Showing scordatura in score

Hi fellow Doricians!

I’ve been looking everywhere to see if anyone has figured out a good way to mark scordatura in a score. In this case it’s violin and piano sonata in which the violin needs to tune their fourth string (G) a whole tone down (F). The whole piece is played with this tuning.

All ideas are welcome. Thanks!

You might place a “coda” at the 2nd measure of the piece, and write in the open strings as a whole note chord in the first measure. Then hide the coda indication, and it will give you a nice gap between the initial tuning and the beginning of the piece. You could use note spacing to make that “measure” pretty tight.

You would need to add a bar number change at measure two to show it as measure one.

Oh, and I would make those initial notes a little smaller using the properties panel.

This gets messy. The simplest way to make the score readable (to the pianist, for example) is just to write the notes at their sounding pitch.

However the conventional notation for the violin part is to write the notes played on the scordatura string as a transposing instrument. In other words, the note shows the violinist where the left-hand fingers should go, not what pitch is produced. That is analogous to guitar tab for a non-standard tuning, but using staff notation.

So the open lowest string would be a written G, even though it sounds F. This could lead to ambiguities - for example, is a written D the open D string, or a sounding C played on the “F string”? You may need to mark the strings (sul D, etc), especially if you want the violinist to play in higher positions than first.

One way to show the tuning itself is to use an “incipit” before the start of the piece, but for a simple case as in your question, a text instruction would be just as good, and easier to do in Dorico.

Gould also suggests adding a text statement of the sounding pitch of the notes at their first appearance in the score.

If you want an example, see,_Heinrich_Ignaz_Franz_von) - which starts relatively simply, but quickly gets more complicated. (The first sonata doesn’t use scordatura at all).

Warning: in the original manuscript of the Biber, the symbol that looks like a flat is actually a natural!

Oh, and don’t forget to use a non de plume. So you can avoid getting hate mail from the violinist.

I can second this. I’m the keyboard player in the top left recording in the imslp link and at the sessions I read from the Biber manuscript edition which showed the violin part in scordatura. It was real hell realising the figured bass without being able to see the actual pitches! A modern edition should have the sounding pitches and a scordatura part for the violin. I can’t imagine it’d be possible to do this in one document.

Thanks to everybody for their answers and help!

As far as the violin part is concerned the most natural thing to do is to have both and to let the violinist decide which one to use.

But I’m less interested in how to notate the pitches in the score and parts and more interested in how to indicate at the beginning of the score (and the part, for that matter) the new tuning the violin should adopt.

The Biber that @Vaughan Schlepp mentioned is precisely a case in point:

I will try your suggestions, @dankreider and see the results it yields. As far as a nom de plume, I won’t be needing it, since the violinist loves the challenge — she asked for the scordatura.

Well, the more I thought about it, my idea won’t work well for that. For one thing, you won’t be able to show only that little bit. It would show all staves (even the blank ones), and you couldn’t hide the preamble (clef, key, etc).

TBH, for the example you just posted there, your best bet is probably to import a graphic. Though it wouldn’t technically be native, it would certainly be easy to accomplish. Exhibit A below. Of course if you’re comfortable with vectored graphics, that would look nicer.


Thank you, @dankreider! I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll give the graphic a try, then.

It works like a charm! Thanks :slight_smile:

Couldn’t you also make a new flow, enter in just that chord, and then use the music box feature in engrave mode to show that one instrument for one measure and place it before the beginning of the score?

Using a music frame? But then how would you exclude the preamble?

Hi, @Romanos401!

In order to create the effect, I created a new flow and wrote the chord with the four strings tuned to the pitches I wanted. (I guess you could write it within the music in an existing flow, but I had already done all the casting off and didn’t want to mess with it). Then, I took a screenshot of it and inserted it before the preamble in the first stave of the violin on the first page of the score. Finally, I edited the instrument name to insert spaces after the word “Violino” so that it wouldn’t end up over the screenshot of the scordatura.

I hope all of that makes sense.

Unless dealing with students (and is this really an issue in that environ?), the answer is easy.

The score should indicate concert pitch. Always. The soloist has two parts: one in concert pitch and the other in scordatura tuning as a transposing instrument with the tunings indicated at the top. Some players will pick one while others will chose the other. Let the player decide.

This is quite common for double-bassists. Besides the historical solo tuning where we tune up a whole step so that gut strung basses would be louder (and now have to use special metal strings), there are other cases where some bassists will use a C string on the bottom of a 4 string bass without an extension. Then there was Dragonetti who played 3, 4 and 5 strings basses tuned every way imaginable. Many 5-string players use a B on the bottom (guilty) while others use a C and there are jazzers who have a C on the top. We do not expect composers to know or care about this.

Speaking of Dragonetti, one of my conductors, also a bassist, told me that D. tuned the lower three strings of his 5-string to C F Bb to play Beethoven 6 (I have never confirmed this). Holy cow—what a revelation! That made the middle movements much easier to play. I adjusted easily enough and never bothered to re-write the part. Neither did my friend who used a C string on her 4-string and tuned the 3rd string up a half step to play it.