Quick Defintion: What Is Register in Music
If you just want a quick definition of what is register in music right away, then here it is in the most simple terms:
1) Register can refer to ranges of pitch that an instrument plays in.
- Example: a violin is in a higher register than a double-bass.
2) Register can refer to the quality of a sound (timbre).
- Example: The human voice has four main registers, vocal fry, modal (chest voice), falsetto and whistle.
You probably noticed that the example of the second definition still followed the pattern of the first definition… Read more below for an in-depth explanation:
Register Refers to Ranges of Pitch
The first use of the word register is in regard to a set of tones. The register is the range of notes that an instrument, melody, harmony, part takes in a musical phrase, or in general. A lower register means a lower set of tones, and a higher register means a higher set of tones
Examples of Register Referring To Pitch:
- A Flute is in a higher register than a Tuba
- A piano has many registers of pitch, from C1-C7, each of these set of notes C-G makes 7 registers
- A guitar is in a lower register than a soprano ukulele
Registers As Timbres
Woodwind instruments mainly follow the pattern above. For example, an oboe may play in many registers of the pitch. These distinct ranges can be produced via different fingerings and levels of blowing. However, as the blowing style changes, there is also a shift in timbre…
On the clarinet, there is a specific register that is demarcated by the timbre produced when playing a specific register G4-A4. Although measured in pitches, this register is called the “throat register” as its distinctive timbre, playing style, and fingerings all give it a different feel than the normal clarinet register. And now you see. In my last sentence I referred to a “normal clarinet register” and I was completely referring to timbre!
Examples of Register Referring To Timbre:
- The human voice has a wide variety of timbre it produces: vocal fry, modal (chest voice), falsetto and whistle are the recognized registers of the voice
- I wish he had a more gentle register
- The Clarinet has a distinctive throat register
Conclusion: What is Register in Music
Hopefully, you’ve learned a little bit about music. How the vocal range is in a register and the voice has 4 different registers. Well, when you put it that way register really is kind of confusing. I promise it’s not that hard!
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