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Is this correct?

sIR dORT

Active Member
I had to arrange a piano piece for a string quartet, and had a question for you guys. Is the long slur to indicate one phrase/musical idea in violin 1 and 2 correct, or should it be smaller slurs so that it doesn't look like I want one big bow? I obviously don't and I know it wouldn't be played like that, but I want to make sure that a violinist reading this (that ain't gonna happen, just theoretically) would see that as one musical phrase/idea.
 

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cchristensson

New Member
Hi
It’s hard to see by only six bars.
How do you hear the bows? If you hear it in two bows then put two slurs and so on. If you don’t know then nothing is better.
If you think the musician needs a long slur to understand what you want then by all means go ahead.
Good luck.
 

JT

Senior Member
I'm not a fiddle player, but I would remove the long slur. A phrase doesn't need to be under one slur to be a phrase.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
As a violin player myself many years ago, the usual convention is the other way around. String players will follow the slurring as written, usually will only do bow changes when there is no slur. Occasionally performer will do bow changes inside of a slur, but only when needed or when a tenuto/staccato mark indicates that the slur is not really a legato slur. The interpretation of slur+tenuto marks is usually totally different than just a slur only.


The musical phrasing of longer phrases is usually not indicated by slur marks. Usually it's just expected that the performers can get an idea what the musical phrasing should be after playing it a few times, especially when rehearsed together so they understand how all parts together make the overall music.

But as a composer there are still very useful ways to help performers understand the phrasing - by adding subtle clues in the form of words, dynamics or tempo markings, pause breath marks, or stylistic remarks like "dolce". Those hints not only help the composer control how the performers will execute the music, but also gives a chance to hint where phrases end or begin that good performers will subconsciously naturally pick up those clues.

At the same time, don't accidentally overuse those kinds of markings - only use them where you really would want the effect that your asking for.

Hope that helps!
 

Tacet

Member
Great question.

I'd like to hear what actual strings players have to say about this one (paging @thesteelydane), but based on simple observation of scores vs performances, it seems to me that it is indeed ok to slur a phrase just to imply a general legato feel, leaving the actual bowing decisions to the players.

Here is an example:
SCORE


vs PERFORMANCE


Another interesting question would be: is it necessary to use a higher dynamic marking for the instrument playing the melody versus the others? Or just leave it to the players to figure out?

Many classical composers seem to have gone for for the second option, like in these examples.





What do you guys think?
 

thesteelydane

Senior Member
There are legato slurs, and phrasing slurs - I would consider these the latter. Generally best to leave bowings to the players unless you really, really know what you’re doing. And yes, players will know to bring out the melody.
 

Tacet

Member
There are legato slurs, and phrasing slurs - I would consider these the latter. Generally best to leave bowings to the players unless you really, really know what you’re doing. And yes, players will know to bring out the melody.
Thanks for chipping in! :2thumbs:

So if you were notating a quartet, would you use the same dynamic marking across all four instruments for passages where one is clearly stating the melody and the others doing the accompaniment, like in the opening bars of the Borodin example?
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I use a dotted-line slur for phrase markings with strings so it's clear you don't intend to be giving bowing directions. Sometimes (less often) I will do this with winds or singers so performers don't think I want the whole thing in one breath. Same idea -- you want to indicate a phrase but not a performance / articulation direction.

Probably more necessary for sight reading but it never hurts to try to communicate what you want.

So if you were notating a quartet, would you use the same dynamic marking across all four instruments for passages where one is clearly stating the melody and the others doing the accompaniment, like in the opening bars of the Borodin example?
I think it depends a bit on register. If you have the melody high on the cello and everyone else is playing in a less-penetrating register (for his or her instrument), marking it the same will probably be fine. There could be exceptions; if the melody is being played using some exceptionally soft bowing (like sul tasto) you might need to mark the others down so it's more prominent, if the other players are not also doing the same.

As @thesteelydane wrote , the players most of the time will bring out melodies without needing instruction.
 
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Living Fossil

Senior Member
So if you were notating a quartet, would you use the same dynamic marking across all four instruments for passages where one is clearly stating the melody and the others doing the accompaniment, like in the opening bars of the Borodin example?
Composers from the 2nd Viennese School applied symbols to point out the function of melodic voices.
The leading voice would get a "H" (for: Hauptstimme) and a pronounced countervoice would get a "N" (for: Nebenstimme).
This prevents one from using dynamic markings get could lead to a wrong character.

Personally, i use(d) this method a lot in situations, where the function could be unclear.

 

JohnG

Senior Member
Composers from the 2nd Viennese School applied symbols to point out the function of melodic voices.
The leading voice would get a "H" (for: Hauptstimme) and a pronounced countervoice would get a "N" (for: Nebenstimme).
This prevents one from using dynamic markings get could lead to a wrong character.
Or you could be super clumsy and write "ad lib. -- you have the lead through bar 73" into the guitar part. Not that I would do that...
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
As mentioned by others, in general long phrase markings are not preferred by string players. It's more junk on the page and doesn't provide that much useful information. Plus, it gets in the way of them marking bowings themselves.

As a rule of thumb: slurs=bowing for string players.
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
The leading voice would get a "H" (for: Hauptstimme) and a pronounced countervoice would get a "N" (for: Nebenstimme).
This prevents one from using dynamic markings get could lead to a wrong character.
I would not advise doing that in any situation where the music is to be sight-read (i.e. studio recording) or rehearsal time is limited. It is uncommon notation will undoubtedly lead to questions about what is intended.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
I use a dotted-line slur for phrase markings with strings so it's clear you don't intend to be giving bowing directions. Sometimes (less often) I will do this with winds or singers so performers don't think I want the whole thing in one breath. Same idea -- you want to indicate a phrase but not a performance / articulation direction.

Probably more necessary for sight reading but it never hurts to try to communicate what you want.
I remember having this exact argument with my college roommate when we were at Berklee (don't worry, he's still a good friend :) ).

He was absolutely adamant that slurs meant woodwind players should play it in one breath. I play recorder, and I told him he was wrong, it means that's a phrase - and therefore he and his whole family and the horse they rode in on were ugly. A ' is a breath mark, but you don't normally need to tell woodwind players where to breathe. (Pieces intended for instruction may have breath marks, but I wouldn't put them in for professional musicians.)

But with strings, I agreed - slurs are bowings. I've always used 's to mark phrases when it wasn't obvious, saving slurs for bowings. But the dotted line is much clearer.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Generally best to leave bowings to the players unless you really, really know what you’re doing
I'm in the one-really category, and I've always put in bowings (because string players will play every note with a separate bow if you don't!).

Okay, maybe now I get 1-1/2 reallys, because I played cello for a while.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Well, Nick, I grew up playing woodwinds and I sing now; a slur means, to me, "in one breath," but I also have seen phrase markings that clearly have nothing to do with breathing.

Separately, I do put breath marks in for professional musicians if I want them to breathe at a particular moment together.

But these are marginal questions and sometimes the answer varies depending on the situation and the type of performer.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
There's another perspective to all this. Bowing and breathing are not really so separate from phrasing in the first place. They are not just quirks of the instruments that need to be "kept in mind as constraints on the instrument". Bowings and breathing are also essential tools for musical phrasing.

Looking back at all the violin music that I've played in the past - solo, orchestral, chamber - it's hard to imagine that any of that standard repertoire was written without the composer thinking of specific bowings or breathing, 70% of the time at least.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
Also, I wonder if "bowing" can mean slightly different things in different people's posts above. My version of "bowing" referred to any articulation markings that tell the performer how to move their bow, but doesn't necessarily tell them exactly whether to do up/down or where on the bow to play.

@thesteelydane is it possible you meant the term bowing as specifically the composer trying to say "up" or "down" on behalf of the performer?
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
My version of "bowing" referred to any articulation markings that tell the performer how to move their bow, but doesn't necessarily tell them exactly whether to do up/down or where on the bow to play.
I think we're talking about upbows and downbows. Bowing articulations - the Italian shit - is a different thing.
 
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