“What’s The Fingering For Ab?”

The most aggravating part of teaching elementary musicians is not dealing with the dying chicken sounds. Nor is it replacing broken reeds or fixing stuck valves. Nor is it hearing Hot Cross Buns for the 278,000th time. The most frustrating part of teaching elementary musicians is repeating the same information week after week as if you’re speaking to Dory, the fish from Finding Nemo who has no capacity for short term memory.

A prime example of this is the question, “What’s the fingering for Ab?”

Now mind you, I teach the chromatic scale to my second year band students. It’s a regular part of our daily warm-up routine. I teach various major scales, and I teach about how to read key signatures. But on a regular basis, I hear this question over and over. As I was in the process of drafting this blog entry and had already decided on its title, a student asked me verbatim, “What’s the fingering for Ab?”

Ironically, it seems that Ab is a tricky note on just about every instrument. Flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone… they all use Ab from time to time, but just rarely enough for students to forget the fingering.

The moral of the story is that I have decided to exercise patience and happily answer the question whenever it is asked.

I’m working on applying the same principle to similar questions. “What are we supposed to wear for the concert?” “What songs are we playing?” “What time are we supposed to be there?” But no promises.

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6 thoughts on ““What’s The Fingering For Ab?”

  1. Oh Man! Steve this is so true. These questions drive me nuts…I heard an educator say once, when you get a question like this, answer back with this, “If you had to start somewhere to figure this out yourself, where would you begin?” Or I say, “If I wasn’t here to answer what the fingering for Ab was, where might you find the answer?” If I get an “I don’t know…” I become very impatient and take their birthday away, and then turn to the fingering chart on the back cover of their band method.

  2. I gotta side with Ken on this one…..I have a quiver full of snappy but gentle retorts that put the responsibility for learning back on the learner. Step 1: make sure that all of the information really is available to them. Step 2: teach them to use it, demonstrate it in class, and let them see you refer to it in real situations. Step 3: refuse to enable laziness. That makes active learning look like a bull’s eye to me.

  3. Thanks, folks. Cary, although I didn’t intend for this post to become a debate with taking sides, you’ve touched on an important issue: How much should we provide for our students, and how much should we teach them to figure out the learning on their own? Is it coddling them to tell them a fingering for the 17th time? Or is it a poor use of limited time to constantly wait for students to open up their fingering charts? You’ve sparked some questions in my mind I hope to deal with in a couple future posts.

  4. Since you decided to be a teacher you kind of have to put up with those repeated questions. The good news is, eventually they get it and it sticks and you won’t have to answer that particular question again until the next set of students who have the same question.

    LOL on the dying chicken sound. I’m on strings and I always say it sounds as if somebody is killing a cat.

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