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Divisi

In orchestral writing, where for instance, string parts are written in double or triple stops (2- or 3-note chords), instead of trying to play all the notes of each chord, the term divisi (often abbreviated div.) instructs the string section to divide into two or more groups, each playing a separate note of the chord. There is some question as to when divisi is used as opposed to playing double stops. Divisi is used as a means of thinning out the chord texture. Double stops are effective when the music requires a strong accent. However, double stops add a rhythmic delay or bump of sorts, since they can never be played precisely simultaneously on string instruments. As such, they can’t be played in very quick or legato lines. Four-note chords sound more like an arpeggiation on strings. Therefore, if composers have written them into a fast-moving passage, conductors may divide a 4-note chord into 2 + 2 divisi.

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