WISE – You Learn Something New Every Day

Friends can be extremely helpful sometimes.

I was walking out of orchestra with a friend of mine who plays violin, and she mentioned a new piece she was playing with three flats. I’ve always known that string players prefer sharps over flats, so I could predict that she didn’t like the piece very much. But I never really knew why it was that string players preferred sharps.

It turns out, as she kindly explained to me, it all has to do with the four strings on the instruments themselves. If you have a piece with no flats or sharps in the key signature, that’s easy enough. If you add sharps, all you have to do is just shift everything down a bit, since the pitch becomes higher as you decrease the length of the string. For flats, however, you have to switch strings in order to play the right notes. I can definitely see why that would be more difficult for the players.

Thanks to that little conversation, I now understand why string players prefer sharps over flats. Since I’m more of a band person than an orchestra person, I’m personally more comfortable with flats, so naturally my compositions tend to lean in the direction of flats as well. Although it shouldn’t be too much of a problem to remedy that for this project.

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