2.3.1 Common notation for unfretted strings

There is little specialist notation for unfretted string instruments. The music is notated on a single staff, and usually only a single voice is required. Two voices might be required for some double-stopped or divisi passages.

References for unfretted strings

Most of the notation which is useful for orchestral strings and other bowed instruments is covered elsewhere:

See also

Learning Manual: String quartet templates.

Notation Reference: Text scripts, Fingering instructions, Chorded notes, Arpeggio.

Snippets: Unfretted strings.

Bowing indications

Bowing indications are created as articulations, which are described in Articulations and ornamentations.

The bowing commands, \upbow and \downbow, are used with slurs as follows:

c4(\downbow d) e(\upbow f)

[image of music]

Roman numerals can be added as strings numbers (rather than the default circled Arabic numbers), as explained in String number indications.

Alternatively, string indications may be printed using markup commands; articulation scripts may also indicate open strings.

a4 \open
a2^\markup { \small "sul A" }

[image of music]

Predefined commands

\downbow, \upbow, \open, \romanStringNumbers.

See also

Notation Reference: Articulations and ornamentations, String number indications, Slurs.


Natural harmonics

Natural harmonics can be notated in several ways. A diamond-shaped note head generally means to touch the string where you would stop the note if it were not a diamond.

d4 e4.
d8 e e
d4 e4.
d8 e e

[image of music]

Alternatively a normal note head is shown at the pitch to be sounded together with a small circle to indicate it should be played as a harmonic:

d2^\flageolet d_\flageolet

[image of music]

A smaller circle may be created, see the snippet list in References for unfretted strings.

Artificial harmonics

Artificial harmonics are notated with two notes, one with a normal note head indicating the stopped position and one with an open diamond note head to indicate the harmonic position.

Artificial harmonics indicated with \harmonic do not show the dots. The context property harmonicDots should be set if dots are required.

<e a\harmonic>2.  <c g'\harmonic>4
\set harmonicDots = ##t
<e a\harmonic>2.  <c g'\harmonic>4

[image of music]

Note: \harmonic must be placed inside a chord construct even if there is only a single note. Normally \harmonicsOn would be used in this situation.

See also

Music Glossary: harmonics.

Notation Reference: Special note heads, References for unfretted strings.

Snap (Bartók) pizzicato

A snap pizzicato (also known as “Bartok pizz”) is a type of pizzicato where the string is deliberately plucked upwards (rather than sideways) such that it hits the fingerboard.

<c' e g>4\snappizzicato
<c' e g>4^\snappizzicato
<c, e g>4_\snappizzicato

[image of music]

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