Acoustics of the saxophone

Bb soprano saxophone


Music Acoustics UNSW


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 saxophone acoustics

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

Impedance spectrum of a Bb soprano saxophone measured using fingering for A6.

This is the third note in the altissimo or very high range. It is not a member of a simple register: although technically it plays rather just below the seventh impedance peak, few saxophonists (except those discerning ones who have seen this site) would be aware of that. The first few peaks are very strong, and would tend to dominate (see comment on sound spectrum below).

The weakness of this peak (due to the relatively large cone angle of the saxophone) explains why notes in this range are hard to play and require the player to assist the weak impedance peak of the bore with a strong impedance peak of the vocal tract. See this page for an explanation and some interesting results.


Sound spectrum of a Bb soprano saxophone played using fingering for A6.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

One of the effects of the first very strong impedance peak are the subharmonics produced in the playing note (at about 500 Hz and 1000 Hz). Though not audible, they are visible here in the sound spectrum.

Sound Clip

You can hear A6 played.

Fingering legend
How were these results obtained?

Contact: Joe Wolfe /
phone 61-2-9385-4954 (UT +10, +11 Oct-Mar)
© 1997-2009 Music Acoustics UNSW