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 D6.

This note is still in the second register – it plays at the second peak on the impedance spectrum. On most other woodwinds, the corresponding note would start a third register, using a resonance related to the third peak of the note G4. However, that peak falls above the cut-off frequency, which is about 1 kHz, and is too weak (and too sharp).

This fingering uses a register hole. This causes a leak in the bore that weakens the first impedance peak, but has little affect on higher peaks – see register hole for an explanation, and compare with the alternate fingering for D5, whose impedance spectrum is almost identical except for the first peak. Above the second peak, the curve is irregular: see the discussion in cut-off frequency.

Compare with the impedance spectrum for a tenor sax on written D6: same fingering but sounding one octave lower.


Sound spectrum of a Bb soprano saxophone played using fingering for D6.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

Sound Clip

You can hear D6 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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