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 B5.

This is the tenth note in the second register. It differs from B4 (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 B4, whose impedance spectrum is almost identical except for the first peak. Above about 1 kHz, the third peak is weakened and the rest of the curve is irregular: see the discussion in cut-off frequency. Above this frequency, the spacing of peaks in the upper part of the curve roughly equals that in the curve for the lowest note, A#3. This is because, at high frequency, the wave propagates past the open tone holes, reflecting only at the bell.

Compare with the impedance spectrum for a soprano sax on written B5: same fingering but sounding one octave higher.


Sound spectrum of a Bb tenor saxophone played using fingering for B5.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

Sound Clip

You can hear B5 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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