Theory

An interactive guide to different registral intensities of common orchestral instruments, with audio and score examples.

High intensity: sound will project and may have a sense of power, shrillness or strain, even at low dynamics. While strings can play softly in this register, albeit with a focused intensity, winds and brass will struggle to play less than mf in this register. It is therefore unsuited for quiet, accompanimental wind/brass parts.
Medium/flexible intensity: comfortable register, with a fullness of tone, and generally flexible in dynamic (can be used for both soft and loud passages). Good for accompanimental material, but you may need care if accompanying a solo instrument in a very soft dynamic and/or in a weak register.
Weak intensity: weak register, that can be played extremely softly and/or has a ’fragility’ of tone. Some instruments may not be able to play in this register above an mp dynamic. Excellent for soft, accompanimental parts, but may not be appropriate for louder dynamics.

Ranges given are as written — i.e. transposed, not sounding/concert pitch. Click on each range to hear an audio excerpt of the instrument playing in that range.

flute
oboe
 
 
 
clarinet
 
 
 
bassoon
 
 
 
horn
 
 
 
trumpet
 
 
 
trombone
b. tbn. →
 
 
 
tuba
 
 
 
violin
 
 
 
viola
 
 
 
cello
 
 
 
bass