Recently there has been quite a discussion on the TNT forum regarding bass performance. One correspondent asked whether a piano got down as low as 50 Hz and it made me realise that most of us don't really know what frequencies various instruments are capable of.
In my research I also found some interesting stuff on the intensity of sound and what we actually mean when we talk about decibels. Though the following is only a small selection it may help solve all those bar room (and forum) arguments...
Audible frequency range of musical instruments and the human voice.
These for obvious reasons are acoustic instruments and unamplified. The frequency refers to fundamental tones only. To give an extreme example a massive church bell such as 'Big Ben' will produce low frequencies you can feel in your gut and yet the harmonics will go way beyond the range of human hearing.
|Instrument||Frequency range Hz|
|Piano (concert)||27.50 - 4,186.00|
|Bass Tuba||43.65 - 349.23|
|Double Bass||41.20 - 246.94|
|Cello||65.41 - 987.77|
|Violin||196.00 - 3,136.00|
|Clarinet||164.81 - 1,567.00|
|Flute||261.63 - 3,349.30|
|French horn||110.00 - 880.00|
|Trombone||82.41 - 493.88|
|Trumpet||164.81 - 987.77|
|Guitar||82.41 - 880.00|
|Type of voice||Frequency range Hz|
|Bass||87.31 - 349.23|
|Baritone||98.00 - 392.00|
|Tenor||130 - 493.88|
|Contralto||130.81 - 698.46|
|Soprano||246.94 - 1,174.70|
Interesting that a sound system will produce almost all the musical fundamentals of an orchestra without bothering the tweeter... thank Heaven for harmonics!
Sound level (dB) approximate observed equivalent.
Remember that anything over 80 dB can damage hearing over time.
|Instrument||Range measured in dB|
|Bass drum||35 - 115|
|Cymbal||40 - 110|
|Organ (orchestral)||35 - 110|
|Piano||60 - 100|
|Trumpet||55 - 95|
|Violin||42 - 95|
Surprises? Well I never thought a violin could produce more sound than a subway train, and the Piano seems surprisingly lacking in dynamics. It's also sobering to realise that few hi-fi systems will show the full dynamics of the first four on the list - but would you want to be in the room if they did?
Copyright © 1999 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com