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Notating Vibrato for Strings


xiii1408
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I know that "senza vibrato" can be inserted into a score, directing the players to play without vibrato, but I would like to know exactly how it is implemented: is it an expression, which is written in italics below the staff, or a technique, which is written in normal script above the staff? I have a feeling it's a technique, but I'm not sure, since it's not included in Finale's expression tool (which handles bot expressions and techniques).

Also, how does one notate that the player should use vibrato as normal? I would assume it would be "con vibrato," but I don't play a bowed string instrument, so I can't be certain.

I am, at this point, assuming that I will have to create my own expression or technique text, since it is not included in Finale's list of techniques or expressions. If there's a way to insert it into a score in Finale that I'm missing, however, please inform me.

If you have any examples of this notation being used in a score, I would be most appreciative if you would please post a link to them.

Thank you. :toothygrin:

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In your terminology, it's a technique. Place it in the score above the staff in the same font you would use for 'arco'. 'senza vibrato' and 'con vibrato' are both correct; if you want to use English, use 'no vibrato' and 'with vibrato' or 'normal vibrato'.

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..."molto vibrato" or "poco vibrato" (or English equivalents)...
"heavy (or much) vibrato" or "light vibrato". You can also specify the type of vibrato, i.e., "wide vibrato" or "narrow vibrato" or any combination thereof... "heavy, narrow vibrato," "light, wide vibrato," for example.

In reality, though, when you start delving into this, it ceases at some point to be musical and becomes just an effect. So... use alterations sparingly if you want it to really mean anything.

It doesn't help that modern string players sometimes get stuck in the "molto tasteless, affected vibrato" mode.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, try writing "espressivo" in a relatively "modern-looking" piece and maybe even with performers specialising in contemporary music - it often just manages to leave them completely stumped. In 20th century music there has been so strong movements away from "romantic" performance practice that such performers automatically assume that you can impossibly mean vibrato when writing "espressivo" - even if that's exactly how they would execute it if they saw it in a 19th century piece.

And many performers don't even trust their own instincts when it comes to contemporary music - understandably so, since there are no norms to base your "instincts" on. "Espressivo" may refer to vibrato, but it can also be about rubato, dynamic changes, even portamento etc., and with no standard performance practice, who is to know what a contemporary composer really means? So personally, I wouldn't rely too much on instincts but clearly state what you want.

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"heavy, narrow vibrato," "light, wide vibrato," for example.

Actually something like this as an instruction doesn't really make too much sense. There are basically two variables in string vibrato, amplitude and speed. So heavy and wide are really defining the same parameter.

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Actually something like this as an instruction doesn't really make too much sense. There are basically two variables in string vibrato, amplitude and speed. So heavy and wide are really defining the same parameter.

Maybe also/or words fast/slow. At the end of the day, a performance note at the beginning of a piece can clarify these t'ings.

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I have found so far it best to just indicate "more vibrato" . If you want less, "pale", without expression, or even senza vibrato will have the player reduce the vibrato. Note - it is impractical to ask a player to produce a tone without ANY vibrato.

Just takes discipline. If a composer truly wants absolutely no vibrato then they need to make that super, super clear.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Note - it is impractical to ask a player to produce a tone without ANY vibrato.

It can be used for contrast or as a special effect in the strings quite well, I've found (through a performance of one of my works for string ensemble in which the players played a few sections without vibrato).

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dont steal ;) http://gollam12.uw.hu/muzsika/jatek.mp3 ( i hope you can look at it ) - my solo cello piece starts like that.. sounds good on cello. if you dont use the bow, just your fingers, and hit the string like that, that note will sound, but there will be a crash-sound too :) like col legno...

(of course you can use it.. this 'don't steal' thing was only a joke (its a common (advanced) technique) but tell noone!)

(look at penderecki string quartets, if you hate me :) )

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