Acoustics of the clarinet

Bb clarinet


Music Acoustics UNSW

E3 F3 F#3 G3 G#3 A3 A#3 B3
C4 C#4 D4 D#4 E4 F4 F#4 G4 G#4 A4 A#4 B4
C5 C#5 D5 D#5 E5 F5 F#5 G5 G#5 A5 A#5 B5
C6 C#6 D6 D#6 E6 F6 F#6 G6 G#6 A6 A#6 B6
C7 C#7


a key depressed
a key not depressed
a hole covered
a hole uncovered
a part of the mechanism that is not normally touched
Details in fingering legend.

Acoustic schematic
a closed tone hole
an open tone hole

Non-specialist introduction to acoustic impedance
Non-specialist introduction to clarinet acoustics

Notes are the written pitch.
Frequencies are the sounding frequency, for Bb clarinet.
Unless otherwise stated, the impedance spectrum is for a Bb clarinet.

Impedance spectrum of a Bb clarinet measured using fingering for A#6.

Compare this graph to C5 and F3. The only difference between fingerings is the three open register holes. These not only lower and displace the lower peaks, but they seriously mess up the shape of the curve. We could think of this as a sharp eleventh harmonic of F3 (the eleventh harmonic lies about midway between A6 and A#6 - see the sound spectrum for F3) but we are now so far above the cut-off frequency that such discussions are rather simplistic.


Sound spectrum of a Bb clarinet played using fingering for A#6.
For more explanation, see Introduction to clarinet acoustics

Sound Clip

You can hear A#6 played.

Fingering legend
How were these results obtained?

Contact: Joe Wolfe /
phone 61-2-9385-4954 (UT +10, +11 Oct-Mar)
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