Tone color: (register, range, instrumentation)
If you play a “C” on the piano and then sing that “C”, you and the piano have obviously produced the same pitch; however, your voice has a different sound quality than the piano. Although the scientific principles of musical acoustics are beyond the scope of this course, it is safe to say that each musical instrument or voice produces its own characteristic pattern of “overtones,” which gives it a unique “tone color” or timbre. Composers use timbre much like painters use colors to evoke certain effects on a canvas. For example, the upper register (portion of the range or compass) of a clarinet produces tones that are brilliant and piercing, while its lower register gives a rich and dark timbre. A variety of timbres can also be created by combining instruments and/or voices.
Terms we might use to describe timbre: bright, dark, brassy, reedy, harsh, noisy, thin, buzzy, pure, raspy, shrill, mellow, strained.