Register (music)

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In music, a register is mainly understood to mean two things:

  • A group of sound- producing elements (strings, pipes) of the same timbre in instruments such as the organ or harpsichord, in a broader sense also the sound groupings realized with other instruments, such as the drum (striking the edge or in the middle of the head) or the guitar (plucking near the bridge or near the fingerboard).
  • Organ registers are the various families of organ pipes. A register can reach through all pitches, but the pipes of one register can differ from those of another in terms of their acoustic properties (partial spectrum - compare the acoustic differences between a piano and a harp ).

However, the idea of ​​octave registers in feet (1/4 ′, 1/2 ′, 1 ′, 2 ′, 4 ′ ...) has become naturalized. This transfers the register term to that of an absolute pitch category and thus to the position term.

  • Another (and precisely opposite) meaning: essential - namely acoustically - registers are characterized by dominant partials (partials). This term of the register can therefore only be used meaningfully where there are clear (and usually also clear) acoustic differences between registers - in the literal sense - (overblown, flageolet, crossover of the voice). So registers are not characterized by blurred transitions, but rather by "sudden" and clear changes in the partial range. Where, on the other hand, one means vaguely defined pitch ranges (e.g. treble, alto, tenor, and the like), the term “position” should be used instead (see organ “register”).
  • A pitch range for instruments and the human voice , which is characterized by its own timbre or structural and playing properties, defined and delimited differently depending on the instrument. In the orchestra , individual groups of instruments or several different instruments are also referred to as registers, insofar as this makes sense for sound reasons and at the same time contradicts the design-related classification.

Register as a group of sound-producing elements


In the case of the organ , the term register refers to the grouping of organ pipes of the same kind, in the broadest sense also non-sounding playing aids that can be selected using stops.

Barrel organ building and mechanical musical instruments

In barrel organ building, too , there are different registers for more complex instruments, analogous to organ building. The basic register, i.e. the row of pipes that is always involved in playing, is usually a covered flute. Switchable registers can be covered or open flutes with different timbres or also reed voices (trumpet, clarinet, oboe, shawm; with striking or striking tongues).

The registers are switched at the beginning or within a piece of music either manually by the player or mechanically, triggered by the music storage medium.


In the harpsichord , the register refers to a group of strings that can be switched on and off by hand, knee or foot levers or other mechanisms. As with the organ, different foot numbers, i.e. pitch ranges, are possible (see register (organ) ).

Further "register" pulls on the harpsichord do not represent a separate group of strings, but can dampen a register with a layer of felt (lute pull ) or change the sound through other mechanisms.


A so-called bassoon slide is occasionally found in historical grand pianos. If this is activated, a hollow-shaped paper attached to a rod and covered with silk is placed over the strings of the bass half, usually up to key c 1 , which touches the vibrating strings. This device gives the tones a rasping sound component.


With the accordion , the various possible combinations of the built-in reed plate sets are referred to as registers or choirs, see register (accordion) .

Register as a pitch range


With a piano one speaks of registers with regard to the stringing, which differs depending on the pitch:

  • in the bass register there is one string per tone (single-choir stringing);
  • two strings per tone in the middle position (double-choir stringing);
  • three strings per tone in the treble ( three-part stringing).

In addition, finer register transitions can be achieved through the type of strings used (copper-wound, metal strings, etc.). A good instrument is characterized by barely audible register changes.

However, the piano is essentially characterized by a particularly smooth transition of the sound properties. In this respect, with a piano, with a harpsichord manual, with a harp, you cannot distinguish sharply between registers, so you cannot point to transition points (as is clearly possible with wind instruments).

Wind instruments

With woodwind instruments , the normal and the different overblowing positions are referred to as different registers (see overblowing ).

Wind orchestras are divided into registers, which are managed by so-called registrars .


Especially with inexperienced singers, clearly different vocal qualities can be perceived in the various pitch ranges and breaks between these ranges can occur. In analogy to the organ registers, one speaks here of vocal registers . It is the ideal of European artistic singing to balance these different vocal qualities and to make the transitions imperceptible. The division of the singing voice into registers and discussion of the register division as well as the physiological basis of register formation can be found in detail in the vocal register.

Web links

Commons : Register  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Schiedmayer, JL & Dieudonné, CF: Main genres of Forte pianos , In: Schiedmayer, JL, Dieudonné, CF: Brief instructions for a correct knowledge and treatment of Forte pianos in relation to playing, tuning and maintaining them, especially those that are made in the workshop of Dieudonné and Schiedmayer in Stuttgart , printed with G. Hasselbrinkschen Schriften, Stuttgart 1824, 18-25.