I teach a beginner band program. I'm a brass player myself, although I can play most of the band instruments with a fair degree of success. When beginner clarinet players start to learn B/C/C#, or the lower end equivalents E/F/F#, they have a hard time remembering which keys are for which notes. Do any clarinet experts have any clever mnemonics to share that might aid young players?

  • The same question could apply to any woodwind - even more so to oboe and especially bassoon. I don’t know any mnemonics for any instrument, but I did learn keys on all four major winds incrementally based on scales. For example, on clarinet I learned only the E/B and F/C keys first to play C major scales. As I added other keys, I didn’t need mnemonics because I learned them more or less one at a time. I feel like E/B and C/F are the biggest and easiest to reach keys. If they practice their C scales with a fingering chart for 1-2 weeks they should get it, IMHO May 20, 2023 at 5:31
  • Huh, I recall those clarinet keys actually being quite intuitive to learn. If my memory hasn't failed me, the lower the key, the lower the note.
    – Dekkadeci
    May 20, 2023 at 6:10

1 Answer 1


Not a mnemonic, but it helps to think of the two upper RH keys and the two inside LH keys as the main ones:
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Then they go L-R-L-R for (lower octave) E-F-F#-G#.

Once pupils have learned that, then you can add the alternative keys (with the optional LH G# key if they have it):

enter image description here

and play the same notes E-F-F#(-G#) as R-L-R(-L)

  • I don't remember being taught that one set was primary and one was secondary - you have to always be ready to use either one (except for Ab/Eb) depending on how you get there. And never assume that the left-hand Ab/Eb is available, especially on beginner instruments. Oct 19, 2023 at 16:09

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