What articulation is to be used for rapid bowing (tremolo) in a cello or violin?

• May 9, 2023 - 18:59

Hi. Sorry for the music lesson question, but I just don't know. I am working on a piece of music that contains rapid bowing back and forth by a group of 10 cellists. They are all holding the same note with 8 back and forth rapid bows per measure (16 total). I think that is called "Tremolo" bowing. I would like to add tremolo to my score but when I choose Celli Trem Expr in the Mixer menu for that instrument and place 16 1/16th notes with the tremolo articulation symbol above each, it just sounds like 16 machine gun notes. Is there something I have to do to really mimic deep celli tremolo? HELP!

Thanks so much in advance.



either put in 16 1/16 notes (without a tremolo). every cellist will play them with an up and down alternating bow.

Or add a whole-note and add the sixteenth tremolo symbol to it. That should result in the same thing.

OK, I am confused, so the best thing is to include a video of what I am trying to emulate. Here is the link on YouTube:


Now, go to time 19 - 26 secs and watch the right most cellists play the sound I am trying to recreate on MuseScore. The tremolo or trills they are creating are deep, ominous and great. I do not see them changing notes or moving their fret fingers. They seem to be moving the bow back and forth only, until the drop in tone at the end. Can I reproduce this in MuseScore? If so, what instrument can I use, and do I put in 16th notes, 8th notes, trill articulations, tremolo articulations, none of these ... HELP!

In reply to by AndreasKågedal

I am confused because folks were telling me this was a trill, which as you can see, it was not. Now that I included the video link, that is cleared up but I still cannot get the cellos in MuseScore to sound like the video. Rather, they sound like machine guns. If you can help by trying to get them to match the video, I would really love your help. Thanks in advance.

In reply to by fsgregs

In your opening post you said you put tremolo signs on each 16th note - but that will sub-divide each and every 16th note so that it will indeed sound like a machine gun. What is the tempo speed of your piece? The video is in 4/4 time, and as far as I can see the cellos are playing 32nd notes per beat in the tremolos. If that is the case you can either write the part in quarter notes or whatever and add the appropriate tremolo sign where you want it, or just write it out in 32nd notes. If the tremolo sounds too fast then try the 16th tremolo symbol. Forget about trills - they are quite different and not what you want.

In reply to by Brer Fox

OK, if you can reproduce this video sound in MuseScore, using tremolo at any note duration you feel is right, I would be so grateful. It is a low "D" note. Choose any instrument, any timing, and volume, any note duration. I cannot seem to get it right and I really need your help. Compare it to the video from 19 to 26 secs, and post if you feel you've got it down. Thanks so much.

In reply to by fsgregs

Sorry, I am away from my PC and don’t have Musescore to hand. Write down 4 quarter notes and experiment with the tempo until it matches the conductor’s beat - it’s about quarter=40. Then read my reply above again because I got the maths wrong at first (trying to translate demisemiquavers!), and look up ‘tremolos’ in the Handbook for how to write them.

In reply to by fsgregs

OK. So your main issue is not how to correctly notate what the cello section in that youtube clip plays, such that another cello section would be able to play it by reading your score. (where the answer is to use the tremolo notation)

Your issue is how to make MuseScore play it like the cello section in that youtube clip.

And I think that MuseScore is not very good at playing tremolos. In particular MuseScore 3. MuseScore 4 might be better, but I have stayed on 3 for the time being so I don't really know. Perhaps finding a better soundfont would help.

In reply to by AndreasKågedal

Andreas: You are mostly correct. I am concerned about others seeing my sheet music and knowing what to play and how to play it, but I am more concerned with trying to get MuseScore's mixer to reproduce the sound of the celli tremolos. In my experience, if I can get the mixer to do that, then I become much more confident that the sheet music is notated correctly. If it was not, the mixer would not sound right.

Unfortunately, I have just discovered that as I follow the YouTube video measure by measure, the 4/4 timing for the long and complex song gets all ... screwy. It sounds like the song becomes 6/8, then 3/4, then 4/4, then ... god knows what. Listen yourself. There are so many pauses, rubatos and tempo changes that frankly, it may be beyond me to reproduce. I either need real help from someone in just timing the song, or I may have to give it up. Hans Zimmer wrote it and he may be a maestro at this, but this song may just exceed what I can do.

As a musician yourself, what would you do?

PS - I am also continuing to use MuseScore 3.6, at least until 4.0 gets all of its bugs out.
PPS - if you know of another free soundfont that includes some really good celli, please mention the link. Thanks.

In reply to by bobjp

Bob: That is very good. MS4 seems to have found a very good celli tremolo soundfont. Could you post the short test .mscz file so I can open it in MS4, see what instrument you used and how you got such a great tremolo sound?

I can use MS4 and its instruments for this song if I can even do it (get the timing right), or I can find the same celli soundfont that the MS4 designers found, and try to download & use that in MS3.6. Do you have any idea where they got it?

In reply to by fsgregs

I didn't save it. But it is just the MU4 cello section with the 32 note tremolo. Part of why it works it the amount of reverb in MU4 sounds that you can't get rid of.
As far as your score goes, there may not be a universal format. In Sibelius, you add the word "tremolo" in Expression Text. This might be more common. In MuseScore, I used the 32nd note tremolo mark over the the note.

In reply to by fsgregs

For the record, MU3 has literally thousands of bugs. As does MU4. As does virtually every program you've ever used. Waiting for a program to get all its bugs out means waiting forever.

Not sure what bug in particular has most concerned, but gradual tempo changes are but one of the hundreds of things MU4 does far more easily than MU3, and tremolo is breathtakingly better.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Marc: I intend to master MS 4.0, but it has a large new learning curve and will take me some time. In the interim, I honestly don't think I have the skill or patience to tackle the Dark Knight symphony, mostly because I've discovered its changes in timing every few bars, are just too ... difficult. It is not 4/4 time, it is all over the place. So ... thanks for the push to convert to MS 4, but ... soon.

In reply to by fsgregs

Ubnderstood! Don't consider it a push - more an invitation :-) I'm just saying, if the reason to avoid it is, there are bugs. that's more a reason not to turn your computer on. But there can certainly other reasons why it can make sense to stick with what's working especially for a project that you already started.

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