Acoustics of the clarinet

Bb clarinet


Music Acoustics UNSW

E3 F3 F#3 G3 G#3 A3 A#3 B3
C4 C#4 D4 D#4 E4 F4 F#4 G4 G#4 A4 A#4 B4
C5 C#5 D5 D#5 E5 F5 F#5 G5 G#5 A5 A#5 B5
C6 C#6 D6 D#6 E6 F6 F#6 G6 G#6 A6 A#6 B6
C7 C#7


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 clarinet acoustics

Notes are the written pitch.
Frequencies are the sounding frequency, for Bb clarinet.
Unless otherwise stated, the impedance spectrum is for a Bb clarinet.

Impedance spectrum of a Bb clarinet measured using fingering for E4.

Observe that, unlike the curves for the notes below D#4, the impedance curve has only two strong peaks that are in harmonic ratios (1:3). The sound still has several strong odd harmonics (particularly when played forte, as here) but, apart from the first two, they are not much assisted by resonances of the bore. For this reason, we could say that the throat register begins here: having only two harmonic resonances, fingerings in this register are more easily 'bent' (their pitch is more readily changed) by embouchure and vocal tract effects.


Sound spectrum of a Bb clarinet played using fingering for E4.
For more explanation, see Introduction to clarinet acoustics

Sound Clip

You can hear E4 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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