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 C#4.

Globally, this impedance spectrum is much like that for C4. One more hole has been opened, thus the fundamental frequency has risen 5.9% (a semitone). The next three peaks have also risen by almost the same proportion and support the 3rd, 5th and 7th harmonics. Note, however, that above about 2 kHz (ie well above the cut-off frequency for the clarinet), the curves for C4 and C#4 and other nearby notes are all nearly the same: not frequency shifted. This is because at high frequencies, the air in the fingerholes doesn't have much time to move far, and the sound waves propagate down the bore, almost without 'noticing' the open holes.

For general comments about the chalumeau register, see E3.


Sound spectrum of a Bb clarinet played using fingering for C#4.
For more explanation, see Introduction to clarinet acoustics

Sound Clip

You can hear C#4 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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