[no longer] Attempting a Quartet piece...

col

Active Member
MIDI performance wise, each time I check and play a bar, it sounds terrible, so I am guessing that this is where mastering the MIDI comes in, tweaking everything so that it plays as it should.
And this is one of the distractions working with samples. You can get bogged down in getting them to sound half ok and less time writing the music. I try and ignore the rough sound until a piece is 90% written and then go over it and do the midi tweaking or maybe tweak a few bars here and there as it develops.
Which strings are you using ?
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
Hi @col :)

Yes... Very distracting indeed.

In fact, yesterday evening, after reaching bar 40 out of 164 of just the first violin part, I have given up programming in just the MIDI notes. I find that I am struggling with some of the finer points of music notation. Some great resource on the internet but there are still some elements that I cannot get my head around.

And I love to be creative, so I am going to take a bit of a break from this little project and see what I can come up with using my strings library that is nothing to do with classical music.

Which strings are you using?
I am using Spitfire Audio Solo Strings. My first ever string library. I like it, though I have only just scratched the surface of this library stuff. The only other library I have is Noire. And Battery, of course... Been using that for my beat oriented stuff since V1.


cheers

andy :)
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
Although one should of course know what type of ensemble you are writing for, the fundamental issue or question here has to do with Composition. Without at least a fundamental understanding of it, the problems and barriers stack up very quickly. These fundamental principles must be understood before such an undertaking. It’s not that you won’t learn from tackling a string quartet outright or that there’s a law against doing so: it’s that the energy and effort involved in going that route would be far better spent in studying composition from the ground up. That includes the fundamentals mentioned here such as Harmony, Part-Writing and so on. A solid understanding of those things must be present regardless of the instrumentation of what will ultimately display the writing ability of the composer.
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
Thank you for your input @Dave Connor :)

it’s that the energy and effort involved in going that route would be far better spent in studying composition from the ground up
I hate to say this, and I am sure I will be shot down for saying it. And young peeps should look away now.

I am 59. I feel that I no longer have the time or the patience to study composition from the ground up. So I will have to pick and mix what ever I feel is required for what ever it is I am working on. And by "time," I don't mean hours in any given day. I mean, I ain't got much time left. A difficult concept for younger people to grasp, but older people here will know what I mean when I say that, the older you get, the faster time flies by.

My current diversion into the use of what may be considered as classical instruments may be a total folly and waste of time. That said, I am enjoying my experimentations at this moment in time and I still hope to be able to use my newly acquired string library in my ambient creations.

About the "string quartet" thing. At the time of writing the OP I had no idea that a string quartet had such a strict set of expectations. I have since come to the conclusion that I will never, ever write what could be considered to be a string quartet.

I apologise if this sounds somewhat negative but after spending the last week or so reading articles and watching tutorials I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed and burned out. I am not working for a living at the moment and I spend at least five hours on average trying to learn new stuff.

I also find that I have lost some of my ability to learn new stuff and to have it stick. This is quite depressing. I have learned so much stuff over the years, work related, as a CAD designer and programmer. I am not the person I used to be and this reflects very much on my hobbies too. I was a keen photographer and I can't remember the last time I picked up my DSLR.

Music wise, I am a creator and I miss creating.

Some may say that I should have put the time in back when I was 19. I did put some effort in, in those early days, but it was mainly all guitar related and it was cool to start/join a band and just do stuff that sounded okay.



Okay... not sure where all that came from... I will stop typing, say "cheers" and hit the Post Reply button!


andy
 

Mornats

Hobbyist
About the "string quartet" thing. At the time of writing the OP I had no idea that a string quartet had such a strict set of expectations. I have since come to the conclusion that I will never, ever write what could be considered to be a string quartet.
I think there's been a bit of an expectation here that this is what you were aiming for, that you were aiming to write string quartet music like a classical composer would. However, I think the beauty of virtual instruments is that you can take a string quartet and create whatever the hell you like with it. You have four voices to play with and they can fit into the SATB (soprano, alto, tenor and bass if you're not familiar - and I'm only recently familiar with the acronym!) model if that helps or you can use them however you wish.

I had a listen to your music when you first joined VI Control so can say that you will probably enjoy the solo strings more if you used them as you would any other sound in your music. I think you can dip into the more classic(al) side of the instruments as and when desired.
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
Hiya Paul :)

I think there's been a bit of an expectation here that this is what you were aiming for, that you were aiming to write string quartet music like a classical composer would.
Yes, I really should change the topic title to reflect my current status, especially as some are more than likely to respond to that instead of reading the various bits and pieces of my meanderings.

However, I think the beauty of virtual instruments is that you can take a string quartet and create whatever the hell you like with it.
Absolutely :grin:


My current project (having ditched the String Quartet and MIDI-fying the Haydn piece) consists of two Bass, one Cello, one Viola. I also have a Bass providing the A part by using the harmonic articulation, though I have yet to see if that would be better played by a Violin.


Interesting time ahead :grin:



cheers

andy
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
In the end, you should do what you want : ) You happened to pick the Ferrari of ensembles which is essentially a virtuoso platform. The reverse of that is that you have four voices in four instruments that cover the nominal range of music and you could treat it as such. So, if you like that sound - why not? It just seems that you had very basic questions about the composition process itself rather than about writing for the string idiom. Generally when a composer is going to tackle such a well established medium he will study the acknowledged quality works such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. In the case of those three, they really stretched their legs with several masterpieces between them. All that is to say that the string quartet has long been considered to be one of the ultimate challenges in music - hence my advice.
 

rudi

Active Member
@synkrotron Hi Andy, I had a few thoughts reading yours and others posts on here. First of all I think it's a fantastic idea of learning something new... it really is a lifelong process. It's also hard to acquire any new skill and takes time and effort. Maybe a different perspective might help here.

I still think learning by doing is key.

In this case a string quartet by one of the greatest classical musician of all times is a good way to gain many insights.... but instead of the long, time-consuming and frankly exhausting / tedious / soul consuming task of entering one part at a time from start to finish, you may find the following approach more constructive / productive.

But here are a few suggestions, in no particular order :)

- only enter something like four bars (starting with bar one would be a great beginning)

- but enter ALL the parts

And here is the important thing:

- as you enter the first part, look at it and listen to it in isolation

- think about what it does... how the voice goes up or down; how much it leaps or remains static; what it does in terms of rhythm; what range it plays in; what shape the melody takes; note lengths

- do the same for the next part, but this time also look at how it fits in and dovetails with the previous part; is it pitched lower or higher; does it change as much or is it more static; does it follow the same rhythm or melody or is it different and so how?

- repeat for the other parts, and each time think what function they fulfill; e.g provide a melody... support one.... create or fill in harmonies... or dissonances... how they lead to the next note... how does the lower part behave: long notes, short ones, stick to root notes, use passing notes, play arpeggios... etc.

finally,

- listen to the result and how all those parts work together as a short piece of music

- make a nice cuppa of tea with a digestive biscuit or a chocolate hobnob

- pat yourself on the back ;)

- and leave it at that for the time being and let your brain absorb what you have learnt.


The next day you can decide whether you want to continue. At some stage you might want to refine the music you have entered by adjusting the velocity of each note or use CCs to do so, but once again, just a bit at a time, and listening to the results. In the case of REAPER you can save each stage really easily by "saving as a new version" so you can always go back to a previous good version (do you hear the voice of experience here :)

Above all don't get burnt out and destroy your love of music!
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
Hi Rudi :grin:

I still think learning by doing is key
Yes, I agree very much with that :thumbsup:

only enter something like four bars (starting with bar one would be a great beginning)
Indeed, and I did consider that, but I thought I was "on a roll" with the 1st violin and kept going... I can be a bit obsessive at time. Well, my mates would tell me, "all the time."

And here is the important thing:

- as you enter the first part, look at it and listen to it in isolation

- think about what it does... how the voice goes up or down; how much it leaps or remains static; what it does in terms of rhythm; what range it plays in; what shape the melody takes; note lengths

- do the same for the next part, but this time also look at how it fits in and dovetails with the previous part; is it pitched lower or higher; does it change as much or is it more static; does it follow the same rhythm or melody or is it different and so how?

- repeat for the other parts, and each time think what function they fulfill; e.g provide a melody... support one.... create or fill in harmonies... or dissonances... how they lead to the next note... how does the lower part behave: long notes, short ones, stick to root notes, use passing notes, play arpeggios... etc.
Yes, much close studying required.

When inputting just that first section I noticed how the use of accidentals took the soprano part slightly off-key but still fitted. That is one thing I need to look at more closely and how I can incorporate it into my own stuff.

make a nice cuppa of tea with a digestive biscuit or a chocolate hobnob
Ha! Have you been talking to my missus?!

The next day you can decide whether you want to continue.
Or next week... Next month even :)


cheers, and thanks

andy
 

ism

Senior Member
In fairness, string quartets are such amazing things that even very bad ones, or at least very basic ones, can still be entirely worth while.

Here's my stupid little noodle, which isn't really a composition, its just me trying to understand the expressive dimensions of what's possible with the library:





Even though I'm just fumbling around on the keyboard, the way the strings start to work together, however briefly, starting at ~0:50, for that fleeting moment I do think you can feel that "string quartet effect", which suggests that there's something very interesting possible here - even within the limitations of sample libraries, even within the (even more severe) limitations of my compositional skills.

There's also a sense that, while it's always worthwhile studying Beethoven and Hayden, that maybe not the best model to set yourself.




For one thing, trying to mock up a Beethoven quartet on any existing sample library is setting yourself up for not just disappointment, but despondency and despair.


For another, in that one can write Beethoven string quartets like Beethoven, setting out with Beethoven as your gold standard is setting yourself up for not just disappointment, but despondency and despair.


Instead, how about taking as a model maybe something more minimalist? Jane Antonia Cornish, or maybe Olafur Arnalds recent EP where he arranges some tracks off his latest album.




It's definitely not beethoven. But it does have that "string quartet effect" - which is fundamentally about how the different voiced both blend into harmonies, and then separate into separate lines.


In this sense, "the string quartet effect" is very fundamentally about counterpoint.


But you can buy a basic course on counterpoint/voice-leading for $10 of Udemy. Or bettter yet, check out Alain's scoreclub courses on counterpoint. They're not going to get you to Beethoven levels, but there's a wonderful simplicity in some of these more minimalist string quartets.

I also found David Huron's "Voice Leading: The Science Behind a Musical Art" very helpful in understanding just what the "string quartet effect" is. Huron isn't going to teach you voice leading or counterpoint, but it provides a really solid basis for what is, at a basic level, the effect in human perception that makes string quartets so amazing. (And why string quartets work so differently from, say, Jazz quartets).





And it's a perceptual effect that I feel starts to kick in even at those few seconds around 0:50 - ~0:55 in that above fumbling noodle.

Of course Beethoven wouldn't be too impressed by either my noodles or by Olafurs quartets.


But - continuing some of my theorizing from yesterday on this thread -



I think that the sense of returning-to-something of the 'neo-' in the 'neo-classicism' of composers like Olafur and Cornish are indeed looking to find some kind of simpler essence that is somehow lost or obscured in the layers of complexity that accrete in various schools of composition.


One such essence - I conjecture - is precisely what I'm calling here the "string quartet effect". Not that it's easy to write. But even if I were to aspire to write with Beethoven-esque levels of complexity in string quartets, I think the first thing to learn is fundamentally how to distill the evocation of the "string quartet effect" in the simplest, most minimalist way first.


For there are truly beautiful string quartets, yet to be written, that don't even need to climb the Herculean mountain of the oeuvre of Beethoven of Hayden, or even attempt to deconstruct the anxiety of that influence.
 
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styledelk

Active Member
Here's my stupid little noodle, which isn't really a composition, its just me trying to understand the expressive dimensions of what's possible with the library:
Your stupid little noodle still sounds better than 99% of my output. I'm fooled enough by this into thinking it was a composition, and that the sub-bass and grain synths were going to come in at the end with a light bit of analog drums.
 

ism

Senior Member
Your stupid little noodle still sounds better than 99% of my output. I'm fooled enough by this into thinking it was a composition, and that the sub-bass and grain synths were going to come in at the end with a light bit of analog drums.
I'd argue that what's good about this doesn't lie in it's compositional strengths, it lies in


a) how great the samples are, in particular their range of textures

b) in particularly how the stereo image and multiple mics and whatever else lets them blend which sound an amazing field of depth

c) the way this clarity of sound, lets them - with even minimal, naively plonked in countrapunal texture - blend and kind of explode into the perceptual phenomenon of the "string quartet effect"


Its not that I didn't put a reasonably amount of work into this. But I gave little though to the melody, less to the harmony, and even less to the counterpoint.

My efforts here are almost entirely focused on understanding the textures and the dynamics and the vibrato and the arcs and the bending.


I don't even know what the chords are (except that I'm pretty sure it's all in C-Major), never mind what the problems in the voice leading might be. At this level, its a terrible, plonkingly naive composition, written with a terrible, plonkingly naive compositional technique.



But again, the performance of the musicians behind the samples are amazing. And I did spend considerable effort to understand what kind of phrases fall within the library's sweet spots - from which we can see wondering possibilities start to take shape.



For instance, I did spend quite a bit of time working to really bring out the raspiness of the p layer of the solo violin, and (closely related) working out the idiomatic phrasing of vibrato/non-vibrato. (Quite a lot of effort in fact - to the point that I wrote a Logic script to make it easier to capture this kind of idiomatic arcs).

And similarly, when the viola and cello enter (technical this is only a trio) it's the crafting of the arcs at least as much as the technicalities of the counter point here that work to give us this "string quartet effect" - Huron's book was actually quite helpful in, well maybe not understanding how to achieve the effect but in understanding why the "string quartet effect" hinges on the crafting the arcs in the way it does.


And ultimately, when I sit writing a string quartet - in the specific medium of a specific sample library - the sin quo non of writing a string quartet, is evoking the "string quartet effect".

Technique and harmony and counterpoint is of course very helpful in pressing farther into string quartet writing.

But ultimately the "string quartet effect" is quite basic to the perceptual qualities of the human mind. And this is what string quartets need to write to.

And its this makes string quartets string quartet, not the layer upon layer of breathtaking and unapproachable genius that the likes of Beethoven build on top of it.
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
Thanks @ism :)

That is a lot of writing so I need to spend more time reading through that.

I have listened to your noodle half a dozen times while reading and writing and this sort of thing appeals to me.

One quick thing about the "string quartet..." Mention that and expectations are that you are to stick to the form of four pieces totalling to anything from 30 to 40 minutes (at least that is what the examples that I looked at where... some may be longer still). Creating a short "sketch" that incorporates four bowed instruments isn't a string quartet. I know that now.

So, in future, if I ever creative anything for 2x violin, viola and cello I will not be calling it a string quartet :)

cheers

andy
 
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ism

Senior Member
One quick thing about the "string quartet..." Mention that and expectations are that you are to stick to the form of four pieces totalling to anything from 30 to 40 minutes (at least that is what the examples that I looked at where... some may be longer still). Creating a short "sketch" that incorporates four bowed instruments isn't a string quartet. I know that now.

So, in future, if I ever creative anything for 2x violin, viola and cello I will not be calling it a string quartet :)

So there's a certain (19th century) formalism that designates the format of what counts as a "string quartet". Which is as much as anything the length and format in which customers and concert goes expected their "string quartets" to take in order to get their money's worth.

I just want to argue that the very specifically amazing things about string quartets (what I'm calling "the string quartet effect" is maybe the most obvious to me, but there's certainly many other things that are amazing about string quartets) are more fundamental that the 19th century conventions of form and commerce that designate a composition a "string quartet" or "not a string quartet".

Not that I'm against these conventions of form - I've recently bought a number of records of contemporary compositions for string quartets, that I'm perfectly happy to repost comply with the conventional, and still essentially 19th century, formal requirements of a "string quartet" quite rigorously.


But the specific brilliances in the kinds of music, of any form, that an actually quartet of string players makes possible is something I care more about that whether I ever write anything recognizable to a paying 19th century audience as a "string quartet".

I suppose I was a little sad to see you abandon you aspiration to write a "string quartet" so completely, and thought that maybe a more flexible notion of the possibility might be in order.
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
I suppose I was a little sad to see you abandon you aspiration to write a "string quartet" so completely, and though that maybe a more flexible notion of the possibility might be in order.
Thanks, and, yes, that helps.

I just won't call anything I do, along those lines, a "String Quartet."

I would need to call it a "piece for two violins, a viola and a cello."

But I wouldn't mind betting that if I did say that latter, someone may chip in to say, "but that is a string quartet" just because of the instruments used.



My current experimentation, with the Solo Strings library, consists of one violin, one viola, one cello and two bass......

cheers

andy :)
 
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ism

Senior Member
I just won't call anything I do, along those lines, a "String Quartet."
Well a rose by any other name ... :)


Actually as argued earlier on this thread, I do believe there is a clear distinction to be drawn between a "string quartet" and a "song arranged for two violins, a viola and a cello".

The latter might, for instance, just take the notes of some strummed guitar chords and divide them between the soloists. Which might sound perfectly lovely. But it lives in its own country, a long way away from where string quartets live.


But to sit down to write something that really looks to:

a) bring out how intimately the solo strings blend harmonically (in precisely the way that, say a jazz quartet of flute, sax, bass and whatever else goes into a jazz quartet simply can't), and

b) evoke a contrapuntal "separation" of the voices into distinct perceptual streams


is to at least venture out in the direction of "string quartet country"

The distinction with a jazz quartet is helpful, I think. That jazz quartets can be improvised, whereas "string quartets" generally can't, comes from the fact that the timbre of the flute and the Bass etc handle the separation of the soloists into independent lines (/perceptual streams) largely by merit of having such instantly recognizably different timbres.

To take 4 instruments of extremely similar timbre, by contrast, you have to actively prevent them from blend into a single homogenous harmonic progression (like the effortless blending of 6 distinct notes on a strummed guitar). And to achieve this, you really need to work for it by careful crafting your voice leading, and/or your phrasing (for instance) to keep your voices distinct, and resist the "strummed guitar effect" of harmonic blurring.

I'm not saying this is the only possible way to mark the boundary of "string quartet country". But it's how I like understand the underlying reasons that it's so hard to move from "song arranged for solo strings" into genuinely "string quartet" territory.
 
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synkrotron

synkrotron

A creator of Stuff
Interesting stuff there, @ism :)

You have obviously given this subject some serious thought.

evoke a contrapuntal "separation" of the voices into distinct perceptual streams
Yeah, Counterpoint is something that I have only ever done by accident. Having concentrated on drones and soundscapes for the last couple of years hasn't helped me to understand the finer points.

Thanks yet again for all of the above. I will endeavour to return and reference as often as I can. So, please, do not delete! :)


cheers

andy
 

Rowy

Active Member
I hate to say this, and I am sure I will be shot down for saying it. And young peeps should look away now.

I am 59. I feel that I no longer have the time or the patience to study composition from the ground up. So I will have to pick and mix what ever I feel is required for what ever it is I am working on. And by "time," I don't mean hours in any given day. I mean, I ain't got much time left. A difficult concept for younger people to grasp, but older people here will know what I mean when I say that, the older you get, the faster time flies by.
So you're 59. Big deal, I am 64. And I can tell you of my own experience that the fact that you are 59 is one of the reasons that you think that you're no longer capable of learning. A dear friend of mine became 60 this year and she told me that she was very worried, because she was forgetting things. That, she said, never happened before. You silly cow, I replied, wait till you're 64, then you'll be in trouble. Forgetting things means nothing. It's just the start of a lot of misery. :rofl:

Of course, I was pulling her leg. The fact is, that my writing even improved these last years, and that's just me. Many of the great masters wrote their best work when they were old. Well, old... My mother was old when she died. 96, and yet she was still complaining about a brother of her, who died young because he refused to live a healty life. He died when he was 86, the scoundrel.

Studying harmony is not such a big deal if you take lessons. Forget about the internet, videos, and books. Go talk to a music teacher. Or a church organist, they usually are great at harmony.

I guarantee you, if you take real lessons, you will be able to understand and apply harmony at a decent level within one year. Yes, one year. And then you'll be 60. So what?

If you become 80, you'll have 20 years of (semi-) professional music writing under your belt. How much time did Mozart have? Or Chopin? Or Schubert? Besides, it is not reaching the goal that should give you pleasure, but the path you have chosen. Enjoy music, enjoy writing music and don't worry too much.

About a string quartet. Yes, it is one of the most difficult forms. Writing for orchestra is easier. Why do you think young composers who hardly learned anything make those pompous "Zimmer"-like soundtracks? Because you can hide your lack of training behind a lot of noise. Bring in the drums and the public will be in awe. You only need 3 chords. Percussion will do the rest.

That's why a string quartet is so difficult. There's nowhere to hide, the audience will hear everything, every tone. It is easier to make noise, to pull handles behind a curtain, like the Wizard of Oz.

Should you then wait till you know enough? No. First of all, if you want to take a look at a string quartet by Haydn, don't take one of the higher numbers. Try his first ones. They seem very easy, and they are. You'll be surprised.

And if you want to have another go at a string quartet, try this. Keep it simple. Don't overdo it with independent melodic lines in all four voices. Write one nice melodic line. Give the violin a part of it and then the cello, or the viola. Chop it up, give all instruments a part of the melody every now and then. Meanwhile, let the rest play a rhythmic accompaniment.

A complete string quartet isn't necessary. Look at Haydn's minuets. Nice, but not that difficult. Really, just keep going and take lessons. You're only 59. It's not that you are old.
 

BlackDorito

Active Member
Getting back to one of your earlier ideas of doing exercises to get familiar with string libraries, one thing I often do that you might consider - lay down a simple ostinato and then add a lead over it. For example, here's one I did a few days ago:
1571858571987.png
This one was Spitfire chamber strings, but you could do something similar with solo vln+vla. Sounds like:

Then overdub another solo instrument - in this case I used the Fluffy cello (there's some sort of cello in the background too). Just duplicate the ostinato 100 times and let 'er rip. It's fun and you will get familiar.