Fingerings Bassoonists Actually Use

Quick Reeds

  • Start with a good fingering chart.  Here is the fingering chart I created and use with my students.
  • Use the resonance key on G every time, from day one.
  • Teach flicking on A, B-flat, B and C when they first learn the notes. Practice octave leaps.
  • Different half holes for different notes. A-flat is tiny, G is medium, F-sharp is huge. If the note cracks, the half hole is probably off.
  • The best fingering is one that plays in tune with resonant tone and fits with the notes around it. 

Every bassoonist should be equipped with a decent fingering chart. Most fingering charts are old, out of date or completely wrong all together. The bassoon has a complex system of over 20 keys and seeing fingerings visually is a great way to reinforce them and encourage students to figure things out on their own.

Special Fingerings to Use

Here are a few notes with fingerings that often cause confusion.

  • E-flat: always teach the full fingering
  • A-flat: tiny half hole and teach the pinky fingering only
  • Low F-sharp: teach the thumb fingering (don't teach them to put the right pinky down too, it does it automatically and this messes them up later)
  • Half-Hole F-sharp: teach the pinky fingering for half-hole F-Sharp with a huge half hole.
  • High D-flat: the long fingering sounds best, but you can also use the left hand only without the whisper key. Here's a video about choosing between the fingerings.
This is the fingering every bassoonist should learn for E-flat. We only use the left hand version for fast technical passages.

This is the fingering every bassoonist should learn for E-flat. We only use the left hand version for fast technical passages.

Always teach the pinky a-flat. The thumb key a-flat is rarely if ever useful.

Always teach the pinky a-flat. The thumb key a-flat is rarely if ever useful.

I prefer the thumb fingering (no half hole) for low F-sharp, and the pinky for high F-sharp. They are interchangeable, and it is worth knowing both since they can be used in different context. The thumb fingering is generally easier for beginners, but doesn't work well when next to a B-flat.

I prefer the thumb fingering (no half hole) for low F-sharp, and the pinky for high F-sharp. They are interchangeable, and it is worth knowing both since they can be used in different context. The thumb fingering is generally easier for beginners, but doesn't work well when next to a B-flat.

While more challenging, this is a great fingering for high d-flat. It has much better intonation than the left hand only.

While more challenging, this is a great fingering for high d-flat. It has much better intonation than the left hand only.

Do we really need the resonance key? Do we really need to flick?

The answer to both of these is yes! And you should teach them from the start rather than have students learn an easier version then try to unlearn it.

The resonance key (left hand pinky) is used primarily on Half Hole G (not F-sharp or A-flat) to bring the pitch down and focus the sound of an otherwise obnoxious note. Using this key regularly helps young students strengthen their little fingers since it's one of the harder keys to reach. 

Flicking is the done by tapping and releasing octave keys to assist with changes in register. For more information and handouts about flicking, check out this post.


Fingering Issues to Watch Out For

  • Middle E-flat: Avoid the left hand only versions of E-flat and never use the made up fingering that is D with the C-sharp key added.
  • High F: A lot of students try to create F by playing high E-flat and lifting the right hand ring finger. It sounds kind of like F, but it's horribly out of tune and the tone is terrible. Make sure they use the correct fingering listed in the fingering chart.
  • High F-sharp: Students often try to play this with the first finger down to make it easier to get to High G. It doesn't work and doesn't sound good. 
  • Middle D-flat: Make sure they are squeezing the whisper key, C# key and the low D key. Often they are not holding down the Low D key and the note is unstable. For High D-flat you will not use the Low D key if using the (better) long D-flat fingering.