- Instrument Ranges -

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 available compositions.

At first, I thought of the complaints as nothing more than a pity-party from a group of talentless musicians, but having attempted the pieces on the instruments myself, I realized that it is not only difficult to play these pieces well, but that there are also, in fact, parts of pieces that are pretty much not playable at all.

So I thought to myself, why is this the case? I started looking carefully into the scores and different types of instruments, and alas, I realized something. Composers are writing music that are not easily grasped by performers because composers are writing scores without a comprehensive understanding of instrumentation.

Of course, composers are encouraged and inspired to express the deepest parts of themselves through music. But writing scores that are difficult to perform, without a foundational basis in the instruments for which they are writing, should not be mistaken as exemplary skill.

I also realized that there has never been a book that systematically explains instrumentation to the extent that composers and instrumentalists would like. Is it any wonder then, that composers are having a hard time writing music that is suitable for the instruments they are writing for? Thus, my decision to write a book explaining the particular characteristics of each instrument would serve as a helpful reference for both composers and performers alike. 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 book will help composers select appropriate instruments to perform the sounds that they hear in their heads and that it will help performers find the right piece suitable for their instrument. If there is anyone who has trouble following this book, I highly recommend my other book, Introduction to Composition.

Instrumental Properties

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, or pitch range, of the instrument.


When pitch is indicated, one must indicate the octave, which 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 ideal to have all the instruments play the entire range of 7 octaves it is a tall order to have instrument-makers stretch each instrument 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's see the pitch ranges of each instrument made in Erinn and figure out 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 supposedly 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 wide pitch range. As a result, it is widely loved by both performers and bards alike. The pitch range is from E in O1 to E in O7.


The ukelele has a slightly different sound than the lute or the mandolin, both of which have a wide pitch register, ranging from E in O1 to E in O7, and a rather romantic sound. The range for the ukelele is much smaller, however, so performing on pitches that are 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 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.


The whistle is a type of flute. The upper register has a nice sound, but it has a small and narrower 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 be added continually with updates.)