Saxophone Altissimo Register Fingerings and Exercises

Dr. Tracy Heavner • April 2024 • April 8, 2024

When playing in the altissimo register, the most important factors are tongue position, air stream and the ability to hear the pitch before it is played. After these issues are resolved, the proper altissimo fingerings should be examined. For each altissimo note, there are several possible fingering choices. Some fingerings may produce a better tone while others are easier to play technically. Initially, saxophonists should try various fingering combinations to see which ones they prefer the most. Eventually they will develop a set of fingering combinations that work best for them in almost every performance situation. 

Since altissimo fingerings are somewhat more difficult to perform when compared to other note fingerings, saxophonists are sometimes limited in their ability to play quickly in this register. The following set of altissimo fingerings are designed for speed and will give the saxophonist the agility sometimes lacking when playing in the altissimo register.

Altissimo Speed Fingering




Altissimo Exercises
Once the tongue position, air stream and note fingerings have been established, saxophonists should practice to develop speed and agility in the altissimo register. There are many ways to develop this technique but several of the most common exercises are detailed below. One exercise to develop fluency in the altissimo register is to play all the major scales and arpeggi into this range. This means a C major scale and arpeggio normally played two octaves should now be played three octaves. The saxophonist should use Forked E and F fingerings when playing scales into the altissimo register when appropriate as these fingerings prepare the performer’s tongue position, air stream for this register. The chromatic scale can also be practiced with this extended range.

C Major Scale Three Octaves



C Major Arpeggio Three Octaves


  C Chromatic Scale Three Octaves




Another exercise is to play the same note in all available octaves. An example would be to play low C, then C on the third space of the staff, then high C above the staff and finally altissimo C. 

Playing C in All Registers



Other exercises are to play simple folk or children’s tunes first in a lower octave and then in the altissimo register. This can be done by writing the tunes out or by playing them by ear.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary Had a Little Lamb in the Altissimo Register



By practicing the above listed altissimo speed fingerings, altissimo scales and arpeggi, playing notes in all registers and playing children’s tunes in the lower octave and then in the altissimo register, saxophonists will soon be able to master the altissimo register.

Dr. Tracy Heavner is an accomplished saxophone performer and is an endorser for SBO+ advertiser JodyJazz.

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