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?


4 Answers 4


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

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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.

  • Excellent, these are much better than the other ones I found. Oct 25, 2013 at 20:11


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.

  • That's a truely amazing resource. Aug 1, 2015 at 11:40
  • That page is no longer available (from the Wayback Machine, it looks like it was a Flash page, not HTML). Was it ever ported to the modern web?
    – Trey
    Feb 10, 2022 at 20:41

Ok, I've found a set of charts with just what I'm looking for. See here: http://andrewhugill.com/manuals/ranges.html for anyone interested.

  • 3
    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, 2013 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, 2015 at 22:35

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. http://www.amazon.com/The-Study-Orchestration-Third-Edition/dp/039397572X

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