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 F4.

At frequencies below about 1 kHz, this curve looks rather like that for D#4 and E4, but raised in frequency. At higher frequencies, however, the situation is complicated by the cut-off frequency. Here, the 1 kHz cutoff is also weakening the third peak. The first peak can be reduced in magnitude and shifted in frequency using a register hole (operated by the octave key): see F5.

For general comments about the first register, see A#3. Compare with the impedance spectrum for a soprano sax on written F4: same fingering but sounding one octave higher.


Sound spectrum of a Bb tenor saxophone played using fingering for F4.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

In the sound spectra for the low notes, we can notice a sudden increase in the negative slope of the spectral envelope that occurs close to the cut-off frequency of about 800 Hz. For general comments about the sound spectra of the first register, see A#3, which is the first note of that register.

Sound Clip

You can hear F4 played.

Fingering legend
How were these results obtained?

Contact: Joe Wolfe /
phone 61-2-9385-4954 (UT +10, +11 Oct-Mar)
© 1997-2009 Music Acoustics UNSW