I understand that the difficulty of a passage is quite subjective, but all the same I need to have some idea of what I'm asking. This passage looks OK to me. It sits in the middle of the register, is bowed predictably, and uses a reasonable collection of pitches.

I hope to hear that it will be dramatic and exciting. Hard is OK, but not unplayable. Is it beyond the level of a skilled amateur orchestra? Is it within the expected difficulty level of a mid teir state orchestra in the US?

The tempo is fast, at least ♩ (quarter note)=144

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  • I’m not sure we have anything that we would call a “state orchestra” in the US. Can you explain what you mean by that? Students who are the best at their schools might be selected to go to an “all county” orchestra and the best of those might go to an “all state” orchestra. But those are students who are still under 18 and are unpaid. Is that what you mean? Aug 12, 2022 at 14:16
  • Also for how long does this passage continue (number of measures would be fine). I expect many could play it but not keep it up for too long. Aug 12, 2022 at 14:18
  • Ah, sorry. By "state" orchestra, I mean a professional orchestra with its state name, as in "The New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra." I view them as being a few notches above the average amateur regional orchestra, but a notch below big-named groups like Boston.
    – nuggethead
    Aug 12, 2022 at 14:20
  • As for duration, about 20 bars with a few breaks in the line.
    – nuggethead
    Aug 12, 2022 at 14:21
  • You'll get accents on the beat, but they'll come out very differently on strings than they do on winds or piano. Also, I think you want to slur the violas on the 4th beat of the 1st measure. Aug 12, 2022 at 16:34

4 Answers 4


To elaborate on what is easier about this and what challenges it presents:

  1. In very rapid passagework, it's the bow that winds up less agile than the left hand. The passage shown here has the advantage that all of the slurs are contained on one string at a time. (String changes would not make it impossible, but it's a nice advantage that we're avoiding them.)
  2. The poor violists, as usual, get a raw deal: the violins will be most comfortable in first position, but the violists would have to use fourth finger in the first measure. That's no huge deal, and anybody ought to be able to do so when they have to, but the fourth finger's lesser strength and agility can be a reason to change positions in passagework to avoid it. Players of intermediate skill and above ought to be comfortable in higher positions, and might shift to second for these notes. If I were writing for a middle school orchestra I might reconsider this measure for the violas.
  3. The "G-F#-E-D" patterns will have a challenge partly because they're so "easy." They do the very easiest thing in the world: taking your fingers off the string. It can be challenging, especially to intermediate players, to do this with perfect rhythmic subdivision; the temptation is to rip all three fingers off in too-quick succession, so the notes start to bunch up toward the front of the beat. The conductor should anticipate this problem and address it if it starts showing up.

Look at any classical score: you´ll very often see that kind of writing. Any string section capable of playing a classical symphony should have no trouble with it.


That looks like repetitive 1st position phrases without string crossings. That's about as easy as it gets and probably can be executed on a violin even faster than on a piano because you only finger the notes instead of having to strike them.

Not just classic players but also folk fiddlers should be perfectly fine executing this at speed.


What is q=144 intended to mean. quaver = 144 ? That would give a crotchet = 72 which is quite slow for this kind of passage. As written it would be quite easy if I have interpreted the speed correctly. How does your intended speed compare with Mendelssohn's violin passage at the start of the Overture to a Midsummer Nights Dream which runs at about 480 quavers per minute, or 240 crotchets per minute, and that is done unslurred staccato, with a scrubbing bow movement. You have slurred all your notes which indicates 4 notes per bow movement. Do you really want it to be played that way, or would it sound better if it were scrubbed with alternate up and down strokes for each note ?

  • 2
    By q=144, I meant quarter = 144
    – nuggethead
    Jun 14 at 10:58

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