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HoYin Cheung

Chord Writings on Violins

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It is often for composers to add chords in Violin repertoires to enrich the harmony and enhance the virtuosity. However, there are rules ought to be followed in composing to make the work playable.

Here I would like to share some tips in chord writing for Violins.

Chord_Examples.thumb.png.5f0f629885fde4b0aae999fa66a52b1a.png

1. Open String Chords

It is important to know the 4 open strings of Violins: G, D, A, E[Fig. 1a]

Technically, it is almost always possible to play a chord with an open string and a note on neighbouring string(s). [Fig. 1b]

 

2. Substitutions

It is possible to substitute a note, with its equivalent on a higher positions on a lower string, in order to avoid string crossing problems.

For instance, in [Fig. 2a]the first chord is not playable if we choose to play the B note on the A string (A1, first position), as it will skip the D string.

However, it is playable if we substitute A1 by D3 (3rd position), and now it is a chord with notes on 2 neighbouring strings, G and D.  

Such technique is particularly useful for 9th and 10th, which I will mention in latter sections.

For the fourth chord, this time if we pick the A note as an open string note (A0), both notes will lay on the same string. Impossible. Therefore, to make it playable, we can either substitute A0 by D4 while keeping the A3, or substitute A3 by D(Anything) while keeping A0. 

 

3. Common Practice for Intervals

For 3rd's, we use 0-2, 1-3,  2-4 or 3-1 (or in the reversed order). [Fig. 3a]

For (perfect) 5th's (or equivalently diminished 6th's), we use the same fingering for both notes. (i.e. 0-0, 1-1, ..., 4-4) [Fig. 3b]

For 6th's, it is essentially a 5th with the upper note shifting higher. So the fingering is 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4. [Fig. 3c]

For 8th's, the most common fingering is 0-3 (when it involves an open string) or 1-4[Fig. 3d]

For 9th's, it is essentially an octave with the upper note shifting higher. So the fingering is 0-3/0-4  (when it involves an open string) or 1-4 (stretching 4th finger!). [Fig. 3e]

For 10th's, 1-4 (intensely stretching 4th finger!). [Fig. 3f]

 

These are some fundamental rules for chord writings on Violins. Questions or example discussions are welcomed.

HoYin 

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56 minutes ago, Luis Hernández said:

I have read that perfect fifths don't sound good in strings. Is that true?

 

It sometimes sound good. if you mean to do that. it has a more open sounds (like octaves).
Haydn wrote a string quartet which the nickname of it is "The Quinten (or Fifths) Quartet". you can here some fifths there.

 

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3 minutes ago, Jehonathan Sher Lipschitz said:

It sometimes sound good. if you mean to do that. it has a more open sounds (like octaves).

Yes, I know, of course.

 

I meant fifths as double stops.

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6 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

I have read that perfect fifths don't sound good in strings. Is that true?

 

I think that's fine. But from a player's view, you literally have to place your finger on 2 strings (say 1-1) and that can be hard to keep both notes in tune if your finger isn't placed properly. 

Another reason I think of may be tuning system? 

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12 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

I have read that perfect fifths don't sound good in strings. Is that true?

On strings, fifths are difficult to play well because your finger needs to be at a different angle to keep both notes in tune. Avoid sequences of fifths, but single ones can be done.

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12 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

Yes, I know, of course.

 

I meant fifths as double stops.

 

I know. The piece have some double stops too. Also, when you're doing fifths it sounds smaller but more open than a regular double stop because the sounds are combining. Compare it to an octave, it's adding an effect.

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