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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2012 1:18 pm 
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highland-piper wrote:
While altered fingerings might sound difficult for some people, I've seen cellists play reels (on instruments tuned in 4ths instead of 5ths) and sound great doing it -- it just depends on how badly one wants to do it.


Why on earth were they re-tuning their cellos to be in fourths? :-?

To be clear, cellos are, in my experience, invariably tuned exactly one octave below violas.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:42 am 
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benhall.1 wrote:
Why on earth were they re-tuning their cellos to be in fourths? :-?

To be clear, cellos are, in my experience, invariably tuned exactly one octave below violas.


Yeah. I don't know what I was thinking. Sorry for any confusion!


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:51 am 
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highland-piper wrote:
benhall.1 wrote:
Why on earth were they re-tuning their cellos to be in fourths? :-?

To be clear, cellos are, in my experience, invariably tuned exactly one octave below violas.


Yeah. I don't know what I was thinking. Sorry for any confusion!


Oh, that's all right. Gave me a - well-deserved, I think - opportunity to be a smartarse. It's so rare one gets the chance ...

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 9:40 am 
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I just want to comment on the clef thing. I don't think it's all that hard for a seven year old to learn both treble and bass clef at the same time. Lots of kids get their first musical exposure on the piano, which requires learning both clefs right from the start. It's really a lot easier to pick up both clefs if you get them early on. When I took up the harp in my 40s, I was really glad I'd learned the bass clef in my beginning piano classes in elementary school. By contrast, I know harpers who really struggled with the bass clef when they were first exposed to it as adults, never having read anything but the treble clef before.

Not that this should influence the choice of instrument, of course...that's always best determined by what the child feels called to (my daughter, for example, after years of fiddling around with piano and guitar, finally found the instrument she truly loves in, of all things, the ukelele!). I just wanted to make the point that learning both treble and bass clef really isn't all that more challenging for a child than learning just treble clef.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:36 pm 
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C Clef (alto, tenor, movable) isn't that hard either if you read treble and bass clef. Just pretend that the clef line is the ledger-line middle C between the clefs, and read everything up and down from there.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 7:52 am 
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Okay, I play four instruments, piano, viola, violin, and irish flute (which includes the whole flutes, whistles and recorders thing as well). Here's what I have come to find:

Piano gives you a good sense of what notes are what, quite quickly. It also gives you a sense of when notes are in tune or not (which is helpful for the next two instruments in the list). You also learn Treble and Bass clef at the same time, so that's already two clefs done.

Viola tends to have a rich sound, and then rest has already been said in previous posts, so I won't go further into that. With viola, you start with the alto clef (aka C clef), you learn it, and then you normally get treble after a few years of playing. So you get both clefs fairly early on, which helps in later on, but I'll get to that later.

Violin tends to have a high and painful screeching sound when played by an absolute beginner (you get that with viola too, but it's not as painful). This is normally overcome within a few months. But then you have the higher notes in higher positions which, when played by the common beginner, are extremely painful. They are just high and shrill and such, so it hurts.

Lastly, for the original question, if you intend on having her do both ITM and classical, I would go with viola first. Violas are very needed in almost every orchestra around the world, so there would be plenty of orchestral opportunities for her, but violins, well, there are plenty of them. Eventually, you would want her to do violin as well, but it will be much easier than doing viola second because she will already know the clef, and will easily become fluent in both instruments. The biggest hurtle in this situation is the string changes, which I got over in about 15 minutes. Also, when it comes to fiddle tunes on the viola, I do them a fifth down, because if you do them an octave below, it doesn't have the same fingering and bowing as fiddle, so 1, you can't switch back and forth between the violin and viola with the same tune, easily, 2, the phrasing and such will be wrong, and 3, the whole thing will just feel wrong, and it won't want to flow as easily. So, if you're fluent in violin and viola, you can read the violin music, and play it with the exact fingering and bowing of a violin, on viola, and it will automatically transpose itself! Then it's your job to get a G whistle and play it as explained in an earlier post. Hope that made sense!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:29 am 
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MeMyselfandI wrote:
Also, when it comes to fiddle tunes on the viola, I do them a fifth down, because if you do them an octave below, it doesn't have the same fingering and bowing as fiddle.... the phrasing and such will be wrong, and 3, the whole thing will just feel wrong, and it won't want to flow as easily. So, if you're fluent in violin and viola, you can read the violin music, and play it with the exact fingering and bowing of a violin, on viola, and it will automatically transpose itself! Then it's your job to get a G whistle and play it as explained in an earlier post. Hope that made sense!


Your post made great sense. I agree with piano. Since I play piano (a little) I'd like to teach her a little piano myself, but I think she'll have her hands full with violin, school, & pony club.

The part I quoted above is very helpful. It's the first time I've heard a viola player explain the disadvantages of playing it an octave lower. And it makes sense. The 5th lower would be acceptable if she was playing with me and I play my G whistle. But if she wanted to play with others who play flute or violin or D whistle then it would be a problem. That's one of the main reasons I ended up steering her towards violin. Which was easy to do because she didn't have a preference for one over the other, and all the music we listen to has violin.

I reread the part I quoted above and I have a question. You said if you read the violin music and play it as if you have a violin but on a viola, it'll be 1/5 lower. I thought that one would just read the violin music and play it as if it were alto clef (with normal viola bowing & fingering). I thought that would result in 1/5 lower. So now I'm a bit confused on which of these one would actually do. the former would require knowing how to play a violin while the latter would require only knowing the viola. Would the result be the same??

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 12:29 pm 
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cunparis wrote:
I thought that one would just read the violin music and play it as if it were alto clef (with normal viola bowing & fingering). I thought that would result in 1/5 lower.

Nope, you'd get a major seventh downwards transposition.

Edit: or rather a transposition of mode (more minor sevenths than major) unless you changed the key signature too!

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Last edited by Peter Duggan on Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 1:46 pm 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
cunparis wrote:
I thought that one would just read the violin music and play it as if it were alto clef (with normal viola bowing & fingering). I thought that would result in 1/5 lower.

Nope, you'd get a major seventh downwards transposition.


So I'd need to play an E whistle?

All this is a bit complicated, I think choosing violin was the right choice. I'll have to put up with the screeching high notes like they put up with my high D whistle. ;)


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 2:16 pm 
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cunparis wrote:
So I'd need to play an E whistle?

Nope, low Eb!

Edit (see my further comments below): it's not that simple.

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Last edited by Peter Duggan on Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 6:43 pm 
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I assumed it meant treating the strings as if they were violin strings. IOW, similar to "transposing" on a whistle-- on a whistle, every "all fingers down" note is D. So using this method, on a viola the strings are still GDAE-- you'd still read "1st line on the staff" as "1st finger on 2nd-lowest string."

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 7:28 pm 
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Katharine wrote:
I assumed it meant treating the strings as if they were violin strings. IOW, similar to "transposing" on a whistle-- on a whistle, every "all fingers down" note is D. So using this method, on a viola the strings are still GDAE-- you'd still read "1st line on the staff" as "1st finger on 2nd-lowest string."

Right, that gives a transposition of -P5 (perfect fifth), because viola strings are tuned down a perfect fifth from their violin counterparts.

No, cunparis is talking about reading treble clef as if it were alto clef. Alto clef puts middle C (C4) on the center line of the staff. In treble clef, that line is supposed to be B (B4) above middle C. If you play it as C4 instead, the difference from B4 to C4 is -M7 (major seventh), as Peter said, which would be the (weird) transposition.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 8:56 pm 
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MTGuru wrote:
Katharine wrote:
I assumed it meant treating the strings as if they were violin strings. IOW, similar to "transposing" on a whistle-- on a whistle, every "all fingers down" note is D. So using this method, on a viola the strings are still GDAE-- you'd still read "1st line on the staff" as "1st finger on 2nd-lowest string."

Right, that gives a transposition of -P5 (perfect fifth), because viola strings are tuned down a perfect fifth from their violin counterparts.

No, cunparis is talking about reading treble clef as if it were alto clef. Alto clef puts middle C (C4) on the center line of the staff. In treble clef, that line is supposed to be B (B4) above middle C. If you play it as C4 instead, the difference from B4 to C4 is -M7 (major seventh), as Peter said, which would be the (weird) transposition.


Exactly. He seemed confused because he was thinking that way, so I was taking a stab at clarifying.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:05 am 
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Katharine wrote:
I assumed it meant treating the strings as if they were violin strings. IOW, similar to "transposing" on a whistle-- on a whistle, every "all fingers down" note is D. So using this method, on a viola the strings are still GDAE-- you'd still read "1st line on the staff" as "1st finger on 2nd-lowest string."


This makes sense to me if a violin player wants to play ITM on viola, they act like they have a violin and it comes out a 5th lower.

However the issue is if one doesn't know how to play violin, this wouldn't work. Knowing only viola, the choices are down an octave, which has issues, or acting like it's alto clef and having all accompaniment in Eb which is easy on whistle (get a cheap Eb) but not so easy on flute (they're expensive) and a real piano (playing in Eb results in unknown chords, etc.).

So it seems very obvious to me now that if one wants to do ITM, the better choice is to start on violin. Which others have pointed out has a few other advantages: they're cheaper, for smaller sized instruments they sound better (most reduced-sized violas are violins strung with viola strings and don't sound as good), etc.

I learned a lot doing research on this and it was quite interesting. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2012 2:07 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
cunparis wrote:
So I'd need to play an E whistle?

Nope, low Eb!

cunparis wrote:
or acting like it's alto clef and having all accompaniment in Eb

Actually, that's not going to work either unless you change the key signature (to the one a semitone higher) and any accidentals as well...

So a treble clef tune in D (two sharps) treated as alto clef (sounding in Eb) is going to need the new key signature or you're going to be transposing from D major to E Dorian instead! Likewise G major would come out as A Dorian, E Dorian as F# Phrygian and so on.

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