Low pitch musical instruments are an essential piece in any band. They produce the bass you hear in musical pieces and songs. However, as important as they are, the average person can’t point them out in a band.
So in this article, we’re going to talk about all the musical instruments with the lowest pitch. If this is something you’re interested in learning, then let’s get into it.
Lots of musical instruments can produce sound with very low pitches. Some musical instruments with the lowest pitches include the cello, contrabass tuba, double bass, contrabassoon, piano, and pipe organ. However, among all these musical instruments, pipe organs with 64-foot pipes produce the lowest pitch of all.
What Does It Mean for a Musical Instrument to Have Low Pitch?
The term “pitch” is a key concept when it comes to music theory. A pitch is what helps us identify whether a particular sound is relatively high, low, or at an intermediate range.
A pitch is formed by the frequency of a sound wave’s vibration. This frequency of a sound’s wavelength is measured in Hertz (Hz). Thus, a pitch is basically measured in Hertz (Hz). If you are interested in learning more about how a pitch is measured, read this article.
From a technical standpoint, an instrument can be said to have a low pitch if it has a low measure of hertz. But to make things simpler and more relatable, musical Instruments that have low pitch sound “deeper” or “bassy.”
In addition, generally, musical instruments that produce low pitches are usually larger than those that produce high tones. Low pitch tones are produced from instruments that vibrate slowly as well.
Instruments That Have the Lowest Pitch
As you may already know, there are five main musical instrument families. These are; woodwind, strings, keyboards, brass, and percussion. Across these five instrument families, there are many musical instruments with low pitches.
These musical instruments vary in size and shape. But my focus is to talk about the instrument with the lowest pitch in each musical instrument family.
Brass Instrument with Lowest Pitch: Tuba
There are lots of musical instruments that fall under brass instruments. The popular ones include trumpets, French horns, trombones, and tuba. Many bass instruments are capable of playing very low notes.
Even though many bass instruments can reach extremely low pitches, the tuba family is known for playing the lowest notes among them all.
Tubas are widely known for their ability to produce loud and deep tones. The low-pitched sound they create enables them to stand out in bands, particularly marching bands. Normal tubas can produce a pitch that is as low as 45Hz.
Due to the ability of the tuba family to produce sounds with low pitches, the brass instrument with the lowest pitch is a type of tuba by the name Contrabass Tuba.
This contrabass tuba is larger than the normal tuba. The contrabass tuba is able to produce pitches that are lower than every other tuba. It can produce pitches that are as low as 29 Hz.
If you have no idea what a contrabass tuba sounds like, watch this video below.
Woodwind Instrument with Lowest Pitch: Contrabassoon
Woodwind instruments are musical instruments that produce sound when air is blown into holes on their tubes or into reeds attached to a mouthpiece.
Musical instruments that make up the woodwind family of instruments include piccolos, clarinets, flutes, saxophones, bassoons, oboes, and the cor anglais.
The woodwind instrument with the lowest pitch is a type of bassoon known as the contrabassoon. This musical instrument is also known as the double bassoon. It can produce a distinct low A-note that is equivalent to a piano’s lowest note.
This musical instrument looks very similar to a regular bassoon. However, it is a little larger than the regular bassoon and has a unique shape.
The frequency of its lowest pitch can reach about 25 Hz. To gain a deeper appreciation for a contrabassoon’s deep, low tones, check out this contrabassoon solo in the video below.
String Instrument with Lowest Pitch: Double Bass
String instruments are musical instruments that produce sound through the vibration of strings. These strings may be picked using fingers, a bow, hammers, or picks.
Some of the musical instruments that belong to the string family include violins, cellos, violas, double bass, acoustic, electric, and bass guitar. These instruments are known for their wide frequency range and ability to play low pitch notes as well.
The string instrument with the lowest pitch is the double bass instrument. It is also known as the bass or contrabass. The double bass is similar to the cello and is often used as part of an orchestra.
However, unlike the cello, the body of this instrument is so large that its player needs to stand up while playing it. Double bass may come with about 4 or 5 strings. These strings are tuned after the notes C, E, A, D, and G.
This instrument is capable of producing deep and rich low tones. It can hit pitches that are as low as 40 Hz. If you have not heard or taken time out to listen to the double bass being played, listen to the performance of this mini-orchestra.
Percussion Instrument with Lowest Pitch: Bass Drum
A percussion instrument is any instrument that makes a sound when they are struck, shaken, or scraped. They come in many forms and shapes, and many instruments fall under percussion instruments.
Some of the percussion instruments that exist include cymbals, timpani, tubular bells, tam-tams, vibraphone, chimes, conga, bongo, drums, and more.
Among all percussion instruments, the one with the lowest pitch is the bass drum. This musical instrument is the biggest among all percussion instruments. It is built in the form of a large snare drum but has no snare.
This drum produces deeper and lower tones than the rest of the percussion instruments. It can hit pitches of up to 40 Hz.
If you have not taken time out to listen and fully appreciate the low pitch sounds produced by a bass drum, you should watch this video.
Keyboard Instrument with Lowest Pitch: Pipe Organ
Keyboard instruments have the widest range of notes and thus can produce great varieties of sounds. The piano, pipe organ, and harpsichord are examples of keyboard instruments.
The pipe organ stands out as the musical instrument with the lowest possible pitch among all the keyboard instruments.
The pipe organ can produce sounds across a wide range of pitches, especially those with lots of pedals and pipes.
The organs that come with 32-foot pipes and more can produce pitches that are as low as 16 Hz. These organs are typically used in concert halls and churches. However, due to how cumbersome it is to build, keep and maintain one, they are less frequently used nowadays.
That notwithstanding, a pipe organ is a truly amazing musical work of art.
To gain more insight into how pipe organs make sound, watch this fascinating video which talks about how pipe organs are made.
What Orchestra Instrument Has the Lowest Pitch.
Every orchestra is made up of several musical instruments across the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion families of musical instruments. However, one thing to note is that the number and types of instruments that make up every orchestra are not the same.
The size of an orchestra usually varies. Thus, if you followed lots of orchestra performances, you might have certainly noticed this.
If you are one who follows orchestra performances, you might assume that the piano or the imperial Bosendorfer may be the instrument with the lowest pitch. However, this is not so. The truth is, these two instruments are not part of the standard orchestral instruments.
A standard modern orchestra will have the same number and types of musical instruments.
Of all the instruments used as part of a standard orchestra, the tuba is the instrument with the lowest sounding pitch. Just as I mentioned earlier in this article, the tuba family also produces the lowest pitch among all the musical instruments belonging to the brass family.
It is believed that some very rare musical instruments are capable of playing notes with lower pitches than pipe organs.
Some of these rare musical instruments include the Octo contrabass clarinet and the contrabass clarinet. These derivatives of the clarinet can reach extremely low notes. Unfortunately, they are not common, and most people have never heard them play, myself included.
One important thing to note is, in general, larger musical instruments can produce much lower pitches. Thus, the size of a musical instrument is one of the easy ways of identifying an instrument that produces low sound.
However, most of these instruments are very large and may not be used frequently in a band or orchestra due to their size. A typical example is the pipe organ. Large-sized musical instruments that are often used in bands or events are the tuba, piano, and bass.
Some of these instruments can produce pitches lower than 20 Hz. Unfortunately, the human ear can only detect pitches that are above 20 Hertz.