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Strings

Endre Granat Part 3

In Part III of my chat with Endre Granat, we discuss how the bow can be used to change the color of the sound. Sul Tasto and Sul Ponticello are demonstrated as well as how bow speed and pressure effect the sound. Make sure you check out Part I and Part II of Endre's interview and Guide to a Good Bow Job and It's the Pizz.
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Endre Granat Part 2

In Part II of my chat with Endre Granat, we discuss some of the mechanics of playing a stringed instrument and Endre demonstrates standard bowing techniques. He breaks them down into three categories. Legato Staccato 'Bouncing' Legato is the default bow stroke; no additional notation is needed apart from slurs if you want more than one note per bow. Staccato is a short, fast stroke where the bow starts and ends on the string. 'Bouncing' is a stroke where the bow starts and ends above,…
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It’s the Pizz

There are three techniques where real world sounds and possibilities are easily misrepresented in the sampled world. They are In touch with, Tremolo, and Pizzicato. Pizzicato is the technique where the player plucks the string with their finger. The loudest pizzicato is really only equivalent to a mezzo forte with the bow. Many a person has done a mockup with forte pizz balanced against arco strings and brass, and when we get to the studio they wonder why it sounds so different. The sound of…
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In Touch with Harmonics

There are lots of places to learn about harmonics; all of the books have little blurbs on them and there are plenty of guides online. They all say that you can do this or that, but they all seem to talk about things in isolation, as if the only time you play a harmonic is as a whole note with a rest before and after it. It is very similar to the information, or lack thereof, on double stops. In fact there are many similarities…
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Tremolo and the abstract truth

Tremolo is a great effect that can be used to add tension and weight or a shimmering texture. Tremolo is a fast oscillation of the bow, unmeasured by default. Tremolo, like harmonics and pizzicato, is a technique where the use of samples in composition has given composers a false sense of reality. For some reason, just like sampled timpani rolls, sampled tremolo is performed way faster than I have ever heard it in the real world. In reality, the speed is related to the dynamic,…
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What You See Is Not Always What You Get

Make sure you have read dynamic relationships before this article. What information do we have here? Three things: a pitch, a duration, and a dynamic. Pitch is not important to this discussion so let's not worry about it; everything we talk about applies for any pitch that is considered to be in the standard range. If we give this information to a computer, it would give us a waveform that looks like this: A rectangle. But what does…
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Guide to a good bow job

There are many cool French and Italian terms for different bowing techniques. The texts have explanations of each of the different bow strokes, but these explanations range from excellent to confusing to plain contradictory (just google détaché). These terms refer to things the section does 'under the hood.' As an orchestrator, it is important to understand these, as they are the rudiments of string playing. Remember that in the end, though, the important thing is to know how to notate your intent; the section will…
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Double [stop] Trouble

The double stop is the most misunderstood (by orchestrators) and ignored (by players) orchestration device EVER! I know that is a bold statement, but after many years observing the orchestra from the podium and seeing what they play and what they don't, I can say it with assurance. Keep in mind, we are talking about writing for the orchestra here, not for soloists or chamber music. There are three things you need to think about before you decide that you need to write a double…
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Divide and Conquer

There are five sections in the string orchestra, playing five parts, but quite often we need more than five notes at once. There are two ways to get the extra notes, use double stops or divide sections, divisi. In 90% of situations you should choose to divide. There are issues with double stops that I will explain in the next article. So how does the string section divide? The default behavior is to divide on the stand. This is also called 'inside/outside' as the outside…
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