Timbre has a rather broad definition, and could be most difficult element of music to explain. It is best defined as the character or quality of a musical sound. Each instrument has its own unique timbre. The same pitch on one instrument or voice can sound very different from another. An oboe has a very bright and poignant tone quality, a French horn is very warm and mellow, and an acoustic guitar can combine a rich chordal sound with shrill-induced solos depending on the technique used. Every musician uses instruments in a unique way. It is time to determine which ones use them most effectively for their music.
Even if a piece of music has a lackluster melody or poor harmony, effective timbres can give the piece wonderful character and make it enjoyable. It is a rather subtle trait, especially in this day and age, but great musicians know how to combine instruments in the most effective way. Effectiveness is measured subjectively, similar to the other categories, but I will do my best to make my point come across in the clearest way. I will mostly be listening for how the instrumentation adds to or detracts from the piece, how necessary or unnecessary the instruments are, and how well the individual instruments are used to their full potential.
If the piece is for a solo instrument, it is still very important to analyze its sound and how well it is being used. A Chopin nocturne for solo piano will likely have a much higher timbral effectiveness than a Hard Rock song with many added instruments by the band Creed. On the other hand, musicians with wonderful command of instrument combinations and talent, such as the band The Beach Boys, will likely rank higher in timbral effectiveness than a crumhorn consort.
This is also the category in which lyrics, if applicable, will be analyzed. Lyric analysis cannot be its own category, since many pieces of music do not have lyrics at all. Instead, I am arguing that lyrics are examples of how well the voice is used, and therefore will be discussed in this category. While lyrics do not necessarily have a direct effect on timbre, they can play an important part in bringing out the importance of the voice. Like melody and harmony, this category will also be out of 50 points.