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con sord. placement?

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Where is the appropriate place to put con sord. and senza sord. directions in a score?

Should I put the directions at the earliest possible time the performer can change mutes (even if their next notes are 50 bars away) or at a time where the mute change won't be conspicuous or closer to the actual notes played with/without mutes or what?

Hope that's not hard to read.

Thanks!

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above the staff of the instrument. The bar before he/she starts playing. There are expressions which say to put in or out the sordino (via sord, and i don't know what) but they are redundants. :)

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The 'mute on' indication should appear in the score and part in the measure in which it takes effect. The 'mute off' indication should appear immediately after the last muted note.

If you want to give the players preparatory directions, you can insert phrases like "to straight mute" after the last note before the 'mute on' will be placed. You still have to indicate 'mute on', however.

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Guest QcCowboy

as Flint says.

Don't forget that the musician's part has a tiny bunch of grouped measures when they don't play. They don't turn pages for 500 measures when they have nothing to play. Chances are, it will be a couple of multimeasure rests at most.

There is no real need to indicate at the last note to insert a mute.

The indication is "con sord." or "con sordino" ABOVE the 1st note which is to be played muted.

Then to remove the mute, it is "via sord.", or "via sordino" AFTER the muted passage.

The problem here is that if your last muted note is also on the last beat of a measure, you have no room to put the "via sord." indication. Don't put it in the next measure if it will eventually be part of a multimeasure rest. This risks making it invisible.

In the case of a final muted note being also the final note of a measure, use the "senza sord." (rather than "via sord") indication above the following first note played without a mute.

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Yeah. The performers will generally look ahead anyways and put on the mute earlier than where it's written, especially if they're not sight-reading. If however it is important that they put on the mutes at a very specific time, you need to explicitely state that they should put on the mutes right then, while still having a "con sord." mark at the first actual muted note. For example if you have a general pause after which some instruments play with a mute on, it might be wise to indicate that they should put on the mute earlier than that at a specific time, since some instruments, or worse a whole register putting on mutes might kill the suspense of the pause*. You could write something like "insert/put on mute now", "mettere il sordino" or whatever. Then just a simple "(with mute)" or "(con sord.)" as a reminder at the actual first muted note.

* Another thing I've learned to watch out for and avoid are page turns at a general pause. It kind of sucks when you have a whole orchestra/ensemble stay silent for a moment, and some people are turning their pages.

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I really don't think you need to worry about giving specific directions about when to put mutes on earlier than when it's actually played with mutes on... the players can think for themselves. If they notice that the mutes disturb a pause bar and there's a way around that they will likely change where they put it on.

If they have bars rest before coming in with the mutes on, most would put the mute on as early as they can, anyway.

So don't worry about giving them really specific direction. If anything I'd feel a little patronised if someone had made sure I was putting my mute on before the end of my 50 bars rest...

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Sure, they might do it right on their own, but that depends on the performers and the time they have available for rehearsing. (In most cases you won't have much rehearsal time for your pieces, and in some cases you might have to write your scores in a way that it's possible for performers to sight-read them. In that case there's simply no time letting the performers first hear that there is a general pause at a certain point and adapt to that.)

And it might not even be something quite as obvious as a general pause, maybe it's something much more hidden, but still important to you as a composer. It's true that they might generally put them on as soon as possible, but they won't necessarily hurry with it, so it might still be too late for your liking.

Of course, in 90% of all cases this is entirely unnecessary. But if it's something that matters a lot to you, as a composer, write it explicitely, whatever it is. Better be safe than sorry, no?

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For the most part I agree with you, Camilla, but I view my mute instructions the same way I view the way I indicate Percussion instructions. Sure, it only takes a few moments to place or remove a brass mute, but there are some exceptions.

Take it from a percussion perspective: You're playing a snare drum part, and there's a 48-bar multimeasure rest. The next entrance in your part (on the following page) is a xylophone solo. In my view, it's not enough for the composer to just write "Xylophone" after the 48-bar rest... think of the performer! The performer has to 1) turn off the snare on the snare drum, 2) put down his drum sticks, 3) walk from the snare drum over to the xylophone, 4) pick up xylophone mallets, 5) find their spot in the sheet music (if the music is already there at the stand, otherwise, they have to bring the music from their snare drum's music stand), and 6) at the appropriate time, play the xylophone solo. All of this has to be done silently (except 6, of course... :P), in order, and quickly.

So, while stuffing a mute in a trumpet bell may not be quite this much of a production number, I submit that taking care of the details for the performers takes a bit of the guesswork out the equation. I have seen, numerous times, rehearsals drag on interminably (and piece get dropped or under-rehearsed) because composers don't think ahead, or think like a performer.

Other examples of composers dropping the ball:

1. Like Gardener mentioned, page turns in a General Pause.

2. Page turns in an important string tutti. Your tutti just isn't quite as sonorous or dramatic when half of the strings drop out to turn a page...

3. Insufficient time given to change instruments; i.e., Oboe changing to English Horn, Flute changing to Piccolo, Bb Clarinet to A Clarinet, etc. Percussion instrument changes in general, as well, as the player is usually not just changing instruments, they are moving physically to another location and changing sticks/mallets.

4. Insufficient time given to add/remove/alter a mute; for brass or string instruments. In QcCowboy's fictional example above, you must note that measure 4 and 5 cannot be played... measure 4 can be played, measure 5 can be played, but there is no freakin' way that a trumpet player can insert a mute at the end of measure 4 and then play measure 5 without some kind of break. It's simply not possible. So you force the trumpet player into having to choose which part he's going to play. Putting those decisions into the hands of the performer is poor writing. You're the composer, YOU are supposed to be making these decisions.

5. Bad page turns. Marking volti subito at the bottom of a page when there's no break for the player to turn is poor planning on your part.

Etc., etc., etc. Remember that simply writing down that you want something to happen doesn't necessarily mean that there's any way to make it so. Be realistic. As the "architect" of your music, that's your job.

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Guest QcCowboy

hehee, Flint, that's my bad.. there should have been a double bar or ending barline at the end of the 1st system.. those were meant to be two distinct examples.

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*chuckle* But it was a fabulous illustration of how not to score. Composers always need to be aware that they are not writing for instruments, they are writing for musicians. So it was a good thing!

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Is no one using "mettete il sordino" or "alzate il sordino" anymore?

I've never seen "mute on" or "mute off." Then again, I don't play tons of contemporary music in the orchestra I'm in.

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I've never seen "mute on" or "mute off", either. They don't use "mettere il sordino" or "alzate il sordino" because it's quicker to just say "con sordino" or "senza sordino".. which is what is most commonly used.

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I see the English terms more often in compositions coming from people who are at home in Jazz or popular styles. More classically trained musicians tend to write more Italian. But around here you also see a lot of German indications for such stuff, particularly when it's German speaking composers writing for German speaking performers.

So yeah, I'm more used to "con sord.", but I've seen "mute on", or "mit D

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Guest QcCowboy

I don't think I've ever seen an orchestral score with "mettete il sordino".

I have yet to come across any English "mute in/on" and "mute out/off" markings, however, I've seen them mentionned in a number of books. Just not in any of my scores (and god knows I have lots of American music in my library).

And my French scores all use the "sourdine" variant.

However, most common (to me, and to my experience of the last 30 years) has been "con sord." and "via sord." and "senza sord." used in the contexts I named earlier. Even in the couple of Broadway musicals I've done.

The goal in proper notation is "clarity" first and foremost.

You are guaranteed with those three indications that your intentions WILL be understood.

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I was only using 'mute on' and 'mute off' to avoid having to use 4 different foreign languages to get the point across in this thread topic.

If you're using English for your directions, the English equivalents will be:

for 'mute on' == "muted" (if the only mute available for the instrument is a straight mute) OR "*name of mute type*" (i.e., "straight mute", "cup mute", "harmon mute, stem 3/4 out" etc.)

for 'mute off' == "open"

For strings, it's almost universal (in my experience, at least) to just use con sord. or senza sord.

I've never seen via sord., for what it's worth. (though, I'm neither a string nor brass player, so this is unsurprising)

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