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Topic: Using more then one note for an instrument...

  1. #1

    Using more then one note for an instrument...

    Ok would it be normal practice to put lets say a major triad on one instruments staff (E.G garritan 2nd violins)? An orchestrator offered to help me out some time back and told me to use seperate patches to create chords etc as it sounded more natural. Though when he sent back his version of my music it sounded horrible, so he may not be the best person to be taking advice from. I would think being a whole section comprised of many players they could do any chord. I am not sure if it is standard practice to play chords in individual sections (E.G 2nd violins play a major triad) or have lets say the oboes play E and the violas play G while the 2nd violins play C. Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...


    I had similar situation. I was at a recording studio adding some stuff I did not have, and the engineer/producer almost turned green when the notation showed I used a chord for the same violin patch played and sequenced at the same time. I think if you want a squeekly clean project that never gets muddy no matter how many instruments/effects you add, using two or three notes of the same patch to create a counter harmony, or three notes for a cord is a mortal sin.

    However, I do it all the time, and for the life of me cannot get the same effect when I separate. Sometimes, you simply \"need\" that sort of sound.

    On a re-read of your question, I think your question spans beyond using the same instrument/patch using one two or three note cord as opposed to laying a different track for each. If your question is about using different instruments, alltogether on the same track, \"normally\" you would want to separate, unless you are going for a unique effect.

    Again, it will be interesting to see what others say.

  3. #3

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    Lately I\'ve been composing some cues utilising the GOS All Strings Sections patch that essentially conveniently places the strings sections onto a single keyboard layout. I have to say that for some bizarre reason it sounds better than splitting up the groups (which I do anyway \'cause I\'m stupid). Perhaps it\'s time to re-think MIDI orchestration, perhaps the new sampe libraries are making this a viable option.

  4. #4

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    midi, the reason it sounds \"better\" to you is because you\'ve got to remember. All the sections are playing unison in that patch. One key depressed on that patch can actually represent 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, and Cellos all at the same time.

    PLay a 3 note chord and you\'ve got 4 sections EACH playing 3 notes.

    This all depends on ranges, but most cases will have 3/4 sections playing for each note in this patch.

    Basically you\'re getting a \"fuller\" sound, because its more like a synth patch.

    You\'d get essentially the same sound if you took the MIDI data, from the \"all strings\" patch, and then copied it to all multiple tracks representing each string section. Definitely not \"real\"...but in the end, unless you\'re going to have it played live....who cares [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] .. if it soudns good, it sounds good.

  5. #5

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    That was the great thing about the old Jupiter 8 synth - it had an \'omni\' mode that played all oscillators and divided up amongst the voices. Play one C note, you got 8 oscillators playing \'C\', play C and G, 4 each, C E G = 3/3/2, etc. Instant section!

    It would be really cool if someone could get Giga to do this, some little MIDI routine that duped and extrapolated before the MIDI note request hit GS...


  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Dorset, UK

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    I\'m not sure it matters for a big orchestral setting. However, I only use small settings, and using a triad on one track would sound too big. A real orchestra would use divisi or different instrument sections to play a triad eg Vn1, Vn2, Va. I haven\'t got any libraries with divisi, but fake it by attenuating the string section, (usually GOS 2nd Vn), and increasing the layered solo Vn(s), which makes it sound smaller.

  7. #7

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    Thanks for the info Thomas, now I am going to stop interlocking the woodwinds with the strings.

    Now, on another subject I am not schooled in musical terms (I have read a little stuff found in the encylopedia). Now what do these terms mean:

    MF (I have read alot of posts saying they went from like PPP to FFF what does that all mean?)

    Thanks in advance

  8. #8

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    All abreviated notations of dymamic (volume) levels. MF stands for mezzo forte or moderately loud. p= piano or soft, mp= mezzo piano or moderatly soft, f= forte, loud. On the extremes are ff= fortissimo very loud, fff= fortississimo very very loud, pp= pianissimo very soft, ppp= pianississimo or very very soft.

    divisi is when two notes on the same part are played by different players.

    Double stops, both notes played by the same player (at least I am assuming this term is universal as this is the percussive meaning).

    Sean Lane
    DS Soundware

  9. #9

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    Welcome to the wonderful world of orchestration, Adam [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    In a concert piece I\'m currently writing for a standard sized orchestra (3,3,3,3 4,3,3,1) I\'m having to deal with such issues all the time. It\'s trial and failure. Read a lot of Ravel and Mahler scores and you\'ll learn from the masters of achieving balance in the orchestra. You\'ll have to think balance all the time. For example there\'s a passage in my piece where the 1st violins are playing the melody forte divisi in octaves, doubled by violas in forte unison to add thickness in the string group. The 2nd violins are playing fortissimo divisi triads with doublestops for first desk and unison for 2nd desk. If you think about it this makes perfect sense balance-wise. It could have been orchestrated in a number of ways:

    1st violins playing the melody in unison, 2nd violins in unison one octave below and violas with doublestops or divisi (depending on the loudness and harshness (and intonation) you\'re willing to sacrifice. The celli could play doublestops to form a larger span of the triad or they could play one of the three notes in the triad in unison at Forte or half the section at MF.

    Another possibility would be to have the 1st violins play divisi: highest notes of the melody and one of the notes from the triad, while the 2nd violins would play the melody in unison one octave below the 1st violins and the violas would complete the triad with the two remaining notes in divisi. If you want the celli in on the game as well you could interlock the violas and celli with the cellis playing either doublestops of P4\'s or P5\'s or divisi (probably the best bet in this scenario) and the violas divisi one 3rd above the root note of the chord and 2nd desk a sixth above the 3rd.

    Interlocking woodwinds with strings is not a very good idea unless you\'re dealing with something out of the ordinary. It yields unbalanced results and quite possibly also intonation problems as well as a strange heterogeneous tonal character.

    Hope this helps,


  10. #10

    Re: Using more then one note for an instrument...

    Adam, there\'s a lot more to it than what I can explain here but to answer your questions:

    Mf means mezzoforte. It\'s moderately loud.

    \"PPP\" = piano pianissimo (extremely soft)
    \"PP\" = pianissimo (very soft)
    \"P\" = piano (soft)
    \"MP\" = mezzopiano (moderately soft)
    \"MF\" = mezzoforte (moderately loud)
    \"F\" = forte (loud)
    \"FF\" = fortissimo (very loud)
    \"FFF\" = forte fortissimo (extremely loud)

    A passage written as followed: PPP to FFF
    would have the musicians play a crescendo (swell) from the softest to the loudest producable sound on their instrument.

    Divisi (abbrev. div.) is italian and means \"divided\" - It\'s used to indicate the seperation between violin desks to produce a harmony (or parallell interval). If divisi is not written the string players will attempt to execute a double stop. You can also write \"non divisi.\" to make sure they make it a double stop.

    Double stop means playing two notes simultaneously on a stringed instrument. It\'s not used too often but it\'s very handy to know what it\'s all about, for you might need it some day! There are however certain limitations to the performance of this technique. An interval of a perfect 4th from 4th string open G to C is impossible because both the notes are only accessable on the same string. Anything above that should be fine. Generally all intervals combinations are playable with double stops, but become increasingly difficult as you move upwards in the range. Triads and even 4-part chords are obtainable by \"cheating\" with open strings, double stops and arpeggios. They cannot be sustained like two notes in a double stopped passage can. The idea of arpeggio is to play the 4 strings so quickly, that the percieved sound is actually a triad or 4-part chord. Of course it doesn\'t sound like that, but in thick tutti textures it is often very feasible with regards to the actually meaning and original purpose of the arpeggio technique.

    You shouldn\'t use doublestops where you can avoid them. The standard orchestration with 1st violins playing melody, 2nd violins playing the upper note in the triad, with violas in the middle and cellis at the root note (doubled with double basses in unison (sounding one octave below written note) is of course the best and yields the most balanced sound. It is however a bit boring [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    When dealing with double stops it is useful to know the various stringed instruments and their strings and tuning.

    Violins have four strings (from lowest: G-D-A-E)
    As you can see they are tuned in fifths.

    Violas have four strings (from lowest: C-G-D-A)

    Celli have four strings (from lowest: C-G-D-A)

    Basses have four or five strings depending on the instrument. For four-stringed basses a C-extension is often used. (from lowest: (C)E-A-D-G)
    Basses sound one octave below written note and are tuned in fourths. Double stops aren\'t really common with basses.

    Best of luck with your orchestration adventures!


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