Register (music)

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A register is the "height" or range of a note, set of pitches [1] or pitch classes, melody, part, instrument, or group of instruments. A higher register indicates higher pitch.


In woodwind and brass instruments, the word register usually distinguishes pitch ranges produced using different normal modes of the air column, with higher registers produced by overblowing. Often the timbres of different woodwind instrument registers tend to be markedly different.

However, on the clarinet the notes from (written) G4 or A4 to B4 sometimes are regarded as a separate "throat register", even though both they and the notes from F4 down are produced using the instrument's lowest normal mode; the timbre of the throat notes differs, and the throat register's fingerings also are distinctive, using special keys and not the standard tone holes used for other notes.

The register in which an instrument plays, or in which a part is written, affects the quality of sound or timbre. Register is also used structurally in musical form, with the climax of a piece usually being in the highest register of that piece. Often, serial and other pieces will use fixed register, allowing a pitch class to be expressed through only one pitch.

A "register" of the human voice is a series of tones of like quality originating through operation of the larynx. The constituent tones result from similar patterns of vibration in the vocal folds, which can generate several different such patterns, each resulting in characteristic sounds within a particular range of pitches. [1] The term has wide application and can refer to any of several aspects of the human voice, including the following:

Speech pathologists and many vocal pedagogues recognize four vocal registers: the vocal fry, modal, falsetto, and whistle. To delineate these registers, pathologists specify vibratory pattern of the vocal folds, sequential pitches, and type of sound. [2]

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Human voice Sound made by a human being using the vocal tract

The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal tract, including talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, shouting, or yelling. The human voice frequency is specifically a part of human sound production in which the vocal folds are the primary sound source.


A harmonic is any member of the harmonic series. The term is employed in various disciplines, including music, physics, acoustics, electronic power transmission, radio technology, and other fields. It is typically applied to repeating signals, such as sinusoidal waves. A harmonic of such a wave is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the frequency of the original wave, known as the fundamental frequency. The original wave is also called the 1st harmonic, the following harmonics are known as higher harmonics. As all harmonics are periodic at the fundamental frequency, the sum of harmonics is also periodic at that frequency. For example, if the fundamental frequency is 50 Hz, a common AC power supply frequency, the frequencies of the first three higher harmonics are 100 Hz, 150 Hz, 200 Hz and any addition of waves with these frequencies is periodic at 50 Hz.

An nth characteristic mode, for n > 1, will have nodes that are not vibrating. For example, the 3rd characteristic mode will have nodes at L and L, where L is the length of the string. In fact, each nth characteristic mode, for n not a multiple of 3, will not have nodes at these points. These other characteristic modes will be vibrating at the positions L and L. If the player gently touches one of these positions, then these other characteristic modes will be suppressed. The tonal harmonics from these other characteristic modes will then also be suppressed. Consequently, the tonal harmonics from the nth characteristic modes, where n is a multiple of 3, will be made relatively more prominent.


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.

Timbre Quality of a musical note or sound or tone

In music, timbre, also known as tone color or tone quality, 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. It also enables listeners to distinguish different instruments in the same category.

Singing Act of producing musical sounds with the voice

Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice. A person who sings is called a singer or vocalist. Singers perform music that can be sung with or without accompaniment by musical instruments. Singing is often done in an ensemble of musicians, such as a choir of singers or a band of instrumentalists. Singers may perform as soloists or accompanied by anything from a single instrument up to a symphony orchestra or big band. Different singing styles include art music such as opera and Chinese opera, Indian music and religious music styles such as gospel, traditional music styles, world music, jazz, blues, ghazal and popular music styles such as pop, rock and electronic dance music.

Falsetto is the vocal register occupying the frequency range just above the modal voice register and overlapping with it by approximately one octave.

Overblowing is a technique used while playing a wind instrument that causes the sounded pitch to jump to a higher one primarily through the manipulation of the supplied air rather than by a fingering change or the operation of a slide. Depending on the instrument, and to a lesser extent the player, overblowing may involve a change in the air pressure, in the point at which the air is directed, or in the resonance characteristics of the chamber formed by the mouth and throat of the player. In some instruments, overblowing may also involve the direct manipulation of the vibrating reed(s), and/or the pushing of a register key while otherwise leaving fingering unaltered. With the exception of harmonica overblowing, the pitch jump is from one vibratory mode of the reed or air column, e.g., its fundamental, to an overtone. Overblowing can be done deliberately in order to get a higher pitch, or inadvertently, resulting in the production of a note other than that intended.

Head voice is a term used within vocal music. The use of this term varies widely within vocal pedagogical circles and there is currently no one consistent opinion among vocal music professionals in regard to this term. Head voice can be used in relation to the following:

Organ stop Part of a pipe organ

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".

Passaggio is a term used in classical singing to describe the transition area between the vocal registers. The passaggi (plural) of the voice lie between the different vocal registers, such as the chest voice, where any singer can produce a powerful sound, the middle voice, and the head voice, where a powerful and resonant sound is accessible, but usually only through vocal training. The historic Italian school of singing describes a primo passaggio and a secondo passaggio connected through a zona di passaggio in the male voice and a primo passaggio and secondo passaggio in the female voice. A major goal of classical voice training in classical styles is to maintain an even timbre throughout the passaggio. Through proper training, it is possible to produce a resonant and powerful sound.

A multiphonic is an extended technique on a monophonic musical instrument in which several notes are produced at once. This includes wind, reed, and brass instruments, as well as the human voice. Multiphonic-like sounds on string instruments, both bowed and hammered, have also been called multiphonics, for lack of better terminology and scarcity of research.

Range (music)

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.

Vocal register Range of tones a certain voice type can reliably produce

A vocal register is a range of tones in the human voice produced by a particular vibratory pattern of the vocal folds. These registers include modal voice, vocal fry, falsetto, and the whistle register. Registers originate in laryngeal function. They occur because the vocal folds are capable of producing several different vibratory patterns. Each of these vibratory patterns appears within a particular range of pitches and produces certain characteristic sounds.

Bore (wind instruments)

In music, the bore of a wind instrument is its interior chamber. This defines a flow path through which air travels, which is set into vibration to produce sounds. The shape of the bore has a strong influence on the instrument's timbre.

Chest voice is a term used within vocal music. The use of this term varies widely within vocal pedagogical circles and there is currently no one consistent opinion among vocal music professionals in regard to this term. Chest voice can be used in relation to the following:

Vocal pedagogy Study of the art and science of voice instruction

Vocal pedagogy is the study of the art and science of voice instruction. It is used in the teaching of singing and assists in defining what singing is, how singing works, and how proper singing technique is accomplished.

Jamestown C. McKinney, a renowned vocal pedagogue and longtime professor of voice at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's school of church music, defines vocal resonance as "the process by which the basic product of phonation is enhanced in timbre and/or intensity by the air-filled cavities through which it passes on its way to the outside air." Throughout the vocal literature, various terms related to resonation are used, including: amplification, filtering, enrichment, enlargement, improvement, intensification, and prolongation. Acoustic authorities would question many of these terms from a strictly scientific perspective. However, the main point to be drawn from these terms by a singer or speaker is that the result of resonation is to make a "better" sound, or at least suitable to a certain esthetical and practical domain.

Accordion reed ranks and switches

A reed rank inside accordions refers to a single full set of the reeds that are the means to achieve the instrument's sound range. These reed ranks are located in the reed chamber. Most accordions to this date typically have between 2 and 4 reed ranks on the treble side and between 3 and 5 reed ranks on the bass side. These can usually be selected individually or combined in various ways to provide a range of different timbres, by use of register switches arranged by register from high to low. More of the top-line expensive accordions may contain 5 or 6 reed blocks on the treble side for different tunings, typically found in accordions that stress musette sounds.

Falsettone is a term used in modern Italian musicology to describe a vocal technique used by male opera singers in the past, in which the fluty sounds typical of falsetto singing are amplified by using the same singing technique used in the modal voice register. The result is a bright, powerful tone, often very high-pitched, although the sound is still different from and more feminine than what is produced by the modal voice. The term falsettone is also used for the mixed vocal register that can be achieved using this technique.

A voice change or voice mutation, sometimes referred to as a voice break, commonly refers to the deepening of the voice of people as they reach puberty. Before puberty, both sexes have roughly similar vocal pitch, but during puberty the male voice typically deepens an octave, while the female voice usually deepens only by a few tones.


  1. 1 2 Large, John (February–March 1972). "Towards an Integrated Physiologic-Acoustic Theory of Vocal Registers". The NATS Bulletin. 28: 30–35.
  2. 1 2 McKinney, James (1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults. Genovex Music Group. ISBN   978-1-56593-940-0.

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