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Tips for playing pp


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I know that the theory for playing quietly is less bow, less bow pressure and nearer the fingerboard, but I have difficulty in clearly defining an mp-p-pp. I'm playing a piece at the moment that does not go louder than an mp, so to get some sound definition I tend to play the mp nearer to an mf etc.I can't help feeling that this is cheating, though!


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You seem to be worrying less about the technical end of things and more about the "how loud is loud" question.

It's all relative. Mp is louder than p, is louder than pp. If you play mp and it sounds different from what is softer, but is not so strident or assertive that it breaks the mood of the piece, then you have it right.

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I think a "true pp" should be a whisper of sound. But the context is important - for example, is it a solo, in a quartet, part of an orchestra, and what is the acoustic nature fo the room you are playing in?

You are best off if you can get someone else to help you "gauge" the room beforehand (if it is a performance) since you want to be heard, no matter how softly you play.

Soft violin sound seems to penetrate (or project) better than the player often thinks.


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As far as playing pp goes I definitely agree with Andrew. I know that your solo p is different than your quartet p which is different than your orchestra p.

Right now in orchestra we are doing the Firebird. In the beginning the violas have that creepy section that is marked ppp i think and we play it so soft that it sounds like a whisper.

In quartet we are starting the Smetana From My Life. In some sections we play soft but not nearly as soft as in orchestra. One thing that we do is that we get soft before a crescendo because it gives us more room to explode into a FFF like in the beginning of the first movement with the viola solo.

In Solo settings a p is much different than even that of quartet p's you must be heard over your pianist or the orchestra. It's pretty much all relative. A p in the beginning of the piece might be softer than a p near the climax. It changes with intensity.

Ask your teacher what she wants you to play in this particular piece. What piece is it?

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