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vathek

Apparently violins can't play middle C

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Well, if you remove the G string from a violin, then it is indeed unable to play a middle C.

So perhaps it might be possible to get a joke involving strippers out of this...

But badly garbled news stories are certainly not a new thing, and perhaps Lennon and McCartney really were somehow lacking in knowledge of orchestration, leading to a problem about which only the details were wrong.

Although, surely, if the Beatles actually wanted, say, F below middle C, which is indeed beyond the reach of a violin, then they could just have had musicians playing violas instead. It hardly sounds like an intractable problem.

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So the topic heading got me in..........

In raises the question though of "Temperament" and string instruments.

Ever tried tuning low C's on viola and cello in a quartet? Not as simple as it seems.

If you start your tuning in perfect fifths from the top A's it is impossible to arrive at the same low C.

So tuning a quartet is something of a compromise

(without even considering getting in tune with a tempered instrument such as a piano).

 

 

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You don't all start from the same top A but from the A string on each instrument (accurately tuned in octaves of course). That way the C strings on viola and cello are in tune with each other. However, depending on the music many string quartets use "close fifths" tuning to achieve something like equal temperament. A good check is for the violins to play their E strings against the viola and cello's Cs.

But to get back to topic, if the story were true do you believe George Martin would have told it, just to score a cheap point? 

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There is, supposedly, something special about middle C on a violin.

It is claimed in a number of books on a violin that the air volume in a properly-made violin has to be such as to have a resonance at 512 Hz, or at the note C an octave above middle C, which would be more like 522 Hz.

So there could be reasons for some people to claim that the note middle C sounds different on a violin, and should be avoided.

Unlike the claim that the belly and back should be tuned a whole tone appart, which I found perfectly credible, and despite the fact that nearly all violins are about the same size, the claim that a particular absolute pitch is critical to the desired timbre of a violin seems difficult to accept.

If anything, to avoid wolf notes, I would try to put such a major resonance midway between two notes on the scale.

Incidentally, a search on Google Books did not allow me to find the source of this unusual claim about the Beatles and George Martin.

Edited by Quadibloc
Note on obscurity of image

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3 hours ago, matesic said:

You don't all start from the same top A but from the A string on each instrument (accurately tuned in octaves of course). That way the C strings on viola and cello are in tune with each other. However, depending on the music many string quartets use "close fifths" tuning to achieve something like equal temperament. A good check is for the violins to play their E strings against the viola and cello's Cs.

But to get back to topic, if the story were true do you believe George Martin would have told it, just to score a cheap point? 

Basically there is an agreement here I think. If players tune their perfect fifths independently they will be out of tune in some part of the range. If they match individual strings or notes even an octave apart their adjacent strings will need some slight accommodation to play a true sounding cord.

 

 

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This was taken from the publication "A Day in the life of the Beatles" with the Yellow Submarine story. I believe the author was present when this event happened, but I can't believe it would not have been caught before publication. This was an 'official' publication.

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5 hours ago, vathek said:

This was taken from the publication "A Day in the life of the Beatles" with the Yellow Submarine story. I believe the author was present when this event happened, but I can't believe it would not have been caught before publication. This was an 'official' publication.

Thank you.

I was trying to think of one other possible sense in which middle C might present difficulties for a violin. That note can only be played on the G string, as I've noted.

The strings of a violin are tuned in fifths, so the next string after the G string is tuned to D above middle C, seven semitones away. But people only have four fingers, as well as a thumb which holds the violin steady.

On the G string, the following notes are playable:

G - the open string

G sharp, A, A sharp, and B.

To play C and C sharp, one would have to move one's hand, and there are no frets on a violin, so how would one know where to put it?

So perhaps we just have to assume that George Martin, in finding the musicians for his string quartets, had to make do with violinists who hadn't gotten to the point of mastering this hand position stuff.

EDIT: Oops!

In fact, the normal hand positions on a violin don't involve putting the fingers on consecutive semitones, as I had remembered from my brief experience of being taught to play one.

In the first position, the notes on the G string that don't involve moving the fingers are in fact

A, B, C, and D.

So on the G string, one gets to G# by moving the first finger up, to A# by moving the second finger up, and to C# by moving the third finger down or the fourth finger up.

And the third position puts the fingers on C, D, E, and F. Once again, middle C is immediately accessible.

The second position is apparently so obscure that it is not described online.

Edited by Quadibloc
Noting horrible mistake about violin fingering

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1 hour ago, Quadibloc said:

Thank you.

I was trying to think of one other possible sense in which middle C might present difficulties for a violin. That note can only be played on the G string, as I've noted.

The strings of a violin are tuned in fifths, so the next string after the G string is tuned to D above middle C, seven semitones away. But people only have four fingers, as well as a thumb which holds the violin steady.

On the G string, the following notes are playable:

G - the open string

G sharp, A, A sharp, and B.

To play C and C sharp, one would have to move one's hand, and there are no frets on a violin, so how would one know where to put it?

So perhaps we just have to assume that George Martin, in finding the musicians for his string quartets, had to make do with violinists who hadn't gotten to the point of mastering this hand position stuff.

EDIT: Oops!

In fact, the normal hand positions on a violin don't involve putting the fingers on consecutive semitones, as I had remembered from my brief experience of being taught to play one.

In the first position, the notes on the G string that don't involve moving the fingers are in fact

A, B, C, and D.

So on the G string, one gets to G# by moving the first finger up, to A# by moving the second finger up, and to C# by moving the third finger down or the fourth finger up.

And the third position puts the fingers on C, D, E, and F. Once again, middle C is immediately accessible.

The second position is apparently so obscure that it is not described online.

 The errors in this are so obvious that it does not deserve a correction.

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Oh dear...I really think you should sign up for  a couple more lessons...:P

....you don't need frets to learn where you put your fingers.  There is an approximate place for them to go, and then you narrow that down by listening for the correct desired note.

Quote

In fact, the normal hand positions on a violin don't involve putting the fingers on consecutive semitones, as I had remembered from my brief experience of being taught to play one.

What is a normal hand position?  You begin by learning first position - I assume that's what you mean.

Quote

 

In the first position, the notes on the G string that don't involve moving the fingers are in fact

A, B, C, and D.

 

You can't play the violin without moving fingers.  Where you move them depends on the key you are playing in.

Quote

So on the G string, one gets to G# by moving the first finger up, to A# by moving the second finger up, and to C# by moving the third finger down or the fourth finger up.

You might have your ups and downs mixed up.

Quote

And the third position puts the fingers on C, D, E, and F. Once again, middle C is immediately accessible.

Well...yes...

Middle C has always been accessible.  It's there.  You can play it with any finger you like...

Quote

The second position is apparently so obscure that it is not described online.

No.

...a perfect example of the danger of just regurgitating what you happen to find on-line.  

Now go find a teacher...it's fun.  You'll enjoy it...

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18 minutes ago, Rue said:

Oh dear...I really think you should sign up for  a couple more lessons...:P

....you don't need frets to learn where you put your fingers.  There is an approximate place for them to go, and then you narrow that down by listening for the correct desired note.

What is a normal hand position?  You begin by learning first position - I assume that's what you mean.

You can't play the violin without moving fingers.  Where you move them depends on the key you are playing in.

You might have your ups and downs mixed up.

Well...yes...

Middle C has always been accessible.  It's there.  You can play it with any finger you like...

No.

...a perfect example of the danger of just regurgitating what you happen to find on-line.  

Now go find a teacher...it's fun.  You'll enjoy it...

Great.  LIKE!  :):lol:

FYI and FWIW to everyone who didn't already know, the violin can produce any frequency between G3 (195.998 Hz) and (with some tricks) the upper limit of human hearing.  That's one of the things that's really neat about violins and their kin, no keys!!.

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LOL...thank you!  I try. ^_^

BTW, Q...if you like frets - and it might be of help to visualize, get yourself a mandolin.  It's kinda like a fretted violin...that you pluck...don't try to use a bow on it.  Won't work.  Oh, and ignore the doubled strings too - just think of the pairs of them as one string, or only string it with 4 strings...whichever is less confusing.

The fingering on the mandolin corresponds to the fingering on the violin.  

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

 That's one of the things that's really neat about violins and their kin, no keys!!.

Well, there's always this...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnMRqhWFyyg&feature=youtu.be&t=43

Hell of a player.

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It seems to me that this passage in the book was a dumb mistake.  I suspect that they were thinking of the C below middle C, which indeed, a violin can't play unless you want to put a fat string on there. 

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Right.  For guitarists the note called and notated as middle C is the bass clef C.  A lot of guitarists aren't aware of the anomaly.

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32 minutes ago, J-G said:

Right.  For guitarists the note called and notated as middle C is the bass clef C.  A lot of guitarists aren't aware of the anomaly.

Indeed, some musical instruments are known as "transposing instruments", but those which just play an octave higher or lower than written don't get that designation.

I think you've just given us the correct explanation for this error.

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1 hour ago, palousian said:

It seems to me that this passage in the book was a dumb mistake.  I suspect that they were thinking of the C below middle C, which indeed, a violin can't play unless you want to put a fat string on there. 

 

1 hour ago, J-G said:

Right.  For guitarists the note called and notated as middle C is the bass clef C.  A lot of guitarists aren't aware of the anomaly.

 

43 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

Indeed, some musical instruments are known as "transposing instruments", but those which just play an octave higher or lower than written don't get that designation.

I think you've just given us the correct explanation for this error.

Yup.  :)

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3 hours ago, J-G said:

Right.  For guitarists the note called and notated as middle C is the bass clef C.  A lot of guitarists aren't aware of the anomaly.

Sounds sort of ignorant, or dumb.  I'd need more convincing info. before I could go along with that.  I mean, why not a violin middle C being a bass clef C?

 

2 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

Indeed, some musical instruments are known as "transposing instruments", but those which just play an octave higher or lower than written don't get that designation.

I think you've just given us the correct explanation for this error.

What error?  All you have mentioned with your "octave higher or lower than written" is that the guitar is pitched lower but still uses an octave higher music.  

Regarding the Beatles - they may of been simply not smart enough to comprehend "middle C" when asked for one though the Mrs. should of known what that was with her being a piano player -  possible she hadn't learned yet too..

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14 hours ago, Quadibloc said:

 

EDIT: Oops!

In fact, the normal hand positions on a violin don't involve putting the fingers on consecutive semitones, as I had remembered from my brief experience of being taught to play one.

 

It's a total mystery to me why you are here and posting a lot if you know practically nothing about the instrument and about playing it.

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10 hours ago, palousian said:

It seems to me that this passage in the book was a dumb mistake.  I suspect that they were thinking of the C below middle C, which indeed, a violin can't play unless you want to put a fat string on there. 

that's probably the reason why. Beatles books were released in a big hurry and if there was an desk editor involved (big if) he or she sure wasn't going to fact check something like this.

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15 hours ago, Rue said:

No.

I was actually being facetious in that particular case. But since then, instead of just the first and third positiions, I have found information describing all the positions up to the eleventh, and I have suitably updated my web site with my new knowledge.

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