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Music for Fantasy Fiction

ORGANOLOGY
When writing science fiction, I like knowing what types of music my character enjoy. I have even made my own fantasy instruments. This blog post looks at musical instrument classification, with lists of instruments your characters might play, but also touches on mixing.

Organology is the study and classification of musical instrument families. The four main groups of musical instrument are membranophone (drums), chordophone (bells, cymbals), idiophones (guitars, violins) and aerophones (woodwind, brass).

There are five types of music range. They are the names given to human voices but also apply to instruments. They are bass, baritone, tenor, alto and soprano.

Human hearing range is 30 to 20,000 Hertz, but the comfortable maximum upper limit is 2,000 - 5,000 Hz, which is C7. Humans lose 100 Hz every year they are alive. Mathematically a 200 year old person would definitely be deaf.

Middle C starts at C4. Most riffs average in the C4 range, from 200 to 400 Hz. This means musicians have somewhere to either drop or move up to.

Edit out C7 frequencies and above, and those below C1, this is a preference as it's all I need. When recording and producing, put filters on these high and low frequencies as they will be unnecessary annoyances. 100 - 1,000 Hz is a very comfortable range, this is C2 - C5.

The below table shows instrument ranges, their respective types, and my given groups. The reason I made this is because I would love to see people make electronic music with classical ideas. Aphex Twin does this, and much more, but there isn’t enough in my opinion.

I chose my own middle octave for instruments. It helps simplify the editing process having suggested peaks to pick out. Please note, some instruments are capable of playing out of my given ranges. I wanted to show their relationship to each other within their families in a constructive and useful manner for mixing.

If you cannot play the notes, you can strive to pick them out in production. It’s useful for making each orchestral instruments stand out. Remember, all of my given ranges are approximations. Editing always needs fine tuning.

In this graph, CL stands for Classical, EA is Early Romantic, LA is Late Romantic, MO is Modern and FO is a fake folk orchestra. I needed something to give the other non-orchestral instruments a chance. The violin is by far the most common instrument used in orchestras.

TYPE
x
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
FREQUENCY
x
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
C1
x
30
45
60
x
x
x
x
x
C2
x
60
90
125
x
x
x
x
x
C3
x
125
180
250
x
x
x
x
x
C4
x
250
375
500
x
x
x
x
x
C5
x
500
750
1,000
x
x
x
x
x
C6
x
1,000
1,500
2,000
x
x
x
x
x
OCTAVE
x
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Sub
x
C1
C1
C1
x
x
x
x
x
Low
x
C2
C2
C3
x
x
x
x
x
Mid
x
C3
C4
C5
x
x
x
x
x
High
x
C6
C6
C6
x
x
x
x
x
Human
x
C3
C4
C5
x
x
x
x
x
PERCUSSION
x
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
MEMBRANOPHONE
x
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Kick
1
C1
C1
C2
0
1
1
1
0
Timpani
2
C2
C2
C3
0
3
4
1
0
Snare
3
C3
C4
C4
0
1
1
1
0
Tom
4
C4
C5
C5
0
0
0
1
0
Timbale
5
C5
C6
C6
0
0
0
0
1
IDIOPHONE LOW
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Gong
6
C1
C2
C2
0
0
1
1
0
Marimba
7
C2
C3
C3
0
0
0
1
0
Bell
8
C3
C4
C4
0
0
1
1
0
IDIOPHONE HIGH
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Xylophone
9
C3
C4
C4
0
0
1
1
0
Glockenspiel
10
C4
C5
C5
0
1
1
1
0
Cymbal
11
C5
C6
C6
0
2
2
2
0
CHORDOPHONE
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
STRIKE
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Piano
12
C1
C3
C4
0
0
1
1
0
Organ
13
C2
C4
C5
0
0
0
1
0
Celesta
14
C3
C5
C6
0
0
1
1
0
PLUCK
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Harpsichord
15
C1
C3
C5
0
0
0
0
1
Harp
16
C2
C4
C6
0
1
2
1
0
BOW QUARTET
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Double
17
C1
C2
C3
3
6
8
10
0
Cello
18
C2
C3
C4
5
8
10
12
0
Viola
19
C3
C4
C5
9
10
12
12
0
Violin
20
C4
C5
C6
20
26
30
30
0
PICK QUARTET
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Bass
21
C1
C2
C3
0
0
0
0
1
Guitar
22
C2
C3
C4
0
0
0
0
1
Banjo
23
C3
C4
C5
0
0
0
0
1
Mandolin
24
C4
C5
C6
0
0
0
0
1
AEROPHONES
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
WOODWIND LOW
X
LOW
PEAK
HIG
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Bassoon
25
C1
C2
C3
2
2
3
4
0
Flute
26
C2
C3
C4
2
2
3
4
0
Saxophone
27
C3
C4
C5
0
0
0
0
1
Clarinet
28
C4
C5
C6
2
2
3
4
0
WOODWIND MID 1
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Bagpipe
29
C2
C3
C3
0
0
0
0
1
Cor Anglais
30
C3
C4
C4
0
1
1
1
0
Oboe
31
C4
C5
C5
2
2
3
4
0
WOODWIND MID 1
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Accordion
32
C3
C4
C6
0
0
0
0
1
Harmonica
33
C3
C4
C6
0
0
0
0
1
WOODWIND HIGH
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Recorder
34
C4
C5
C5
0
0
0
1
0
Piccolo
35
C5
C6
C6
0
1
1
1
0
BRASS LOW
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
Euphonium
36
C1
C1
C2
0
0
0
1
0
Tuba
37
C2
C3
C3
0
1
6
1
0
Trombone
38
C3
C4
C4
0
3
5
6
0
BRASS HIGH
X
LOW
PEAK
HIGH
CL.
EA.
LA.
MO.
FO.
French Horn
39
C3
C4
C4
2
4
10
8
0
Trumpet
40
C4
C5
C5
2
2
8
6
0
Cornet
41
C5
C6
C6
0
2
0
0
0
TOTAL
X
X
X
X
49
81
119
120
10

Happy Playing!

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