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Topic: How fast can players play

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  1. #1

    How fast can players play

    Just wondering if anybody knows of a guideline to find out how fast you can write for woodwinds and strings. Is there a reference chart with tempo and note value to go by?

    Say I want to write a woodwind and string flurry to transition to a new section depending on the tempo they could be possibly between 7-12 16th or 32th but how do I make sure it's playable? Can one go by the rule of if you can vocalise it then they can probably play it?

    thanks

    -icm

  2. #2

    Wink Re: How fast can players play

    First the attack and release of the instruments is creating how it sounds in very fast tempo.

    Experiment with this by editing in the samplemachine.

    By editing in audiotracks, for all notes seperate tracks (fade in and out) ,you can create wonderfull things, like playing a flute as a trombone..., smile.

    But costs many time.
    "Music is the shorthand of emotion." Leo Tolstoy

    Listen to me, tuning my triangle http://www.box.net/shared/ae822u6r3i

  3. #3

    Re: How fast can players play

    --Say I want to write a woodwind and string flurry to transition to a new section depending on the tempo they could be possibly between 7-12 16th or 32th but how do I make sure it's playable? Can one go by the rule of if you can vocalise it then they can probably play it?

    What you are trying to do is pretty common--infact idiomatic of strings and woodwinds--brass would struggle with this. As long as you are using a fairly common scale most good players can even sight read a passage like you discribe. Throw a harp gliss and cymbal roll with it and you'll sound like a big time movie composer who knows what they are doing.

  4. #4

    Re: How fast can players play

    I realize it's ubiquitous indeed but I still trying to figure out some reference for how fast I would write this depending of the tempo. I know strings players and flutes can play pretty darn fast but just how fast? That's what I'm trying to find out.

    [/I]
    What you are trying to do is pretty common--infact idiomatic of strings and woodwinds--brass would struggle with this. As long as you are using a fairly common scale most good players can even sight read a passage like you discribe. Throw a harp gliss and cymbal roll with it and you'll sound like a big time movie composer who knows what they are doing.[/QUOTE]

  5. #5

    Re: How fast can players play

    Maybe you could post an example of what you're wanting to do?

  6. #6

    Re: How fast can players play

    Quote Originally Posted by IronChef
    Just wondering if anybody knows of a guideline to find out how fast you can write for woodwinds and strings. Is there a reference chart with tempo and note value to go by?

    Say I want to write a woodwind and string flurry to transition to a new section depending on the tempo they could be possibly between 7-12 16th or 32th but how do I make sure it's playable? Can one go by the rule of if you can vocalise it then they can probably play it?

    thanks

    -icm
    As others have indicated, "fast" is a relative issue, and different instrumental articulation limitations are a factor; the skill of the musician is an even more significant factor, though.

    Years ago a friend and I spent a good deal of time on Baroque literature: Telemann, Couperin, and others. Many of those pieces were Violin Duos or Duets. We were playing Trombone and Sax (sometimes Alto, sometimes Baritone), and at other times Trombone and Clarinet. We challenged ourselves most of the time with fresh sight-reading, generally honoring the nuances of the composer in our interpretation. My friend's Trombone never lost the fat, rich, mellow sound he had such a talent for producing. Brain-food: what alternate fingering/slide position/adjusted embouchure will get that passage out cleanly? No time to study it . . . these were cold sight readings.

    Answer to your question: some virtuoso will rise to the challenge, and play the "impossible" passage. Practically, though, you might ask yourself this question: what does the passage add to the piece? It's a musical question for you, as composer/orchestrator. You can look through the RK Orchestration suggestions for ideas about what's practical; you can recall all of the music you've ever heard, and think of complex passages; you can take "busy" passages and share the work among a number of players to avoid overburdening everyone. You can do almost anything you want to do.

    germancomponist made what I think was a very practical suggestion: write your passage, then try different instruments on it. See how "real" it sounds to you. Take snippets of embellishments from MIDI samples you can find all over the place, and experiment. If it sounds right to you, do it.

    [As an aside: do a 'net search on Tuba. I've come across a couple of Tuba ensembles that astound. Also, listen to the Alto Sax solos of Charlie Parker.]

    I hope the responses you've gotten are useful to you.

    Joe

  7. #7

    Re: How fast can players play

    I realize it's ubiquitous indeed but I still trying to figure out some reference for how fast I would write this depending of the tempo. I know strings players and flutes can play pretty darn fast but just how fast? That's what I'm trying to find out.


    --Ok to be a little more on the money with this answer--there is nothing set
    in stone as a guideline to tempo on this--you have to employ a little common sense. 150-160 BPM would be topping it out in my guess. Maybe a little higher. I have written flurishes up to 150 bpm with odd number notes in a beat (5 or 7 -it sounds cooler with odd numbers--sometimes 12 notes over 2 beats, 5 in the 1st and 7 in the 2nd, the flurish picks up speed) and players breeze thru the passage on a second try. You must realize that every note is not going to be articulated, you are creating a flurish effect. That is why adding a harp/cymbal/French Horn rip adds nicely to the effect.

    You would be wise to prepare this by having the instruments involved in this flourish resting before it occurs. It helps to orchestrate a very obvious downbeat. Example: Brass/Perc attacking beat 1 of the new tempo.

    Remember that your flourish is in the new tempo/key. Modulating up or down a minor 3rd seems to be the cool thing to do here.

    I'm throwing in all these other things because the better you do these other things--the faster you can write your flourish. This is one of those few things in music that if you can imagine it-hear it in your head- it can be played.

  8. #8

    Re: How fast can players play

    You need to get together with some good players, and have them give you a demonstration.

    Like others have said here, after a certain point, it becomes a "whoosh". You might want to go ahead and live that up, throw in some glissandos in strings, harps, horns, xylophone, whatever.

    If you are talking about psychotic lunatic passages with all kinds of skip, twirls, etc, consider giving it to a piccolo. It is probably the fastest wind in the orchestra, while still being able to maintain a clean articulation. But don't be suprised if your glorious virtuosic solo is flubbed in performance!

    Also consider melodic percussion, which in the hands of a great player can probably even outdo a piccolo for lightspeed soloing. Some of these players are superhuman.

    Also consider keyboard instruments, especially piano. You can be very precise and subtle with blindingly fast scales (especially short ones that can be played in one hand) on a piano, it's only limitation is repeated notes, which can be tough to really fire off quickly, unless you have a piano with a really short throw (light action).

  9. #9

    Re: How fast can players play

    thank you all for your replies!

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