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39 votes
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Notation - when to use staccato vs rests

I endorse Aaron's and Richard's answers, regarding what staccato means conceptually. This answer is mostly to provide some examples and details as to how staccato will typically come out in the case ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
35 votes

Why are modern string bows concave instead of convex?

It's a fun experience to play with a convex Baroque bow, but if you've ever tried to use it for anything romantic or later, you'll quickly want to get back to the concave Tourte design that everybody ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
34 votes
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Which instruments to physically familiarize with to become a better orchestrator?

I would strongly advise you NOT to buy any instruments. You don't need to. Do you imagine composers play lots of instruments? They don't. The only instrument Berlioz played was a guitar - tolerably - ...
Old Brixtonian's user avatar
29 votes
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Why doesn't a marching band have strings?

Marching bands are about volume, projection, and power. A violin can't possibly match the projection of a brass instrument, and thus why they aren't included. That said, some bands have employed ...
SmartOlGuy's user avatar
26 votes
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How do orchestras synchronize bow movement?

All the three options you enumerate come into play: some bowings are obvious: a measure of four quarter notes with no markings is very likely going to be down-up-down-up. A forte note by itself will ...
PiedPiper's user avatar
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25 votes
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Do orchestral string instruments need a pause before con sordino?

For what it's worth, here's what Berlioz has to say in his Treatise on Instrumentation: The composer, when indicating the use of mutes in the middle of a piece (by the words con sordini), must not ...
Michael Seifert's user avatar
22 votes

Notation - when to use staccato vs rests

The core difference is that eighth notes/rests and quarter notes/rests (etc.) are durations; whereas, staccato marks are articulations. While it's true that staccato affects the duration of the note, ...
Aaron's user avatar
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22 votes
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What is at the tip of large string concert instruments, and does it damage the floor?

The device is an 'endpin' or just 'spike'. Floor damage is prevented by addition of a protector, variously called endpin stoppers, pinstops, donuts, black holes, endpin anchors, endpin holders, spike ...
Tetsujin's user avatar
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21 votes

What is at the tip of large string concert instruments, and does it damage the floor?

This is really an "extra" answer augmenting, since Tetsujin has the important part. Yes, endpin spikes definitely can damage floors. The cellist's main concern is that their instrument stay ...
Andy Bonner's user avatar
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19 votes
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Meaning of notation in violin part

The 4 indicates that the A is to be played using the fourth finger on the D string, while the 0 indicates that the A is to be played as an open string. Given the double stop in the fourth measure, I ...
Will Orrick's user avatar
18 votes
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Is this tremolo too fast for strings?

Short answer: It's kinda sorta barely okay. First of all, the triple slashes are normally interpreted as an unmeasured tremolo; i.e., each player will simply bow as fast as seems comfortable, and the ...
Andy Bonner's user avatar
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17 votes

How to distinguish between different instruments in a classical orchestra?

You begin by listening to individual instruments, to learn what they sound like, and the variations in their sound. Solo pieces, quartets, etc. are one way to do this. Searching Youtube for instrument ...
Hobbes's user avatar
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17 votes
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Why is violin tuning order the way it is?

This has been asked on quora, here are the different aspects mentioned: Michael Hutchison: The simple answer is E, as the smallest, lightest string, is more susceptible to being pulled back out of ...
Félix Gagnon-Grenier's user avatar
16 votes

Voicing in the Finale of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"

In the 19th century it was standard to have the first and second violins on opposite sides (i.e. the second violins would sit where the cellos now normally sit). This kind of voicing would give a sort ...
PiedPiper's user avatar
  • 21.4k
15 votes

How to distinguish between different instruments in a classical orchestra?

There are several compositions written in purpose to present the orchestra, the instrument sections and the single instruments to the audience and especially for children like Peter and the wolf (...
Albrecht Hügli's user avatar
15 votes

Voicing in the Finale of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"

I discuss this conundrum in my book 'Musical Illusions and Phantom Words' (Oxford University Press, 2019). Apparently Artur Nikisch tried to persuade Tchaikovsky to amend his scoring. There's no ...
Diana Deutsch's user avatar
14 votes

How to distinguish between different instruments in a classical orchestra?

Get an idea, how each instrument sounds separately (as covered in other answers) Train to read scores of ensembles with increasing number of instruments while listening. For orchestra pieces like ...
guidot's user avatar
  • 11.1k
13 votes

What instrument is an "alto" string part in a score?

Yes, Alto = Viola. It's the French name for the instrument, and the score shown is a part of 'Carnival of the Animals' by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
Laurence's user avatar
  • 93.3k
13 votes

Why doesn't a marching band have strings?

Actual marching bands don't have strings - I'm sure you could extend this list of reasons: Where would string players put sheet music? String instruments are expensive and fragile. Whilst you can buy ...
Brian THOMAS's user avatar
  • 11.6k
13 votes

Why does the exponential curve that shows up in the orchestra not overwhelm anything?

It is mainly because increasing the number of instruments in a section does not actually make the section much louder, mostly it just makes it sound “denser”. Any doubling of the number of unisono ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
10 votes
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What does "Flag." mean in orchestra score?

Flageolet. Which means playing harmonics by lightly touching the string at some fraction of its total length.
user33385's user avatar
  • 116
10 votes

Why are string bows so hairy?

Even if you angle the bow quite strongly, the entire breadth of hair does touch the string as soon as you put some pressure on the bow (the outermost hairs will get stretched and give way, i.e. the ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
9 votes
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What is the origin of the up bow and down bow symbols for bowed string instruments?

Last year I was told by a Baroque and Renaissance expert cellist/gambist that the ∏ and ⋁ signs originate from abbreviations of the latin nobilis and vilis. This blog post also says something along ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
9 votes

How can I determine if double stops are playable?

Answer for cello I'll defer to others to answer for violin and viola. Quite obviously, most double stops where one note is an open string are easy. Apart from that, the safest double stops are ...
leftaroundabout's user avatar
9 votes

Notation - when to use staccato vs rests

I'll chime in as a violinist. Keep in mind that notation is partly about psychologically manipulating the musicians to produce the effect that you have in mind. The first example would be appropriate ...
Andy Bonner's user avatar
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8 votes
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What is the name of the object on the strings of the violin behind the bridge

It's a damper, or mute, like this one here When you wish to mute the sound of the instrument you slide it near to the bridge in order to dampen the bridge vibrations.
José David's user avatar
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8 votes

What is the origin of the up bow and down bow symbols for bowed string instruments?

n and v (standing for Latin "nobilis" and "vilis") seem to be first used in print in Georg Muffat's 1698 "Florilegium Secundum", a collection of music for string orchestra with a preface in which ...
Roland Hutchinson's user avatar
8 votes

How does one change bow hair?

First off, I would seriously consider having it done by a professional. Violin bow rehairing can cost about $50 with cello and bass bows costing a bit more. Given that it is quite a skilfull operation,...
Jackalope's user avatar
  • 556

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