Music: Practice & Theory Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am just beginning to learn composing (lots of fun so far!) and I am beginning to move from compositions for solo instruments (mainly piano) to making scores for groups/orchestras.

I have not attended a music school, and I've not yet had a chance to explore the instruments of the orchestra and what they're capable of in depth, so I am not familiar with the pitch ranges of the various instruments.

Now, while writing compositions for groups to play, it would be extremely useful for me to have a list (a cheat sheet ideally) of the various instruments in an orchestra, along with what range of notes each instrument can play. That way, while composing music, I can use that sheet to figure out what octaves a section could be played in on a specific instrument.

Does anyone know of a resource like this that is available? Or, otherwise, if I'm going about this incorrectly?

share|improve this question
Ideally, something like this:… but with entries for all instruments in the orchestra. – Daniel Neel Oct 18 '13 at 23:51
The Jospehine Koh ABRSM Grade 5 theory handbook has them all. I can advise you to purchase that if you want the ranges of the various classical instruments. – Neil Meyer Oct 19 '13 at 12:54
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here are two extensive resources for instrumental ranges both from Dolmetsch Organisation:

enter image description here

These resources compiled from 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.

share|improve this answer
Excellent, these are much better than the other ones I found. – Daniel Neel Oct 25 '13 at 20:11

The definitive source is "The Study of Orchestration" by Samuel Adler. I'm not aware of an online copy, but if you're really interested in learning as much as possible about this, you might want to pick up a copy.

share|improve this answer

It's important to know not just the ranges, but how the instruments operate in each part of their range. This site has real demos alongside the written music and fairly thorough explanations of the techniques available. I've seen a lot of resources like this and this is the only one I have no major qualms with.

share|improve this answer
That's a truely amazing resource. – leftaroundabout Aug 1 '15 at 11:40

Ok, I've found a set of charts with just what I'm looking for. See here: for anyone interested.

share|improve this answer
Just looking over the trombones, I don't find them to be completely accurate -- of course, for middle-of-the-road stuff it will be fine. Sibelius and other notation software you may find yourself using will often alert you when you've written notes near the range extremes. – NReilingh Oct 19 '13 at 1:59
I agree with @NReilingh -- the ranges are the extremes of possibility. Just because you write within those given endpoints doesn't even mean the music is playable. – MattPutnam Jul 31 '15 at 22:35

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.