Instrumentation

Instrumentation refers to musical instruments that composers choose to play their music based on the timbre (quality or sound color). In this video listen very carefully for each sound that you hear. How many different timbres are there in this example?


Did you hear the timbre of a person's voice? One voice started out with a melody. Then more voices came in and sang in harmony with the first melody. Did you hear a drum timbre? What about the violin sound. It had a different timbre. How about the metronome?  It was used to keep a steady beat and it gave us another timbre to listen to. You might say it was used as another instrument even though you may not recognize it as a regular classical instrumentation.

When you see a piece written for the piano, the quality of sound the composer wants is a piano sound. Notes on music staff paper are written on the treble clef(G clef) and the bass clef (F clef).

If we sing a song, the notation would be a single melodic line of either the treble, bass clef or both depending on the voice range of the person who sings the piece. It may be a soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, or bass. There may be a piano accompaniment using the treble and bass clefs written below the voice part indicating that a pianist is to play these clefs to accompany the vocalist.

Timbre of a musical sound is what lets you tell one instrument or voice from another when notes with the same loudness and pitches are played. Colors may be bright, mellow, dark, warm, or strident.

Using different ways of playing the notes of your piano such as short quick staccato sounds or smooth beautiful legato phrases on higher or lower notes can give you specific feelings. Sometimes the names of pieces give us clues.

How do you think compositions called 'Jumping Frogs', 'Slithering Snakes', or 'Drippy Ice Cream' should be notated on music staff paper?  How would you play them on the piano?

Listen carefully to different instrument sounds at concerts, on the radio, and on your CD. See if you can identify the instruments or voices based on the timbre of the sound. How would you describe these sounds? Are they harsh or are they soft and sweet?


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