Cello suites, tuning, and number of strings?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by icanjam, Apr 7, 2014.


  1. icanjam

    icanjam

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2013
    Location:
    Manitowoc, WI
    Now that orchestra sessions just about over I'm going to buy some solo strings. I want to learn the Bach cello suite number 1, the Rabbath edition I think. I always thought it was played on solo strings but now I'm not sure. And I see a lot of people play it with a 5th string but I can't tell if they actually use it or not. I see a lot of threads about this but no one asks the easy questions.
    So my questions are simply, are there versions that use solo tuning? And, do I need a 5th string to play the first movement?
  2. mtto

    mtto

    Joined:
    May 25, 2008
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    Los Angeles, CA
    Since the cello suites are unaccompanied, you don't need a special solo tuning edition. A solo tuning edition has a piano part a whole step up from the bass part. If there isn't a piano part, not an issue. You can play the cello suites on solo strings, but orchestra tuning works fine.

    I'm not familiar with the Rabbath edition. I play the first suite in G major at pitch in thumb position. I've played the minuets "as written" and that works fine, too, but you'll have to transpose a couple Ds up the octave, and maybe leave some notes out of multiple stop chords. You don't need a 5th string.
  3. icanjam

    icanjam

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    Dec 8, 2013
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    The Rabbath editions are also played in the same octave as cello and the first movent is also in G. As far as I know there's only the first two movements so what editions do you play? Are you playing off a straight up cello part? From what I've been able to gather the sterling one seems most popular, the Bernet ones that are a 5th down.
  4. mtto

    mtto

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    May 25, 2008
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    I use the International Music Company edition, edited by Edmund Kurtz. It has a facsimile of Anna Magdalena Bach's manuscript of the Suites, which is as close as we have to J.S. Bach's original. She was a musician and obviously very familiar with her husband's work, so it is a pretty good source. I don't look at it much, but I like that it is there. Yes, a cello edition.

    You don't NEED a bass edition in my opinion. It would be cool to see a Rabbath edition, because you'd get to look into Rabbath's mind re: the cello suites. But the notes are the notes Bach wrote, and they are damn good notes. :)
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  6. Dave Grossman

    Dave Grossman Supporting Member

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    Apr 1, 2001
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    Bay Area, California
    If you play the Cello Suites an octave down from concert pitch, that is, the same as you would be playing from the score as if it was written for bass, the Cello Suites require a low B so you can go down to the low C of the cello. If you play them at concert pitch, you don't need the low B. But you run out of room on the high end.

    Of course, you can always transpose phrases to make it fit within the range of a 4-string. In my opinion, the Cello Suites work best on a 6-string played with the cello's low C on the low B string (octave below concert pitch). Then you can play them with little to no modification. The 6th suite benefits from a high F string like on a 7-string which is what I play.

    There are some videos from my Bach on bass project at:
    http://electricbach.com/video.html
  7. Dave Grossman

    Dave Grossman Supporting Member

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    Sorry, didn't notice this was the double bass forum. Of course, the double-bass requires a different approach than an electric.
  8. mtto

    mtto

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    May 25, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hi Dave,

    I like playing the Bach Suites on bass guitar, too, but this is the Double Bass forum.

    The 5th suite in C minor works well on a 5 string bass guitar with the low B tuned up to C.
  9. Dave Grossman

    Dave Grossman Supporting Member

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    Bay Area, California
    Yeah, the TalkBass.com Home page doesn't make it easy to see whether posts are in the DB or BG forums in the Recent Threads view. It's not the first time I clicked over to a thread in DB that I thought was BG.

    I tune my low B up to a C for the 3rd and 5th suites but leave it at low B for the rest.
  10. robobass

    robobass

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    Cologne, Germany
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    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Each Bach suite has its own preferred transposition. #1 is usually played "at pitch" meaning an octave up from the written cello part. If you use solo tuning, then another step higher (which I personally don't like). #3 is usually played down a fourth, in "G". In these cases you won't run out of E-String. I like to do #4 down a minor seventh, putting it in "F", which means you will have a few low D's to deal with. There are the purists out there who insist that all suites should be played at pitch, as well as the pedantic pedagogues who want to transpose everything into lower keys, which maybe fits the bass range better, but also can make the suites unnatural and difficult to play. Best thing is to experiment with the options and see what works for you.
  11. mtto

    mtto

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    Location:
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    Robobass, do you have a suggestion for transposed editions, or are you doing that minor 7th transposition in your head? I'd like to play some of the suites I haven't played as much and I'm considering transposed versions.
  12. robobass

    robobass

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    Disclosures:
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Mtto,
    I just read the cello part of #4 and transpose up a step. I do plan to offer my own edition of suites 1, 3 and 4 which I have 2/3rds complete, but it's way on the back burner at the moment...
    mtto likes this.

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