The triangle in an orchestra.

I tried real hard, even turned down the base in my audio, and could not hear the triangle in an orchestra on tv. I could see the musician hitting it with the rod, but no sound was evident to me. He was very active, and playing a lot.
If you, a dedicated orchestra fan, are sitting in a hall listening to the music, can you actually hear the triangle, even if you cover your eyes?

I would expect that it would depend on the piece in question. If the triangle comes at a moment when nothing else is playing, as a sort of musical punctuation, sure, it’d be audible. If you have the entire string section crescendoing and a timpani roll at the same time, probably not.

This time he was playing along with the full orchestra even during the loud parts. That’s what surprised me. I looked for but didn’t see any mic. Of course that didn’t mean there wasn’t one.

Were you listening on good speakers, or the built-in TV speakers? You can hear a lot more separate sounds when you have good speakers.

I thought about that. That’s why I turned the base way down. I can hear other tiny sounds quite well. I’ve decided it was likely because he was being drowned out by the big soubds of the rest of the orchestra. But that doesn’t why he was there in the first place. Tradition, maybe. There’s a lot of that in that sort of music. Kinda like baseball. :wink:
My tv, btw, is a older 40" Mitsubushi with okay, but not excellent, speakers.

What an odd conversation. Of course instrumental balance is a concern to composers… you have to know that a solo oboe isn’t going to carry over a blaring brass section, for example. So yes, attention must be paid to things like that, but when the orchestra is playing tutti, or all together (usually at the climax of the piece, or the “loud part”), there’s no reason the triangle shouldn’t be played. It’s not meant to be heard as a solo, it’s just there because it doesn’t hurt it to be.

Also, in music, it’s bass, not base. :slight_smile:

If there were one performer who played nothing but the triangle, sure, but usually that role is filled by the auxiliary percussion, who has a whole host of toys, and playing the triangle means e’s not playing some other instrument.

Odd conversation aside, the idea of playing an unheard instument, and paying a musician (peanuts though it may be) just doesn’t make sense. Might as well be playing air guitar.
As fzr as bass vs base, that’s an ancient and universal misspelling I’ve been trying to correct forever it seems.
Heavy is this burden upon my shoulders, my king.

This makes little to no sense. If the composer had wanted to hear a tambourine or a cymbal crash or [insert any other percussive instrument louder than a triangle], he would have had the percussionist play that instead. So, rather than do that, which might take away from the piece instead of enhancing it, he (or she; I don’t know what piece we’re talking about here) chose to go with a non-obtrusive instrument, just to give it a little color. Almost like adding a dash of a spice to your finished meal. It’s not supposed to be in the forefront; it’s just a little hint of seasoning.

And to the OP, I was just correcting your spelling in the name of fighting ignorance, that’s all. No harm intended.

Some sounds don’t stand out, but add to others to provide a combined timbre. Good musicians with good ears, on good equipment, can often pick them apart. The average joe listener might not know what to listen for.

An example, in jazz & rock music – very often the bass guitar and bass drum synchronize. Each strengthens the sound of the other. I doubt most listeners know that the “thump” they hear is actually two instruments.

I know a professional bass player who prefers to sit just behind and to one side of the drummer so he can match his licks to the pedal hits.

Prior to synthesizers, I wrote some passages that used several instruments playing in unison and some musicians couldn’t tell me exactly what the combination was, especially if it was slightly exotic (D trumpet & flugelhorn, for example). But they all knew it wasn’t a standard sound.

The people who recorded the concert probably didn’t set up the sound properly, concentrating on other instruments. The triangle could simply be not picked up by the mic, or lost in the mix.

In the concert hall, you can hear the triangle.

I know of very few composers that will have someone play an instrument when it can’t be heard. It’s just extra effort. If they don’t want anyone playing, you write a tacet or long rest in the score and get on with it.

And, yes, Chronos is right–rarely is there a single dedicate triangle player. Triangle is in the “effects” part of the percussion, and it really doesn’t do any good to specialize on that instrument. Leave out the triangle, and you can have that cymbal crash if you need it, or not if you don’t.

Maybe two weeks before he wrote it, the composer’s wife ran off with a tenured geometry professor and the piece is a masterwork of passive-aggressive angst.

That’s something I’ve noticed, for orchestral music you very rarely get a recording or broadcast where you can hear the individual instruments as clearly (yet without overstepping each other) as in the crummiest of neighborhood theatres. The few exceptions I know of have people with serious musical backgrounds on the production side, and the budget, time and patience to bother placing enough microphones just-so.

I recently attended a concert with an orchestra playing Disney music. Many of the studio’s classic songs included the triangle being played. It was noticeable.

Micing the aux percussionist has to be done with thought and care, and depending on the setup, budget, etc, compromises might have to be made. The player probably (hopefully) had an overhead mic above his/her table/area, but maybe not more than that. Depending on how much physical space the player has to take up, some instruments might just end up being a combination too far from the mic and too quiet.

I recently conducted a production of Peter Pan and had to give the ‘tick-tock’ of the crocodile to a different player after we got into production, because the sound guy didn’t have the ability/didn’t want to get a decent mic set up for it, and the sound was inaudible in the mix. Instead of being ‘played’ on a metronome, I ended up having the aux percussionist play it on temple blocks, which were already miced.

Yes. There’s a real art to setting up the mics for an orchestra, and it takes time and effort to get it right (plus expense). Often, for TV, they’ll just go with “good enough,” since the TV speakers (up until recently) were so limited in what they could reproduce.

Oh my God. Can you please show me where I said there would be a dedicated triangle player? What I said was this: “If the composer had wanted to hear a tambourine or a cymbal crash or [insert any other percussive instrument louder than a triangle], he would have had the percussionist play that instead.” So yes, I am aware all those instruments are played by the same person.

As has been noted before, yes, if you’re in the live concert hall, chances are you’ll be able to hear the triangle if you’re paying attention to it. But the whole point of my post was to illustrate that you’re not supposed to be listening for it. It’s just a garnish. It’s a nice little sound that adds color to the overall effect, not something that’s supposed to be taken out of context.


That (the mic situation) is probably the answer. I think I noticed because they zoomed in on the guy playing the triangle several times. Maybe if the editor had caught that he/she would have brought the sound up in the recording. It was a little odd seeing the musician twirling the rod around inside the thing and not hearing it.
Thanks, y’all

I’ve mic’d orchestras, and I have to second - you do NOT have enough time, inputs or microphones to cover an orchestra perfectly. In a typical situation, you might have 32 channels, and there are more than 32 musicians. Some instruments, like the piano, require more than one microphone to cover. You’re lucky if you get one rehearsal, and it is pretty much impossible to move through an orchestra playing music to adjust the positioning of a microphone.

It’s a crap shoot. Can’t hear the triangle? You’re lucky you can hear the tympani!