music theory online : score formatslesson 26
Dr. Brian Blood

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I never use a score when conducting my orchestra .. Does a lion tamer enter a cage with a book on how to tame a lion?
Dimitri Mitropolous (1896-1960) Greek-American conductor

Instrumental Ensembles :: Solos & Parts :: Keyboards :: Percussion :: How to Write Parts for Transposing Instruments
Sounding Range of Orchestral Instruments :: Chart of Sounding Range and Clefs Used :: Sample Scores

Important: To see and hear our 'live' music examples you will need to install the free Scorch plug-in for PC and MAC systems.

Instrumental Ensembles :: top

Key word:
score format

Instrumental Ensembles
Patricia Sedor, in her article entitled Music Scores writes:

During the eighteenth century, the expansion of the orchestra and the changes in musical style similarly led to increased sophistication in the design of orchestral scores. The layout of staves often followed the standard outline, although some composers (e.g. Spontini, Schubert and Schumann) at times departed radically from it and used one of the earlier eighteenth-century formats. Wagner, preceded by Spontini, Berlioz and others, placed the horns between the clarinets and the bassoons. There was no fixed place for instruments like the harp, the bass clarinet and (in France) the saxophone, or for the rarer instruments. Such complexities of score notation naturally prompted calls for its reform which still persist. In particular, the idea that transposing instruments should be written at sounding pitch has been hard to relinquish. However, the development of atonality has led to the rejection of transposing notation (other than the usual octave transpositions) in many scores.

There are conventions that you should observe when laying out music in full score or as individual parts. Some have been mentioned earlier.

  • all staves have a clef sign followed by a key signature;
  • a time signature is only shown in the first bar of the work, except if and where it is changed;
  • if the time signature changes while the piece is in progress it does so only at the beginning of a bar;
  • each line of a score should be marked with the full or abbreviated name of the instrument playing it;
  • with single parts, the instrument need only be named at the top of the page;
  • braces group the lines of instruments like the piano (2 lines), organ (2 or 3 lines) or harp (2 lines);
  • in orchestral scores, braces group lines played by related instruments - e.g. flute(s) and piccolo;
  • bar lines are drawn through the instrumental lines belonging to those in the same section;
  • to conserve space, instruments of the same kind may be placed on the same line (e.g. when parts divide);
  • solo parts in concertos are normally placed immediately above the strings;
  • nowadays, choral lines also appear just above the strings;
  • two dark oblique lines may be placed between each line of the stave in full score;
  • parts for instruments, not required for extended periods, may be removed from the full score;
  • the parts will include sufficient multi-bar rests during extended periods of silence.

    We have illustrated, on the right hand side of this page, a full or open score for orchestra. The convention is that higher-pitched instruments or voices are usually placed higher on the page than lower-pitched parts. So, in orchestral scores, the groupings are by instrumental 'family': woodwinds on top of the page, and below them, in descending order, brass, percussion, harp and keyboards, soloists (instrumental or vocal), voices, and strings. Within each family, the arrangement is still from top to bottom by pitch, so that in the strings, for example, the violins are at the top and the double basses at the bottom.

    In conductors' scores today, music for transposing instruments continues to be written in transposed form, just as in the players' parts; but a few publishers, especially of modern music, provide conductors with music which is all at concert pitch. The advantage of the latter practice is that it makes the pitch relationships of the entire score easier for the conductor to see. The advantage of traditional practice is that it facilitates spoken communication in rehearsal since conductor and player are looking at the same notation.

    We give below a number of formats commonly met with.

    Orchestral Layout - Summary

    Flutes (Fl or Fls)
    Oboes (Ob or Obs)
    Clarinets (Cl or Cls)
    Bassoons (Bsn or Bsns)
    Horns (Hn or Hns)
    Trumpets (Tpt or Tpts)
    Trombones (Trb or Trbs)
    Tuba (Tuba)
    Timpani (Timp)
    Percussion (Perc)
    Other Instruments
    Violins I (Vlns)
    Violins II
    Viola (Vla)
    Violoncellos (Vcl)
    Double Bass (DB)

    Brass Quintet Score Layout - Summary

    Trumpet I
    Trumpet II

    Band Score Layout - Summary

    Flutes (Fl or Fls)
    Oboes (Ob or Obs)
    Bassoons (Bsn or Bsns)
    Clarinets (Cl or Cls)
    Saxophones (AS, or TS, or BS)
    Cornets (Cor)
    Trumpets (Tpt or Tpts)
    Horns (Hn or Hns)
    Trombones (Trb or Trbs)
    Euphoniums (Euph)
    Tubas (Tubas)
    Timpani (Timp)
    Percussion (Perc)

    Woodwind Quartet Score Layout - Summary




    Solos & Parts :: top

    Key words:

    Solos & Parts

    Performers are generally happier to read from their own part and do not need to work from a full or open score. It is not unusual, in complex works, to include cues from other parts in the playing part, particular when there are extended periods of silence. These extracts will be printed using a smaller type face, placed on or above the playing line. Performers sometimes add further cues by hand (using a pencil) where these give confidence during a performance.

    Short, condensed or close scores are those with a smaller number of staves than in the full or open score. Each staff bears one or more lines, each line often identifiable because the note tails for a particular line are set up or down throughout the piece. An example of a condensed format is the reduction of a four-staff string quartet score to a two-staff 'treble and bass' piano-like form.

    If, as an exercise, you are asked to expand a close score back to its full or open form, remember to adopt the usual layout for the instruments required; transposing parts if the instruments require them and the correct clef (alto clef for viola, tenor clef for tenor voice, and so on) where appropriate.

    Keyboards :: top

    Key words:


    We have illustrated the layout for a SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir with a three line organ part (2 line keyboard part - 1 line pedal part). When vocal lines include 'spoken' rather than sung text, the untuned percussion symbol (the note-head is a small x) can be used.

    The examples below, the introductory bars of Irving Berlin's 'Blue Skies' and Bach's Fugue BWV 948 show how a composer can show inner parts within a keyboard score. 'Blue Skies' begins with an upper melody, and inner series of chords and a bass line. The inner chords have their tails flipped down to distinguish them from the melody above which has its tails pointing up.By bar 7 there are now four distinct lines. In addition, the second line is divided on the second beat and on the first quaver (eighth note) of the third beat. The composer wishes to make the four parts clear, hoping that the performer will do the same. In the Fugue, Bach makes clear the three independent fugal voices by writing three distinct lines.

    Percussion :: top

    Key words:


    Tuned percussion parts use a five line stave. Some instruments, e.g. marimbas and harps, use a keyboard layout. Untuned percussion (the four lines at the top of the score below) may use the five line stave with standard note-heads (where each line or space refers to a different untuned percussion instrument in a set) or a single line with a special clef sign and note heads in the form of small x's, a symbol used to show a note of no predetermined pitch on one particular untuned percussion instrument.

    How to Write Parts for Transposing Instruments :: top

    Key words:
    transposing part

    How to Write Parts for Transposing Instruments

    In many modern works, transposing instruments, that is those where the player reads one note but sounds a different note, may be written, in the score, as they are heard rather than as they are read. The individual parts, however, would still be set out with the standard transposition. By notating the whole score at concert pitch, give or take octave transpositions, it is much easier to 'see' the harmonic and melodic detail. Pre-twentieth-century scores are written with the transposing parts as they are read.

    Transposed parts are commonly used for brass and some woodwind instruments, for example:

    Bb trumpet
    French horn (F)
    Alto saxophone (Eb)
    Tenor saxophone (Bb)
    Cor anglais (F)
    Bb clarinet
    A clarinet

    Before writing for a transposing instrument you need to know its key, any octave shifts in the transposition and the clef the player expects to read.

    One example shows their advantage. Clarinets come in different sizes but all have the same fingering system. If a player reads a part that prompts for the fingering rather than for the note, changing between instruments is much easier.

    So what happens is this.

    All clarinet parts read as though the key note (the lowest B flat on a clarinet in B flat, or the lowest A on a clarinet in A) is middle C. The part is transposed relative to instruments that play the note they read (called 'concert pitch') in order that the correct note is sounded. Note that although the B flat clarinet is called ‘B flat’, on the modern instrument, in fact, its lowest note is the D below middle C which is written as an E in the transposed part.

    The same convention is used by many but not all brass players so that, as they move from one member of the brass instrument family to another, they have to learn only one note read - fingering convention. It is the way the part is transposed that takes care of the fingering - note heard relationship.

    So, what is the correct recipe?

    Let us write a transposed part for Bb trumpet, that is, a part the Bb trumpet will play from.

    The Bb trumpet part is transposed a whole tone above concert/sounding pitch.

    If the composer/arranger wants the trumpet to sound a B flat he or she must write a C in the trumpet player's part.

    Let us begin with a concert/sounding pitch part in the full score and produce a part for the trumpeter to play from, i.e. a transposed part.

    First remember to transpose the key signature up a tone above concert/sounding pitch.

    Note: the key signature is that one tone higher than the key signature shown on the concert/sounding pitch line in the score.

    Eb concert transposes up one tone to F (i.e. Eb + one semitone = E; E + one semitone = F)
    C concert transposes up one tone to D (i.e. C + one semitone = C#; C# + one semitone = D)
    D concert transposes up one tone to E (i.e. D + one semitone = D#; D# + one semitone = E)
    and so on ....

    One can write out a table to help keep track of the correct adjustment.

    Concert part - sounds key/note Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb
    Transposing part - reads key/note F G A Bb C D E F

    We can examine another example, the baritone saxophone which is scored in the full score in bass clef but whose extracted transposing part is written up a diatonic 13th (diatonic 6th and an octave) to the treble clef.

    First one raises the part in the bass clef by one octave, then by a further 6th and converts the line into treble clef.

    We have mentioned above that you should not forget to adjust the key signature too. However, key signatures are often omitted for the French horn - the instrument most often requiring transposition! Parts for other instruments, such as the trumpet and A clarinet, are sometimes written without key signatures as well. The absence of a key signature can thus indicate either a key of C major (or A minor) or an omitted key signature. One has to determine the correct key signature from another (non-transposing) part or from the score.

    As with the trumpet part above, it helps to set out a table showing the concert/sounding key and the note up to which it must be transposed on the player's part.

    Concert part - sounds key/note C D E F G A B C
    Transposing part - reads key/note A B C# D E F# G# A

    Let us summarise what we have said above by showing below an example of how a chord might be written in a score and what notes the listener would actually hear in each case. The only non-transposing instruments are the flute and the oboe.

    As written in the score

    As heard by the listener

    One of our readers asked an interesting question:

    "I have a B flat clarinet part that I would like to play on a clarinet in A. How do I transpose the part so that the notes my instrument sounds reproduce the notes the B flat clarinet sounded on the original transposed part?".

    We thank Charles Edward Crawford for clarifying the following explanation of the answer to this question.

    Let us begin by reviewing how the parts for B flat and A clarinets are written.

    All clarinet parts read as though the key note is C. This is the note both a B flat and an A clarinet player will read but where the former sounds a B flat and the latter sounds an A. If the part is transposed relative to instruments that play what they read, the correct note is heard.

    To play the keynote B flat in B flat major, a B flat clarinet part notates a C in a part bearing a key signature with no flats or sharps, the key signature for the key of C major.

    To play the keynote A in A major, an A clarinet part notates a C in a part bearing a key signature with no sharps or flats, the key signature for the key of C major.

    To play the keynote B flat in B flat major, an A clarinet part notates a D flat in the key of D flat major, that is with five flats.

    Thus to write a transposing part for an A clarinet that was originally to sound in B flat major, but read as in C major, for B flat clarinet, the keynote C in the transposing part (which represents the B flat that is heard) will be rewritten for an A clarinet as a D flat (but will sound as a B flat) and five flats must be added to the key signature.

    If we wanted to move the other way (from a part for clarinet in A to a part for clarinet in B flat), the shifts would be the reverse, the part would be written one semitone lower and the key signature would be shifted by the equivalent of 5 sharps.

    Graham Nasby's How to Sight-transpose Clarinet Parts discusses how to transpose parts at sight. He writes, "many orchestra clarinet parts are often not written for Bb clarinet, and you may not have the required A, D, C, etc. clarinet. Also some passages may be present great technical problems which one does not have time to master, so one will transpose the part onto a differently pitched instrument to make the fingerings easier. The main reason for sight-transposing is that not all of us happen to own a complete set of pitched clarinets, so we have make do by tranposing as we play."


  • How to Sight-transpose Clarinet Parts

    An interesting question is what should one do when creating a transposed score (or extracting transposed parts) of an atonal piece which is notated without key signatures. Should transposing instruments have key signatures (which put them into concert C)? The best convention (which is set out on the Music Notation Questions Answered web page) suggests that such parts, whether in a score or individual, should be notated transposed but without a key signature. The presence of a key signature would at best be misleading since the piece is not actually in any particular key.

    Many older pieces for horn were written for a horn not keyed in F as is standard today. As a result a requirement for modern orchestra hornists is to be able to read music directly in these keys. This is most commonly done by transposing the music on the fly into F. A reliable way to transpose is to liken the written notes (which rarely deviate from written C, D, E, and G) to their counterparts in the scale the F horn will be playing in.

    commonly seen French horn transpositions include:
    Bb alto (in German, indicated as B)up a perfect fourth
    A altoup a major third
    Gup a major second
    Edown a minor second
    Ebdown a major second
    Ddown a minor third
    Cdown a perfect fourth
    Bb basso (in German indicated as B)down a perfect fifth
    some less common French Horn transpositions include:
    Ab altoup a minor third
    Gbup a minor second
    Dbdown a major third (used in some works by Berlioz, Verdi and Strauss (Der Rosenkavalier))
    B (in German indicated as H)down a tritone (used by Brahms)
    A bassodown a minor sixth (used in some works by Verdi)
    Ab bassodown a major sixth (used in some works by Verdi)
    G bassoup a minor seventh (used in some works by Verdi)


  • French Horn

  • Sounding Range of Orchestral Instruments :: top

    Key word:
    chart of sounding range

    Sounding Range of Orchestral Instruments

    We show the approximate sounding ranges of the main orchestral instruments below.

    We have provide more complete information in lesson 29.

    You will find examples of transposing parts in the scores listed under instrumental ensembles.

    Chart of Sounding Range and Clefs Used :: top

    Key words:
    sounding range
    written range

    Chart of Sounding Range and Clefs Used

    The table below shows general information about the performing ranges of particular instruments. There are variations in the type and manufacture of instruments as well as the ability of different performers. More specific information can be found in Norman Del Mar's Anatomy of the Orchestra; Gardner Read's Thesaurus of Orchestral Devices; Kent Kennan's The Technique of Orchestration; and Philip J. Lang's Scoring for the Band. If you are writing or arranging music, the best resource, in a particular case, would be the instrumentalist(s) who will be expected to perform it.

    clef(s)written range (as 'read')
    middle C is C4
    see legend below table
    concert range (as 'heard')
    middle C is C4
    see legend below table
    piccoloC, Dbtrebleprofessional: D4-C7
    amateur: G4-A6
    C: 1 octave higher
    Db: minor 9th higher
    in band music, the Db piccolo, rather than the larger orchestral C piccolo, was the mainstay until the early twentieth century, when the Db parts were gradually transposed for the C piccolo because of its stronger tone. The Db piccolo however, retains the distinction of being the first woodwind instrument to be added to the American brass bands of the mid-nineteenth century
    when writing jazz arrangements note that the piccolo is used rarely in big bands. Most saxophone players will not own or play a piccolo. Write for the instrument with discretion.
    [information taken from: Jazz Arranging Tutorial]
    (concert) fluteCtrebleprofessional: C4-D7
    amateur: C4-C7
     Cindy Pedder has written to point out that some flutes can actually play the B natural below middle C - this is achieved by using an extended foot-joint that pushes the range downwards a further semitone (from C down to B natural) - in every other regard the C flute with the low B extension follows the standard C flute fingering throughout the rest of the instrument's range
    when writing flute parts in jazz arrangements for a saxophone player, it is best to avoid extreme high or low ranges. Limiting the upper range to at least a fourth below its highest note is preferred. Remember that the low range of the flute will never be heard without amplification and the upper register will be difficult to play in tune
    [information taken from: Jazz Arranging Tutorial]
    alto fluteGtrebleC4-C7a perfect 4th lower 
    bass fluteCtrebleC4-C61 octave lowerlike the concert flute in C (see comment above), some bass flutes are fitted with a low B key to extend the range downwards by one semitone without altering the fingering through the rest of the instrument
    recorderStandard convention for naming & notating recorder music
    Recorder ranges, clefs and other useful information
    oboeCtrebleprofessional: Bb3-A6
    amateur: C4-E6
    oboe d'amoreAtrebleBb3-E6a minor 3rd lower 
    English horn
    cor anglais
    FtrebleB3-G6a perfect 5th lowerwritten in alto clef at concert pitch in certain Russian scores
    HeckelphoneCtrebleA3-G61 octave lower 
    clarinet (except bass)C, Bb, A, D, Ebtrebleprofessional: E3-C7
    amateur: E3-F6
    C: as written
    Bb: a whole step lower
    A: a minor 3rd lower
    D: a whole step higher
    Eb: a minor 3rd higher
    many orchestra clarinet parts are often not written for Bb clarinet, and you may not have the required A, D, C, etc. clarinet. Also some passages may be present great technical problems which one does not have time to master, so one will transpose the part onto a differently pitched instrument to make the fingerings easier. The main reason for sight-transposing is that not all of us happen to own a complete set of pitched clarinets, so we have make do by transposing as we play
    [for playing parts on the 'wrong' size of clarinet read: How to sight-transpose clarinet parts]
    once a favorite big band instrument, the clarinet is used infrequently in contemporary jazz arranging. Because of this, the interest and skill level of young saxophonists to double on the instrument has diminished. Most contemporary writers, writing for professional bands, continue to use the clarinet as well as other woodwind instruments to create special tonal colors when desired
    [information taken from: Jazz Arranging Tutorial]
    basset-hornFtrebleC3-G6a perfect 5th lower 
    bass clarinetBbtreble or bassprofessional: C3-C7
    amateur: C3-D6
    a 9th lower;
    a whole step lower when written in bass clef
    however also read this: Bass Clarinet Transposition
    the bass clarinet is sometimes used in big band charts and is usually played by the baritone saxophone player. It provides a light feel as a bass instrument, and an interesting texture when doubled on a melodic line
    [information taken from: Jazz Arranging Tutorial]
    contrabass clarinetBbbassprofessional: C3-A6
    amateur: C3-B5
    an octave lower than the bass clarinet 
    bassoonCbass and tenorprofessional: Bb1-Eb5
    amateur: Bb1-Bb4
     low A is possible if a tube is inserted into the end of the bassoon. However, this makes low Bb unavailable.
    Cbass, tenor (rare)Bb1-C51 octave lower 
    saxophones (band)Bb, Ebusually trebleBb3-G6Bb soprano: a major 2nd lower
    Eb alto: a major 6th lower
    Bb tenor: a major 9th lower
    Eb baritone: 1 octave + major 6th lower
    Bb bass: 1 octave + major 9th lower
    note : the Eb baritone saxophone comes in two sizes: one with a written range to low A and one with a written range to low Bb. Composers who write the low A for Eb baritone sax should be aware that it may not actually be playable if the saxophonist uses a model without an extension key
    on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, the harmonic register (written G6-D7) may be available, depending on the player. Super high notes (Eb7-G7) should not be included without prior consultation with the player
    [note taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    saxophones (orchestral)C, Fusually trebleC3-Bb6F sopranino: perfect 4th higher
    C soprano: at written pitch
    C tenor: 1 octave below written pitch
    F mezzo-soprano: a perfect 5th lower
    although Maurice Ravel's 1928 orchestral work Boléro calls for a sopranino saxophone in F, it is unlikely that such an instrument ever existed
    brass instruments generallythe range and technique on brass instruments are continually evolving, and textbooks do not keep pace with reality. Some orchestration textbooks specify the upper limit of the trumpet as written high C (for a Bb trumpet), yet composers such as Strauss and Mahler have been demanding 'concert' high Cs for nearly a hundred years. Strauss demands concert Ds in the Alpensinfonie and Electra, while Mahler demands high Eb in his 8th symphony. At the opposite end of the scale, Strauss also requires low G (3 leger lines below the bass clef stave) from the bass trombone in his Alpensinfonie
    French hornFtreble or bassprofessional: F#2-C6
    amateur: C3-G5
    a perfect 5th lowerhorns may be written in a number transpositions: C, D, Eb, E, F, G, A alto, Bb alto, Bb basso, B (rare).
    Among horn players, transpositions are spoken of in terms of the Horn in F (ex. Horn in Eb is a whole step lower)
    in Mozart and Haydn´s day, the orchestra usually used two horns, first and second horns, as a pair. They would almost always play at the same time, very rarely in unison, and usually in octaves or fourths and fifths. In Beethoven´s time (and may be a tiny bit of Schubert), they began to use four horns. In fact, in Beethoven´s Third Symphony, the Eroica, there are three horns, which is a very unusual combination. Usually it´s either two (in the early classical period), or four (from the late classical period into the romantic period). The four horns are usually numbered, and first and third horn are high horns, and second and fourth are considered low horns. I think the way composers thought of it initially was as two sets of first horns and two sets of second horns. Horn players find a niche for themselves depending on whether they are more comfortable on the lower or the higher register, because the range is actually so big that they usually specialise.
    [information taken from: Introduction to the horn]
    High horn specialist range (written): G3-C6
    Low horn specialist range (written): F2-G5
    Pedal notes (written): E2, Eb2, D2, Db2, C2
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    key signatures are often omitted for the French horn -- the instrument most often requiring transposition! Parts for other instruments, such as the trumpet and A clarinet, are sometimes written without key signatures as well. The absence of a key signature can thus indicate either a key of C major (or A minor) or an omitted key signature. You have to determine the correct key signature from another (non-transposing) part or from the score.
    [information taken from: Transposition tutorial]
    Wagner tubas
    Bb, Ftreble or bassBb: C3-G5
    F: F2-D5
    tenor in Bb: a whole step lower
    bass in F: a perfect 5th lower
    Tuben or Wagner tubas are played by horn players. The sounding pitch of a Bb tenor instrument playing from a part written in treble clef, should be a 9th below the written note; however, the practical realizations of hornists are not entirely consistent on this point. ex. Stravinsky, Rite of Spring
    Tuben also have parts written in E-flat (sounding a 6th lower than written) in The Ring of the Niebelungen.
    trumpet (except Eb bass)C, Bb, A, G, F, E, Eb, Dtrebleprofessional: F#3-D6
    amateur: A3-Bb5
    C: as written
    C bass: 1 octave lower
    Bb: a major 2nd lower
    A: a minor 3rd lower
    G: a perfect 5th higher
    F: a perfect 4th higher
    E: a major 3rd higher
    Eb: a minor 3rd higher
    D: a major 2nd higher
    Flugelhorn: major 2nd lower
    Bb bass: a major 9th lower
    for a detailed explanation of trumpet characteristics, see Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra
    for trumpet in Bb and C, pedal notes (written): C3, B2, Bb2, A2, Ab2, G2, Gb2
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    piccolo trumpetBb, AtrebleF#3-G5Bb: a minor 7th higher
    A: major 6th higher
    sometimes written F#4-G6
    Bb: sounding 1 step lower
    A: sounding a minor 3rd lower
    Eb bass trumpetEbtrebleF3-C6major 6th lower 
    piccolo tromboneBbtrebleE4-F7
    (range excludes fundamentals or pedal notes)
     the sopranino and piccolo trombones are even smaller and higher instruments than the soprano; they are also extremely rare. Sopranino and piccolo are pitched one octave above the alto and soprano trombones. They are called for in some trombone choir literature, the sopranino, for example, being used in the Moravian trombone choirs in the USA. Owing to the very high pitch of these instruments, they are played exclusively by trumpeters.
    [information taken from: Types of Trombone]
    sopranino tromboneEbtrebleA3-Eb6
    (range excludes fundamentals or pedal notes)
     the sopranino and piccolo trombones are even smaller and higher instruments than the soprano; they are also extremely rare. Sopranino and piccolo are pitched one octave above the alto and soprano trombones. They are called for in some trombone choir literature, the sopranino, for example, being used in the Moravian trombone choirs in the USA. Owing to the very high pitch of these instruments, they are played exclusively by trumpeters.
    [information taken from: Types of Trombone]
    soprano tromboneBbtrebleE3-C6
    (range excludes fundamentals or pedal notes)
     during the twentieth century some manufacturers made soprano trombones as doubling instruments for jazz cornet players, dubbing them slide cornets, or as a novelty, but the instrument has never been widely used or enjoyed much popularity. It rather lacks its own character and historically had little validity as it was easily replaced by the cornet or woodwind instruments and the short shifts make it difficult to play in tune. Soprano trombone slides being so short, there are often only six positions on the slide rather than seven. The soprano trombone is usually played by a trumpeter owing to the high pitch of the instrument and similar required embouchure
    [information taken from: Types of Trombone]
    alto tromboneEbaltoA2-G5
    (range excludes fundamentals, valve attachments or pedal notes)
     used primarily, but not exclusively, in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German orchestral works.

    Raphael Vang comments, "there are (unfortunately) some orchestral parts still written for alto trombone, notated in tenor clef. This problem is found in some editions from the 1950s and 60s, probably mistakes by the editor. In addition, some composers had a habit of combining the 2 first trombones in the score on one line. Some of them used the alto clef, while others used the tenor clef. Modern players expect alto trombone parts to be notated in alto clef."

    tenor tromboneBb/Falto, tenor, bass
    *treble (see comment)
    professional: E2-F5
    amateur: E2-Bb4
    (range excludes fundamentals or pedal notes)
    *a 9th lower, when written in treble clef as a Bb transposing instrumentpedal tones G1-Bb1 are possible.
    Use of the F-trigger facilitates pitches from F2 down to C2, or B1 with the F-slide extended.
    *British Brass Band music for trombones in Bb is written in treble clef where the sounding pitch is a 9th below the written pitch
    top note is approximate, higher notes may be found by individual players. Pedal notes are theoretically available, but unstable and rarely used
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    tenor trombones with C as their fundamental note were almost equally popular during the mid-nineteenth century in Britain and France. Many modern tenor trombones include an extra attachment of tubing - about 3ft or 1m in length - which lowers the fundamental pitch from B flat to F. It is engaged by using a trigger or valve (these instruments are not to be confused with the three-valved valve trombone). This type of trombone is typically built with a larger bore size (0.525" or 0.547") and is known as a B flat/F trombone, F-attachment trombone, or trigger trombone. Trombones without this feature have become known as straight trombones
    [information taken from: Types of Trombone]
    bass tromboneBb/Fbassprofessional: Bb1-Bb4
    amateur: Bb1-F4
    (range excludes fundamentals or pedal notes)
     Raphael Vang comments, "modern bass trombones usually have at least has one valve, allowing the player to play pedal notes not available on the non-valved instrument. In this case the range expected of a bass trombone player is identical with that on the tuba. In these cases the bass trombone range certainly can go down to contra-E, and, I would say, most players can go even lower."
    top note is approximate, higher notes may be found by individual players. Pedal notes: Bb1, A1, Ab1, G1, Gb1, F1, E1
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    contrabass trombonevariousbassAb0-C5 although the name implies an octave transposition - as in contrabassoon or contrabass - the contrabass trombone plays at concert pitch, no transposition. It is primarily called for in a few select works of Wagner, Strauss, Schoenberg and Puccini.
    Instruments are built with fundamental tones of F, E-flat, BBb, and others in first position. The shape and design varies from straight with slide handle extension to double valve and double slide models. The choice of which instrument is most appropriate in any given situation is the players choice
    tubaBb, Ebbassprofessional G0-C5
    amateur: E1-C4
     orchestral tubas play at concert pitch regardless of the pitch of a particular instrument
    in the British brass band tradition, Eb and Bb tubas are written in treble clef. The Eb tubas sound 1 octave + a 6th below the written note while the Bb tubas sound 2 octaves lower than written. The Bb tubas are technically BBb (double-Bb) tubas.
    extra notes on the bass tuba: Db1, C1, B0, Bb0 sometimes available
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    tenor tuba
    Bbbass or treble, sometimes tenorprofessional: Bb1-F5
    amateur: E2-Bb4
    Bb: a whole step lower in bass as a transposing instrument,
    a 9th lower in treble.
    this instrument should not be confused with the Bb tenor tuba (Tuben) played by horn players.
    When writing for this instrument in bass clef, it is advisable to notate at concert pitch. Tenor clef may also be used.
    In orchestral works prior to the mid-twentieth century, the euphonium written in bass clef frequently employs B-flat transposition
    timpanivariousbass20": F3-C4
    23": D3-A3
    26-25": Bb2-F3
    29-28": F2-C3
    32-30": D2-A2
     in some cases of older notation, timpani is written in C with the root pitch indicated (ex. Timpani in D)
    crotalesCtrebleC4-C61 octave higher 
    flexatoneEtrebleE5-A6as writtendue to the nature of the instrument all pitches are approximate
    xylophoneCtrebleG4-C71 octave higher 
    marimbaCtreble, bass or grand staffprofessional: (C2 to A2)-C7
    amateur: C3-C7
     some models of marimba have extended lower ranges
    glockenspielCtrebleG3-C62 octaves higherwhen notes exceed the range of the instrument the effective transposition is 1 octave higher
    chimesCtrebleC4-G5 individual chimes may extend the range of a standard set of chimes
    guitarCtrebleE3-E61 octave lower 
    bass guitarCbassE2-E51 octave lowertwo lower notes (C2 and the B1 below it) are associated with 5-string electric basses and acoustic basses (C2 only) that have a special extension on the E string
    when writing jazz arrangements it is best to be conservative in this extended range, taking into account that the next band that wishes to play the chart may not have a bass player with an instrument capable of playing it in the register it was written.
    [information taken from: Jazz Arranging Tutorial]
    banjoCtrebleC3-A4as written (tenor sounds 1 octave lower)the five-string banjo is also frequently used, and this has various tunings depending upon the style of music being played
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    mandolinCtrebleG3-B6as writtenstrings are tuned in pairs
    harpCgrand staffCb1-G#7  
    pianoCgrand staffA0-C8  
    some pianos extend downwards by a further 5th while some upright pianos only reach up to A7
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    celestaCgrand staffC3-C71 octave higher 
    harpsichordCgrand staffF1-F6 the range of historical instruments varies widely
    harmoniumCgrand staffF1-F6 Harmonium ranges do vary greatly from instrument to instrument
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    organCgrand staff plus a third staffkeyboard range: C2-C7
    pedal range: C2-G4
    as writtenorgan music is notated on three staves, two for the hands and one, the lowest, for the pedals
    accordionCgrand staffF2-F6as writtenthis is the range of the 41-keyed concert accordion. Some accordions have fewer keys, 25 being the minimum
    [information taken from: The Orchestra: A User's Manual]
    violinCtrebleprofessional: G3-A7
    amateur: G3-G6
    no transposition, excepting scordatura 
    violaCalto, trebleprofessional: C3-E6
    amateur: C3-C6
    no transposition, excepting scordatura 
    celloCbass, tenor, trebleprofessional: C2-C6
    amateur: C2-G5
    as written, but in treble clef may sound 1 octave lower (for example, Beethoven) 
    double bass
    string bass
    Cbassprofessional: C2-C5 (also A2, B2)
    amateur: E2-G4
    1 octave lowerdouble basses occasionally play in tenor or treble clefs (rare)
    some basses have a fifth string which is tuned below the E string (B in Europe, C in the US). Some four-string basses have an extended fingerboard and the longer fourth string can extend the E string down to the C below. This note is identical to the bottom note on the 'cello, but, of course, it sounds an octave lower. This arrangement is particularly convenient when basses and celli are playing the same part. When writing for a professional orchestra you can be certain that the bass section will have some basses of one of these types, but when writing for amateur orchestra, you should consider, if you would like a note below low E, what the alternative might be if the bass section cannot play it
    sopranoCtreblecoloratura: C4-Eb6
    lyric: Bb3-C6
    dramatic: Ab3-C6
    mezzo: G3-Bb5
    amateur: C4-A5
    no transposition 
    altoCtreblecontralto: F3-F#5
    amateur: F3-D5
    no transposition 
    tenorCtreble (open score)
    bass (short score)
    countertenor: G3-F#5
    lyric: C3-C5
    dramatic: C3-Bb4
    amateur: C3-A4
    1 octave lower in treble
    as written in bass
    baritoneCbasslyric: A2-G4
    dramatic: A2-G4
    bass: F#2-E4
    amateur: G2-E4
    no transpostion 
    bassCbasscantante: F2-F4
    profundo: C2-D4
    contrabass: Bb1-G3
    amateur: E2-D4
    as written 
    the information in this table is drawn from many sources including Ranges of Orchestral Instruments produced by the Symphony Orchestra Library Center


    Sample Scores :: top

    Key word:
    sample scores

    Sample Scores

    These scores show the range of material that can be set in score and played back using the Scorch plug-in.

    Fanfare 2000
    Caminhada by Carlos Oliviera
    Concerto for Orchestra by David Eccott
    Maximum Underground by Stephen Taylor
    Orchestral Rock by Cliff Turner
    Fantoches by Claude Debussy arranged for clarinet and string orchestra by David Stowell
    Brass Odyssey for brass band by Derek Bourgeois
    Roller Coaster for windband by Derek Bourgeois
    A Dorset Celebration for orchestra by Derek Bourgeois
    Red Dragon for windband by Derek Bourgeois
    Green Dragon for windband by Derek Bourgeois
    Biffo's March for windband by Derek Bourgeois
    Exterior by F.T. Nordensten
    Metro Gnome by Derek Bourgeois
    Prelude and Fugue No. 1 by Glen Shannon
    Laughing Stock by Francisco del Gil Valencia
    Flute Piece by Chris Walker
    The Minute Waltz by F. Chopin
    Deuxičme Arabesque by C. Debussy
    Dolmetsch Library e-Music Scores

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