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 G#6.

This is similar to an alternative fingering for B3 and F#5, but it has two register holes. These lower and displace the first two peaks. We could think of this as a flat seventh harmonic of B3 (the seventh harmonic lies about midway between G#6 and A6, a flat - see the sound spectrum for B3). This fingering is also very similar to that for D#6, but impedance spectra are quite different, except for the first one (or possibly two) peaks. This difference at higher frequencies is because the D#6 fingering is a cross fingering and so the reflection near the right index finger is more complicated than that for G#6.


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

Sound Clip

You can hear G#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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