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Thread: How playable is this measured tremolo?

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    Default How playable is this measured tremolo?

    I ask because it's in threes (written as a sextuplet) with shifting accents, so they will come mostly on down-bows but sometimes on up-bows; I imagine that will be quite difficult. I wonder if an amateur orchestral player would struggle - the passage lasts a good few minutes as well. It's scored for cellos:

    Screenshot (30).png
    Last edited by janxharris; Jul-13-2021 at 15:25.

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    As extrapolated from the violin, it's quite reasonable, including for amateurs.

    The tempo is a bit fast and there are string jumps, OK. Accents on up vs down-bows need very little practice, smaller worry than the string jumps. Amateurs won't achieve it when sight-reading, orchestra professional might.

    I can't tell whether cellist would prefer to shift and spare the string jump. On the violin it would be easier.

    Maybe you can split the score among 2 celli? One plays the highest notes. Or even 3 celli.

    Hope a cellist passes by.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    As extrapolated from the violin, it's quite reasonable, including for amateurs.

    The tempo is a bit fast and there are string jumps, OK. Accents on up vs down-bows need very little practice, smaller worry than the string jumps. Amateurs won't achieve it when sight-reading, orchestra professional might.

    I can't tell whether cellist would prefer to shift and spare the string jump. On the violin it would be easier.

    Maybe you can split the score among 2 celli? One plays the highest notes. Or even 3 celli.

    Hope a cellist passes by.
    Thanks so much for this feedback Enthalpy

    That's a good idea...could even split between cellos on the bottom notes and violas on the top - though I do wonder if this might cause problems with timing? I did play violin in a youth orchestra but nothing like this passage.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Hi Jan. I personally wouldn't write a passage in sextuplets at that speed for amateurs as it might be too much to ask for as far as good ensemble goes, but it is obviously dependant on ability. The hardest part for amateurs would be the speed and rhythmic accuracy in the bowing. The notes are easy enough as open strings are utilised. There are no real string jumps as such, rather passing from one to another. The first 3 bars might best be played sul D, only the f +a need fingering. Alternatively the open a could be used, but that involves crossing strings. B26 is in essence a maj.6th stop with an open D interspersed and also presents no problem.

    For amateurs, I'd advise an ossia in semiquavers in case ensemble breaks down.You could split the part between violas and cellos or perhaps divided cellos, but make sure you overlap the divisions on the beat for good ensemble. (you'd have to alter b26 though for the violas sake).

    edit...I just read that the passage lasts a few minutes which will be too much for amateurs as is. Even pros would struggle keeping that together and avoiding a possible lactic acid build-up, so I'd advise a re-think of the part over time and how best to vary and distribute it amongst the string section. The part isn't practical to play in a prolonged fashion ("a good few minutes"), for one section alone as it stands imv.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jul-15-2021 at 15:14.
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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    True, the combined tempo and duration are exhausting, on the cello maybe more so. Alternatives, depending on the available instruments and the desired sound:

    A xylophone. Temple blocks. Woodblocks. Other idiophones.

    If the middle note of each group of 3 can have a different height, like 1 or 2 octaves higher, or a third lower, then a piano plays it easily.

    Cellos or violas play ricochet sextuplets, in 2 or 3 groups that alternate 3 notes on the same height per bow stroke. Amateurs may not be used to play ricochet but it's really easy and fun. Better several instruments for a decent forte. Accurate timing isn't difficult.

    Cellos play two notes per beat. Castanets, a snare drum... make the sextuplets. Easiest.

    Cellos play two notes per beat. Violins or violas make the sextuplets by ricochet col legno at any constant note except empty strings. Fun, but could be tiring. Better several instruments, and then you hear them with varied propagation times, like rain. No true forte, but our ears perceive better the percussive sound.

    I don't play percussions, hope a percussionist passes by.
    Last edited by Enthalpy; Jul-16-2021 at 13:37.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Hi Jan. I personally wouldn't write a passage in sextuplets at that speed for amateurs as it might be too much to ask for as far as good ensemble goes, but it is obviously dependant on ability. The hardest part for amateurs would be the speed and rhythmic accuracy in the bowing. The notes are easy enough as open strings are utilised. There are no real string jumps as such, rather passing from one to another. The first 3 bars might best be played sul D, only the f +a need fingering. Alternatively the open a could be used, but that involves crossing strings. B26 is in essence a maj.6th stop with an open D interspersed and also presents no problem.

    For amateurs, I'd advise an ossia in semiquavers in case ensemble breaks down.You could split the part between violas and cellos or perhaps divided cellos, but make sure you overlap the divisions on the beat for good ensemble. (you'd have to alter b26 though for the violas sake).

    edit...I just read that the passage lasts a few minutes which will be too much for amateurs as is. Even pros would struggle keeping that together and avoiding a possible lactic acid build-up, so I'd advise a re-think of the part over time and how best to vary and distribute it amongst the string section. The part isn't practical to play in a prolonged fashion ("a good few minutes"), for one section alone as it stands imv.
    Excellent post thanks Mike. I think splitting is the best option (violas and cellos - see attached) though overlapping for the violas would require a harmony note (so might sound a little awkward). Good suggestion re an ossia for amateurs though it would sound far from my intention. BTW hope your recording is going well (I saw your post re recoding violin at home).


    Screenshot (32).png
    Last edited by janxharris; Jul-18-2021 at 09:29.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    True, the combined tempo and duration are exhausting, on the cello maybe more so. Alternatives, depending on the available instruments and the desired sound:

    A xylophone. Temple blocks. Woodblocks. Other idiophones.

    If the middle note of each group of 3 can have a different height, like 1 or 2 octaves higher, or a third lower, then a piano plays it easily.

    Cellos or violas play ricochet sextuplets, in 2 or 3 groups that alternate 3 notes on the same height per bow stroke. Amateurs may not be used to play ricochet but it's really easy and fun. Better several instruments for a decent forte. Accurate timing isn't difficult.

    Cellos play two notes per beat. Castanets, a snare drum... make the sextuplets. Easiest.

    Cellos play two notes per beat. Violins or violas make the sextuplets by ricochet col legno at any constant note except empty strings. Fun, but could be tiring. Better several instruments, and then you hear them with varied propagation times, like rain. No true forte, but our ears perceive better the percussive sound.

    I don't play percussions, hope a percussionist passes by.
    Excellent suggestion re switching between violas and cellos thanks Enthalpy...see attached above.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Jan, I strongly recommend that at b33 you give the cellos a semiquaver D to overlap with the violas entry (i.e. same note). Similarly at b35 and 37. This ensures a smooth transition between the sections, ensures a good ensemble and makes the cello part easier to play in time because of a firm destination point. At b39 give the violas an A semiq an octave above the cellos A for the same reasons, the octave will not affect the music but will be of great benefit to the performance.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jul-18-2021 at 10:01.
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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    Don't forget to indicate the ricochet if you choose that option. It's by far the easiest to play if you have only bowed string instruments.

    Violinist learn the technique late, supposedly because few pieces use it, but it's really easy. The bow rebounds on the strings, the arm gives one impulse for (here) three notes.
    Any violinist (cellist?) achieves it at first attempt, it takes few minutes to adjust the desired tempo. But repeating it quickly is more difficult, and upbow is more difficult than downbow, so the (2) groups should alternate twice a beat.

    If the sound shall be uniform, I'd divide the celli or the violas, not alternate between them.

    No percussion available?
    You just write French exactly like you spell it. Very simple!
    In the Navy, one must salute everything that moves and paint the rest.
    I wish so dearly Mozart were still alive! And his music already dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    ........If the sound shall be uniform, I'd divide the celli or the violas, not alternate between them.
    That's true but it is dependant on other factors - the scoring density, any doubling and the dynamic. It is marked forte so a full section would be the obvious choice imv. Uniform timbre seems less of an issue in energetic passages like this for low strings I feel.

    So assuming aggression is required, ricochet would be wrong imo for 2 reasons. Firstly the driving, sustained energy needed would be less effective than an alternative bowing. Secondly, as you have pointed out, an alternating up and down bow would be required if groups of three where to be slurred, which will present some problems for less skilled players.
    Keeping the main bow action towards the heavier end of the bow is obvious. So given the energy required and the indicated tempo, a fast spiccato would be best imo with the weight of the frog to the middle of the bow to give the power and control.

    However I have to say (with the proviso again that some amateur bands will be better than others), that the fast tempo bowing is what'll work against a competent amateur performance being realised, hence my suggestion of a re-write in semiQ's. Alternatively, slow down the BPM a little.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jul-18-2021 at 11:48.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    Jan, I strongly recommend that at b33 you give the cellos a semiquaver D to overlap with the violas entry (i.e. same note). Similarly at b35 and 37. This ensures a smooth transition between the sections, ensures a good ensemble and makes the cello part easier to play in time because of a firm destination point. At b39 give the violas an A semiq an octave above the cellos A for the same reasons, the octave will not affect the music but will be of great benefit to the performance.
    Thanks Mike - makes sense (I have made overlaps in another piece where trumpets 1 and 2 shared a fast moving passing). Can even have the violas with a Bb overlap. Really appreciated ta.

    Screenshot (33).png

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    Quote Originally Posted by janxharris View Post
    Thanks Mike - makes sense (I have made overlaps in another piece where trumpets 1 and 2 shared a fast moving passing). Can even have the violas with a Bb overlap. Really appreciated ta.

    Screenshot (33).png

    ...remember to accent the overlapped notes and put a dot over them to be absolutely sure they are short.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    Don't forget to indicate the ricochet if you choose that option. It's by far the easiest to play if you have only bowed string instruments.

    Violinist learn the technique late, supposedly because few pieces use it, but it's really easy. The bow rebounds on the strings, the arm gives one impulse for (here) three notes.
    Any violinist (cellist?) achieves it at first attempt, it takes few minutes to adjust the desired tempo. But repeating it quickly is more difficult, and upbow is more difficult than downbow, so the (2) groups should alternate twice a beat.

    If the sound shall be uniform, I'd divide the celli or the violas, not alternate between them.

    No percussion available?
    I think I'm with Mike that spiccato is appropriate. I don't think that uniformity of timbre would be too much of an issue as they are playing fast sextuplets.

    Timpani is a available and does join later but not playing exactly the same. A bassoon plays the outline (without the repeated notes..so just the straight arpeggio).

    Many thanks.

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    Ricochet is a spiccato. Among all bowed solutions, the easiest to play.

    For constant timbre, you can alternate two groups, each containing both violas and celli.

    If you have timpani, the percussionist can play more instruments. One drum more is for free in this case. By far the easiest solution if the sound fit your expectations.
    You just write French exactly like you spell it. Very simple!
    In the Navy, one must salute everything that moves and paint the rest.
    I wish so dearly Mozart were still alive! And his music already dead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enthalpy View Post
    Ricochet is a spiccato. Among all bowed solutions, the easiest to play.
    With respect, it's still not the best bowing to use here though so far as musical effect (and practicality for that matter) is concerned imo. I guess we'll have to just differ on this.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Jul-28-2021 at 15:20.
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