Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Image
Comments about individual Voices, please post in here.

Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby PeterA » 11 Nov 2017 14:56

Sometimes people will touch a few notes on an organ or keyboard and complain about “that Trumpet Sound”, and the reason is they are playing keyboard notes that are not in the range of that instrument. All instruments have a lowest note, which is definite, but their highest note depends on the ability and expertise of the musician. Therefore it is essential, when we play with selected instruments, to ensure that we keep within the range of that particular choice, and the easiest way to explain what they are is to show you.

Here is a selection of stringed, woodwind and brass instruments, showing their practical ranges. Remember, the lowest notes are set and ideally you should not stray below them, and although you may occasionally drift above the highest notes, just as even gifted musicians would rarely do so, then for realism in our renditions, be careful, and try to stay within the ranges shown here.

Image

A couple of extra comments may also prove helpful. Clarinets come in 3 types namely A, Bb and Eb, as do some brass instruments, and they play different notes from the music the player reads in order to be in tune with other instruments, like a piano or organ, so the range shown for these instruments is what you would hear and not the actual notes that they would play. (If your grandchild is learning to play such an instrument, you will understand and I won’t have to fend off complaints about errors on these charts!) This chart makes you aware of the sounding range of these instruments.

The other significant factor is the pitch that you set. Changing the pitch, if you need to, is equivalent to changing the position of Middle C, for where you are playing on the Keyboard, and therefore you can keep the instrument sounding in the correct range.

Yamaha, when designing the AR, which I have, were most helpful in this regard, because when you choose a piccolo it initially has a 4’ setting, so when you play from Middle C up, which we commonly do, you are automatically in the correct range for that instrument. Likewise, the Cello, Euphonium, Tenor Sax and Tuba are set at 16’.

You can get caught out, though, if you adjust the pitch setting, as that will affect any further choices you make. Therefore if you drop the clarinet, for example, to 16’, to re-create Acker Bilks style, and then choose further instruments on that same button, the 16’ setting remains unless you change it again.

It is important if you are planning to make a recording, and as you prepare your registrations to give this whole subject extra thought and therefore take more care.

Finally if you would like to print out the above chart on an A4 sheet you can do so from this link:

Instrument Ranges as a printable PDF File
Organ: Yamaha AR80
Image
User avatar
PeterA
Active Poster
 
Posts: 113
Joined: 14 Oct 2017 10:19

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby Hugh-AR » 11 Nov 2017 15:09

Peter,

Food for thought! Thanks for posting this. Once I have chosen an 'instrument' I rarely think about the notes I am playing with it. I have noticed that with the Trombone on the AR, it 'growls' a bit as you play it lower down, just like a real trombone would do. It doesn't do that with the higher notes.

Hugh
It's all about the music ♫ ♪ ♫ Organ: Yamaha AR80 & Keyboard: Tyros 4
Image .. Image
Challenge Winner
2018 August (Joint Winner); October (Joint Winner); November (Joint Winner); December (Joint Winner)
2019 March (Joint Winner); May (Joint Winner); June (Joint Winner); October
2020 March; April (Joint Winner)
User avatar
Hugh-AR
Prolific Poster
 
Posts: 4525
Joined: 07 Feb 2015 14:34
Location: Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, UK

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby PeterA » 03 Jul 2018 14:19

When it comes to using Voices that mimic actual musical instruments, if we understand something about how the original instrument functions it should be easier to use that Voice on our Keyboards and make it sound more realistic. What keys we play and how we handle them does make a difference.

The Clarinet

Although the Clarinet belongs to the Woodwind section of the orchestra and can, therefore, be made of wood, it may also be manufactured in a plastic derivative.

Image

They have a single Reed, usually made of cane, which actually sits on the mouthpiece, and is clamped to the mouthpiece farthest away from the tip. Both the mouthpiece and the reed are placed in the player’s mouth. When blown, the reed beats against the mouth piece. I am sure you have all done something like this with a piece of grass between your thumbs when you were children.

In the case of the clarinet, blowing through the mouthpiece creates a column of air in the tube of the instrument to vibrate. The player’s fingering controls which holes are open and which are closed. This alters the effective length of the tube, and that changes the pitch of the sound that comes out.

You may be surprised to know that there are several different clarinets.

The most common is the Bb Clarinet, which is the one most people learn to play when they take up the instrument.

You will also find the Clarinet in A. This, too, is widely used in orchestras.

The Clarinet in Eb. This tends to be used mostly in military bands.

The Bass Clarinet, which is also used in military bands, but is also used in some orchestras.

There are a few others, which are older, and we won’t discuss those here as their use will probably not affect what we are talking about on this particular subject.

However, the question may well be asked, “Why are there so many clarinets?”

So, why are there so many different clarinets?

The reason could well take up a whole topic of its own, but you need to understand that the clarinet is one of many musical instruments which are called Transposing Instruments. That means they read an individual note, finger that particular note, but the sound that comes out is not that note, because it is another note entirely. In other words they are not notated at their true pitch, but mechanically and without any extra effort on behalf of the player produce the different pitch.

For instance, let us take the Bb Clarinet. For the player with this instrument, Bb is the ‘natural key’. This is somewhat like keyboard players enjoying playing in the key of C. But the Bb Clarinet player will read a Bb note on the score and finger a Bb note on their clarinet, but the sound produced will actually be an Ab. i.e. one tone lower. If they read a C note and finger that C note, then the sound emanating is actually a Bb note.

Why is this?

The answer is to make the playing of the instrument a little easier, because it reduces the number of sharps and flats that the Clarinetist has to deal with. e.g. If the music score is written in Eb, which has 4 flats, (oops - as Captain Mainwering used to say in Dad's Army, "I wondered who'd be the first to spot that!" Sorry folks!) the clarinetist will actually be playing in the key of F, which only has one flat.

But obviously, I hear you say, they can still come across a ‘horrible’ key, so what happens then. The answer is to simply swop instruments. They may pick up a Clarinet in A. However, when they do so, the music score has to be transposed for them to read it more easily.

The A Clarinet sounds 3 semi-tones lower than it reads. Therefore, when it reads the note C it actually sounds the note A. Thus if the sound needed to be in the key of B, which has five sharps, the clarinetist would play with the A Clarinet in the key of D, which only has 2 sharps.

In practice, nowadays clarinetists are so accomplished that they play in every key, including those horrible ones, with no trouble at all. This means that the original reason for transposing has virtually been eliminated, but now you know why they were designed that way, and why the tradition continues.

The important reason to know all this is that if you are accompanying a 'real' Clarinet with your Keyboard you will not be able to play from the same piece of music, unless you 'transpose' your Keyboard to sound the same note as they are playing!

With a Bb Clarinet, we now know that your Keyboard will sound one tone higher than the clarinet.

Imagine a couple of youngsters playing a duet, with one on the clarinet and the other on the flute, and both reading from the same music. The discordant noise, because they are playing one tone apart, would be horrendous and you could guarantee that each of them would blame the other for playing the wrong notes! Reminds me of Eric Morecambe on the piano with Andrew Previn conducting the orchestra. In actual fact our two youngsters would both be playing exactly the right notes! even though it sounds awful.

With a piano or organ you would have to have suitably transposed music. This explains why you can buy music books written for instruments in Bb. It does not mean that all the scores are written in Bb. It means that all the music is written twice, once for the instrumentalist and also for the accompaniment, but one tone lower.

With our Keyboards we can get round this problem and simply set the 'Transpose button' to -2 and away we go.

More in my next Reply.

Peter
Organ: Yamaha AR80
Image
User avatar
PeterA
Active Poster
 
Posts: 113
Joined: 14 Oct 2017 10:19

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby PeterA » 03 Jul 2018 14:46

Now for some essential details to remember when trying to emulate the sound of a clarinet on your Keyboard.

The range of the Bb Clarinet .. when it sounds that is .. not how it looks in the music .. is from the D below middle C up to F above the third ledger line above the treble clef, like this:

Image

A good clarinetist will use vibrato when playing longer notes or playing slowly, by controlling their diaphragm and sending quick pulses of air through the instrument.

Once a clarinet player stops blowing the sound stops immediately, so never use Sustain on your Keyboard with a Clarinet Voice, because it is impossible to do so on the real instrument.

Don’t forget that a Clarinet can only play one note at a time. So to be authentic, make sure you do the same, and only play single note melodies.

Clarinet players start their notes in one of two ways.

    – by tonguing the note
    – by slurring the note
If they tongue the note they effectively use their tongue to say ‘dah’ as they play, and that gives the note a definite start. However, slurring means that they don’t use their tongue, not even from one note to the next. This makes the notes smooth. So here again you can choose to emulate them, by either attacking the note, with a definition from the previous note, or by playing the notes smoothly, almost running your fingers together on the keys.

By controlling the air flow, a clarinetist can increase the volume on one note, or a series of them. Of all the woodwind instruments, the clarinet has the greatest variation in this area, and achieves the greatest range between loud and soft.

You can replicate this either with your expression pedal (if you have one), or clever use of touch sensitive settings (if you have them). Maybe you have both 'Initial Touch' and 'After Touch'. Initial Touch is affected by how fast you strike the note, whereas After Touch reacts to how hard you press down on the note once you have struck it. You can combine these two to create the same effect that a Clarinetist can make. The difference is they use their tongue, breath and diaphragm, while you use just your fingers.

Mentioning Breath, don’t forget a Clarinetist has to breathe regularly. So when you use that voice on your Keyboard you should also ‘take breaths’. One way of perfecting this is to take a breath as you begin to play a phrase, and as you let it out see how long you can maintain it before you have to take another. This should help you to lift your fingers from the keys at appropriate points, especially at the end of phrases in order to allow the Clarinetist to 'take a breath’.

I trust this will help you to think (and play) like a true Clarinetist.

Peter
Organ: Yamaha AR80
Image
User avatar
PeterA
Active Poster
 
Posts: 113
Joined: 14 Oct 2017 10:19

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby andyg » 04 Jul 2018 07:31

You might want to rethink the range for the trumpet - as shown, it's below the Tuba! :D It should start on the Eb below Middle C and go up to the Bb almost two octaves above Middle C.#

And can I ask you to correct the typo that says that the Key of Eb has four flats! It has three, of course!

Worth remembering that although a flute stops at Middle C, the very common alto flute can go lower, certainly down as far as the G immediately above the default split point on a keyboard. A bass flute can go even lower. But be aware that there will be no actual samples below the usual range for an instrument, so once you do go below Middle C for a flute, the attack and vibrato will change speed notably.

As for the oboe, if you want an oboe-ish sound to go a little lower, use the english horn - sometimes referred to as an 'alto oboe'.

Expert players will be able to get wider ranges out of many instruments, but again there won't be samples for these, so expect less than perfect results!

As for breathing, that's something that keyboard players often don't let their wind and brass players do and the results can be artificial - and you have a dead virtual player who hasn't breathed during the whole song! :) So think phrasing here. If you have lyrics in the music, follow them and they'll tell you where the natural breathing points are. If there are phrase marks, these will do the same. One possible exception is when you have a wind player who is adept at circular breathing - think Kenny G on sax, for example. You can then have really long solo sax lines, but don't tire the player out completely!

As has been said, winds can only play one note. Very often (even in exam pieces!) you'll see double notes, chords or part-playing. You could simply layer your flute (or whatever) with strings for this, but how about this. Let's say the music calls for a flute, but there are some two note chords. The trick here is to use two different flutes (NEVER ever use two identical instruments at the same pitch at the same time!). Set their levels to be the same, pan one left of centre and the other to the right -10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions on most mixer screens. If your instrument allows for it, detune them very slightly - on a Yamaha keyboard that would be +2 and -2. Make sure that reverb settings are the same for both. Now when you play a chord, your keyboard will obviously play both sounds on both notes (though you could always set one to Mono mode so it plays the top or last note played) the brain will tend to interpret it as one instrument playing one note each, as that's what happens in real life.

Finally, do consider 'dynamic contour'. In simple terms, unlike a piano or violin, brass and wind instruments don't have the ability to go from very soft to very loud right across their range. No point in asking a real flute player to play his lowest Middle C at ff, or in his highest ranges at pp. It can't be done!

In short, make realistic demands of your virtual players in your keyboard and you'll achieve more natural sounding results.
It's not what you play, it's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

Image .. Image
Visit My Website: http://www.andrew-gilbert.com/
User avatar
andyg
Super Poster
 
Posts: 292
Joined: 02 Sep 2012 20:18
Location: Newhaven, UK

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby Rev Tony Newnham » 04 Jul 2018 08:38

Hi

Important info in this thread - taking an orchestral voice out of the range of the real instrument does sometimes produce pleasant sounds, even if not authentic.

For the sake of completeness, there are also Clarinets in C. My wife has one (as well as a Bb). Very useful if she needs to play from the hymnbook, etc. as she doesn't need to transpose.

Every Blessing

Tony
Image .. Image
Challenge Winner
2020 July (Joint Winner)
User avatar
Rev Tony Newnham
Super Poster
 
Posts: 511
Joined: 16 Dec 2012 16:08
Location: Rugby

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby Hugh-AR » 04 Jul 2018 17:10

Tony,

I sort of agree with what you have said. Trouble with me is I don't know the 'real' sound of any of those instruments Peter mentions. Well yes,I have heard them played, but am not listening to them as a musician playing these instruments would. I have no doubt they would say the organ is rubbish if it thinks that is the sound eg. a Clarinet makes.

I have always thought (particularly with those early organs and keyboards) that it was a shame that any 'voices' mentioned on an organ or keyboard were given names of actual musical instruments. It should say "a voice like a Clarinet", "a voice like a Trumpet" etc. and not try to make out they are the real thing. If you want a Saxophone, then go and buy a Saxophone!

When I am playing a piece I am looking to get a certain 'sound' which is in my head. It may have 'Trombone' written on it and I may be playing it an octave higher than a Trombone could possibly play. But if that was the sound I wanted, then I would use it. I wouldn't go and buy a Trombone because that wouldn't make the sound I was after.

Hugh
It's all about the music ♫ ♪ ♫ Organ: Yamaha AR80 & Keyboard: Tyros 4
Image .. Image
Challenge Winner
2018 August (Joint Winner); October (Joint Winner); November (Joint Winner); December (Joint Winner)
2019 March (Joint Winner); May (Joint Winner); June (Joint Winner); October
2020 March; April (Joint Winner)
User avatar
Hugh-AR
Prolific Poster
 
Posts: 4525
Joined: 07 Feb 2015 14:34
Location: Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, UK

Re: Ensuring you play instruments in their appropriate range

Postby PeterA » 04 Jul 2018 17:19

Thank you Andy for your corrections, helpful observations and endorsements. All greatly valued and much appreciated.
Peter
Organ: Yamaha AR80
Image
User avatar
PeterA
Active Poster
 
Posts: 113
Joined: 14 Oct 2017 10:19


Return to Voices

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

cron