Double, Triple and Quadruple Stops

Hello everyone-

I would deeply appreciate getting help from some of you knowledgeable string players or composers for strings.  One of my students is writing a string quartet.  Her second movement relies heavily on multiple stops for all four instruments.  I don't play a string instrument, so I usually work with my expert string players on any questions of technique and playability.  Right now, all my regular string experts are unavailable! 

Can you tell me which of her multiple stops cannot be played?  I know about some of them, but I'd like to get expert input on all of them.  She could of course change the orchestration to include more instruments, but her goal is a completed string quartet, so she wants to stick with just the four players. We've already talked about a reduction of notes, but she still wants to know which stops won't work.

I'm attaching an mp3 of the movement, and also a pdf of the score.  We don't do mockups, since in my studio we are always writing for live performers. I don't need any comments on the sound itself, just which of the many multiple stops are impossible to play.  The mp3 is a Finale playback.

When you refer to a particular multiple stop, could you name the measure and the beat?

Thanks in advance!!

11_2017 String Quartet (mvt 2).mp3

11_2017 String Quartet (mvt 2).pdf

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Replies

  • Do you care for varying degrees of annoying and possible-but-awful, or is it only the absolutely impossible ones that matter?

    Here is a list of (hopefully) all those that definitely cannot happen:

    Vla, m. 54

    Vc, m. 67 when it becomes a triple (Vla triple is soooorta doable, but it's just torture)

    Vc, m. 81 (Vla is doable and not extremely hard, but it will sounds very weird :P)

    Vla, m. 82

    Vc, m. 82

    Additional magic trick for m. 82: move the top C from cello part to viola part. Move the bottom G from viola part to cello part. This way you preserve all the notes and it becomes playable, and easy.

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Actually I went ahead and fixed the entirety of the last 4 measures for you, keeping all the notes intact (heck I even doubled some, for more fwoosh):

    (note: Viola is in violin clef as per the score you provided, it may look weird but it's all in range; personally I think it's silly but I stuck to violin clef to make reading / comparisons easier. I assume you will be transposing it all into viola clef when it's done?)

    8608500255?profile=original

  • Greg, this is great!   Yes, she will definitely change viola to viola clef when done.  We left it in soprano clef for easier chord reading. 

    I notice you didn't mark any impossible stops in the violins?  Can this be true?

    Now, can you tell us which stops are doable, but awkward, annoying, horrible, or any other adjective that means string players wouldn't want to play the piece?

    Thank you SO much!!  Bethany will be thrilled with this feedback. And my expert string players can continue to prepare for their final exams.  ;-)

  • Triple stops cannot really be sustained (even if the notes themselves are playable)--certainly not quadruples.  So these sustained whole note triples/quadruples at the end (and at b54) are simply not playable as written.  Either she should simplify the harmonies or come up with some rhythmic element instead of the sustain (i.e., alternating between notes of the chord, as single notes and/or stops).

    I'm not a string player, but the alternating viola double stops at the beginning (and later) look awkward to me (though hard to tell when viola is not in the right clef).  Perfect fifth double stops are also very hard to play/tune and if they have to be played by open strings, they will stick out if the texture is intricate (like this appears to be).

    http://www.timusic.net/debreved/double-trouble/

    Double Stop
    The double stop is the most misunderstood (by orchestrators) and ignored (by players) orchestration device EVER! I know that is a bold statement
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