In the past, composer/orchestration book authors Francois Auguste Geveart, Rimsky-Korsakov and others divided each instrument’s range into the low, medium, high, and very high registers. They described each range break using adjectives. Arthur Lange, with decades of experience conducting live and studio recording sessions for jazz and orchestral ensembles, took this approach to the next level by colorizing each instrument’s tone colors across their range and provided adjectives for timbre descriptions within each tone color. The result is an approach that works linearly across an instrument’s range, and then vertically for showing potential unison (called “layering” in synth language), octave, light harmony, and multi-voice possibilities both within a section and by combining sections.
Colors and adjectives Arthur Lange used to describe the tone colors are:
White = Brilliant
Yellow = Bright
Green = Pleasant
Blue = Rich
Orange = Golden
Red = Glowing
Brown = Warm
Purple = Mellow
Grey = Dull
Black = Indefinite
With the Spectrotone Chart’s color-coded approach, musical combinations can be quickly worked out by instrument, by range, and by specific notes. Combinations are presented in four categories: Perfect, Close, Complimentary, and Remote.
Application to EQ’ing
The Spectrotone Chart is organized by the 88 keys of the piano with each key numbered, from the bottom A being 1 to the highest C being 88. Because of its application to mixing and EQ, Alexander Publishing added below each piano key its Hz frequency. Similar to many EQ charts, above the piano keyboard are the colorized tone colors within each instrument’s range.
With the Spectrotone Chart, an engineer sees the range of the EQ’ing along with the tone colors being affected. “For arrangers and composers not trained in recording engineering, the Spectrotone Chart helps them understand EQ from an orchestration perspective,” explained Peter Alexander, author of the Professional Orchestration™ series and How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite.
Instruments represented include the string section with tone colors for each individual string, brass with mutes, brass without mutes, woodwinds, all the saxes including soprano sax, piano, harp, celesta bells, timpani, vibes, marimba and xylophone.
A must have for all arrangers, composers and recording engineers, The Spectrotone Chart is available as a digital download with two detailed training guides in PDF format. The Spectrotone Chart is designed for a standard 18” x 24” poster sheet for printing, but can be printed in smaller sizes such as US Letter or A4 to fit your needs.
Pricing and Availability:
The Spectrotone Chart and booklets are available as a digital download for $19.95. Order at www.alexanderpublishing.com/Departments/Professional-Orchestration/Spectrotone-Chart.aspx.
About Alexander Publishing
Alexander Publishing, a division of Alexander University, Inc., is a leading music education publisher and distributor. Its mission statement, learn it right the first time, guides the company in producing training that gets results.
About Arthur Lange
Arthur Lange was a songwriter, composer, orchestrator and conductor who came out of Tin Pan Alley and composed music for over 120 films, and orchestrated 105 more. He was music director at several studios and in 1947 organized and conducted the Santa Monica Civic Symphony. He also helped create ASMAC, the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers.