Violin notation question

• Jul 12, 2017 - 01:28

Triple stop.png

What does this tell a violinist to do? It is not played divisi. This is from Ravel's arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition.

My guess is that it is a triple stop sustaining the longer notes in the chord, but I'm not sure. That's how I've notated it so far.


My opinion:
Violin, due to its structure, these notes can not play at the same time. It will have some arpeggio effect.
I think here is given some information about like; which note will continue, which note will be silenced after that.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

I'm aware that many triple and quadruple stops are played arpeggiated, but the are still usually written as a single duration note. Perhaps the long sustained notes led Ravel to make it clearer that the chord is expected to be played arpeggiated and to not try to sustain the triad even if the musician has the skill to. Looking closely at the notes, I see it is possible to play them on successive strings, though the violinist may get finger cramps with the first one :-)

In reply to by mike320

Agreed. If you write a full chord of sustained notes, it might suggest you attempt to actually play it that way. And you in theory it can be possible to play a triple stop as a full chord with all notes sustained, you generally can't play it as loud as you can with a more arpeggiated approach. And assuming the top note is the melody, you might want it to ring more than the others. So notating it this way - or with grace notes - does suggest to me something different than notating as a regular chord.

In reply to by Ziya Mete Demircan

It's not an arpeggiated effect at all.

In the first bar, the bottom note is played for 1 beat then the 2 top note are played together for the remaining 3 beats (not one after the other). There's no playing 3 notes at once, to do that you need to play over the fingerboard and press hard. It would be specially indicated.

In the second and third bars, the bottom 2 notes are played together for 1 beat, then the top note for the remainder of the bar.

If anything it's more like a grace note. I would expect the initial notes (quarter notes / crotchets) to be shortened slightly.

In reply to by Adrien de Croy

And then there is the possibility that this is bogus notation. Just because we see it in print doesn't mean:
1. It's actually what the composer intended.
2. The source for this score is a good one.
3. The type setter understood what he was looking at.

And more.

This seems to be incomplete. Not enough information on how to play it. Yes, we can all look at it and have opinions. Many have been stated. But in the end, what kind of music is this? It's Ravel. It may well be more open ended than we are used to. We, who tend to over-mark scores so that everything is just so. We, who don't believe musicians know how to make music.
As it is, there are a few ways this could be played. Couldn't they all be valid?

That's my assumption as well. I more typically see this notate using grace notes rather than multiple voices, but I don't see enough violin music to know if my experience is representative or not.

Observe that the first chord is to be played starting on 3 strings, then held on 2 strings as a double stop. The others also start three voiced but continue only on the top line.

The suspicion is that Ravel wanted to make clear that these chords are indeed not divisi as opposed to other chords somewhere else that are. A conductor or concert master might otherwise assume that the copyist/engraver just forgot to write "divisi".

Sustained three voice chords are not possible on the fiddle; the hair will touch the wood--and therefor the wood will touch the string--before it is angled enough to reach three strings. Except at the very frog. So it is possible to start on three voices without arpeggiating (with an aggressive attack at the frog--sounds good in the right context--I guess it is what Ravel had in mind here), but afterwards you will lose contact with (at least) one of the strings as you move the bow down.

And Marc, this notation is quite common, even in solo or chamber parts where only one fiddler plays and no confusion about divisi playing is possible.

In reply to by azumbrunn

I would question the sanity of a conductor or concert master who thought the editor forgot to write divisi in this section for a couple of reasons. First of all, the are no rests written for the divided players. Second (not show) divisi and unison are written on several other instruments in the same and surrounding measures. These marked sections are ambiguous (simple double stops) without further direction.

Any chord requiring more than 2 adjacent strings to play has to be split. It's common for the split from the lower strings to the upper (in pitch) ones to be quite quick.

In this case, Ravel is making it clear the timing of the split. The bottom note is held for a full crotchet, then the other 2 are held for the rest of the bar. The top note therefore won't sound until beat 2.

In reply to by Adrien de Croy

I think this is taking it too literally: Ravel knew how violinists play chords. And they don't wait a full beat before reaching the upper notes. They play the bottom notes with some attack "like grace notes" and then get to the top notes, starting with the bottom notes either before the beat or on the beat, depending on what the conductor wants. This results in a sort of accent at the beginning of every chord--which I suppose is the intended effect.

This notation just makes clear that Ravel does not want these chords divisi; he wants these accents. Common practice has always been used in the interpretation of notation (and presupposed by composers).

BTW if you want a specific arpeggio style in play back you can always write out the effect you want in small note values in an invisible second voice and set the original notes to "mute". Lots of work but doable. Not worth it IMHO.

In reply to by azumbrunn

I agree with azumbrunn. If you look at the actual violin 1 part below (from IMSLP, with players' markings) you can see how inconsistent it is anyway:

Lines 2 and 3 are divisi, with actual grace notes in the top part and crotchet "grace notes" in the lower - it's obvious that they should be played in the same manner. Later, at rehearsal mark 108 the "grace notes" are written as quavers because otherwise there is no stem to attach them to. Two bars before mark 109 however he uses a crotchet "grace note"! They are all played pretty much the same though, the length depending on what the conductor wants.

I have many years experience as an orchestral violinist and see this sort of thing fairly regularly.

Attachment Size
Ravel Pictures.jpg 155.23 KB

In reply to by BSG

As I'm not very familiar with plugins, may I ask if the plugin is automatically making all triple and quadruple stops in strings a "chords effect" (not 3 or 4 notes sounding at the same time) or I still have to manually select the notes and change the time values?

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