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A nealty organized book that features the range of notes instruments play, for the sake of the composers.
A detailed reading may raise the Music Composition skill from B to A.
- The Study of Instrumentation -
Written by Baird
- The Study of Instrumentation -
Written by Baird
As a growing number of people are showing interest in music composition, I have been hearing many complaints from musicians who say that their instruments are not exactly capable of playing some of the compositions that are available very well.
I first thought of the complaints as nothing more than a bunch of talentless musicians' self-pitying complaints, but having tried playing the pieces on the instruments myself, I realized that it is not only difficult to play these pieces well, but that there are in fact parts of some pieces that are pretty much not playable at all.
So I thought to myself, why is this the case? I started carefully looking into the scores and the different types of instruments, and alas realized something. The fact that composers are writing music that are not really easily played by performers just means that composers are writing scores without a comprehensive understanding of instrumentation.
Of course it is a wonderful thing composers are inspired to express the deepest parts of themselves through music, but writing scores that are difficult to perform without the foundational basis to the instruments they are writing for, should not be mistaken as being evidence of superior skills. In fact, music should not be written for one's own aspirations but rather for the hope of making this world a better place.
While thinking these thoughts, I realized that there has never been a book that systematically explains instrumentation to the extent that composers and instrumentalists could refer to. And that's when I realized it. Right! No wonder composers are having a hard time writing music that is suitable for the instruments they are writing for. I decided that writing a book that explains the particular characteristics of each instrument would be helpful for many musicians, both composers and performers alike, who could use it as a reference. Such a book would in the end yield beautiful pieces that are at the same time suitable for the instruments performing the pieces.
I sincerely hope that this humble book will help composers to select appropriate instruments to perform the sounds that they hear in their heads and that it will help performers to find the right piece that is suitable for their instrument. If there is anyone who has trouble following this book, I highly recommend reading my other book, Introduction to Composition first.
Performance techniques for all instruments vary depending on the kind of instrument and musical expression. What one must not forget, however, is that each instrument has its own set of properties and that the instrument cannot perform at its best when such properties are ignored.
The area that the composer needs to pay closest attention to is the tone and register, i.e. pitch range, of the instrument.
When pitch is indicated, one must indicate the octave, that is the range of pitches between one "do" to the next "do", making up repeated cycles of 8 notes. This is indicated as "O" on the score. The score must also indicate the octave, numbering each octave from 1 to 7. Octave 4 is generally used as the central octave.
As a result the pitch ranges from O1 to O7, and while it would be great to have all the instruments play the entire range of 7 octaves it would be a tall order indeed to have instrument-makers to stretch each instrument to be able to do that.
Within each octave are 7 pitches from "do" (C) to "ti" (B). C-D-E-F-G-A-B
Now, keeping this in mind, let us see the pitch ranges of each instrument made in Erinn and see the ranges that are suitable for playing.
The lute is an instrument with a wide pitch range, from E in O1 to E in O7. The sound box is made with leather over a tree branch and strings are attached to this sound box to generate sound. The price is relatively lower as well, but because of its easy access, some critics say that it lacks a uniqueness of sound. In fact, there are apparently some composers who do not like having their pieces being performed on the lute at all.
The mandolin is known to be one of the highest performing instruments with a very stable sound and a wide pitch range, and it is, as a result, widely loved by both performers and bards alike. The pitch range is from E in O1 to E in O7.
The ukulele has a slightly different sound than the lute or the mandolin which have a wide pitch register, ranging from E in O1 to E in O7, and has a rather romantic sound. The range is much smaller, however, so performing the ukulele on pitches that are way too high will cause the tone to crackle. It is generally best to play only up to E in O6.
The chalumeau's pitch range is from C of O2 to B in O4. Any pitch that is either higher or lower than that range will be played within O2 and O4. The pitch range is narrow but it is capable of making a very attractive sound in its lower register.
@ Caution : Do not blow on this instrument through the nose.
The flute is known for being able to handle the most difficult musical demands that are made on the instrumentalist without much trouble. Its pitch range is from C in O4 up to B of O6, and any pitches that are outside of that range are played on the corresponding note within O4 and O6.
A type of flute. The upper register sounds nice, but it has a small sound and a narrow range. Its pitch range is from C in O5 to E of O7. Any pitches that are below the range are played on the corresponding note within O5.
(Instruments will continually be added with updates.)