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Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges

Tootler 05 Dec 10 - 03:51 PM
JohnInKansas 05 Dec 10 - 05:41 PM
Jack Campin 05 Dec 10 - 06:30 PM
Geoff the Duck 06 Dec 10 - 05:30 PM
GUEST,Grishka 06 Dec 10 - 06:26 PM
SussexCarole 06 Dec 10 - 06:50 PM
Tootler 06 Dec 10 - 07:19 PM
JohnInKansas 07 Dec 10 - 03:56 PM
GUEST,Grishka 07 Dec 10 - 04:52 PM
kmbraun 07 Dec 10 - 04:59 PM
Tootler 07 Dec 10 - 06:57 PM
Jack Campin 07 Dec 10 - 07:46 PM
JohnInKansas 07 Dec 10 - 09:55 PM
Tootler 08 Dec 10 - 06:55 PM
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Subject: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Tootler
Date: 05 Dec 10 - 03:51 PM

I have a piece I have written and arranged in five parts for recorders.

I want to arrange it for a band comprising mainly woodwind and brass. I suspect I am going to have adjust some of the parts to fit the instruments properly, particularly trumpet and saxophones.

I have had a hunt round the internet and found sites with typical instrument ranges, but it would be nice to hear from people who actually play the instruments in question what they find to be a comfortable range to play in.

I am particularly interested in Bb Trumpet, Eb Alto Sax and Bb Tenor Sax. Written ranges will be fine. I can make appropriate adjustments for transpositions.

The piece itself is in the key of C with a modulation to G in the middle and back to C at the end.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Dec 10 - 05:41 PM

The useful range for all saxophones, for players with typical skills, is from the notated low Bb to 2.5 octaves up at a high F. Most players at "high school band" level should be able to handle that range, although a C to C range (2 octaves) is most common. The instrument can actually play a full four octaves, from the same lowest note on up, but you're unlikely to find players who can play the top tones, above the F3 (notated).

Since Tenor saxophones, trumpets/cornets, clarinets, etc are the most numerous instruments in typical wind bands and are largely Bb instruments, most "wind band" pieces, especially for less skilled groups, are commonly in Bb or Eb so that the Bb instruments are notated as "in C" or F and the alto/baritone saxes as "in G" or C. Key changes up to 2# or 2b either side of that should be okay for reasonably skilled beginners, although a true "key of G" will put the Eb instruments at "notated as D" which may be unfamiliar to some beginners. Moderately skilled band players should have no difficulty with wider key ranges, although there may be a few notes that require unusual key combinations (up to "3-finger changes") that could be difficult in rapid passages.

Players accustomed to smaller "combo playing" (5-piece band etc.) are likely to be significantly more fluent at playing in a wider range of key signatures, and those accustomed to playing in groups where the Bb/Eb instruments are outnumbered by fiddles etc will generally be accustomed to playing in keys with "more sharps in the signature" but may still struggle if the actual key goes beyond about A unless they've had quite a bit of experience.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Jack Campin
Date: 05 Dec 10 - 06:30 PM

It might help to transpose the piece to (sounding) Bb/F rather than the original C/G.

Saxophones can play anything a recorder can, only not as fast. And they don't have an effectively missing note near the top like the high C# on a C recorder.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 05:30 PM

Most brass instruments have a range of about two and a half octaves.

Music written goes between the G (as written on a music stave) below the staff up two octaves to the G at the top of the staff, then onwards and upwards towards the C a few lines above. How high the note gets depends in part on the particular instrument and in some cases the player. I used to play a flugel horn upon which it was very difficult to reach top C whereas on a cornet it was easy.

Any brass player should be happy playing between the low G and the A or B above the top of the staff.

One comment on moving tunes into different keys. If something is being played on a fiddle, fingering is more comfortable if a tune is moved from the key of C to more flats, G, D or A. With brass, it is more comfortable fingering moving down the flats F, Bb and E. (Obviously with with a Bb instrument, the notes are heard are not as written but a tone lower than the dots).

Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 06:26 PM

Geoff, your remarks only apply to the high Bb instuments: trumpet, cornet, and fluegelhorn. Also, amateur players may not be as good as you think. Written E5 (= e", sounding D5 = d") should be safe though.

Each labiophone ("brass") instrument is a case of individual consideration, whereas the relationship between the various saxes is fairly straightforward.

Knowing the ranges is only the first step towards a satisfactory instrumentation, which is a lifelong struggle. Good books include Henry Mancini's "Sounds and Scores". Carefully listening to good music (of the desired genre and in adjacent styles) and studying the scores is the best training.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: SussexCarole
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 06:50 PM

I play tenor cornamuse..an instrument which was very much part of a recorder consort. The range on my instrument is one octave + 1 (on a good day & with fair wind - and a lot of luck - could be + 2). Key of C


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Tootler
Date: 06 Dec 10 - 07:19 PM

Thanks for your comments.

The band is open access, anyone can join (no auditions) so the instrumentation is variable and most of the stuff we play is based on four/five part arrangements with each of the parts being available for C, Bb and Eb instruments and it is then left to musical director to allocate the parts to the different instruments. I will follow the same model.

I did consider transposing the whole piece down a tone to Bb & F but it would make problems for the flutes. We are currently playing pieces in keys of C & G (concert) and the saxes seem to cope OK. My understanding is that a piece in the key of G would have to be written in E for an Eb instrument.

I think the answer is to transpose the parts and see how they look and make adjustments as necessary.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 03:56 PM

I played for a while in a small combo that had only a few "fake books" for written music. For some songs we'd have the book for C instruments and/or Bb, and sometimes for Eb; but we seldom had all three of the common keys for the same tune.

If the C instrument melody/part is written on a bass clef (with concert pitches) you can delete the bass clef sign and replace it with a treble clef. Add three sharps to the key signature and you have an Eb treble clef part. (Removing a flat counts the same as adding a sharp of course. And all the sharps/flats need to be slid up/down to proper places on the new clef.)

You could, of course, change an Eb treble clef score to a C bass score (saxophone to trombone?) by reversing the procedure.

Whether this "trick" is easier than just transposing the part in normal ways depends a lot on how fluently (and accurately) you read bass clef notation.

I have been handed a 'bone part to play on baritone and/or alto sax (both Eb) without any markup, in a large concert band where "reading the score" was a lot more critical than in my little combo where we seldom felt the need for a score. (Call it "jazz" - even if it isn't - and you don't have to write it down if you can "just fake it.")

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 04:52 PM

John, you are describing an old trick by which baritone saxers make their way into amateur symphony orchestras, claiming to be able to "transpose" the bassoon parts prima vista. Well, until the first accidentals are spied ...

You can use a single fake book for instruments in C, Bb, Eb, and F simultaneously, that's what we jazzers call "close harmony" ;-)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: kmbraun
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 04:59 PM

Try this:

Click here


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Tootler
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 06:57 PM

Found the page linked above already. I found a number of sites which gave instrument ranges and they were very useful. Some give both the achievable range by a top flight pro and what can normally be expected from a good amateur which was particularly useful. What I wanted was to supplement this information with experience from people who actually play the instruments and can tell me what they can normally achieve. I don't want to produce something that will cause major problems.

Notation programs will normally have a transposition function, so transposing parts for different instruments is straightforward.

From C; up a tone for a Bb instrument and down a minor third (or up a major sixth) for an Eb instrument.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Jack Campin
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 07:46 PM

If you aren't going to transpose, remember that passagework may not be equally easy on the saxes. You can just fly through the F# on the recorder on scale passages, as the work is shared by tewo hands. It's never going to be as fast when that note is a (written) G# on the tenor or soprano sax that needs the little finger of the left hand.

(I find going from soprano or alto recorder to sax is rather like the change from riding a racing bike to pushing a wheelbarrow, but most saxes aren't quite as hard to play as mine).


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 07 Dec 10 - 09:55 PM

I doubt that most who play the saxophone (or clarinet, oboe, keyed flute, etc) as a principal instrument would agree that the instrument poses special difficulties with passages played at any speeds likely in the majority of music, although I can see why someone who's principal instrument is a simpler one might get that feeling. The keys, especially on a low-range sax are a little heavier, but with a little practice you can accomodate the extra effort if your instrument is in good shape.

A "counter" from the sax players is that on a recorder or p'whistle you must accurately close each hole with a finger, and a slight "miss" on the hole will give you a bad note, but with all the keys on a sax, and most on some of the others, all you have to do is "flap your finger in the vicinity" of the key to get the precise note. And even on clarinet and (some) flutes, the holes you have to "home onto" to close with a finger are those in the "tonic key of the instrument" and all the "accidentals" can be whacked a glancing blow with a hammer and still play true to pitch.

There are significant and mostly non-standard variations in key setups on many saxophones, and generally only the most common fingerings are taught, but many of these instruments have "alternate fingerings" that a reasonably accomplished player familiar with the alternates on his/her own instrument can use to solve "clumsy transition" difficulties.

I might say that going from a soprano recorder to a sax is more akin to going from a racing bike to an F15 - in appropriate company, of course, since I wouldn't want to start an argument.

Simplified scoring for inexperienced players is obviously necessary in some cases, but in the situation described the more important thing probably is to keep it simple for the "simple players" - i.e. the ones who don't practice much with the instrument they're using for the piece.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Musical Instrument Ranges
From: Tootler
Date: 08 Dec 10 - 06:55 PM

Jack,

The whole point is that I need to transpose to provide parts written appropriately for Bb and Eb instruments.

As it happens the particular piece is a slow one, so whether rapid passages are feasible on a particular instrument or not is not an issue in this case.

I do not want to get into an argument about what particular instruments are capable of. I think John in Kansas has dealt with the matter very well. We are all aware of the foibles of our own chosen instruments and, as far as I am concerned, it's a matter of trying to play to the strengths of those instruments and making sure that what I write is doable by a competent amateur.


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