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 A#3.

We are now in the middle of the chalumeau register. Notice that the low even harmonics in the sound spectrum have been gradually getting more noticeable as we progressed up the scale: the 2nd and 4th are weak, but the 6th is almost as strong as its neighbours. This is because, above the cut-off frequency, the effective length of the instrument is rather longer than it is below that frequency. Consequently, only the first few impedance peaks are in harmonic ratios.

For general comments about the chalumeau register, see E3.


Sound spectrum of a Bb clarinet played using fingering for A#3.
For more explanation, see Introduction to clarinet acoustics

Sound Clip

You can hear A#3 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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