Acoustics of the saxophone

Bb tenor saxophone


Music Acoustics UNSW

Conventional Fingering


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 tenor saxophone measured using fingering for A#6.

This is the fourth note in the altissimo or very high range. It is not a member of a simple register: it plays at the third 'large-ish' peak, or the sixth peak, but we should rather say that it is just a cross fingered note whose operating peak falls above the cut-off frequency and so cannot readily be described in terms of an effective length.

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 tenor saxophone played using fingering for A#6.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

This sound spectrum includes some transient excitation, and so has traces of a subharmonic being excited, seen in the range above about 2 kHz.

Sound Clip

You can hear A#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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