Alexander Publishing Releases The Spectrotone Chart

Film Music Magazine • June 18, 2010

Alexander Publishing, a leading publisher of professional music training and production tools that have been endorsed by winners of the Academy, Grammy and Emmy Awards, has released The Spectrotone Chart, created by four-time Academy Award nominee Arthur Lange, the former head of the MGM Music Department. In Lange’s words, the Spectrotone Chart is, “a colorgraphic exposition of tone-color combinations and balance as practiced in modern orchestration”.

In the past, composer/orchestration book authors Francois Auguste Geveart, Rimsky-Korsakov and others divided each instrument’s range into the low, medium, high, and very high registers. They described each range break using adjectives. Arthur Lange, with decades of experience conducting live and studio recording sessions for jazz and orchestral ensembles, took this approach to the next level by colorizing each instrument’s tone colors across their range and provided adjectives for timbre descriptions within each tone color. The result is an approach that works linearly across an instrument’s range, and then vertically for showing potential unison (called “layering” in synth language), octave, light harmony, and multi-voice possibilities both within a section and by combining sections.

Colors and adjectives Arthur Lange used to describe the tone colors are:

White = Brilliant
Yellow = Bright
Green = Pleasant
Blue = Rich
Orange = Golden
Red = Glowing
Brown = Warm
Purple = Mellow
Grey = Dull
Black = Indefinite

With the Spectrotone Chart’s color-coded approach, musical combinations can be quickly worked out by instrument, by range, and by specific notes. Combinations are presented in four categories: Perfect, Close, Complimentary, and Remote.

Application to EQ’ing

The Spectrotone Chart is organized by the 88 keys of the piano with each key numbered, from the bottom A being 1 to the highest C being 88. Because of its application to mixing and EQ, Alexander Publishing added below each piano key its Hz frequency. Similar to many EQ charts, above the piano keyboard are the colorized tone colors within each instrument’s range.

With the Spectrotone Chart, an engineer sees the range of the EQ’ing along with the tone colors being affected. “For arrangers and composers not trained in recording engineering, the Spectrotone Chart helps them understand EQ from an orchestration perspective,” explained Peter Alexander, author of the Professional Orchestration series and How Ravel Orchestrated: Mother Goose Suite.

Instruments represented include the string section with tone colors for each individual string, brass with mutes, brass without mutes, woodwinds, all the saxes including soprano sax, piano, harp, celesta bells, timpani, vibes, marimba and xylophone.

The Spectrotone Chart and booklets are available as a digital download for $19.95. Order at http://www.alexanderpublishing.com/Departments/Professional-Orchestration/Spectrotone-Chart.aspx

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