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#6.

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 lie in the third register, using a resonance related to the third peak of the note G#4. 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. 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 D#6: same fingering but sounding one octave lower.


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

Sound Clip

You can hear D#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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