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 C#6.

This is the twelfth note in the second register. It differs from C#5 (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 C#5, 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 soprano sax on written C#6: same fingering but sounding one octave higher.


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

Sound Clip

You can hear C#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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