How to play bis fingering on Saxophone

Bis key on Saxophone

Written by Greger Hillman, Saxophone teacher and music educator

Using the Bis Key on Saxophone can make a lot of sense in certain situations. However, that's not taking away from the fact that you should learn the regular B flat fingering on saxophone as well.

Let's start by looking at the actual key fingering for Bis on your Saxophone and then I'll show a few examples of when you should be using the Bis fingering for Bb instead of the regular fingering on your saxophone.

Finding the Bis key on Saxophone

The Bis key is the small key between the B (“index finger) and A (“second finger”) keys on your saxophone. It's played using your index finger placed between the B and Bis keys pressing down both with your index finger.

Bis key on Saxophone

You can place your index finger on top of both keys (“B and Bis”) while playing other notes, using the index finger without affecting their pitch.

That means you can alternate between the the regular B fingering and the combined Bis fingering depending on the music you are playing.

The Bis fingering is especially useful in key signatures like Bb, F, Eb and Ab. 

I like to look at it like a hack for saxophone players that simplifies the fingering technique making it easier to play musical lines faster.

How to use the Bis Fingering on saxophone

The Bis finger key is always used together with the regular B finger key on saxophone. It has no use on it's own. You play Bis by pressing down on both the B key and Bis key with your left hand index finger.

This is useful for certain melodic lines and saxophone scales. However, the Bis fingering does not work well for trills or chromatic movements.

The Bis key is used in an alternate B flat fingering

When you start getting into Saxophone Scales it becomes useful to learn and use the Bis fingering.

A perfect example of this is when you play the F major scale on saxophone. F Major Scale has one flat, the B-flat note, and the notes are F › G › A › B♭ › C › D › E › F.

As you start practicing the scale you can either play the primary fingering for B-flat or use the Bis Key moving through the major scale.

I recommend that you start with the basic fingering and then alter between the two fingerings, so that you start getting more comfortable with the Bis fingering as an alternative B-flat fingering on your sax.

The Bb 1 + 1 index fingerings

As the image show above there's yet another alternate fingering for Bb on Saxophone besides the regular Bb fingering and the Bis fingering.

I've nicknamed it the “double shooter” as you are using both your index fingers pressing down the B key and F key. This 1 + 1 fingering will also give you the Bb note.

The 1+1 index fingering for Bb is useful when you jump between certain note combinations.

For example, playing Bb to F smoothly and repeatedly can be hard with the regular Bis or Bb fingerings. However, the 1+1 index fingering makes it a breeze.

Conclusion

The Bis fingering and 1+1 index fingering are useful in certain musical passages as a sax player. It helps you through melodic lines that would be very hard to play smoothly using the regular Bb fingering on your instrument.

There are many etudes for saxophone that can help you work on these fingerings and saxophone technique.

I look at the Bis fingering and the 1+1 index fingering for Bb as great additions to my musical toolbox. Still, I do not use them all the time but I want to keep them ready for when I need them.

That's also the reason why I always practice my Major scales using both regular and alternate fingerings. I'd recommend that you start incorporating the Bis fingering for this type of scale as well as it will improve your overall saxophone technique.

If you are a saxophone beginner I strongly recommend that you learn the primary fingering for Bb first as it's a key fundamental you need to know too. 

I recognize that some classical saxophone instructors may look upon this another way and that's fine. I'm personally more focused on using the best fingering for each situation rather than chasing the “correct fingerings”. 

My basic point is that if you find yourself using awkward finger combinations the Bis fingering and 1+1 index fingerings for Bb could be great solutions. 

You can download the Fingering Chart here with clear fingering descriptions, including these alternate fingerings.

Both Bis and 1+1 index fingerings for Bb are great to learn and practice, so that you can pick them up from you musical toolbox when needed. 

Saxophone teacher online Greger Hillman

Written by Greger Hillman

Greger Hillman is a saxophone teacher with +36 years of experience playing saxophone. 

Popular resources:

Saxophone Course Online for Beginners

Beginner Saxophone Course

Online course 

Play your first song in less than 1 hour - even if you've never held a sax before - guaranteed!

TAKE THE COURSE

Saxophone Teacher Greger Hillman | learnsaxophone.com

Hi there 👋 I’m Greger Hillman, saxophone teacher, musician and founder of LearnSaxophone.com.

Quick Navigation

LearnSaxophone.com