Scale length (music)

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In musical instrument making , Mensur describes the dimensions and proportions of musical instruments or parts thereof.


In terms of instrument construction, the length of the scale expresses the fundamental decision for a certain sound characteristic. In accompanying texts on historical performance practice in early music one often reads of violins , trombones , etc. "old mensur"; this means that they are replicas of historical models with their own dimensions.

Scale length on string instruments

In the case of stringed instruments , the scale denotes

  • in the narrower sense, the freely oscillating length of the strings , measured between the saddle and the bridge of the instrument;
  • In the broader sense, basic dimensions such as neck length, frame height, body width, etc.

Scale length for wind instruments

Different types of scale lengths for brass instruments :
1 wide- scaled ; 2 closely mensored

For wind instruments , the scale denotes the ratio of the width to the length of the tube or the dimensions of the mouthpiece:

  • Narrow gauge - the leadpipe is slightly conical ( natural trumpet ) or cylindrical (many trombones ), approx. 60% of the total length is cylindrical, the bell is wide open.
  • Mittelmensuriert - The lead pipe and the bell are long and strong conical, cylindrical shares for relatively short. B. as with the French horn approx. 30% of the total length, the bell is wide.
  • Wide-scaled - the scale length is, apart from a few parts, strongly conical throughout, the bell jar not very protruding. z. E.g .: flugelhorn , tenor horn , baritone , tuba

With wind instruments, the scale length influences two important tonal aspects:

  1. The frequency spectrum of the generated tone becomes richer in overtones, the narrower the scale. Tightly bored instruments such as B. Trumpet and trombone have a sharper, more penetrating tone, which is caused by the greater proportion of harmonic partials. Instruments with wide bores have a softer tone, as some overtones are not or hardly amplified here.
  2. The pitch can therefore be corrected more without a clearly perceptible restriction of the overtone scale in instruments with wide gauges than in instruments with narrow gauges. The wind player achieves the clearest / purest sound when his lip tissue vibrates evenly at exactly the frequency determined by the length of the pipe, i.e. when the wave is initialized, the frequency of the lips adjusts to one of the natural frequencies of the air column in the instrument through resonance. If this agreement is given, the tone achieves the greatest possible overtone component. If the wind player deviates from this to correct the intonation, this frequency manipulation reduces the proportion of overtones. The more the scale approximates a rectangular course, the less the possibility of varying the end point of the standing wave in the bell. This is e.g. This is easy to understand when comparing the trumpet (cylindrical) and the flugelhorn (conical). Tubes or baritones with wide bores also allow more leeway for intonation correction, as the standing wave in the bell can be changed more by means of the flow velocity of the air during initialization and the relationship between the size of the gap and the muscle tension of the attachment.

Minor corrections of the intonation are always necessary so that the wind player can compensate for imperfections in the natural tone scale of the instrument, but also the height (frequency) of the tone in its respective function within the harmony. The following rule of thumb applies: major = third low, fifth high, minor = third high, fifth low. In order to intone the tone without tonal restrictions, modern brass instruments are increasingly offered with triggerable tuning slides. The basic intonation of the instrument as well as the intonation of the valves should always be in the overtone-rich optimum of the tone, i.e. without manipulating the oscillation when the tone is initialized by the wind player, by correcting the tube lengths on the instrument (tuning slides). The pitch is determined solely by the length of the pipe and the temperature of the air (density), not by the width (scale) of the instrument. Therefore the intonation of the instrument does not change at the same temperature.

Scale length for organ pipes

In organ building , Mensur primarily refers to the proportions of organ pipes . The sound character of the pipes is largely determined by their respective length, which is usually expressed by relative length ratios ( relative length ). The term denotes

  • generally the definition of all dimensions of the individual parts of a pipe and the course of these dimensions over a row of pipes ( register ).
  • in the narrower sense the “width gauge”, ie the ratio of the diameter to the length of the pipe, which can vary between 1: 5 and 1:30. The width scale is the most important scale length in organ building, from which the division into “narrow”, “medium” or “wide” metered registers results. Wide scale lengths produce a rather soft and fundamental tone, while narrow scale lengths produce a sharper and more overtone sound.

In addition, the dimensions of the keyboard keys are also described using the term “ scale length ”.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Wilibald Gurlitt , Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (ed.): Riemann Musik Lexikon , Sachteil, Mainz: Schott 1967, p. 560.