline of the key showing.

  5. 5

    Use the pinky to play the smaller keys on the left and the right hand. You will have to roll your finger over the keys when required to depress more than one key simultaneously.

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