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unequal divisi notation?

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I am writing a piece for an orchestra that has 6 1st violins, 6 2nd violins, and 4 violas in its string section. There is one bit where I am assigning a high register 4-part harmony to these instruments and I want to have an equal number of instruments on each part, thus necessitating a divisi like this:

S: 4 1st violins

A: 2 1st violins and 2 2nd violins

T: 4 2nd violins

B: 4 violas

What's the best way to notate this? Obviously if I just write "divisi" I will have pretty unequal numbers (3/6/3/4) on each line. I was thinking "div. a3" but it seems like for that to be clear, I'd have to expand both 1st and 2nd violin parts to 2 or 3 staves each, which I really don't want to do. Any ideas? Thanks!

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I am writing a piece for an orchestra that has 6 1st violins, 6 2nd violins, and 4 violas in its string section. There is one bit where I am assigning a high register 4-part harmony to these instruments and I want to have an equal number of instruments on each part, thus necessitating a divisi like this:

S: 4 1st violins

A: 2 1st violins and 2 2nd violins

T: 4 2nd violins

B: 4 violas

What's the best way to notate this? Obviously if I just write "divisi" I will have pretty unequal numbers (3/6/3/4) on each line. I was thinking "div. a3" but it seems like for that to be clear, I'd have to expand both 1st and 2nd violin parts to 2 or 3 staves each, which I really don't want to do. Any ideas? Thanks!

Equal amounts of instruments does not equal sound make. If you divided the 1st Violins between the Soprano and Alto parts, it would probably balance much better than your scenario if your intention is completely equal voices (yes, sometimes orchestration is illogical like that).

But for your way, I would just write "divisi tutti l'violini" or something like that. I think a far simpler way, though, would be to divide into threes. Have two Violin I play S, another two play A, another two play T, and do the same for the Violin II. You get more blend this way too.

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I have seen this done when orchestrating chords between vln2 and vla or vla and vlc. Never between vln1 and vln2 though. If I were you I'ld go with Tokke's advice.

If you stick to it then:

Write for vln 1: Div 4,2.

for vln 2: Div 2,4

obviously not for viola

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You don't have to have just one voice to a part like in choral writing. If you divided the complete chord between the two groups of violins, you could then reinforce certain key pitches with divisi violas, either at the same pitch as the violins (although this would be very high for violas) or in other octaves. Either that or have an interlocked voicing where sop and alto are played by divisi 1sts, tenor by violas and bass by the second violins below the violas. This might make sense if you needed the bass note to be well-supported, as the violins will have a more rounded tone than violas in the high register. Either that or have the whole chord played by just divisi violins, which if it is a closely spaced triad would be the best way of ensuring even balence. It's good that you're thinking about the strings like a choir, but actually they can do lots of things that would make no sense with or else would be more effective with voices, particularly with regards to the voicing and spacing of chords.

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Alright thanks, yeah I'm going for a very equal, balanced sound. So with Tokke's suggestion, having twice as many violins on the "tenor" part as on sop and alto is more balanced than equal numbers? bizarre!

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Alright thanks, yeah I'm going for a very equal, balanced sound. So with Tokke's suggestion, having twice as many violins on the "tenor" part as on sop and alto is more balanced than equal numbers? bizarre!

The reason this is so is because of the location of the sections and the nature of the instruments themselves. The First Violins, no matter how much you try, will always be stronger than the Second Violins simply by the virtue of them being closer to the audience. The Violas don't speak as loudly and are even further back than the Violins so will be even quieter. The extra instruments on those parts account for that discrepancy.

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Hmmm, so even though the violas dont speak as loudly and are further back, 4 violas on the "bass" will balance with the 6 violins on the "tenor"?

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Hmmm, so even though the violas dont speak as loudly and are further back, 4 violas on the "bass" will balance with the 6 violins on the "tenor"?

That one might be an issue, but really, a proper conductor should be able to fix that. If you're so worried about it, split all four parts onto the violins, or add some cellos on the Bass part.

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