Monthly Archives: September 2010

Live and sampled strings

This isn’t a post about real v sampled, it’s about how real and sampled strings combine to make a great sound!  You’d expect me to be a champion of real instruments but in fact what works for so much of the recorded strings we produce is a bit of both.

As we typically record with a small number of players, track-laying individual lines, the raw sound is not a load-of-guys-in-a-big-room, but a close, studio sound.   So for many applications, you have to do something else to put the strings in a suitable space.  Reverb and delays make an enormous difference, but sampled strings add something too.

mixerWhile the live stuff provides the flesh and blood, the emotional rise and fall we expect from strings, the sampled stuff adds weight and body.

This online mixer, separates out the 2 for comparison.  It’s a 1 minute composition by Aaron Sapp, who has kindly allowed me to stream his music here.  Click on the image to open the mixer and play with the levels.

And if you want to dig a bit deeper, click on this version of the mixer, which separates the parts into 6 channels – live and sampled high, mid and low strings.
Look at the waveforms; the live file is more dynamic (and at times quite random), the sampled one more consistent.

For a string arrangement, what you get back from me is not a mix of a string section, but separate stereo stems of each line (violins 1, violins 2, violas, cellos).  That gives you greater control over mix and content.  The stems are easy to chop up, layer and reposition, they’re dry, separate lines, so no tuning or timing problems.

It’s something of a musos’ game to try and spot real or sampled in soundtracks.  In practice, a vast amount of what we listen to is probably a bit of both.

Teaching and learning

free to learnThe internet has liberated the joy of learning. The formal structure of education that has thrown up barriers to genuine freedom to learn gets a kick in the balls from the share and share alike community we have built ourselves online. Here, a young musician (in the states I guess, but what does it matter) emails about something I can help him with. Who could refuse?

Hi Pete. Let me say first off I love your string instruction videos. They have helped to make a me a better beat maker. But that is just it, I am a beat maker and I want to be something more I would like to start creating string arrangements to send to you and I would like for you to tell me what you think of them. I have my own audio editing software in FL Studio and instrument Edirol Orchestral. I would like to become more of a producer who is more off a
chameleon when it comes to music. I have no real formal training in music but, I have had a piano for almost a year. Also if you could, could you direct me to maybe some more techniques or videos for orchestration that would be of great help. I am enclosing some music of mines that I have created. I would like your opinion on it and especially could you tell me what you think of the short string arrangement that begins about 30 seconds into the song. In conclusion, what I am basically askin you is could you teach me how to do something like you did for the rhymefest song i which I am able to create string arrangement but for my music instead of other.