In basic harmony exercises voice crossing is avoided.

But, in actual string music, well I suppose all instrument genres, voice crossing is fairly common, and by my reckoning it seems to be a method for elaborating simple harmonic structures into interesting parts. In essence, the "structural" voice leading moves mostly by single steps, but if parts played the voice leading too literally, the lines would be monotonous, so parts trade pitches and cross to get more interesting motion. A lot of classical melody seems to be generated this way with voice exchange on thirds and arpeggiating used frequently.

Below are a few examples of my attempts to do this kind of elaboration in test form on a few chord changes.

My questions are: is this a common way of writing? do my elaborated parts have enough interest and melodic sense, both for the players and listeners?

I'm especially interested in how actual string players would react to these parts.

Part of the reason I'm asking for feedback is I'm listening to these things through Musescore's playback. The sound is ok, but pretty stiff. I've notated into Musescore some Mozart and Haydn quartet examples, and when I compare the playback of those to actual records of the same passages there is a huge difference in how expressive and musical they sound. I don't want to spend a lot of time getting Musescore to sound human. I just want to know if my part writing is sound and that actual players could bring it to life.

A pedal 6/4...

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Falling thirds...

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Gjerdingen's "Meyer" schema...

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  • You might find this interesting: Voicing in the Finale of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"
    – Aaron
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 21:22
  • Yes, indeed! I'll give that a closer read tomorrow morning. But right from the first bar I can see how the two violin parts crossing produce a simple step-wise descent. Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 21:33
  • With a bit of octave and rhythmic displacement it seems you can get melodic separation rather than just a stereo/antiphonal effect. I see a connection with compound melody too. Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 21:50
  • When it’s instruments I think about this in terms of orchestration. With virtual orchestras, almost every time I’ve crossed voices in winds or brass it has sounded awkward. I think real players are able to make it work but im not yet brave or experienced enough to try putting voice crossing stuff on actual desks in front of people. Working on a wind quintet so maybe I’ll try it there. Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 1:50
  • @ToddWilcox, with your awkward virtual orchestra examples, are those voice crossings unintentional or deliberate? In my examples it's deliberate, because the composite of the parts, follows a basic voice leading scheme. In cases where I've done unintentional voice crossing, it jumps out at me usually sounding like an unintended repeated note, when parts collide at a union, or an unintended change indirection to the top part. In my examples I'm trying to avoid those gaffes. The composite parts realize the voice leading model while ensuring each part has its own good melodic sense. Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 13:58


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