Likes Likes:  0

View Poll Results: How should I fix the balance issues

Voters
1. You may not vote on this poll
  • Make the cello and piano louder

    0 0%
  • Quiet down the violins and viola

    0 0%
  • Both

    1 100.00%
Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Piano Quintet balance issues: How to fix it?

  1. #1
    Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    63
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Piano Quintet balance issues: How to fix it?

    I am using Musescore to compose another canon, this time for a piano quintet. But I am getting a lot of balance issues so I will have to fudge with the dynamics. Here is what happens variation by variation as more instruments play:

    Original melody on just the piano: No issues
    First variation with the cello playing original melody: Again, no issues, in fact I find a piano cello duo to be perfectly balanced. Crossing octaves and the dynamics being the same pose no issues and the timbres are similar harmonics-wise and the only real difference is the piano being percussive and the cello being smooth in texture as well as the range

    Second variation with the viola playing original melody: Piano starts becoming hard to hear
    Third variation with the second violin playing original melody: Cello becomes hard to hear
    Fourth variation where all the instruments are playing: Piano and cello become practically inaudible against the viola and violins.

    And this is all at a piano dynamic. I introduce a variation on the piano in the right hand, and then write that variation in the lowest octave of the cello. I then raise the variation by 1 octave for the viola, 2 octaves for the second violin, and 3 octaves for the third violin. So here are the octaves the instruments are in most of the time for each variation:

    Piano: 1st octave
    Cello: Great octave
    Viola: Small octave
    Second violin: 1st octave
    First violin: 2nd octave

    It is mainly the violins causing these balance issues. They project so much compared to their size that combined with the high pitch, they sound forte or fortissimo when they are at mezzo-forte, at least in musescore, not sure how different it is with real instruments but here is my hypothesis as to why I am getting balance issues:

    Since violins and violas have much more of the higher harmonics than cellos and pianos(close amounts for the first 8 harmonics on a violin) and they are at a higher pitch, this causes constructive interference with the sound waves from the cello and the piano making the violins sound louder than anything else. Also in general, the smaller the instrument, the more dynamic control is needed to make it not overpowering. This is why a single piccolo can overpower an entire orchestra if the flutist isn't careful. A double bass at forte would likely sound just as loud as a piano if not quieter. Similar things for the cello. But the viola and violin would need to be quieter to not completely overpower the piano. Of course, the lower the note is, the less you have to worry about this for a lot of instruments(flute especially gets quieter as the notes go lower with the same amount of force in the flutist's breath) but it is still something to consider, even for very low notes.

    So I have 2 routes I could go with this to fix the issues. Since I am writing a canon for this piano quintet, I would want to get as close to equal volume from each instrument as possible so that all the notes will be heard. I could make the piano and cello louder to be heard over the violins and viola. Or I could quiet down the violins and viola to something like pp or ppp. Which way should I go?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Fredx2098's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Indiana, USA
    Posts
    982
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    It's hard to say without seeing/hearing the pieces, but personally I am not a big fan of violins. I would do both to shift the attention to cello and piano if you have been focusing on the other instruments.

    If you're referring to the sound coming out of MuseScore, I've found that the volume of each instrument is already very uneven. If you want to produce an mp3 from MS, I would adjust the dynamics until it sounds right to you, but if you want to create a real life performance score I would just use the dynamics that you would naturally choose, as I would hope the performers would play them properly.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    2,550
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    19

    Default

    Fred hit on the two issues: (1) If you are writing this with real instruments in mind, then do not worry about balance. The players can make subtle adjustments to enable each line to be heard clearly. If you have any doubts look at some piano quintet scores to see how it's normally done (2) If your balance concerns are about playback from your software, tweek anyway you can with different dynamic markings and the mixer.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    Sparwood, BC, Canada.
    Posts
    36
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    It's hard to say without seeing/hearing the pieces, but personally I am not a big fan of violins.
    Count me in. I personally find that the easy way to tell a listenable instrument from one that isn't is that if it needs vibrato to sound decent, it isn't. Violins, Hammonds, many other instruments fall into this category for me. I agree with the above post that most violin music sounds better when played on a Cello, even at violin pitch. I think it must be the size of the resonance chamber that creates the difference.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Fredx2098's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Indiana, USA
    Posts
    982
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Albert Berry View Post
    Count me in. I personally find that the easy way to tell a listenable instrument from one that isn't is that if it needs vibrato to sound decent, it isn't. Violins, Hammonds, many other instruments fall into this category for me. I agree with the above post that most violin music sounds better when played on a Cello, even at violin pitch. I think it must be the size of the resonance chamber that creates the difference.
    I suppose the high pitched screeching can be exciting for people, but I prefer a more rounded tone. Let's start a petition to make a string quartet have two cellos or violas instead of violins! Or just have it all with bass, cello, viola, and violin.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •