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Topic: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

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  1. #1

    Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    I am doing a new String Quartet. Main instruments EWQL SO, solo patches. As a layer per instrument I used GPO solo instruments (Gagli, etc.) at a modest velodicty and volume (CC1).

    Presented: right from the Overture box with PerfectSpace and some audio equalizing the first part.

    Please comment on the sound of the instruments. Where did I go wrong? And what is wrong? Can I emphasize the cello a bit more? For the seetings I used some pro CD's, but the recording techniques and ambiences were very different. One can hardly use them as "learning material".

    Edited: another question came up. I am NOT a violinist. In a score I may write "do this marcato-wise" or "martelé" but who am I to say that, maybe a real violinist plays this better with "starting with a marcato and the following note with spiccato" or else of course. When does the instrumentalist decide which articulation he uses. Looking at some scores of stringquartets only a few contain bowing advices (or articulations) and only when completely different playing is needed in relation to the previous phrases.

    Much obliged,

    Raymond - thinking of taking violin lessons (a sort of demo lessons)

  2. #2

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    well.... I am definitely NOT a violinist, too. But I try.
    What follows are the words of an amateur, so please do not take them in excessive consideration, I am just going to express my very subjective opinions.

    For starters, I haven' t understood which are the problems you feel you are having with your quartet. At the beginning I thought they relate to its acoustics, but then you edited and mostly refer to techniques and articulations.

    Sound wise this is quite planted and stable. I do agree on the cello: sometimes it is off balance, plus, check your attack envelope settings, there is something going on with its attack noises, they lack "bite" in a farly un-natural manner.

    Overall, sound is not a big problem, here. On the other hand... I do understand your sensation of confusion regarding articulations, it is exactly the same sensation I have when listening to the composition: I have the feeling the "players" are not being clear regarding the composer's intentions and there is a general feeling of inconsistency.
    Sometimes there are passages that are un-natural, like the three violin turns from 00:14 to 00:19: these sound detache' but would never be executed like this, they are too fast to actually perform them this way. They should be slurred and just the first attack should be clearly heard. This seems like piano phrasing with a violin sound.

    The short notes that you point out, now. I sense a general great confusion on these issues. First of all, there is no "marcato" articulation per se. Marcato is simply an accented note, is a dynamic, not an articulation. Simply, play the note with a stronger attack. Marcato is ALWAYS notated (">") when requested, and it is up to the player to execute it the way it feels. One of the most common options is to actually play the note as a martele', which is one of the possibilities to play accented short notes.
    Unlike "marcato", a pretty generic term, martele' is a proper articulation with a very specific sound. It is executed by "gluing" the bow on the string ("colle' " bowing), pressing the bow hardly down on the string and then releasing the stroke as a fast, short and sudden burst of horizontal motion. There is no particular notation for martele', it will be the player to decide when to use it.
    Usually, it is used for the isolated note to play as marcato.... or in case of staccatos, which leads us to the topic you raise.

    Staccatos are, once again, always notated, with the dot on the note. This, on the violin, does not refer to a single, specific technique. It just tells the performer that he has to execute a short note or, very often, a sequence of short notes with very noticeable pauses between them, clearly separated and each one with an accented attack.
    The usual, common way to execute a staccato is with a martele' stroke. Staccato is therefore commonly defined as a "series of martele' hits on the same bow stroke". The bow stays on the string after each hit. Very common are scales, either descending or ascending, played on all the strings but on the same bow stroke. Now... martele' is an elaborate stroke that needs specific motion and preparation for each separate note: it is not the fastest of the techniques. Most of the time, world class violinists will use different types of staccatos: the flying staccato and the stiff-arm (Wienawski's) staccato. Both are proper fast, but only the stiff-arm staccato can be played in both up bow and down bow. Flying staccato is up bow only.
    In both cases these hits involve a bouncing bow: in case of the flying staccato, the player throws the bow on the string on the first note of the sequence, and helps the bow to continually bounce for the remaining notes. In case of the stiff arm... this is a rather strange technique that relies on the pulsation of the muscles of the upper arm, that the player is intentionally "stiffening". The pulsations get trasmitted to the bow that begins to bounce.
    So... in case of the two latter forms of staccato, the resulting sound will not be a martele', but rather something VERY similar to spiccato.
    Staccato is a hell of a difficult technique. Many violinists, even world class, infact, do not have one. When they read staccato do execute spiccato or, better, sautille (a quick spiccato with fast alternating, bouncing down and up bows).
    All of this is almost never notated, you just find the staccato dot. In Elgar's "La Capricieuse" there is actually a "ten. volant" indication on the staccatos, suggesting that these are to be played volant (by flying staccato)... but this is rare. Most of the times you just find the dot, and have to work out what's the best thing to do according to the bpm, the sound required and the overall context.

    Hope to have been helpful in some way.

    Fab

  3. #3

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    It's a General Discussion-like thread, with the bonus of a Listening Room-like posting of music. An all-in-one, bonus post - Fun!

    "...Where did I go wrong?..." - It's not clear to me what you think sounds so "wrong," Raymond. The piece is sounding pretty darned good to me. I read your text first, and so when I clicked the link, I expected to hear something sounding godawful and wrong - I was confused when I heard this good sounding recording.

    You said:

    "...As a layer per instrument I used GPO solo instruments (Gagli, etc.) at a modest velodicty and volume (CC1)...
    And what is wrong? Can I emphasize the cello a bit more?..."


    Fab responded:

    "...I do agree on the cello: sometimes it is off balance, plus, check at your attack envelope settings, there is something going on with its attack noises, they lack "bite" in a fairly unnatural manner..."

    Yes, the cello isn't as prominent and aggressive as would serve the piece better. How do you emphasize it? Setting the corresponding slider in ARIA higher would be a start. The faders are there for you to get at least the basic balance you need between instruments. If you bounce to audio, then you have even more control if you automate the audio faders to keep adjusting the balance as needed throughout, even on a per-note-basis sometimes.

    But as Fab said, there's a lack of bite in the cellos. I pulled out the quote from you, Raymond, because you said that you set the GPO layers at a "modest velocity." -- Why? The lower the velocity, the softer/slower the attack in Garritan instruments. The only way to get the lively, more aggressive bite your piece needs is to keep the velocities to full much of the time.

    So - that's at least some of my reaction.

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    This sounds excellent to me! I really enjoy the piece and commend you on your writing skills.

    I could not hear and real problems in the sound or the balance, but then I haven't worked with any other libraries EWQL of Vienna. To my ears the balance is fine and the parts are well done. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
    [Music is the Rhythm, Harmony and Breath of Life]
    "Music is music, and a note's a note" - Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong

    Rich

  5. #5

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    Hello friends,

    Thank you for the very useful replies. I printed them for further study. This morning I only had some limited time to view the balance and the "bites" of the strings, in particular the cello. The reason why I lowered the presence of GPO is that EWQL and GPO have different vibrato settings, have different sounds and at a higher velocity and volume they don't work well together. I only introduced GPO for that bit of extra "bite". Maybe not enough as you noticed. By the way, the piece wasn't rendered with SONAR but right from the Overture playback.

    I will come to that later when I've finished the piece or for whatever reason..... you'll never know when I'll need your advice. Right now I am in a hurry to "socialize" with my handicapped sister and my wife (not handicapped, but in need for a visit to the dentist).

    See you around,

    Raymond

  6. #6

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    For when you return to the piece, Raymond, I want to make sure part of the feedback on this thread is clear. The major feedback is that nobody thinks what you already have sounds horrible, in fact we're saying it sounds good. We're not sure why you were so desperate sounding in your original post when you asked, "Where did I go wrong?"--there was nothing pronouncedly "wrong" anybody else could hear, so we couldn't answer the question.

    But there is something discussed that could use improvement, and that's the "bite" of the cellos. In your new post you said,

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond62 View Post
    ...This morning I only had some limited time to view the balance and the "bites" of the strings, in particular the cello. The reason why I lowered the presence of GPO is that EWQL and GPO have different vibrato settings, have different sounds and at a higher velocity and volume they don't work well together. I only introduced GPO for that bit of extra "bite"...
    Having the different volume levels for a good blends sounds like a good idea. But you said you added GPO for that extra bite - and Fab and I concur it could have more bite. As he said: "...the cello...check your attack envelope settings, there is something going on with its attack noises, they lack 'bite'..."

    The reason the GPO cellos lack bite is because you lowered the velocities, as you told us initially. The "envelope setting" for those GPO Cellos doesn't exist per se, but that envelope, the attack Fab is talking about is controlled by the velocity value. That is the point I made already on this thread, but wanted to point it out again, since you said in your new post that it was the bite in the GPO cellos you wanted especially to add. Good idea - but you'll need the velocities all above 120 for that to work.

    Just a note for when you return to this.

    Randy

  7. #7

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    Don't worry. It sounded good enough for me and you all. But when listening to other professional recordings, apart from the "real mastering techniques" I decided that certain phrases had to be played staccato, others legato with slurs, others legato without slurs and CC64(for the GPO tracks), etc. But I am not a violinist (or else) and it might have been completely wrong demanding certain playing techniques way outside the techniques used in real life.

    That's why I asked for careful listening and advices from a violinist. It is just the same as with Beethoven, who played the violin himself (not at top level) and asked for advice how to write certain phrases in his one and only ViolinConcerto. Also looking at scores, e.g. the stringquartets of Schubert, while listening, I noticed a certain freedom in performance because not all was notated. And really do you exactly know when to use a marcato on the first note followed by spiccato on the subsequent notes? I don't.

    Of course I know that marcato falls under category of dynamics. But for me it feels like an articulation in relation to the other notes in the sequence. But why going into that kind of detail? Not necessary. You all helped me tremendously. Writing a stringquartet isn't the easiest musical expression, every instrument - and there are only four - must have its own "character" expressed in balance with the others.

    So, Randy, don't worry. I've read all replies with the utmost concentration and took from them things I never realized before.

    The ever experimenting,

    Raymond

  8. #8
    Senior Member tedvanya's Avatar
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    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    I enjoyed your piece. So much so, that I also listened to two more on your impressive site.
    While I agree with the comments, my 1c worth is, that I would have liked more volume differences between the instruments. To me, there was very little to bring out one over the others. I hear that you have tried this, but to me, not enough. It would be the beauty of this piece if I would hear more of one, then more the other, and perhaps an overall added variation of dynamics would be a benefit.
    Thanks for posting it, I love your symphony by the way... Hope you dentist did a good job..

    Ted

  9. #9

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    Quote Originally Posted by tedvanya View Post
    ....Hope you dentist did a good job..

    Ted
    Not mine. He did a good job on my wife. I never go to a dentist.

    Raymond

  10. #10

    Re: Advice needed - String Quartet nr.2 - part 1

    Hey Raymond,

    I actually found a much better staccato explanation than mine:



    Now your problem is just to find out how to say "GOOOOOOO!!!" to that EW violin of yours

    ....Sorry for the semi-OT, but we should never reject a good laugh

    Fab

    P.S. "stiffen your arm... and hope for the best!"

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