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Orchestration: PART 3 (strings) discussion

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Thread for discussion of the String section material.



    Music Advocate

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I just have a few notes to add, having played stringed instruments for as long as I can remember.

1) Don't forget any member of your string section.
Since the violin (like the flute) has the unique ability of cutting through the orchestra (whereas the cello, even at its highest range, can be swallowed up a bit more easily), many people will score their melodic material primarily for the violin. When scoring for strings (just like any other instrument), don't fall into the trap of scoring 'interesting' parts only for 'popular' instruments.

2) Homogeneous sound can be dangerous
Consider counter punctual writing. If all the instruments of the string section blend extremely well together, then polyphony can sometimes spell disaster. I've seen this most often through literal transcriptions of Bach WTC fugues. Take care to remember that the string section DOES blend very well together, and in the cases of polyphony, you should take careful note to see what ranges of what instrument cut through the best to get your voices in your counterpoint.

3) The viola
The viola is sort of a strange instrument. Many of the virtuoso violists are generally violinists who either double or switched for greener pastures, but much of the music prior to the mid-19th century places the viola as the "fill in harmony" voice. However, the range of the instrument is nearly identical to that of the clarinet in Bb, and with a good player (as well as intelligently selected strings), the viola can speak in a similar fashion. It's lowest register (C string) is somewhat dull (compared to the cello c-string), while the middle two strings are extremely warm and (assuming your violist can navigate the neck) the A string benefits greatly from the increased size of the instrument vs. the violin.

4) Independent bass line?
Up until the 19th century, the contrabass was generally a double of the cello (except for where it was technically unfeasible). Some people prefer completely independent contrabasses. Whatever you choose, remember that the contrabass is a LOW instrument, and it takes much longer to make the instrument speak than the cello. Exercise caution giving the basses divided parts, and exercise caution giving the contrabass a completely independent line from the cellos when both instruments are playing. I can't think of a good example, but it's similar to the bassoon and contrabassoon. If both instruments are playing different parts simultaneously, one would need to strain to hear the contrabassoon. The basses also have a MUCH shorter bow, which should be considered when writing slurs and other phrasing. An effective treatment of basses (a la Stravinsky) is to either divide basses with half bowing, half pizzicato for a passage, or (in the fashion of quartet expansions) to have the basses played when either technically feasible or when the extra sound is desired.
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    Starving Musician

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Im sorry i dont know where to post this...but i would like an explanation about this:

Remember that you can use PARTS of all your orchestral choirs to create a sense of “full orchestra” without actually drowning the listener in the actual full complement of your symphony orchestra.



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It means that through judicious choice of instrumentation, a rich full sound can be achieved without necessitating the entire orchestra during every measure.

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