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Playing in Db!


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Only one way to find out...

Mozart has the viola tune up a half step in the Sinfonia Concertante in Eb.

The technical term for alternate tuning is scordatura if you want to do some research on your options.  You don't have to stop at moving down a half-step.  You could (for example) tune Gb-Db-Ab-Db, giving yourself two Db drone options.

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I've heard that some violists play Mozart's SC that way, but to my mind, E-flat major is the best key for viola playing - and that is the way I have always played it. I had also heard it referred to as the "Masonic Key" and certainly a goodly amount of Mozart's music favors it.

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I once played in a band in which one of the musicians played harmonica and his favorite harp was... in Db.  Now, I can play in Db, but... it won't sound like fiddle music.  If you are supposed to sound like a fiddler (that is--open strings), the easiest thing is to do as I did and have a separate fiddle tuned down a half-step.  I did have a recording gig a couple of years ago where the singer had arrived on Db as the perfect key, and I was determined to play without scordatura.  It was tricky to make it sound like fiddle music, and I got close enough, but this was NOT the easy way to do it. 

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5 hours ago, Andrew Victor said:

I've heard that some violists play Mozart's SC that way, but to my mind, E-flat major is the best key for viola playing - and that is the way I have always played it. I had also heard it referred to as the "Masonic Key" and certainly a goodly amount of Mozart's music favors it.

First I've heard of that Mozart being played in scordatura.  I agree that E-flat sounds good on viola tuned the usual way but I wonder whether tuning it up a half step might make it easier to play.

I have played some Baroque pieces on violin where the score was printed with the usual key signature, etc. but the piece was to be played scordatura.  That made it difficult for me because to be played scordatura the printed note was played (scordatura) the sound didn't match what my mind expected.

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On 5/28/2021 at 12:31 PM, Andrew Victor said:

I've heard that some violists play Mozart's SC that way

 

19 hours ago, gowan said:

First I've heard of that Mozart being played in scordatura.

Well, ya learn something every day.  It's how Mozart wrote it.

407781737_ScreenShot2021-05-29at1_49_48PM.thumb.png.b07e3468a50f0eb1b948f35223d52e50.png

It gives the viola a brighter sound, more tension and all those open strings.

(I love the piece in normal tuning, but playing it scordatura as intended is a wonderful musical experience.)

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Somewhat. I don't have absolute pitch, but I have a memory for pieces. The concept of “Affetto“ (affect) was very often discussed as I was growing up. I remember the first time I heard the complete Bach Unaccompanied. Sergiu Luca on Nonesuch (cassette bought from Tower Records.) My first reaction was “Good grief, that's way flat!“ But with closer listening, it was possible to imagine the sensation of playing the piece.

I never really subscribed to the idea that e-flat indicates a specific mood, and I still find it difficult to play (backward extensions are tricky for me since my fourth finger is short) but because it uses few open strings, it's less ringy and noisy than, say D major.

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It's something people do in Irish trad often enough.  More usual is to tune up a semitone, but people sometimes tune down to C# as well.  

Baroque musicians often play somewhere around there too.  A = 415 I think?  As opposed to 440.  

It'll give you a slightly warmer, mellower sound.  

I've recorded up a semitone before, and it's nice and easy once the fiddle adjusts.  Gives you maybe a hair more brightness and response, but overall it's still you playing your fiddle.  There's no big changes.  Obviously if you're constantly tuning up and then tuning back down for another track there's a chance your fiddle will eventually rebel, and you'll shorten the life of the strings anyway.  

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D flat and E flat are useful for lever harps. The more flats you have, the more sharps you can lever up into!

I know an old-time fiddler from Missouri who told me that he played with a Bluegrass band that had a singer who really, really liked B flat. So, being an old-time fiddler (of which I am one), and knowing that B flat isn't a "fiddle friendly" key (Think A,D,G!), he tuned his fiddle up a half step, fingering in A, sounding in B flat.

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On 6/2/2021 at 1:23 PM, duane88 said:

D flat and E flat are useful for lever harps. The more flats you have, the more sharps you can lever up into!

I know an old-time fiddler from Missouri who told me that he played with a Bluegrass band that had a singer who really, really liked B flat. So, being an old-time fiddler (of which I am one), and knowing that B flat isn't a "fiddle friendly" key (Think A,D,G!), he tuned his fiddle up a half step, fingering in A, sounding in B flat.

Been there.  "My voice isn't great today, so let's do it in C# instead of D."  

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