Many instruments are capable of producing tones over a wide range of pitches. However, there are a few instruments that produce tones that are deeper than others. Low pitched instruments tend to be larger than instruments that produce high tones, as a result of the structure required for low pitched instruments.
How to Measure Pitches
One way to measure pitch is in a unit called Hertz (Hz). Hertz measures the frequency of a wavelength of sound. A high-pitch sound will have a high number of hertz (e.g. 1200 Hz). A low-pitch sound will have a low number of hertz (e.g. 100 Hz). As a result, low-pitched instruments will result in a low measure of hertz. The lower the number, the lower the sound. For example, a 200 Hz sound will result in a lower pitch than a 700 Hz sound. Each instrument below gives a measure of hertz to designate its low pitch. Here are some examples of the lowest-pitched instruments:
The Woodwind Family
Types of Saxophones
A saxophone is part of the woodwind family and is well known for its role in jazz music and jazz bands. Their brass composition gives them a warm, rich tone with a broad quality. Typical saxophones are capable of ranges from a B♭3 to F6, or 125 Hz–900 Hz. However, there are different variations of saxophones capable of reaching different pitches.
A bass saxophone is the most commonly played variation of low-pitched saxophone. They are well-known for their role in adding depth and color to jazz pieces and orchestras. Bass saxophones are capable of reaching low pitches of 55 Hz.
A contrabass saxophone is less well-known than the saxophone. Reserved for special occasions and appearances by musicians, a contrabass saxophone. Standing a 1.9 meters high, the contrabass saxophone’s low range ends at just 35 hz.
Well-known for its large size and low tones, the sub contrabass saxophone was theoretical until its playable design around the turn of the 20th century. This massive instrument stands at 2.25 meters, or 7 feet and 5 inches, tall. It is capable of producing tones down to 26 hz.
Types of Clarinets
Clarinets are also part of the woodwind family. Played with a small reed, clarinets are notable for their roles in orchestras and bands. A typical clarinet is capable of producing a pitch range from 200 hz to 2000 Hz. However, just like the saxophone, a variety of clarinets have been designed to reach lower tones.
Bass clarinets remain a popular and feasible choice for lower pitches in an orchestra setting. Unlike a typical clarinet, the bass clarinet rests on the ground while being played due to its large size. A bass clarinet is able to reach a low pitch of 75 Hz.
The use of a contrabass clarinet is not typical in any setting due to its large size. These larger sized clarinets can span up to 3 metres, or 10 feet. They are capable of pitches down to 55 Hz.
Types of Oboes
Oboes are closely related to the clarinet and another member of the woodwind family. One of the biggest differences of the oboe from the clarinet is the use of a double reed mouthpiece to transfer air into the body. Oboes tend to have a similar pitch range to clarinets, ranging from 250 Hz–1.5KHz.
A bass oboe is about double the size of a typical oboe and may still be used by orchestras or bands to expand for deep, rich sounds. A bass oboe can reach a bottom pitch range of 123 Hz.
Types of Bassoons
A final low-pitched instrument belonging to the woodwind family is the bassoon. It is a large instrument played with a double reed frequently found in orchestras. A normal bassoon has a pitch range from 55 Hz–575 Hz.
The double bassoon is the slightly larger, slightly lower brother to the bassoon. Known for its unique shape, the double bassoon sounds around an octave below the normal bassoon. The bottom of its range extends to 25 Hz.
Types of Brass Instruments
The trombone is a well-loved brass instrument known for its slide. It frequently plays a prominent role in orchestras, school bands, and even jazz bands. Typical trombone is capable of producing pitches from 110 Hz–630 Hz.
The bass trombone is simply a larger version to a regular trombone. Their appearance in stage performance is rare, but their use adds a warm brassy tone to any number. They’re pitch is capable of hitting just 63 Hz.
The tuba is well-known for its commonly low pitches and boisterous sounds. Their loud, deep tones make them popular in marching bands. Normal tubas are capable of hitting 45Hz.
A bass tuba is capable of producing even lower pitches than a normal tuba. Due to their large size, they are not as practical for use as a normal tuba. A bass tuba is able to range down to just 29 Hz.
Types of Stringed Instruments, Keyboards and Others
Cellos are large stringed instruments common in orchestras. Their large size makes them rest on the floor when played. A cello’s pitch range ends at 63 Hz.
A double bass is another stringed instrument related to the cello, which features a larger sized body that requires the player to stand up when it is being used. Also referred to simply as a “bass”, a double bass can form deep, rich bottom tones to grand orchestra pieces. They’re lowest capable pitch is 40 Hz.
Piano and Organ
Pianos and organs are capable of large pitch ranges due to the structure and design. Pianos are common in many types of settings, such as bands, churches, and orchestras. They are capable of pitches ranging from 28 Hz all the way to 4100 Hz. Organs are used less frequently today, as they require significant amounts of upkeep and are unable to be transported. Their pitch range is large, spanning from 20 Hz to 7000 Hz.
The glockenspiel is a type of percussion instrument that appears similar to a xylophone. The glockenspiel may be used by an orchestra in place of a xylophone for a sharper, more aggressive tone. The glockenspiel is capable of pitches down to 63 Hz.
Many instruments are capable of a large pitch range. Some instruments are designed to be capable of very high pitches, while others are designed to be capable of very low pitches. As a general rule, the larger the instrument the lower the pitches that it is capable of producing. The lowest pitched instruments are likely ones that are not frequently used in bands and orchestras due to their large sizes. However, some low-pitch instruments such as the piano, tuba, and bass make regular appearances.