Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Decay of a saxophone tone

Question: If a typical saxophone setup has a Q of about 10, how long will it take for a 100-Hz tone played on a baritone saxophone to die down by a factor of 535 in energy, after the player suddenly stops blowing?

Solution: A Q of 10 means that it takes 10 cycles for the vibrations to die down in energy by a factor of 535. Ten cycles at a frequency of 100 Hz would correspond to a time of 0.1 seconds, which is not very long. This is why a saxophone note doesn't "ring" like a note played on a piano or an electric guitar.

Last Update: 2009-06-21