I'm working on a chamber music piece and I want the cello to play a high Bb at the end. I want Bb5 (sits above treble clef). The tempo is slow and it doesn't need to compete in the orchestration, so quiet is ok. It comes from D4 (forth line treble clef). My choices are

  1. Just write the note and hope for the best.
  2. Write the note as a touch-4 harmonic, so written as Bb below middle C with a diamond note on the Eb above.
  3. Write the note as a touch-5 harmonic, bottom-line Eb with a diamond note on middle-line Bb.

What would be the most secure assuming a professional cellist?

1 Answer 1


You get higher notes in cello pieces. Not often perhaps but they are there. Elgar's cello concerto and the William Tell overture would be two examples.

Any professional cellist would not have a problem with that note.

So my advice would be just to write it as a note.

  • So, @JimM, the only reason to use a harmonic would be if I prefer the timbre? If I did want a harmonic, which would be preferred?
    – nuggethead
    Jul 22, 2021 at 12:27
  • @nuggethead You certainly have much less potential for good tonal quality with the harmonic but it does depend on the context. If thats what you feel you need then go for it. Which harmonic is better? I honestly don't know. Neither is much of a stretch so I think it would be whichever is easier to get to from whatever precedes it.
    – JimM
    Jul 22, 2021 at 15:57
  • Thanks again for the answer. You're right, the time quality on the stopped pitch was much stronger... BUT the wispy quality of the harmonic was the timbre I needed so we went with that in performance (touch-4)
    – nuggethead
    Jul 25, 2021 at 1:16
  • As a general remark - for this kind of question, if you have a specific performer you are writing for for a first performance, you should consult them! Jul 25, 2021 at 6:30
  • Yep, I would ordinarily do that. It was an unusual project in that I knew it would be read by a Pierrot ensemble, but I didn't have access to the members until the reading session. As it was, the cellist was gracious and happily played it both ways for me.
    – nuggethead
    Jul 27, 2021 at 11:34

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