Impressive High Pitched Instruments to Know

High Pitched Instruments Reviews

High Pitched Musical instruments come in all shapes and sizes, made of wood, metal, glass, or more exotic materials. The size of the instrument when considering wind, brass, and string families dictate the range and pitch of the instrument. Ranges of instruments vary considerably and so, therefore, do the pitches (tones) available to the player of that instrument. Consider the violin, which has a huge range of over five octaves whereas the mbira (African thumb piano) usually only boasts a little over an octave.

One of my favorite and most common orchestral instruments that fall into this category is the ‘piccolo‘. This resembles a small flute and is made either of wood or metal. The head joint is often made of wood but this depends on the preference of the player and the sound they wish to produce. The range of the piccolo is approximately three and a half octaves sounding from D4 – C7 (it sounds an octave higher than notated). It provides a glistening top-line in an orchestral setting complementing the woodwind section and bringing extra focus to the violin section. Tchaikovsky makes excellent use of the piccolo in his 6 th Symphony.

Another member of the woodwind family that is a high-pitched instrument is the E flat Clarinet. This is also called the piccolo clarinet as it is smaller than the other members of this family and as you would expect plays the highest notes available. It is a difficult instrument to play as the finger holes are quite close together making rapid passages challenging but possible. It is also a transposing instrument meaning that its written pitch is not the same as its sounding pitch; it a minor third higher. The range of the piccolo clarinet is similar to the larger B flat clarinet from an E below middle C to the C three octaves higher but remember the transposition. Many orchestral pieces use the E flat clarinet and it is popular in Military Marching Bands.

Many orchestral percussion instruments come under the heading of high-pitched. One instrument you have probably heard many times in orchestral and commercial music is the ‘glockenspiel’. This instrument has a range of around three octaves and is also a transposing instrument with its sounding pitch being two octaves above its written one (G5 – C8). The glockenspiel is made of small, metal bars that are struck by the performer using beaters made of rubber, metal, wood, or plastic. Each produces a very different tone.

The ‘celesta’ I am going to include directly following the glockenspiel as they sound similar and are both familiar sounds in many pieces of music. In the case of the celesta, John William’s ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ makes haunting use of this instrument.

Like the glockenspiel, the celesta produces its sound by having metal sound-bars, that are laid on felt rails, struck by hammers made of hard rubber. It produces a gently percussive, bell-like tone. The celeste is a keyboard instrument with the playing mechanisms inside a wooden case. The range of the celesta varies from three octaves to over five with the greatest range possible being from C3 -C8.

Coming in at a very modest 20cm in length, the tiny ‘sopranino recorder‘ is classed as a high-pitched instrument. There have been many versions of this recorder through the ages but today the modern instrument has F5 as its lowest note and a range of approximately two and a half octaves. Sopranino recorders are made of both wood and plastic with the wooden instruments producing a warmer timbre. As with many members of the recorder family, their popularity flourished from the Medieval period through to the Baroque. Often, unfairly, in my opinion, the recorder is viewed as the province of young children; almost as a non-instrument. This is to ignore the tremendous flexibility the recorder has and the substantial amount of repertoire available for it at the highest of technical standards.

Similar in sound to the sopranino recorder is the ‘tin whistle’. These unassuming little instruments have quite an impressive heritage dating back many centuries. They are considered to be part of the ‘fipple flute’ family of instruments that transcend culture and time. The contemporary tin whistle is made from nickel-plated brass fitted with a plastic mouthpiece. Once called a penny whistle, today’s tin whistle closely resembles that instrument of the 19 th century. It is a ‘diatonic’ instrument meaning it is pitched in a given key, similar in that respect to the diatonic (as opposed to the chromatic) harmonica. Whistles in the key of ‘D’ are particularly popular and extensively used in Irish folk music. The range of these instruments tends to be from D5 – D7.

When exploring high-pitches instruments, the violin needs to be included. Even though the violin can play a G3, it is also capable of playing ‘harmonics’. These come in two varieties that are called ‘natural’ and ‘artificial or false’ harmonics. This playing technique involves playing any one of the four strings on the violin in a particular way to create high sounds. The natural harmonic can be produced by any string instrument by placing your finger specific points on the string to create a tone based on the fundamental series of harmonics. Artificial harmonics are different in that they require the finger to be placed at the interval of a 4 th above the stopped note. This is one way to produce a pitch two octaves higher than the stopped note. You can easily understand that this extends the range of the violin into the stratosphere of the pitch.

As a final thought, perhaps it is not out of line to add the synthesizer into the category of instruments that produce high-pitches. The difference between an acoustic instrument and a ‘synth’ is that the synth produces its sound electronically. This gives the instrument an almost limitless range of notes, to the point where it is possible to produce sounds beyond the capacity of the human ear. Even though this might be slightly cheating, the synthesizer is not a new addition to the range of instruments available to performers and composers that presents not only the option of creating your own unique sounds but over an enormous compass of pitches.

What are the Highest-Pitched Instruments?

Many instruments that are capable of producing high-pitched tones are known for their light and airy quality. High pitch instruments are typically smaller than their regular counterparts, giving them the capability to reach high tones. There are a variety of high-pitched instruments across the string family, woodwind family, brass family and other families.

The highest-pitched orchestral instrument is the piccolo, but there are some other impressive musical instruments that can reach high ranges. Let’s take a look.

Pitch and Hertz

Hertz (hz) is a way to measure pitch that relies on the physical properties of a sound wave. Hertz measures the number of sound waves per second of a tone. A higher number of hertz is heard as a higher tone. For example, a tone of 25 hz means that the sound wave completes 25 cycles in a second. A tone of 250 hz means that the sound wave completes 250 cycles in a second. The 250 hz sound wave will be heard as a higher pitch.

Highest-Pitched Instruments in the String Family

When you look at a string instrument, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that it’s made of wood, so why is it called a string instrument? The bodies of the string instruments, which are hollow inside to allow sound to vibrate within them, are made of different kinds of wood, but the part of the instrument that makes the sound is the strings, which are made of nylon, steel or sometimes gut.

The strings are played most often by drawing a bow across them. The handle of the bow is made of wood and the strings of the bow are actually horsehair from horses’ tails! Sometimes the musicians will use their fingers to pluck the strings, and occasionally they will turn the bow upside down and play the strings with the wooden handle.

The strings are the largest family of instruments in the orchestra and they come in four sizes: the violin, which is the smallest, viola, cello, and the biggest, the double bass, sometimes called the contrabass. (Bass is pronounced “base,” as in “baseball.”) The smaller instruments, the violin and viola, make higher-pitched sounds, while the larger cello and double bass produce low rich sounds. They are all similarly shaped, with curvy wooden bodies and wooden necks. The strings stretch over the body and neck and attach to small decorative heads, where they are tuned with small tuning pegs.

Learn about each instrument in the string family:

Violin

The violin is the baby of the string family, and like babies, makes the highest sounds. There are more violins in the orchestra than any other instrument (there can be up to 30!) and they are divided into two groups: first and second. First violins often play the melody, while second violins alternate between melody and harmony.

A typical-sized violin is around 24 inches (two feet) long, with a slightly longer bow. You play the violin by resting it between your chin and left shoulder. Your left hand holds the neck of the violin and presses down on the strings to change the pitch, while your right hand moves the bow or plucks the strings.

Viola

The viola is the older sister or brother of the violin. It is slightly larger, just over two feet long, and has thicker strings, which produce a richer, warmer sound than the violin. There are usually 10 to 14 violas in an orchestra and they almost always play the harmony.

You play the viola the same way as you do the violin, by resting it between your chin and shoulder. Your left hand holds the neck of the viola and presses down on the strings to change the pitch, while your right hand moves the bow or plucks the strings.

Cello

The cello looks like the violin and viola but is much larger (around 4 feet long), and has thicker strings than either the violin or viola. Of all the string instruments, the cello sounds most like a human voice, and it can make a wide variety of tones, from warm low pitches to bright higher notes. There are usually 8 to 12 cellos in an orchestra and they play both harmony and melody.

Since the cello is too large to put under your chin, you play it sitting down with the body of the cello between your knees, and the neck on your left shoulder. The body of the cello rests on the ground and is supported by a metal peg. You play the cello in a similar manner to the violin and viola, using your left hand to press down on the strings, and your right hand to move the bow or pluck the strings.

Double Bass

This is the grandfather of the string family. At over 6 feet long, the double bass is the biggest member of the string family, with the longest strings, which allow it to play very low notes. The 6 to 8 double basses of the orchestra are almost always playing the harmony. They are so big that you have to stand up or sit on a very tall stool to play them, and it helps if you have long arms and big hands.

Like the cello, the body of the double bass stands on the ground, supported by a metal peg, and the neck rests on your left shoulder. You produce sound just like on a cello, using the left hand to change pitch and the right to move the bow or pluck the string.

Harp

The harp is different from the other stringed instruments. It’s tall, about six feet, shaped a little like the number 7, and has 47 strings of varying lengths, which are tuned to the notes of the white keys of the piano. There are usually one or two harps in an orchestra and they play both melody and harmony. You play the harp sitting down with your legs on either side, with the neck of the harp leaning on your right shoulder.

Each string sounds a different note (they come in different colors to help you tell one from another) and you play them by plucking the strings with your fingertips and thumb. Attached to the bottom of the harp are seven foot pedals, which change the pitch of each string and allow them to sound the pitches of the black keys on the piano.

Highest-Pitched Instruments in the Woodwind Family

Flutes

Flutes are a member of the woodwind family that is perhaps the most well-known instrument for producing high pitches. Their long, thin metal bodies are capable of producing high-pitched tones that give orchestras a light and airy quality. Flute pitches range spans from 262 Hz up to 2096 Hz. However, different variations of the flute have been created to reach different pitches. Flutes typically have a written range of C4-D7.

Piccolo

The highest pitch on the piccolo is about 5000 Hz. The piccolo looks similar to a flute with its long, thin body. However, it is a fraction of the size, making it capable of producing higher pitches. They are small, high-pitched wind instruments with mouthpieces and are considered the highest-pitched woodwind instrument.

Piccolos are frequently highlighted with short solos during orchestra movements. Piccolo high pitches ranging from 630 Hz to an impressive 5000 Hz give them a happy and jubilant sound quality. Piccolo’s typically have a written range of D4-C7, but they actually play one octave higher than this.

Oboes are long, thin instruments that have a similar appearance to a clarinet. However, their mouthpiece is played with an external reed. Oboes have a deeper pitch than flutes, but are still capable of producing high-pitched tones. Oboe pitch ranges reach 250 Hz to 1500 Hz.

Clarinet

Clarinets are also long, thin, straight tubes played with a thin reed at the end. Their range is similar to that of an oboe, but stretches just beyond what an oboe is able to reach. At the low end, clarinets are capable of pitches of just 200 Hz. At the high end, clarinets are capable of pitches up to 2000 Hz.

Recorder

A recorder is a small high-pitched wind instrument with a mouthpiece. Recorders are frequently used to teach children how to play a woodwind instrument because of their simple composition. They have a thin, short body and are held similarly to a clarinet. At their highest range, some types of recorders are capable of producing pitches up to an impressive 3200 Hz.

Highest-Pitched Instruments in the Types of Brass family

Trumpets

Although trumpets are unable to reach nearly as high pitches as the woodwind instruments, many variations are still able to reach impressively high tones. A typical trumpet is used in a variety of bands, orchestras, and music groups. It is capable of reaching pitches of up to 988 Hz. Different trumpets and horns have been created for different pitch ranges.

French Horn (Horn in F)

The French Horn has a written range of F#2-C6. The high end of it’s range ends at around 1000 Hz.

Tuba (aka Tuben or Wagner Tuba)

The tuba, also known as a Wagner tuba, is slightly larger than the trumpet and is capable of producing slightly lower-pitched tones. At the high end, the tuba is only capable of reaching pitches of up to 784 Hz.

Piccolo Trumpet

The piccolo trumpet is smaller and lighter weight than a typical trumpet. It’s smaller structure makes it capable of playing tones a full octave above a trumpet. As a result, it is the highest-pitched brass instrument. At the high end of its range, it is capable of tones up to 1600 Hz.

Highest-Pitched Instruments Keyboards

The harp is a type of stringed instrument known for its beautiful airy tone. Played with the fingers, the harp is capable of a wide range of tones. It is the highest-pitched string instrument, with an upward range of 3322.4 Hz. Although it is not as high as the piccolo, the harp is used for solos and orchestral pieces in need of high tones.

Piano

The piano is another instrument that is capable of producing high-pitched tones. It has one of the largest pitch ranges of all instruments and is well-known for being versatile in its uses. At the low end of its range, the piano is capable of tones down to just 28 Hz. At its high end, it is capable of tones up to 4186 Hz on a typical 88-key piano.

Human Voice

Even the most talented singers are unable to compete with many of the high-pitched instruments. The highest soprano voices are typically capable of pitches up to 1000 Hz. This is comparable with a trumpet or oboe.

Highest-Pitched Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments are also well-known for their wide ranges of pitches. Many instruments, such as the xylophone, marimba and celeste are capable of reaching relatively high tones.

Xylophone

The xylophone is a small wooden instrument that has a series of metal or wooden bars that differ in length. The shortest bars are capable of the shortest tones. The xylophone is capable of reaching pitches up to 3500 Hz.

Marimba

The marimba has a similar appearance to the xylophone with sets of wooden bars that can be struck to produce different tones. The marimba has a slightly smaller pitch range. At its highest, the marimba is capable of tones up to 2100 Hz.

Celesta

The celesta has a similar appearance to a keyboard but contains a number of bells on the inside. The player produces a tone by touching one of the keys, which in turn rings the correlating bell. The smallest bells are capable of producing tones up to 3500 Hz.

Conclusion

High pitched instruments are typically shorter and smaller in size than their typical counterparts. There are a number of high pitch instruments across the woodwind, string, brass, and other families. The most well-known high pitch instruments include the harp, piccolo, and piano. These high-pitched instruments are typically used in orchestra movements, bands and solos for their light, happy and air-like quality.

FAQ for Highest Pitched Instruments

What are the highest pitched instruments?

There are many instruments that can produce sounds with high pitch. But the highest pitched instrument is the piccolo. The piccolo is a small flute with a single hole in it. It has a very high pitch and is usually played by children or in orchestras.

The highest pitched wind instrument is the clarinet, which has an average of 3,800 Hz. The next highest pitched wind instruments are the oboe at 3,700 Hz and the bassoon at 3,600 Hz.

How do highest pitched instruments sound?

The higher the pitch, the more overtones it has. For example, a violin’s lowest note is D4 and its highest note is G8. The human range of hearing is typically between 20Hz to 20kHz.

The high pitched instruments are typically the most difficult to play. They require a lot of skill and practice in order to produce a sound that is pleasing to the ear.

What is the highest pitched instrument in the world?

The highest pitched instrument in the world is a Tibetan bowl. This is because of the bowl’s shape and size, which are both unusual.

The Tibetan bowl is a high-pitched instrument that has been used for centuries by Buddhist monks to make sounds during ceremonies.

Which instrument has the lowest pitch?

The violin is the instrument that has the lowest pitch. It is an instrument with a string length of about 4.5 feet and a body that is made up of three or four ribs and a wooden soundboard. The viola, on the other hand, has a string length of about 5 feet and has six ribs.

Which instrument is used to make a sound or noise?

The instrument is a device that produces sound by vibrating a column of air in a way that it makes friction with the walls of the instrument. The most common instruments are wind instruments such as the flute, saxophone, clarinet, and trumpet.

A sound or noise is any form of vibration that can be heard by humans or any other living creature.

How many notes are in the highest pitched instrument?

The highest pitched instrument is the piccolo. It has a range of 3.5 octaves (can reach a maximum frequency of 415 Hz} and has a total of 4 notes. The lowest pitch on the piccolo is D3, which is also the lowest pitch in any orchestral instrument.

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