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Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2001 11:32:33 -0500
From: Andrew Stiller
Subject: Re: [CB] Foot terminology

>While this system makes a lot of sense for the organist, I see only
>limited applicability to non-keyboard instruments.  If we were
>discussing transposition of woodwinds, it might make sense to say
>that the flute, clarinet, bassoon, tuba, and cello were all 8'
>instruments (sounding in the same octave as written), while the bass
>clarinet and contrabassoon are 16' instruments (sounding an octave
>lower than written).  However, when discussing *ranges*, I think it
>makes no sense at all - more misleading than enlightening.

This is precisely the point I have been making all along. This terminology
is not about range, and should not be used in discussions of range.

Somebody mentioned brass insts., and I think that is where the confusion
crept in. The basic nature of a brass inst. is to play overtones of a
single frequency which can be defined in terms of the length of the
instrument, ignoring the valve system. It makes sense to compare such an
instrument to an organ pipe, and to borrow organ-pipe terminology in
reference to it. However, this makes no sense at all for a woodwind (or
strings, or perc.--but we don't seem to be discussing them). The lowest
note of a woodwind has no particular significance with regard to either its
overall range or its playing technique; a far more accurate measure would
be to use the lowest note of its "fundamental scale"--
defined as the note you get with the middle three fingers of both hands
depressed, plus the R pinkie: since many WW descend no further, anything
below this note counts as an extension. If you want to compare the various
double-reeds, for example, it makes no sense to compare the lowest notes of
the oboe and bassoon when the latter has a full fifth of extension keys at
the bottom that the former does not. Otherwise you might as well include
the extra half-step you can get from a bassoon by sticking a toilet-paper
tube in the bell.

Andrew Stiller
Kallisti Music Press

Ut Sol inter planetas, Ita MUSICA inter Artes liberales in medio radiat.
--Heinrich Schuetz, 1640

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