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First of all, I fully realize that to know how to actually play an instrument, there is more to it than just the fingering. Yet, I feel like it has to make things easier, right?

What about recorder, flute, clarinet, saxophone? Soprano, alto, ...? Is there a table or a list where I can just look this up?

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    It feels silly to me to split this question up into multiple questions (e.g. "Which instruments have similar fingerings with the B flat clarinet?"), which I assume is supposedly needed in order to make this question "more focused". From personal experience, the bass clarinet sharing fingerings with the B flat clarinet made transitioning between them quite a lot easier for me.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 21, 2022 at 18:59
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    I feel like I need to post a disclaimer: Although the question doesn't assume "If I can play X I'll be able to play Y," and specifically says "there's more to it," I feel like others finding the question might have that assumption. Even with the most similar of instruments (e.g. violin and viola), specialists in each will loudly claim that "it's not the same." In general, if two instruments are different enough to be called two different instruments, then they have significant differences. ... Feb 22, 2022 at 13:42
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    This question in it's current form is ridiculously broad. The OP lists about 5 different similar instruments in just the Woodwind family. Without clarification of what subset of instruments the OP actually wants (modern, historic, by family, ect) it turns into an unbound endless list. I know the OP stated this, but it also focuses on one narrow similarity that is not necessarily helpful. Just one example of that is piano vs organ as while yes you could argue the fingering is the same, the footing is not (piano only has pedals, organ hits notes with their feet) .
    – Dom
    Feb 22, 2022 at 16:58
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    @Dom - I also find that splitting this question into both instrument categories (e.g. "Among woodwind instruments, which instruments have similar fingerings?") and modern/historic (e.g. "Among instruments played in the present day, which of them have similar fingerings?") to be similarly broad as this question (the strings section already mentions erhu and surbahar, for example).
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 22, 2022 at 19:20
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    @Dom - If I cannot in good conscience support splitting this question and expect the split to reduce its broadness without fragmenting this into question overload, and I believe keeping the wide scope of this question has value, I would rather keep this question open.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 22, 2022 at 19:21

1 Answer 1

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Frequently "list questions" are closed; however, IMO, this question has sufficient value to receive a thorough answer. In that spirit, this Community Wiki.


Keyboard instruments

All keyboard instruments effectively use the same — or highly similar — fingering for the same music. There are differences in tradition (for example, keyboard players at one time avoiding using the thumb), and some differences in technique (organ has a "thumb slide" technique that isn't generally used on other instruments), but in terms of only of playing the keys, if you can play a song on one keyboard instrument, you can play it on the others.

String instruments

Many string instruments with the same number of strings in the same tuning can use the same fingerings, with adjustments for distance based on the size of the instrument. Sometimes the differences of distance require entirely new fingerings.

Violin and viola are both tuned in fifths, and fingering and shifting patterns are identical. Cello is also tuned in fifths, but the string length is so much longer that cellists generally use one finger per half step, so where violin and viola can play a tetrachord starting on an open string using only three fingers, cello uses four.

Mandolin and violin have strings in the same pitches (though mandolin has paired "courses," two of each pitch). Although this allows significant overlap in fingering technique, the mandolin's frets allow some chordal fingerings that don't work on violin, like barre chords. There are also mandolin-family instruments that correspond in range to the viola and cello, "mandola" and "mandocello."

Upright and electric bass have the same tuning, in fourths, which corresponds to the lowest four strings of standard guitar tuning. Are there significant overlaps or differences in fingering between upright, electric fretless, and fretted bass? Please contribute.

The standard tuning for ukulele is a fourth higher as the highest four strings of standard guitar tuning, with fourth string an additional octave higher for re-entrant tuning. This allows using same chord shapes and fingerings as if it was guitar with capo on fifth fret. There are special string sets that allow tuning an ukulele to mandolin tuning.

If anyone has knowledge of overlaps in the fingerings of non-Western instruments, please contribute. Sitar vs surbahar? Erhu vs morin khuur?

Brass instruments

Trumpet, flugelhorn, baritone all share fingerings, with tuba and French horn not being entirely dissimilar. Trombone, of course, is a separate entity.

Woodwinds

Woodwinds more predominantly have keywork systems that allow instruments with (roughly) the same keywork system to have the same fingering. Examples include the Boehm system for flutes and the Boehm system for clarinets, including bass clarinet (confusingly invented by different people - the Boehm system for clarinets, though based on the Boehm system for flutes, was not invented by a person named Boehm).

Other keywork systems for clarinets include the Albert system and the Oehler system.

Like clarinets, oboes are split between keywork systems, although the conservatoire or French style is predominant.

Bassoon keywork systems are similarly split between a German one and a French one, although this time, it's the German keywork system that's predominant. The difference to contrabassoon is reported to be small, even if the keywork looks different.

Saxophones similarly share keywork systems and have similar fingerings.

Recorders, even those that share keywork systems, have both Baroque and German fingerings.

Please fill in if you know more details

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dom
    Feb 22, 2022 at 20:00

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