FREE 40-part music theory course!

Instruments part 2

In this guide...


    Subscription required!

    To view the complete study guide, you will need a valid subscription. Why not subscribe now?

    Already have a subscription? Make sure you login first!


    Introduction

    We have already looked at the basic families of instruments, and now we'll look in more detail at the relative ranges of instruments and their capabilities.

    High and low

    Not all of the instruments in a family (see: Instruments part 1) sound at the same pitch. In fact, each family of instruments tends to span the entire range of pitches, with some low instruments, some high instruments, and some in between.

    It is important to know which instruments are high and which are low, so in the tables below you can see the instruments ranked in order of pitch:

    Strings

    InstrumentApproximate range
    Violinmid-range to very high
    ViolaMid-range
    VioloncelloMid-range to lower range
    Double bassLow
    The harp is capable of playing the full range of notes.

    Woodwinds

    InstrumentApproximate range
    FluteHigh to very high
    OboeHigh
    ClarinetMid-range to high
    BassoonMid-range to low

    Brass

    InstrumentApproximate range
    TrumpetMid-range to high
    French hornLow to upper mid-range
    TromboneLow to mid-range
    TubaLow

    Keyboards

    The keyboard instruments are typically all capable of playing the full range of notes, with the exception of the celeste, which plays in the mid to very high range.

    Woodwind types

    Within the woodwind family, there are several different types of instrument, which produce sound in a slightly different way.

    Recall that all woodwinds produce sound with a vibrating column of air within the instrument's tubular structure. The air enters the instrument through the mouthpiece, and different kinds of mouthpiece set the air vibrating in a different way.

    We can categorise the woodwinds into the following sub-types, based on mouthpiece:

    • Reedless
    • Single reed
    • Double reed

    Reeds

    Reeds are small pieces of material that vibrate either against eachother (double reeds) or against the mouthpiece of the instrument (single reeds) when blown by the player.

    Single reed instruments have a distinctively different sound from double reed instruments.

    The following table shows each member of the woodwind family and gives the corresponding type. This table also includes other less-common members of the woodwind family which nevertheless are regularly found in the symphony orchestra.

    TypeInstruments
    Reedless Piccolo
    Flute
    Recorder
    Single reed Clarinet
    Saxophone
    Bass clarinet
    Double reed Oboe
    Cor anglais
    Bassoon
    Contrabassoon

    Read more...

    With a subscription to Clements Theory you'll be able to read this and dozens of other study guides, along with thousands of practice questions and more! Why not subscribe now?