Range (music)

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Written range of a saxophone. Sax range.svg
Written range of a saxophone.

In music, the range, or chromatic range, of a musical instrument is the distance from the lowest to the highest pitch it can play. For a singing voice, the equivalent is vocal range . The range of a musical part is the distance between its lowest and highest note.

Music form of art using sound

Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound organized in time. General definitions of music include common elements such as pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. Different styles or types of music may emphasize, de-emphasize or omit some of these elements. Music is performed with a vast range of instruments and vocal techniques ranging from singing to rapping; there are solely instrumental pieces, solely vocal pieces and pieces that combine singing and instruments. The word derives from Greek μουσική . See glossary of musical terminology.

Musical instrument History and classification

A musical instrument is an instrument created or adapted to make musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates to the beginnings of human culture. Early musical instruments may have been used for ritual, such as a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications.

Pitch (music) perceptual property in music

Pitch is a perceptual property of sounds that allows their ordering on a frequency-related scale, or more commonly, pitch is the quality that makes it possible to judge sounds as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies. Pitch can be determined only in sounds that have a frequency that is clear and stable enough to distinguish from noise. Pitch is a major auditory attribute of musical tones, along with duration, loudness, and timbre.



Among British English speakers, [1] and perhaps others, [2] compass means the same thing as chromatic range—the interval between the lowest and highest note attainable by a voice or musical instrument.

British English is the standard dialect of English language as spoken and written in the United Kingdom. Variations exist in formal, written English in the United Kingdom. For example, the adjective wee is almost exclusively used in parts of Scotland and Ireland, and occasionally Yorkshire, whereas little is predominant elsewhere. Nevertheless, there is a meaningful degree of uniformity in written English within the United Kingdom, and this could be described by the term British English. The forms of spoken English, however, vary considerably more than in most other areas of the world where English is spoken, so a uniform concept of British English is more difficult to apply to the spoken language. According to Tom McArthur in the Oxford Guide to World English, British English shares "all the ambiguities and tensions in the word 'British' and as a result can be used and interpreted in two ways, more broadly or more narrowly, within a range of blurring and ambiguity".

Other ranges

The terms sounding range, written range, designated range, duration range and dynamic range have specific meanings.

Dynamic range is the ratio between the largest and smallest values that a certain quantity can assume. It is often used in the context of signals, like sound and light. It is measured either as a ratio or as a base-10 (decibel) or base-2 logarithmic value of the difference between the smallest and largest signal values.

The sounding range [3] refers to the pitches produced by an instrument, while the written range [3] refers to the compass (span) of notes written in the sheet music, where the part is sometimes transposed for convenience. A piccolo, for example, typically has a sounding range one octave higher than its written range. [4] The designated range is the set of notes the player should or can achieve while playing. All instruments have a designated range, and all pitched instruments have a playing range. Timbre, dynamics, and duration ranges are interrelated and one may achieve registral range at the expense of timbre. The designated range is thus the range in which a player is expected to have comfortable control of all aspects.

In music transposition refers to the process, or operation, of moving a collection of notes up or down in pitch by a constant interval.

The shifting of a melody, a harmonic progression or an entire musical piece to another key, while maintaining the same tone structure, i.e. the same succession of whole tones and semitones and remaining melodic intervals.

Piccolo small musical instrument of the flute family

The piccolo is a half-size flute, and a member of the woodwind family of musical instruments. The modern piccolo has most of the same fingerings as its larger sibling, the standard transverse flute, but the sound it produces is an octave higher than written. This gave rise to the name ottavino, which the instrument is called in the scores of Italian composers. It is also called flauto piccolo or flautino.

In music, an octave or perfect octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems". The interval between the first and second harmonics of the harmonic series is an octave.

The duration range is the difference between the shortest and longest rhythm used. Dynamic range is the difference between the quietest and loudest volume of an instrument, part or piece of music.

In music, duration is an amount of time or how long or short a note, phrase, section, or composition lasts. "Duration is the length of time a pitch, or tone, is sounded." A note may last less than a second, while a symphony may last more than an hour. One of the fundamental features of rhythm, or encompassing rhythm, duration is also central to meter and musical form. Release plays an important part in determining the timbre of a musical instrument and is affected by articulation.

Range limits

Although woodwind instruments and string instruments have no theoretical upper limit to their range (subject to practical limits), they generally cannot go below their designated range. Brass instruments, on the other hand, can play beyond their designated ranges. Notes lower than the brass instrument's designated range are called pedal tones. The playing range of a brass instrument depends on both the technical limitations of the instrument and the skill of the player.

Woodwind instrument Family of musical wind instruments

Woodwind instruments are a family of musical instruments within the more general category of wind instruments. There are two main types of woodwind instruments: flutes and reed instruments. What differentiates these instruments from other wind instruments is the way in which they produce their sound. All woodwinds produce sound by splitting an exhaled air stream on a sharp edge, such as a reed or a fipple. A woodwind may be made of any material, not just wood. Common examples include brass, silver, cane, as well as other metals such as gold and platinum. Occasionally woodwinds are made out of earthen materials, especially ocarinas. Common examples include flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and saxophone.

String instrument musical instrument that generates tones by one or more strings stretched between two points

String instruments, stringed instruments, or chordophones are musical instruments that produce sound from vibrating strings when the performer plays or sounds the strings in some manner.

Brass instrument class of musical instruments

A brass instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by sympathetic vibration of air in a tubular resonator in sympathy with the vibration of the player's lips. Brass instruments are also called labrosones, literally meaning "lip-vibrated instruments".

Classical arrangements seldom make woodwind or brass instruments play beyond their designed range. String musicians play the bottom of their ranges very frequently, but the top of a string instrument's range is rather fuzzy, and it is unusual for a string player to exceed the designated range. It is quite rare for wind musicians to play the extremes of their instruments. The most common exception is that in many 20th century works, pedal tones are called for in bass trombones.

This chart uses standard numberings for octaves where middle C corresponds to C4. In the MIDI language middle C is referred to as MIDI note number 60.

The lowest note that a pipe organ can sound (with a true pipe) is C−1 (or CCCC), which is 8 Hz, below the range of human hearing and not visible on this chart. However, if acoustic combination (a note and its fifth) counts, the lowest note is C−2 (or CCCCC), which is 4 Hz.

Typical ranges

:Eighth octave CMiddle C:Eighth octave CMiddle Cgongstruck idiophonetubular bellsstruck idiophonecrotalesglockenspielvibraphonecelestametallophonesxylophonemarimbaxylophonesidiophonestimpanimembranophonespiccolo trumpettrumpetcornetbass trumpettrumpetswagner tubawagner tubaflugelhornalto hornbaritone hornfrench hornhorn (instrument)cimbassotypes of trombonetypes of trombonesoprano trombonealto trombonetenor trombonebass trombonecontrabass trombonetromboneseuphoniumbass tubacontrabass tubasubcontrabass tubatubabrass instrumentsOrgan (music)garklein recordersopranino recordersoprano recorderalto recordertenor recorderbass recordergreat bass recordercontrabass recordersub-great bass recordersub-contrabass recorderRecorder (musical instrument)fipplepiccoloconcert flutealto flutebass flutecontra-alto flutecontrabass flutesubcontrabass flutedouble contrabass flutehyperbass flutewestern concert flute familyside-blown fluteflutesharmonicaharmonicaaccordionharmoniumfree reedsopranissimo saxophonesopranino saxophonesoprano saxophonealto saxophonetenor saxophonebaritone saxophonebass saxophonecontrabass saxophonesubcontrabass saxophonesaxophone familysopranino clarinetsoprano clarinetalto clarinetbass clarinetcontra-alto clarinetcontrabass clarinetoctocontra-alto clarinetoctocontrabass clarinetclarinet familysingle reedoboeoboe d'amorecor anglaisheckelphoneoboesbassooncontrabassoonbassoonsexposeddouble reedwoodwind instrumentsaerophonescymbalumhammered dulcimerpianozitherukulele5-string banjomandolinguitarbass guitarharpsichordharpPlucked string instrumentviolinviolacellodouble bassoctobassviolin familyBowed string instrumentchordophonessopranomezzo-sopranoaltotenorbaritonebassoVocal rangeRange %28music%29

*This chart only displays down to C0, though some pipe organs, such as the Boardwalk Hall Auditorium Organ, extend down to C−1 (one octave below C0). Also, the fundamental frequency of the subcontrabass tuba is B−1.

See also


  1. Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. 2018. Retrieved March 30, 2018.
  2. Willi Apel (1950). Harvard Dictionary of Music. Harvard University Press. p. 168. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  3. 1 2 "Music theory online : musical instrument ranges & names", Brian Blood, Dolmetsch.com, 2009, webpage: Dolmetsch-M29.
  4. http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory29.htm

Related Research Articles

Bass (sound) tone of low frequency or range

Bass ( BAYSS) describes tones of low (also called "deep") frequency, pitch and range from 16 to 256 Hz (C0 to middle C4) and bass instruments that produce tones in the low-pitched range C2-C4. They belong to different families of instruments and can cover a wide range of musical roles. Since producing low pitches usually requires a long air column or string, and for stringed instruments, a large hollow body, the string and wind bass instruments are usually the largest instruments in their families or instrument classes.

Clavichord musical instrument

The clavichord is a European stringed rectangular keyboard instrument that was used largely in the Late Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical eras. Historically, it was mostly used as a practice instrument and as an aid to composition, not being loud enough for larger performances. The clavichord produces sound by striking brass or iron strings with small metal blades called tangents. Vibrations are transmitted through the bridge(s) to the soundboard.

Harmonic series (music) sequence of sounds where the base frequency of each sound is an integer multiple of the lowest base frequency

A harmonic series is the sequence of sounds—pure tones, represented by sinusoidal waves—in which the frequency of each sound is an integer multiple of the fundamental, the lowest frequency.

Musical keyboard musical instrument part

A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers or keys on a musical instrument. Keyboards typically contain keys for playing the twelve notes of the Western musical scale, with a combination of larger, longer keys and smaller, shorter keys that repeats at the interval of an octave. Depressing a key on the keyboard makes the instrument produce sounds—either by mechanically striking a string or tine, plucking a string (harpsichord), causing air to flow through a pipe organ, striking a bell (carillon), or, on electric and electronic keyboards, completing a circuit. Since the most commonly encountered keyboard instrument is the piano, the keyboard layout is often referred to as the piano keyboard.

Musical tuning umbrella term for the act of tuning an instrument and a system of pitches

In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:

Musical note sign used in musical notation, a pitched sound

In music, a note is the pitch and duration of a sound, and also its representation in musical notation. A note can also represent a pitch class. Notes are the building blocks of much written music: discretizations of musical phenomena that facilitate performance, comprehension, and analysis.

Tuba type of musical instrument of the brass family

The tuba (bass) is the largest and lowest-pitched musical instrument in the brass family. As with all brass instruments, the sound is produced by lip vibration into a large mouthpiece. It first appeared in the mid-19th century, making it one of the newer instruments in the modern orchestra and concert band. The tuba largely replaced the ophicleide. Tuba is Latin for 'trumpet'.


An overtone is any frequency greater than the fundamental frequency of a sound. Using the model of Fourier analysis, the fundamental and the overtones together are called partials. Harmonics, or more precisely, harmonic partials, are partials whose frequencies are numerical integer multiples of the fundamental. These overlapping terms are variously used when discussing the acoustic behavior of musical instruments. The model of Fourier analysis provides for the inclusion of inharmonic partials, which are partials whose frequencies are not whole-number ratios of the fundamental.

Clef musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes

A clef is a musical symbol used to indicate the pitch of written notes. Placed on a stave, it indicates the name and pitch of the notes on one of the lines. This line serves as a reference point by which the names of the notes on any other line or space of the stave may be determined.

Transposing instrument

A transposing instrument is a musical instrument whose music is recorded in staff notation at a pitch different from the pitch that actually sounds. A written middle C on a transposing instrument produces a pitch other than middle C, and that pitch identifies the interval of transposition when describing the instrument. For example, a written C on a B clarinet sounds a concert B.

Timbre quality of a musical note or sound or tone

In music, timbre is the perceived sound quality of a musical note, sound or tone. Timbre distinguishes different types of sound production, such as choir voices and musical instruments, such as string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. It also enables listeners to distinguish different instruments in the same category.

This is a list of musical terms that are likely to be encountered in printed scores, music reviews, and program notes. Most of the terms are Italian, in accordance with the Italian origins of many European musical conventions. Sometimes, the special musical meanings of these phrases differ from the original or current Italian meanings. Most of the other terms are taken from French and German, indicated by "Fr." and "Ger.", respectively.

Organ stop musical instrument part

An organ stop is a component of a pipe organ that admits pressurized air to a set of organ pipes. Its name comes from the fact that stops can be used selectively by the organist; each can be "on", or "off".

In music, a register is the "height" or range of a note, set of pitches or pitch classes, melody, part, instrument, or group of instruments. A higher register indicates higher pitch.

Scientific pitch notation

Scientific pitch notation is a method of specifying musical pitch by combining a musical note name and a number identifying the pitch's octave.

Pedal keyboard keyboard played with the feet that is usually used to produce the low-pitched bass line of a piece of music

A pedalboard is a keyboard played with the feet that is usually used to produce the low-pitched bass line of a piece of music. A pedalboard has long, narrow lever-style keys laid out in the same semitone scalar pattern as a manual keyboard, with longer keys for C, D, E, F, G, A and B, and shorter, higher keys for C, D, F, G and A. Training in pedal technique is part of standard organ pedagogy in church music and art music.

Bass pedals are an electronic musical instrument with foot-operated pedal keyboard with a range of one or more octaves. The earliest bass pedals from the 1970s consisted of a pedalboard and analog synthesizer tone generation circuitry packaged together as a unit. Since the 1990s, bass pedals are usually MIDI controllers, which have to be connected to a MIDI-compatible computer, electronic keyboard, or voice module to produce musical tones.

The soprano recorder in c2, also known as the descant, is the third-smallest instrument of the modern recorder family and is usually played as the highest voice in four-part ensembles. Since its finger spacing is relatively small, it is often used in music education for children first learning to play an instrument.

The guan is a Chinese double reed wind instrument. The northern Chinese version is called guanzi (管子) or bili and the Cantonese version is called houguan (喉管). It is classified as a bamboo instrument in the Ba Yin system. Unlike other instruments in the double-reed family of woodwinds which mostly have conical bores, such as the Chinese suona or the Western oboe, the guan has a cylindrical bore, giving its distinctive mellow, yet piercing buzz-like timbre.