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 E6.

In the acoustical sense, this note is still in the second register – it plays (normally) at the second peak on the impedance spectrum. This fingering uses a register hole. This causes a leak in the bore that weakens the first impedance peak (although both peaks will play comfortably with different embouchures). Above the second peak, the curve is irregular: see the discussion in cut-off frequency.

Compare with the impedance spectrum for a soprano sax on written E6: same fingering but sounding one octave higher.


Sound spectrum of a Bb tenor saxophone played using fingering for E6.
For more explanation, see Introduction to saxophone acoustics.

Sound Clip

You can hear E6 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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