String Quartet Page Turning

November 17, 2019, 9:37 AM · Hello everyone.

I am playing the 2nd violin part of the Grieg String Quartet in a quartet with friends.

In it, there are 6 pages, and the only places with opportunities to turn pages are pages 2 and 5. This means that I would typically need to lay out 4 pages. However, I am also holding an open G on page 5 for long enough for my left hand to turn the page. In this case, I wouldn't need to find a way to get 4 pages on my stand.

Is it okay for me to turn pages with my left hand while playing open strings?

Thanks in advance.

Replies (14)

November 17, 2019, 10:10 AM · You do what you gotta do. :-)

When working with printed music I sometimes cut apart pages and tape them together so I have "tall" and "short" pages in order to facilitate a turn.

November 17, 2019, 10:25 AM · Maybe consider investing a music tablet with a pedal to turn the page. Otherwise, just turn the page when you have to.
November 17, 2019, 10:53 AM · Nothing wrong with turning with the left hand. The last movement of the Kodaly Duo has few options for page turning. When I was preparing it for a doctoral recital, I practiced turning the page with my left hand. In fact, I used a metronome, gradually speeding it up so I could reach out quickly at the final tempo.

There's always a way to arrange page turns or cut/paste. Sometimes it means memorizing a couple of lines on the previous or next page until a rest occurs.

Using an iPad has always seemed like a complex and expensive solution to a (usually) simple problem.

Edited: November 17, 2019, 12:26 PM · In such cases I have two "tricks" in addition to Lydia's proposal.
1. Photocopy a page with an opportunity to turn in the middle, cut the copy there and tape the lower fragment to the top of next page. Then mark the place of the cut on the preceding page so you don't forget to turn when necessary.
2. Not directly dealing with this problem but useful in general: In order to allow a faster page turn I stick post-its to each page. The post-its have to be on the outside and have to be staggered downward, i.e. on the first page the sticker is at the top and on the last near the bottom, the others staggered in between to produce a row of "handles" down along the right border of the paper. The post-its have to be stuck onto the backside of the paper. Now you can grab the post-its one at at time from top to bottom (i.e. always the one that is at the top--the already turned handles will be on the left) rather than trying to grab only one page at a time as you turn the pages. This is a more effective version of the old trick of folding up the corners of the pages (which works ok if there is only one page turn or maybe two but in a monster piece like the Grieg it fails).
Edited: November 17, 2019, 12:50 PM · Thinking about this some more: With 6 pages* you need to turn pages at the bottom of p. 1, 3 & 5 (in an ideal world). Page 5 is already ok. This leaves you with the problem of p. 1 and 3. The bottom of p. 1 will be somewhere along the first movement. I don't think the movement will go beyond p. 3. So you photocopy p. 1 and line up 3 pages for the first movement. On pages 2 - 4 there will the the two middle movements (plus possibly sections of the first and last). You should be able to line up no more than 3 pages for each individual movement. All you have to do is rearrange your photocopies between movements. As far as I know none of the movements are attacca.

*I remember several attempts to tackle the Grieg and my overwhelming memory is that it is tooo loong. I am surprised it can be squeezed into 6 pages...

November 17, 2019, 3:08 PM · Are you talking about the second - unfinished - Grieg quartet? I played the first quartet with my quartet this summer and it is significantly more than 6 pages. I remember that there were some page turning issues for both second violin and viola. We solved most of it with photocopies but in one place I who was playing first violin turned the page for the second violin!
Edited: November 18, 2019, 8:30 AM · If you can turn with the left hand __ fine!

But smart use of a photocopying, scissors and possibly recopying -- maybe sliding a few loose sheets -- whatever it takes.

Back in 1970 the cellist of my string quartet visited a world-class string quartet backstage right after their performance in our town and saw how they had cut pages of their music to enable page turns at opportune times. This was before photocopiers were ubiquitous.

Edited: November 17, 2019, 7:27 PM · Hello everyone! Thanks for the advice. I need to clarify some things:

I am only playing the 1st mvt (hence why it is only 6 pages)

I made a typo on where the open G is. The open G is on page 4. So my layout if I was to turn on the G would be 1+2 pages, then during the break on 2nd page do 2+3+4. And then during the open G on 4, I do 4+5 and on the 5th page's break I do 5+6.

In any case, thank you all for the help!

November 18, 2019, 7:33 AM · Andrew, referring to the Peters edition which is the one on IMSLP for the parts. With some practice, isn't it feasible to turn page 3 during the full-measure rest you have at the end? Yes I know the tempo is very fast, but still. Because then it all seems straightforward? Turn page 1 where you have a grand pause at the end, so that pages 2 and 3 are now both open before you. Then turn page 3 as just discussed, so that pages 4 and 5 are both open before you. Turn page 5 should also be feasible you have more than 1 1/2 measures rest at the end of that page. This gets you to the final page 6. If you get the actual Peters edition you already have it nicely in a booklet like that, otherwise you can tape the pages together in booklet form.
November 18, 2019, 8:35 AM · I don't like to rely on VS page-turns ("volti subito," which translates to "very speedy") in chamber playing. Orchestra? Sure. But not a quartet. Sometimes, though, you do not have a lot of good options.
November 18, 2019, 8:49 AM · I would object to that suggestion - turning page in the grand pause will spoil the magic. You have that outburst before the G.P. and PP tranquillo after. There should be dead silent in that G.P. All 3 top part have page turn at that point, but it is easily solved by having a photocopy of the top few lines of the second page on the left side of the stand. All 3 parts have suitable rests that allow the to turn after a few lines.
Page 3-4 is probably doable - especially using Albrechts brilliant post-it trick. Another useful trick for quick page turns is to have something attached to the right side of the music stand. If metal then a magnet about 1,5 cm high will do. When there is a rest on one of the two pages showing you lift the corner of the page outside the magnet which makes it easier to grab in a hurry. Practice turning with your left hand while still holding the violin. The 5-6 page turn should not be a problem - the first violin has that cadenza-like passage and is probably going to stretch it a little anyway. Just make sure to catch him/her on the top note ;)
November 19, 2019, 9:06 AM · Very good idea to put a copy of page 2 on the left of page 1. So, your problem has been completely solved now, Andrew?
December 2, 2019, 9:43 AM · A violinist at a summer music festival solved this by stacking pages. That's right: for a 6 page piece, try 2 rows of 3 columns, reading 1-2-3/4-5-6. I have no idea if this actually works or not, but he didn't turn any pages. Good luck!
December 2, 2019, 11:04 AM · Albrecht, this thread resurfaced so I wanted to thank you for the post-it suggestion. We were recording an audition last week, my daughter wasn't comfortably making the turn on time in a Beethoven sonata, and the post-it fixed her right up.


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