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Strings Voicing!


Swordfish392
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I need some help in voicing the strings.

So we have the following chord: ,G G d h g' d'' , this is fairly easy to arrange: (the very left example)

http://img138.imageshack.us/i/exampleb.png/

BUT if I would like to add another tone, in this case a " d' ", I have a "remeaining" note, and one section has to play a dyad. My problem is that I have no idea where to put this note!

So I've just written three different kinds of voicings (look the picture above, I've marked the dyads to make them better visible), which one do you think is the best and why? (or are they all rubbish?)

Any help appreciated.

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I'd say "III" is your best bet. "I" bunches the notes together in the violas; ideally you want to spread voicings out rather than bring them together.

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So this isn't a matter of timbre?! I mean, would one choose another voicing just to get a different sound or to accentuate a certain section?

For example will II sound different than III etc.? Or are all three voicings quite similar in sound?

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Does it really matter that much in this scenario, Henry? That's a serious question - I'm sure you're a more adept orchestrator than I am. It just seems to me like the violin and viola timbres are so similar in the context of a chord like this that it's not going to make much of a difference. Is it just because the viola section is typically much smaller than the second and especially first violins, and thus more apt to sounding weak in divisi passages? Again, I'm not necessarily questioning your judgment - I'm just trying to understand why you're suggesting the third option.

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It shouldn't be a divisi passage, though, but a double stop. All of these double stops are possible, but I think the first one is less "clean" because it's closer together.

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There is also another option, in my opinion. You could give "h g' " to violas and "d' d'' " to both rows of violins (both divided). It would give a more homogeneous sound, I believe. It depends also on what you want to achieve (are there "melodic" voices?) and on which ensemble that is. Is it a quintet or a string orchestra (or something else)?

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Quick question: Is this for orchestra or solo strings?

Meaning: Do you want double-stops or divisi?

All your voicings (if for multiple, and not solo strings) are fine. Acoustically, they are very naturally distributed, and your upper 5th (G-D) in the first violins adds and openness that can be attractive. Yet, I would certainly encourage you to try to open up your voicings even more, and also perhaps be more adventurous in your distribution.

As far as double stops, I'd try to avoid fifths, as they are hard for a single player to get in tune (except for shorter notes!), unless they are based on open string sonorities. Also, your open G-D cello fifth will tend to dominate the chord, especially if we are talking solo strings.

Have you considered having the cello (celli) playing the B natural, either divisi with the low G, or even as a double stop, with one cello playing opes G and 9th position B natural on the D string?As far as double stops, a logical and very managable choice could be having the violas playing B and D (using open D string, and B on the G string). This way, you could have your violins take one note each (again, assuming you only have solo strings). Or even better, add another fifth (G-D) an ovtave above (meaning your 2nd violins play yuor original upper fifth divisi loco, and your firsts play same notes 8va).

Also, don't be afraid of doubling more thirds, as long as you don't clutter the lowest octaves. Or clutter them, if you're after a dark, muddy sound.

All in all, keep trying out such voicings. Don't be afraid to take what might seem like risks, as long as they are playable (good double stops are min. and maj.6ths, min, and maj.7ths, 4ths, min. and. maj. thirds, or "any" sonority involving an open string. Fifths, like I said, can be tricky, because they are adjacently placed, unless barring the chord with just one finger, which is more typical for shorter notes, sforzandi, etc.)

Good luck!

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Thanks for all your replies.

1. The example is thought as a smooth but though defining chord.

2. Everything should be played as divisi, I think unison would be too strong?

3. Usual symphonic orchestra cast (no solo or chamber)

There is also another option, in my opinion. You could give "h g' " to violas and "d' d'' " to both rows of violins (both divided). It would give a more homogeneous sound, I believe. It depends also on what you want to achieve (are there "melodic" voices?) and on which ensemble that is. Is it a quintet or a string orchestra (or something else)?

Isn't the enclosure position only for a more unusual sound approach?

Also, your open G-D cello fifth will tend to dominate the chord, especially if we are talking solo strings.

I let the celli play a dyad couse I though this will give the chord a nice, bassy foundament, wouldn't it?

All in all, keep trying out such voicings. Don't be afraid to take what might seem like risks, as long as they are playable (good double stops are min. and maj.6ths, min, and maj.7ths, 4ths, min. and. maj. thirds, or "any" sonority involving an open string. Fifths, like I said, can be tricky, because they are adjacently placed, unless barring the chord with just one finger, which is more typical for shorter notes, sforzandi, etc.)

Cool, that's interesting!

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The enclosure position can be unusual, yes, but it depends also on what preceeds and what follows the G chord. Since it is an orchestra, I agree that all your voicings are fine. I was suggesting the possible solution consisting in "h g' " to violas and "d d' " to violins in view of a possible octave motion to be assigned to violins, with a bi-chord in the violas. If the chord is a background for some melody appearing, say, in the woodwinds, I think that the choice is quite subjective, it depends on your taste. If you are planning to separate further the various voices in the next bars, with violins going "in the sky", maybe two different octave motions in the first and second violins could be interesting.

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Here's another voicing example, this time a waltz-like passage: (the 1st and 2nd violins are playing a seperate melody)

http://img138.imageshack.us/i/waltzexample.jpg/

Same thing again: which voicings are fine, which worse? (I want the sound as balanced and usual as possible)

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Actually, all of your suggestions are a little "unusual", in that you've chosen to have your double basses play the C downbeat without celli support. This is perfectly OK, however, but rather atypical of the kind of passage you've indicated. As written, it would probably work better to have your basses play pizz.

I would suggest having your celli together with the basses (either arco or pizz.), and have your violas divisi as such: one half playing double stop Eb-G (Eb on C string+open G), the other half playing top C. Or even better, I'd revoice your C-minor chord; instead of Eb-G-C, opt for G-C-Eb, distributed thusly: Lower half playing open G string+Eb on D string, upper half playing C.

In passages like this, where the violins are meant to play melodic material, divisi violas are always a good choice. And they project very well!

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Actually, all of your suggestions are a little "unusual", in that you've chosen to have your double basses play the C downbeat without celli support. This is perfectly OK, however, but rather atypical of the kind of passage you've indicated. As written, it would probably work better to have your basses play pizz.

I would suggest having your celli together with the basses (either arco or pizz.), and have your violas divisi as such: one half playing double stop Eb-G (Eb on C string+open G), the other half playing top C. Or even better, I'd revoice your C-minor chord; instead of Eb-G-C, opt for G-C-Eb, distributed thusly: Lower half playing open G string+Eb on D string, upper half playing C.

In passages like this, where the violins are meant to play melodic material, divisi violas are always a good choice. And they project very well!

I considered this voicing type allready but wasn't sure. Do you know any classical pieces were the technic you described has been used? Is the bass/celli doubling indispensable for classical waltzes?

Did they used a viola divisi here? (the bass line is pretty strong so it has to be bass + celli, violins are obviously playing the melody, so only the violas are left for the chord right?)

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The technique of using violas divisi for harmonic atriculation, while giving "bass" work to the celli and basses, and melody to the violins, is used so frequently, it'd be entirely futile to make a reference list. Suffice to say, it's a technique that has been in use at least since Mozart's time, and it is a favorite device of John Williams'.

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  • 1 year later...

Agree, but from 0:34 on it sounds like they are playing octave + 5th...but maybe it's just the recording.

About the higher stuff, seems like the violas are playing a triad, doubled by piano.

...Hard to tell with the synthy-ness.

Wtf man, that's a real orchestra :)

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Agree, but from 0:34 on it sounds like they are playing octave + 5th...but maybe it's just the recording.

Oh, yeah, I hear the 5th at 0:34. Could be basses on the root and then divisi celli on the 5th and octave? Not really sure.

About the higher stuff, seems like the violas are playing a triad, doubled by piano.

I hear the piano a few seconds after the violas come in, yep. And it could be a triad, but I'm having an awful hard time hearing that third (the G), even though it's clearly implied. But who knows...

Wtf man, that's a real orchestra :)

Really? Sounds synthy to me. Not all of it...I don't doubt that there are some real instruments in there...but it seems like it'd be awfully difficult to make a real instrument sound as fake as some of these passages do.

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Of the posted examples I'd say I.

The middle register shouldn't be too 'open' unless for a certain reason. Split viola parts is very common and generally sounds good, just as Marcus points out.

But depends strongly on context.

Agree, but from 0:34 on it sounds like they are playing octave + 5th...but maybe it's just the recording.

About the higher stuff, seems like the violas are playing a triad, doubled by piano.

...Hard to tell with the synthy-ness.

Wtf man, that's a real orchestra :)

Basses are just playing octave ostinatos. The synth violins + piano are playing are no triads but clusters of B, C, D.

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Avoid I. The violas double the all-important chordal 3rd (the B or "H") with an open D string. The open D might sound harsh, and could potentially overshadow the B. III is potentially troublesome as perfect 5ths can be tricky to play perfetly in tune on upper strings (the third finger would have to bar across the d and a string). I'd go with option II. Very easy to play, and no potential timbral or intonation issues. Of course, if you have a professional orchestra they are all easy to play. Go with option II if it's for an amateur or youth orchestra.

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Really? Sounds synthy to me. Not all of it...I don't doubt that there are some real instruments in there...but it seems like it'd be awfully difficult to make a real instrument sound as fake as some of these passages do.

No midi mockup or vst in the world can sound like that.

Please check out this site, there are some informations about the recording session.

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No midi mockup or vst in the world can sound like that.

Please check out this site, there are some informations about the recording session.

Okay, maybe not MIDI or VST specifically, but some sort of non-acoustic instrument nonetheless. :) At that link, the very first credit I see after the composer and arranger is Synthesizer Operator: Yasuhiro Yamanaka.

The synth violins + piano are playing are no triads but clusters of B, C, D.

I definitely don't hear clusters. And the B is the highest note...

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No midi mockup or vst in the world can sound like that.

Please check out this site, there are some informations about the recording session.

Okay, maybe not MIDI or VST specifically, but some sort of non-acoustic instrument nonetheless. :) At that link, the very first credit I see after the composer and arranger is Synthesizer Operator: Yasuhiro Yamanaka.

The synth violins + piano are playing are no triads but clusters of B, C, D.

I definitely don't hear clusters. And the B is the highest note...

Really? I'll check it again when I'm home....don't have sound right now. I did it by ear so maybe I'm wrong or we're talking about a different passage.

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No midi mockup or vst in the world can sound like that.

Please check out this site, there are some informations about the recording session.

Okay, maybe not MIDI or VST specifically, but some sort of non-acoustic instrument nonetheless. :) At that link, the very first credit I see after the composer and arranger is Synthesizer Operator: Yasuhiro Yamanaka.

The synth violins + piano are playing are no triads but clusters of B, C, D.

I definitely don't hear clusters. And the B is the highest note...

Ok I thought we were talking about the second link by Swordfish, this one http://www.jwfan.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=18410&view=findpost&p=701840

In the first clip, at 0:34 I think I hear a waltz in A moll maj with celli/bass in octaves playing the 6th degree, first violins have the melody, and there are indeed triads: a unison second violin part and a split viola part in the middle voices, e.g. in the first chord of the melody from 0:34 it's (from the top): second violins playing F, violas playing D moll and A moll. Just like I would do it too :mrgreen:

But I did it by ear again and it's a bit late so...

Pretty nice waltz by the way.

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Ok I thought we were talking about the second link by Swordfish, this one http://www.jwfan.com...ndpost&p=701840

That's the one I was talking about. :) Sounds to me like the synth violas (plus piano a moment later) are playing E and B, possibly with a G in the middle, but it still kinda sounds like an open fifth to me.

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Pretty nice waltz by the way.

That's not a waltz. It's a sort 4/4 'adventure rhythm' that John Barry used for his 007 Theme.

So it's 8th notes, with a 123 123 12 pulse. Dividing the bar into two dotted quarter notes, followed by a single quarter note.

I was now talking about this http://www.jwfan.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=18410&view=findpost&p=614517

It's getting complicated :lol:

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Ok I thought we were talking about the second link by Swordfish, this one http://www.jwfan.com...ndpost&p=701840

That's the one I was talking about. :) Sounds to me like the synth violas (plus piano a moment later) are playing E and B, possibly with a G in the middle, but it still kinda sounds like an open fifth to me.

They're definitely no triads but clusters. From the top: violins are playing B and A, violas E and D. Piano is doubling, C in basses. (So slightly different voicing than I mentioned before ;)). Melody is in a phrygian mode on B btw.

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Hmmm...I could buy that, possibly. I'm having a pretty hard time hearing the A, but you're right about the D.

Do you have piano at hand? Try it I'm pretty sure about it.

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Already tried it, yep. I think the A isn't there, but I could be wrong.

An A sounds logical to me, but I agree it's not profoundly there. Whatever :)

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General rule of Hollywood harmony.

Split the bigger instruments *celli, viola if you can. Try to split the others less, unless you need a specific effect.

But its more true to form to say, anything will work in the orchestra. Some will just sound better for certain usages.

The idea of correct voicings is somewhat antiquated these days. There are only more common voicings.

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Williams (and his orchestrators) will split any and all of the string groups. The bass and violin I parts don't seem to go divisi quite as often, but the violin II, viola, and cello parts do all the time. Seems to just depend mostly on the voice leading and on how high the notes are.

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