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Advice needed: Difficulty of String Parts


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Hi everyone,

I am starting to plan my next symphony, for a standard orchestra.

I am having trouble with knowing what difficulty to make the second violin parts.

The 1st violins play semiquaver triplets, with 6 to a beat at 90MM (ish.)

I have been told this is okay for 1st Violin, but should I give a part of this speed to the 2nd violin/viola? The other thing I thought of doing was dividing the sections, and having the other half play pizzicato on every quaver. Would doing this cause the strength and resonance of the strings to be lost under the winds?

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it won't be lost under the winds if the winds would play very quietly. Like, say, in the beginning of Venus The Bringer of Peace.

I'm in contact with many string players, and basically from what they told me, when I need to think about the second violins I think of it that way-

The fact they don't have the lead doesn't mean they can't handle their business. 

Yes, sometimes people are in the second violin section because they can't handle carrying the main voice.

Therefore, you might not want to ask them to play things that are more difficult than the second violins.

But most of the time, as long as you know that all of the players are well trained, it shouldn't bother you.

Look at your thought about splitting them into two sections.

Does the fact some of them play a single pizz note once in a while make them worse players?

Not at all. Actually now I think that I got you wrong. Do you want to have an easier way to play it?

Say give them one way to play it as intended and other one for those who can't?

Well, that sounds like a great idea.

I actually wrote this in one of my pieces:



Also take that back:

5 hours ago, aMusicComposer said:

should I give a part of this speed to the 2nd violin viola

Viola players aren't worse than violin players. Actually the best string player I know is a violist. 

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I think the difficulty depends on the level of the orchestra and how the melody is. If there are many string crossings and/or position shifts (especially high positions and melodies across octaves), the difficulty is expected to increase. Generally, since the Violin II section is often an octave lower than Violin I, the difficulty should be lower. For your reference, I may give you some examples here to demonstrate the difficulty of a piece (as an amateur ATCL violin player+ orchestra player, and I actually played these pieces before)

Richard Strauss's Don Juan


I may rate it Difficult at places like the beginning or at A (00:34)/ (00:46) (Violin I section)/ Section C and more. As you may have seen in the score, the violin sections have to handle an inclining phrase across 3 octaves in just 1-2 bars, and which is only possible to play it with 2-3 position shifts.

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4, Mov IV


I rate it Difficult for Violin I and Difficult to Medium for Violin II. As you may notice, the difficulty of Violin I is considerable, but the difficulty of Violin II is reduced since it is an octave lower than Violin I part. However, fast position shifts are sometimes present in the Violin II part (and frequent in Violin I part), so it is less difficult but still challenging. Comparing it to Don Juan, arpeggios are generally harder than normal scales.  And (lengthy) chromatic scales are harder than normal scales.

Difficulty: Arpeggios > Chromatic scales > Normal Scales

Strauss: Die Fledermaus

I will rate it medium for the waltz part, but the string crossing at around 05:31 in the Violin II part is just a bit tedious and requires some practice.

(I will update this list if I am free)

If you don't mind, I can take a look at the score if you wish.

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