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#5.

This is the second note in the second register – meaning that it plays at the second peak on the impedance spectrum. It differs from D#4 (the corresponding note in the first register) in that it 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 D#4, whose impedance spectrum is almost identical except for the first peak. Above about 1 kHz, the curve is irregular: see the discussion in cut-off frequency.

Compare with the impedance spectrum for a tenor sax on written D#5: same fingering but sounding one octave lower.


Sound spectrum of a Bb soprano saxophone played using fingering for D#5.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

This sound spectrum includes transient excitation from the beginning of the note, and so has traces of harmonics from the first impedance peak being excited.

Sound Clip

You can hear D#5 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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