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Who Has Any Tips For String Quartet Playing?


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#1 Guest: zoda_*

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 15:18

Bring them to me!

I found trying to play in string quartets at university much harder than playing in an orchestra - has anyone got any tips about how to get good intonation/ how to tune up/ how to discuss what you're doing with fellow members? Should you go for pieces that are slightly below your individual limits, so as to get them right? How do you get started? Is there a level below which its pointless? How often do you need to meet? Is it true that string quartets are prone to arguments and politics? Any thoughts at all welcome, as my knowledge of this is a complete vacuum.

David
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#2 Guest: cheeble_*

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 17:51

Have a look at the other post in the Viva Strings forum about chamber music - it's about how my string quartet broke up. Yes, we did argue a lot, but they also became some of my closest friends, so it's definitely a worthwhile thing!

Don't start with anything too ambitious. Stick below your individual limits until you know each other better, and you know each other's style of playing better.

You meet as often as you want - don't push anyone into a commitment they can't manage. We rehearsed twice a week.

Tune to either a first violin A or a cello D - this is what most professional quartets do.

Intonation - you could start rehearsals by playing a slow scale and really listening to each other.

A word of advice: Make sure everyone's opinion is valued, and that nobody thinks they're superior to anybody else. It's up to you to decide whether the first and second violin swap places - I personally would advise against this, as it upsets the balance and looks unprofessional in concerts. It's better for each violinist to have a different, separate quartet, where they play the other part. This is a subject of great sensitivity!

I have a lot more to write but my supper is on the table. I will come back later!
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#3 Guest: kenm_*

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 18:01

QUOTE (zoda @ Oct 13 2004, 03:18 PM)
Bring them to me!

I found trying to play in string quartets at university much harder than playing in an orchestra -  has anyone got any tips about how to get good intonation/ how to tune up/ how to discuss what you're doing with fellow members?  

General ideas for chamber music (I have played very few string quartets but lots of other chamber music).

Have a score with you; even if you know the piece well, it will often be quicker and less stressful to show one of the others what should be happening rather than trying to explain how they have got something wrong.

The more people in the group know what the piece should sound like, the quicker you will progress.

You must listen to the total sound, not just to your own part.

To get to performing standard, at least one of you (preferably the leader) should have a good grasp of everything that is happening, in all the parts, and what the relative dynamics should be. A musician not involved in the playing can be helpful if only to balance the sounds from the location of the audience. An expert coach will give you more, of course, but moderately competent groups should get the notes together by themselves before spending money on an expert interpreter of the work.

Bear in mind that if one of the others tells you that you are wrong, they may be right, and the quickest solution may be to play the passage again, possibly slower.

QUOTE
Should you go for pieces that are slightly below your individual limits,  so as to get them right?  How do you get started?

Get together over a drink and discuss what composers and pieces you all like.

QUOTE
Is there a level below which its pointless?

I think it would be about Grade 2.

QUOTE
How often do you need to meet?  Is it true that string quartets are prone to arguments and politics?   Any thoughts at all welcome,  as my knowledge of this is a complete vacuum.

David

I don't think these questions have universal answers. My groups don't discuss politics, but we do have different ideas about music and have to find compromises. Good luck; you are about to sample the highest form of European musical culture.
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#4 Guest: indy_*

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Posted 13 October 2004 - 20:40

Fascinating!
I've learnt a lot on string quartets from these postings already! Thanks for that. I too would love to play in a string quartet one day. Keep those tips coming!!!!!

I've played pano for 4 years in an amateur trad band (at the most, 10 musicians, at the least 5), and there was so much infighting at times it wasn't true. The biggest problem I think was - everyone wanted different things from the group. Some never practised and used the rehearsal for a social get-together and dust off their instruments, others (ok yes moi!) wanted to improve and move forward. And no-one was a similar standard - I'm sure some were even tone deaf! So when you'd hear the same mistakes continually over a long period you could get disheartened. It split in the end unpleasantly (a member ran off with all the music to form another band).
I would have thought 4 members has to be an easier number to handle. However I'm told odd numbers like 3,5 etc are easier.
Cheeble - I've read your other thread (quartets/marriage) with interest - I was amazed at how many ensembles you actually play in! I'm lucky to manage one lesson every 2 weeks!!
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#5 Guest: zoda_*

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Posted 14 October 2004 - 18:12

Thanks for your replies Cheeble and Kenm - a lot of very interesting points which I have not heard said before. Hello again Indy!
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#6 Guest: zoda_*

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 14:40

I thought I'd post here rather than start a new thread. In the "favourite websites" thread someone recommended the "violin masterclass" website which is really great - loads of video clip snippets with pupils/ string quartet/ orchestra addressing various pieces/ techniques/ challenges which are all catalogued from the homepage.

I had read somewhere, and then lost, a description of how to tune up a string quartet, and there are some tips on this in one of the video clips. The main suggestion seems to be to tune the fifths "tightly" so that the violin E makes a major third (plus 2 octaves) with the Cello C. Apparently if you tune in absolutely spot on perfect fifths, the pythagorean comma will lead the C and E to clash.

What do people think of the following as an order for tuning up;

1. everyone tunes their A in the usual way.
2. violins tune their E from their A to as tight a major 5th as sounds right.
3. Cello tunes its C to the violins E.
4. Cello tunes its G and D to fit in slightly tight fifths between the C and A strings.
5. Viola takes its C from the Cello.
6. Everyone takes their G and D from the cello.

not that I've got a string quartet to play in at the moment - but one day when I do I'd at least like to be able to tune up!

Come to think of it, a friend came round with a frightening little black box that she puts on the music stand when she plays her viola, and it flashes red if you play a note out by 5 cents or more. Do you think some quartets simply have their tuning pre-ordained by a black box which tells them what to tune to? Rather soulless perhaps, but if it arrives at some internationally recognised best compromise, it must be quite tempting.
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#7 Guest: Chimpyang_*

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Posted 24 May 2005 - 15:55

The quartet which i'm in currently, we tune up to each other, and we agree on what type of A we want, usually it's around a half turn of the fine tuner above the 440 Hz concert A, partially because the A fluctuated a lot in the past and it sounds brighter too.

Also, the violinists tune as much as they can with the Viola and the Cello and imo the Viola should tune to the Cello whilst the violins tune their E's. (E and C are a 5th apart right?). Also since the Viola part is generally the least intersting, it's often for the Viola/ 3rd violin player to tell everyone wheter they're playing to the mood of the piece. This is cos the 1st Violins usually have something fiddly and more distracting to do.
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#8 Guest: AmandaL_*

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 09:38

QUOTE
violins tune their E from their A to as tight a major 5th


Good grief, we'll have less use of bad language like that!! ohmy.gif

a MAJOR 5th ?????!!!!!! ohmy.gif ohmy.gif huh.gif

a PERFECT 5th if you please tongue.gif
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#9 Guest: Chimpyang_*

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Posted 30 May 2005 - 10:31

I'm sorry, it's been ages since i've done theory.......a good 4 years ago tongue.gif
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#10 Guest: zoda_*

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Posted 04 June 2005 - 22:19


a PERFECT 5th if you please tongue.gif

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[/quote]

oops!

sorry music lovers!
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