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Notation of Spitfire's LCO articulations

keman

New Member
I'm working on a score with a lot of contemporary playing techniques and I love the sounds featured in Spitfire's LCO string library. However, there are some articulations that I have no idea how to notate because I'm not entirely sure what exactly is happening with the bow. For anyone who is familiar with the library, how would you notate "Spectral Scrubs", "Twitchy" and "Slackened", or describe them to a string player?
 

DSmolken

Senior Member
Well, slackened involves loosening the bow hair (I think) and open involves retuning, so those can't be played by a real player as articulations that we'll just switch back and forth between like any normal articulation. But others are playable, just not easy to communicate in a score.

The shovel next to the dig spiccato in the GUI is cool, but I wouldn't put that on a score and expect players to read it correctly. But "spiccato, dig in" would do the trick I think. I mean, if I saw that, I'd play spiccato, and dig in. "Twitchy vib" would be understandable, though people might interpret it pretty differently if they can't hear a mockup. Others like scrubs or granular tremolo might need a sentence to explain in notes at the beginning, then later in the score you can just say "scrub" or "g trem" and it should be clear enough. We're getting into "release the penguins" territory and players might grumble, but they'd play it correctly.
 

Niah2

Active Member
The slackened articulation is one of my favorite articulations in the LCO strings. I record it once with an orchestra remotely. Not knowing how to perform it I sent them a sound file and they figured out. I was so impressed with the result that I did the same with a few other articulations.
Not sure if this helps, but you can try and ask them.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Others like scrubs or granular tremolo might need a sentence to explain in notes at the beginning
If I want something unusual I don't hesitate to put a full paragraph into the score and parts to describe what it is. It's common practice with contemporary music to add clarifying language.

An example might be: "Violins all start playing tremolo on a very high note ppp, bowing sul tasto, gradually portamento down, while increasing volume and changing to normal bowing with heavy vibrato, ending at ff." And then you put a note value (like a half note / minim) to indicate how long you want it to last.

The more specific, the better. It's better to write a long, clumsy paragraph than sit through an even longer, even clumsier attempt to try to explain to players what you want -- while you're paying them.
 

JT

Senior Member
This is only a guess, but when I first heard Spectral Scrubs, it thought they were playing on the wrong side of the bridge.
 

DSmolken

Senior Member
If I want something unusual I don't hesitate to put a full paragraph into the score and parts to describe what it is. It's common practice with contemporary music to add clarifying language.

An example might be: "Violins all start playing tremolo on a very high note ppp, bowing sul tasto, gradually portamento down, while increasing volume and changing to normal bowing with heavy vibrato, ending at ff." And then you put a note value (like a half note / minim) to indicate how long you want it to last.
Yeah, that's specific enough to get the right thing played, and can't really be explained much more concisely. Sightreading isn't gonna happen here, hehe.
 

douggibson

Active Member
If I want something unusual I don't hesitate to put a full paragraph into the score and parts to describe what it is. It's common practice with contemporary music to add clarifying language.

An example might be: "Violins all start playing tremolo on a very high note ppp, bowing sul tasto, gradually portamento down, while increasing volume and changing to normal bowing with heavy vibrato, ending at ff." And then you put a note value (like a half note / minim) to indicate how long you want it to last.

The more specific, the better. It's better to write a long, clumsy paragraph than sit through an even longer, even clumsier attempt to try to explain to players what you want -- while you're paying them.

I "mostly" follow this. In spirit at least. One of the things I really enjoy when orchestrating for films is that as long as you get what you need, at the level (or some lucky times above) required and
on-time/on- budget, it's just coffee talk after the session if you use one method method or the other. It's all valid.

Most film scores I have worked on are recorded over seas so I try and limit verbal language.
For the above example I would most likely just do (something !) like this:

upload_2019-3-27_18-45-44.png

Lontano = from a distance; distantly. as from far away.

Eastern European players always get the italian terms, and it saves things being translated.


If I was nervous that the players would not get my intentions then, like John mentioned,
what I do is look at the whole thing like a book.

(*Often the following is not practical for film scores due to time, and it's a "team" effort.
Another orchestrator might be working on seperate cues etc. )

I then make a "performance notes" like it was a index or glossary.
I then explain the symbols and terminology.


Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 6.58.51 PM.png
 

douggibson

Active Member
Sure it can! I use notation anytime over explanation. Here is John's (the trem-slashes are even redundant and you can tailor the end note proportional pitch and length.) I find this to be much easier to read and faster in sessions.
Hey !

Nice work ! You beat me in reply by 5 minutes. I did not see the text about the return to normal bow. Oops.

Nice job Bryla !
 

thesteelydane

Senior Member
There's nothing wrong with using plain english words to describe what you want, after all, the Mahler and Strauss used German, and a lot of the French composers used French. Keep in mind though, that the LCO library very much uses sampling to create playable patches out of something that could never be played in real life - which is where I personally find sampling to be the most interesting and creative in itself.

Pretty much anything that involves re-tuning the instrument will not be available to you in a real life performance scenario, so that means all the "open" articulations, as well as all the slackened, which all really on extreme re-tuning, esentially slackening the string to almost no tension.

Other points:

Spectral Scrubs are often called "circular bowing", originally pionered by Garth Knox, as far as I know, so you might want to show them one of his videos:


The twitchy sounds like a mix of random slow tremolo, while playing random artificial harmonics (fingering a 4th above the root, producing a harmonic 2 octaves above the root), with a bit of ponticello - at least for the upper strings. I imagine the cellos will probably have to get into thumb position even in low positions to do that, so check with a cellist, and don't write anything fast.

Edit: All that said, Bryla is right. If it can be notated, do so...it's much easier to read in a performance scenario.
 

bryla

Senior Member
Hey !

Nice work ! You beat me in reply by 5 minutes. I did not see the text about the return to normal bow. Oops.

Nice job Bryla !
I just got my coffee :)
But as you note, you can do the same thing with varying degrees of vibrato. You can use a specific pitch as high note or you can use the triangle for 'highest note possible' and add 'Sul E' for some and 'Sul A' for others.
 

bryla

Senior Member
There's nothing wrong with using plain english words to describe what you want
There is if time is of the essence. It took me a couple of minutes to distill the various lanes of information in John's description – and Doug even missed one. Now if 16 players have to do that it can take a lot more than a couple of minutes whereas the notations Doug and I did are fast and concise.
I am sure you know this but just wanted to clarify why the need for both for anyone else reading.
 

thesteelydane

Senior Member
There is if time is of the essence. It took me a couple of minutes to distill the various lanes of information in John's description – and Doug even missed one. Now if 16 players have to do that it can take a lot more than a couple of minutes whereas the notations Doug and I did are fast and concise.
I am sure you know this but just wanted to clarify why the need for both for anyone else reading.
I agree, I added that in an edit.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
Both is good. I always notate it, of course; otherwise you can't see the duration, dynamic etc. But I don't hesitate to add a sentence or paragraph as necessary.

John Williams does it; plenty of avant garde 20th and 21st century composers did/ do it, so I don't worry about whether it's awkward -- I just write as much as I think necessary to be specific about what's needed.

Example: On the old Warner Bros cartoons when we had a character that had been hit by a frying pan and was dizzy, staggering around for four beats, we would write a whole note (semi-breve) in the 1st trombone part, with a squiggly line under it, appropriate dynamic marking, and "Drunk" above the staff.

Hilarity ensued.
 
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