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 D5.

Note how similar this spectrum is to that for G3. (Of course, the clarinet overblows a 12th.) The only substantial difference is the reduction in the first peak. The purpose of the speaker key is just that: to destroy the fundamental resonance so that the instrument will not 'drop down' to the lower register. See register hole for details.

Although it doesn't feel like it to your fingers, acoustically speaking, this fingering is actually a cross fingering: it has a closed tone hole below the first open one. This is responsible for the shape being more irregular from about 1.0 to 1.6 kHz than are the curves for C5 and C#5. (See discussion on G3.)

For a general discussion of the clarino register, see the description on B4.


Sound spectrum of a Bb clarinet played using fingering for D5.
For more explanation, see Introduction to clarinet acoustics

Sound Clip

You can hear D5 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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