I recently bought an edition from the String Virtuoso website, but the part that I’ve received is in the wrong key. What’s happened?
At String Virtuoso, we produce a substantial amount of our editions in both orchestral and solo tunings, so that the bass player may select whichever suits their requirements.
Orchestral tuning is standard for most double bass players, where the strings are tuned in fourths, from lowest to highest: E1,-A1,-D-G.
To put the instrument into solo tuning, each of the four strings needs the pitch to be raised by one tone. The letter names of the notes in solo tuning, again from lowest to highest, are now: F#1,-B1,-E-A.
For the double bassist, their individual part will remain the same, whether they decide to perform using orchestral or solo tuning. However, any instruments that are playing with the double bass (for example, piano) will need to ensure that they have the correct part in order to accompany the bassist in the relevant key.
As the names suggest, orchestral tuning is generally used in an orchestra, or in any setting in which the double bass isn’t the musical focus. Solo tuning tends to be used for solo works (concertos and sonatas, for example) although this depends somewhat on the era in which the piece in question was composed. Solo tuning is most common in works written during the Romantic era (around 1810-1900) and onwards, although not all solo works written during this time will utilise it.
Solo tuning is often utilised to obtain a brighter sound that has less difficulty carrying across an orchestra, or other accompanying instruments.
It is advised to use ‘solo’ strings and ‘orchestral’ strings for solo and orchestral tuning respectively, although some orchestral strings are able to be tuned up. Please research before potentially tuning orchestral strings up a tone in order not to cause damage to your strings or bridge.
As a rule, for any of our works written before the Romantic era, the key listed is in orchestral tuning. For those written during, or after, the Romantic era, the listed key is in solo tuning (and so the sheet music of the double bass part and orchestral tuning piano part will be one tone lower).
Vivaldi – Sonata in A Minor is one of our Baroque era works where the key is listed in the title, and it is available in both orchestral and solo tuning. The key in the title, A minor, refers to the key that the work is played in when the bass is in orchestral tuning. When the instrument is put into solo tuning, the bassist would still read the work as being written in A minor, but it would sound in B minor (meaning that the pianist would have to use a piano part in solo tuning to accompany the bass player).
Bottesini – Elegy No.1, for which we have editions by both Christine Hoock and Leon Bosch, is often referred to as just ‘Elegy in D’. The bass part is written in the key of C major, and here the ‘in D’ refers to the key that the piece sounds at in solo tuning.