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Very short piece for viola and cello.  Looking for critique, please. 



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Thanks Tim.  Please have a look at the score in the post above. 



Is it ok that the viola is written a few lines above the clef?  Is that standard?

Charley Hankins said:


Thanks again for the help.  Please have a look at this score and let me know your thoughts.




Charley Hankins said:

Thanks so much for your constructive criticism, Dexter.  I am fairly new to writing string parts, so I definitely appreciate the information.  I'll do a little rework on it.  Thanks!


Dave Dexter said:

If you don't mind some feedback/suggestions (and it's too late, because I'm writing this anyway!) With the caveat that Emily might have her own preferred methods superceding such suggestions.

In my experience, small ensembles prefer scores with all parts as it allows them to sync better and be aware of what the other players are doing, or about to. I attached a few bars from a string quartet session. This score has other issues I could now fix, but that's a different field.

I'm assuming the parts have no additional information like dynamics, articulations, bowing because it's not something you're familiar with? Rather than a deliberate decision to create a blank slate? Judging by the video, Emily and her cellist could certainly interpret the raw notation into something musical, but from the sound of your mockup you're after a lyrical flowing feel. To generalise, that means judicious use of bow markings (slurs) indicating the notes are to be played as a single bow stroke, blending them into a legato line. You can see this in b7-8 of my attached excerpt. Or maybe some of the cello phrases could be played pizzicato, plucked with the strings? So many possibilities. You don't have to cram every possible technique in, and shouldn't, but just by changing a couple of notes here and there the texture of the piece will become more nuanced and it's worth experimenting when the possibility arises.

As Bob Porter said, the musician really controls how their part is played and their expertise is often best acceded to. But a few ideas that shape the piece can't hurt, even if you get them a little wrong. The intent will still be communicated. I've seen established classical works in rehearsal and even those scores get changed on the fly by the conductor and section leaders.

At the very least, the dynamic needs to be added. Is it soft, loud, somewhere in between? There's a definite crescendo from a quieter moment in b22-23 in your mockup, is that something you want in the irl piece?

Viola should be written on an alto clef, see my score again. You go out of range in the viola part - b18. Lowest note is C and you're down to G#. Pay attention to those last few bars - transposing would solve it without requiring rewrites.

Charley Hankins said:

Emily, Hi!  Here are the scores for viola and cello.  I would happily transpose it if you would like a different key.

Thanks so much!




Charley Hankins said:

wow!  That would be very nice!  I will try to get you a score over the weekend.  Thanks!


The only thing I see is your final double stop in the cello.  To play this would involve spanning a string, so it wouldn't be playable as written.  If you lower the G# an octave, or raise the C# an octave it should be alright.

Just as a side note, the piece would work for violin as well, just change the clef back.

Well done.

I would start in C-clef, switch to G-clef on the 3rd beat of measure 5, and back to C-clef on the last beat of measure 17 

John has a good idea.  Most advanced viola players are able to read treble clef, so when you extend the range, it's not uncommon to switch clefs.  The goal is to keep the page clean and eliminate ledger lines.

Cellists often move to tenor clef and even on occasion to treble clef.

I had to learn the correct way to score this.  This is one very helpful community.  


Emily F. Singleton said:

Hi Charley,

Is there a score for this? I am part of a string ensemble, Spiro, that consists of a cellist and myself, a violist. It is very short indeed and I am sure we could easily put together a live recording within the next few weeks while we are at our final competitions and concerts before summer camp. In the recording you have right now I can hardly hear the cello, and the viola sounds much more like a violin. We could read through it to give feedback and record it for you if you like. Please just let me know.

Thank you for sharing! It sounds very nice.

Here is a recording of Spiro:

If you use C4 as a designation for middle C, the viola and the guitars low c is C3.  Because it was in treble clef, he actually wrote a G#3.  In alto clef this places the note on the first space of the staff.  

Does that help?

Charley, This is what John was suggesting.  It keeps the part from going into extreme ledger lines and has an overall neater appearance.  (Note the clef changes).

Hope you don't mind that I did this.  Hope it helps.



Your little piece has generated a bit of attention.

Just for the fun of it, and for my own edification, I fixed a few things that seemed out of place, considering how you set things up. I changed a few notes in the cello part to move more consistently. Also the 4/4 just seemed awkward to me.

I offer this to you not because I think my version is better, but because for the most part, your piece is really quite charming.

Feel free to totally disregard this and slap me. If anything, I learned a lot.


I just did a "quick and dirty" and recreated what Charley had in his score.  I merely wanted him to see what John had offered regarding the clef changes.

Alrighty.  Please have a look at this one.


I hope that score works for you.  Thanks again for offering to record that for me.  That is terribly sweet of you. 

The title "Tender Toes" comes from the title of a variation on that same piece which I wrote first, and is much more lively and upbeat.  I called it "Happy Shoes".  It is for a string quintet.

So, I wanted to give the slower, more emotional one a similar title.  Probably not a great title, and I am certainly open to suggestions ~ ha!  :D



Emily F. Singleton said:

Well, we have an orchestra concert tomorrow, so if there is a final draft ready by tomorrow morning, I can print it to take a part to him and we can take a few minutes to look over it, and try to record it on the 24th. We will just have a cellphone to record with, though it does a decent job. That is what was used in the sample I provided.

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