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#6.

This is the lowest note of the altissimo register, which corresponds to the fifth harmonic of the chalumeau register. It is a major seventeenth above the related note (A3) in that register, and a major sixth above the note (E5) in the clarino register. The left hand index finger hole is left open (some players uncover the hole only partly) and used as a second register hole. The first register hole (the speaker key) primarily lowers and displaces the first peak (ie the difference between A3 and E5, which have similar fingerings) but this hole is too small to affect the high frequencies. The new, larger register hole reduces and displaces the second peak (compare this curve with that for E5). Thus one can play the note associated with the third peak with (relatively) little danger that it will drop down to one of the lower peaks. For more detail on this effect, see register hole.


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

Sound Clip

You can hear C#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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