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 D#4.

At frequencies below about 1 kHz, this curve looks rather like that for C#4 and D4 , but raised in frequency. At higher frequencies, however, the situation is more complicated because of the cut-off frequency. The 1 kHz cutoff means that there are only three strong peaks, so only three notes that one can 'bugle' with this fingering. The first peak can be reduced in magnitude and shifted in frequency using a register hole (operated by the octave key). See D#5.

For general comments about the first register, see A#3. Compare with the impedance spectrum for a tenor sax on written D#4: same fingering but sounding one octave lower.


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

For general comments about the sound spectra of the first register, see A#3, which is the first note of that register.

Sound Clip

You can hear D#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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