The string quartet is an ensemble of stringed instruments, comprising two violins, a viola and a cello. It is an example of chamber music, played by a small group of musicians capable of performing in a large room of a house rather than a concert hall. String quartets are normally associated with classical music, but they can also be used to accompany pop songs, good examples being the Beatles’ Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby. From my limited experience in developing the pieces on this page, there is plenty of scope for using the string quartet in a wider range of genres.
Typically, the first violin leads with the main melodic phrases, with the other instruments providing counterpoint, harmony and, at times, rhythmic support. Obviously, the viola plays at a lower register than the violins with the cello sitting underneath that.
Here are the examples I have worked on so far. In each case, I have produced them using the virtual instruments from the Cremona Quartet series distributed by Native Instruments.
Out of Hiding
This first, very short, example, is written in the baroque style of the father of the string quartet, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) – hence the rather poor pun in the name of this piece. For much of his career, he was the most celebrated composer of his day. He was a friend and mentor of Mozart and a tutor of Beethoven. As my first attempt at composing for the string quartet, it taught me a lot about how the instruments work together.
Here’s a more ambitious piece, still in the classical tradition. It deliberately has a more ‘romantic’ feel than my attempt at Haydn.
A Meeting of Minds
And now the third and final piece in the series, in which I have made an attempt to break free from convention and compose with little regard for key or scale. I didn’t fully succeed because I’m so firmly wedded to my more ‘romantic’ musical leanings. I think I’ve accomplished something of a ‘meeting of minds’ between the traditional and the avant-garde. What do you reckon?
Full notation for all the pieces on this page can be downloaded for free below. I exported the MIDI files for the four instruments into Dorico which I then tweaked and refined to create a usable score. You’ll see that, by convention, the two violins are shown on the treble clef, the viola on the alto clef and the cello on the bass clef.