V.com weekend vote: Which musician is the hardest to find for quartets - violinist, violist or cellist?

June 17, 2023, 7:21 PM · Whether you are organizing a string quartet for a pro concert, wedding gig, school coaching, or just a reading session in someone's living room, you have to find the right instrumentalists to make it happen.

quartet cats

That is, you need two violinists, a violists and a cellist. Beyond that, they should be at the appropriate ability level for the music hand. And even beyond that, it's always nice if everyone gets along!

I was inspired for this vote by a discussion board topic earlier this week, brought up by Elise Stanley.

It seems that violists are most often classified as "hardest to find," but Elise (and a number of other people) that for her, it's hardest to find a cellist.

What is your experience? Even if you aren't the person putting together the ensemble, you are probably aware if it has been difficult to find a certain instrumentalist to play. What is the reason that it is difficult? Did you have a member who left the ensemble? Is it just a shortage in your area? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts.

Have an idea for the Weekend Vote? Please e-mail me, your ideas are welcome!

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June 18, 2023 at 05:49 AM · Good cellists are in somewhat short supply proportional to the number of violinists where I am.

I double on viola as do a few other colleagues.

June 18, 2023 at 06:27 AM · I voted Violin 1, but for chamber music, violinists are generally hardest to find in my area right now. It's a bit easier to have a violist cover Violin 2 because the parts tend to be more similar.

With local amateur string players, I have to distinguish the orchestra scene from the chamber music scene. Most local community orchestras have plenty of violinists and not enough violists... and yet when it comes to chamber music, it's the reverse because it seems like violists and cellists are far more likely than violinists to be interested in playing chamber music.

June 18, 2023 at 11:23 AM · In one instance in my experience, it was the cellist. This happened because the cellist in the group had pulled out. We needed a replacement. Yet, in another combo, it was the cellist himself who invited the rest of us and hosted the group at his place. So, in the latter case, no one was hard to find - we already knew each other and worked well together.

June 18, 2023 at 02:22 PM · Happily, I have not had problems finding any particular instrument in the quartet. But I voted "Violin 1" because in one group I play in, I have to fight to play Violin 2 because the other violinist wants to as well! (I always win.)

June 18, 2023 at 03:16 PM · In our area, professional cellists always seem to be too busy.

We're getting more violists trained at the Royal Conservatory (Oscar Peterson School) where I teach, but it may be a while before they're advanced enough to play the quartet repertoire.

I will teach some young string players in early July at our camp. Hope there's enough players to run the course! Please encourage students to learn viola and cello, as chamber music is so much fun!

June 18, 2023 at 03:24 PM · When I had a quartet, it was hardest to find a cellist. We started with two violinists and a violist, all friends whose kids had known each other from kindergarten. We tried many cellists but none ever stuck, for various reasons (not all having to do with the three of us). Before looking at the replies, I thought about why that may be in general and the conclusion I reached matches what Mary Ellen wrote.

I enjoyed Andrew's response. As the violist here, I never would have considered playing Violin II because I don't have time to keep up my skills in both instruments. But also, my teacher begs me about once a year to join her local orchestra.

June 18, 2023 at 06:14 PM · I voted cellist because in my personal case, it is hardest to find a cellist since I can play either violin or viola. Just this morning, someone in our community orchestra sent out the list of people interested in doing chamber music, and out of seven people (including me), only one is a cellist, with the other six split evenly between violin and viola. However, it is also often hard to find a violist, and when I did chamber music in my youth, the violist was usually the hardest to find. I play violin in my community orchestra because we are very lucky to have enough violas, there are other community orchestras in my area with lots of violins and not enough violas. Also, during my youth ensemble days, viola shortages were literally everywhere whether it'd be orchestra or chamber.

June 18, 2023 at 10:55 PM · It might be violist around me but I don’t personally experience that because I’m a violist, and I’ll always play viola if needed. Otherwise I think it’s violin 1, because those parts tend to be harder to read and people also expect the violin 1 to lead the group. If I’m playing for fun I might not feel like taking on that responsibility.

June 19, 2023 at 12:53 AM · For weddings and gigs I voted for the cello. An excellent cellist is needed more than a violist.

Sorry to say that in our arrangements the viola does not have as much significance as the cello.

Pachelbel Canon needs the cello even though the part is simple. A 1st violinist can also make or break the group. Timing, leadership, technique, volume of tone etc. is essential. All players have to be great for me. I would break the group down to a trio, or duo before getting an average player. However it’s sad to say that you can get through a gig with an okay violist as long as everyone else is great.

June 19, 2023 at 03:05 PM · Of course all four players are incredibly important to the sound & texture of the string quartet. In my local area, we've not had any trouble finding good solid players for any of four positions - I'm thinking of subs when our regular core members aren't available for a particular gig. A weak player in any one of the four positions can hold the group back, but I think the "rarest" to find is VLN 1: the parts are demanding, they have the melody a lot, and if their intonation or sound isn't rock solid the overall effect really suffers. They must be soloists in the true sense of the word, but have a great understanding of ensemble playing, too. Many good competent VLN 2 and Viola players are around, although even then quartet playing is a specialty that requires experience and bold playing even on "inner" parts and certainly rhythmic accuracy and thrust. Second to the VLN1 in terms of importance to the overall effect is the cello since they have so many important lines in the quartet literature. We're fortunate that many good cello players are in the local area (thank you, great teachers!).

June 20, 2023 at 02:33 AM · I guess if dogs can play poker, cats can play string quartets.

June 20, 2023 at 12:58 PM · “International string quartet looking for two violinists and cellist.”

June 20, 2023 at 02:41 PM · De facto há menos violetistas.

O que faço é dobrar a viola com violino ou eu próprio assumir-me a tocar viola d'arco.

Um bom violoncelo é difícil de encontrar.

Mas existe um outro problema que é o facto dos meus colegas violinistas, não quererem assumir o violino II.

Mas o que eu entendo é a importância que o quarteto funcione e sobreviva.

June 20, 2023 at 07:07 PM · @Andrei Pricope - Your string quartet advertisement reminds me of the joke that a major Soviet music dictionary defined a string quartet as 'A symphony orchestra returning from a tour of the west'.

June 20, 2023 at 11:13 PM · I was in desperate need of a laugh today. Thank you, Andrei!

June 21, 2023 at 12:47 AM · Andrei and Richard - two gems!

June 24, 2023 at 03:09 AM · @ Andrei Pricope - Beware. If a string quartet seeks two violinists & a cellist, it is probably the violist who is the problem member, musically or psychologically.

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