How To

Real strings add emotion to a music track – how’s it done?

Realstrings.com is a remote arranging and recording service.

See who’s using this way of getting real strings on recordings on the credits page.

mixerI typically mix live and sampled strings.  While 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.

Contact me!

This video explores how I came to put strings on Letter by Rhymefest.

Here’s a short video about how I approach one aspect of string arranging – making pads more interesting and emotional.

And here’s another about disco strings.

String Arranging – Part 2

What do strings do well?

A string section has the sound of flesh and blood; many people making big effort. It handles dynamics well and it has many uses in an arrangement because of the versatility and expressive qualities of string instruments.

Writing techniques

melodic lines/counter melodies
figures/riffs
pads
effects – trills, slides, runs, trem.
harmony and unison

Please check my blog post – Arranging – how I do it

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23 responses to “How To

  1. hey
    i was wondering what type of strings instruments feature on soul recordings like that of “the intruders”, “the stylistics” and “the dells” for example. Is it a violin, or double bass etc?
    thanks
    ed

  2. Hi Ed, If you listen to You Make Me Feel Brand New by The Stylistics you’ll hear a typical string section, which is made up of violins, violas, cellos and possible double basses too. There may be quite a few players, like a small string orchestra to create that lush sound. Hope that helps.

  3. Hi Pete,

    Good days with you and Bob recording FINE BROWN FRAME at LANGDALE

    KEEP IN TOUCH

    Mike

  4. Hi Pete,

    I like your work on Henry Priestman’s solo album. I’m interested in your services on a particular track I’m working on – if you’re available.

    The intention would be to send a logic express file including some synthesised starter-for-10 arrangement ideas to you via post if this works for you.

    Are you able to offer a ball-park figure so I can see if this is an option?

    Best regards,
    Lawrence

  5. Hi there, great website and wonderful demos of some beautiful work. I’m a humble singer songwriter from australia recording an album that is in the process of putting finishing touches before mixing. I’ve worked with some great muso’s on this project, and I’m happy thus far. A decent number of my songs require string arrangements sequenced for which I’ve done already with East West. It sounds passable, however, being a pianist with no real experience in string arrangements, it lacks movement, dynamics that big budget string arrangements have in pop music. I was wondering, what sort of cost is involved to arrange and sequence strings for a pop ballad song much like an artist such as James Morrison or Robbie Williams may have strings in ballad type song. I know that there is allot of variables that influence the price, but if you could give me a ballpark figure would be great, as I’ve always dreamt of having that pro touch in string arranging on my songs.
    Thank you and look forward to hearing from you
    Darko

  6. Thanks for leaving a comment here Darko. I’ve emailed you direct about this.

  7. Jean-Miles Carter

    Hi Pete

    I need someone to record a string lead over a ballroom theme
    I have written.

    I purchased your cd ‘Real Strings Pads’
    and have tried to edit your notes to play my tune.

    Its a great cd and has provided me with the best version so far but I need the string lead to play with
    all the emotion a dedicated solo deserves, and having listened
    to your work on the cd and other examples I know you can do this
    in a way that no amount of sample cds or synths can properly emulate.

    there are no harmonies required as I have recorded these already

    but if you had some other ideas that would be great
    so I need to know how much it would cost to get the main solo
    recorded. If possible it would need to be layered so that it sounds like a full string section.

    Do you record in your studio or do you need to hire a whole orchestra!
    Being ignorant of this I have no idea how much it costs but
    I don’t think I can afford the later!

    I have no idea how much it would cost for you to record this lead
    (I need it in two tempos) so could you possibly give me an idea.

    all the best

    Jean-Miles Carter

  8. Great video. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Pete

    Love your example loops on here – I’m going to buy the download later on!

    Just wondered how much does it cost a humble singer songwriter to get bespoke real strings on a track by yourself? It would be good to have a ballpark figure as using strings on my Mac is always a poor imitation of the real thing!

    Cheers
    Graham

  10. Thanks for leaving a comment here Graham. I know this will sound pretty lame, but you can kind of spend as much or as little as you want putting strings on your tracks, as there are so many permutations in getting there. I’ll email you. Just having a listen to your music at http://www.theyears.co.uk

  11. Mellwood Ditworthy

    Your website is incredible. Each click of a link sends me off to better and better things.

    Your introduction to string arranging video is amazing.

    I was wondering if you might post some follow up videos to this? I’d love to see how you arranged, “pad4-Cm7 – C -” on your pad samples page.

    All the best to you.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing talent.

    Sincerely,

    Mellwood Ditworthy

  12. Thanks Mellwood. Those pads were done a long time ago! I will be posting another video on string arranging soon.

  13. Mellwood Ditworthy

    Excellent news, Peter. Possibly something along the lines of movie orchestration? That would be a good one.

  14. Great works ! I bought your Disco Strings samples today..Thank you.

  15. Hey Emre – thank you! I just checked your website! You rock! Please let me know if you use the samples in any tracks you release.

  16. Hi Pete,

    I’ve just purchased vol 1 strings pads and am over the moon with the sound quality. Is a vol 2 in the pipeline yet?

    I’d pay good money to buy more of these CDs to build up a library: preferably some additional chord pads to to account for all the basic major and minor chords, along with some more tasty inversions.

    Thanks again Pete, this is top stuff.

    Mick

  17. Glad i found this site, Pete! I really love how much a part you play in the “development” of so many varieties of musicians. Will certainly be keeping up with your work!

  18. Hi there! Really great site!! I am wondering if you now what setup of strings the “usally” used on those lovely motown songs? Like this for example, http://open.spotify.com/track/2D2kktVHBwqL2IbyeAxGRS its not motown but anyway =) how you can help me! Thanks a lot!! Best wishes from sweden

  19. sorry wrong adress http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70WofB2UdnM
    There! Thanks again

  20. Hi Rasmus, you know, I don’t have the answer to that question, but often it was quite a small number of players, considering the size of the sound – the Motown arrangements are well crafted and make great use of strings. I found a Youtube vid of the strings from Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing. Only a small number of players I think, but great sound, solid playing and really interesting arrangement! http://youtu.be/mK96ormBwgQ

  21. Your tutorials are very interesting, but you assume understanding of some terms like “pad” and “loop” that are unfamiliar to classical or folk string players. Some are sort-of grasped from context, others remain bewildering. Could you explain some of these terms? An explanation of some of the applications(?) you use in arranging and making demos would also be helpful.

  22. Hi.thanks for this amazing site, I have exactly the same question as Darko Zoric | August 22, 2009 at 2:44 pm | ,

    Hi there, great website and wonderful demos of some beautiful work. I’m a humble singer songwriter from australia recording an album that is in the process of putting finishing touches before mixing. I’ve worked with some great muso’s on this project, and I’m happy thus far. A decent number of my songs require string arrangements sequenced for which I’ve done already with East West. It sounds passable, however, being a pianist with no real experience in string arrangements, it lacks movement, dynamics that big budget string arrangements have in pop music. I was wondering, what sort of cost is involved to arrange and sequence strings for a pop ballad song much like an artist such as James Morrison or Robbie Williams may have strings in ballad type song. I know that there is allot of variables that influence the price, but if you could give me a ballpark figure would be great, as I’ve always dreamt of having that pro touch in string arranging on my songs.
    Thank you and look forward to hearing from you

    can you email me too about this ?
    Thanks again

    • You can kind of spend as much or as little as you like! But you are right, there are a lot of variables – the costs depends mostly on how many players are involved. I do some arrangements and recordings where I play all the parts myself (live violins/violas + samples). More players make a better sound, of course. Here’s a track done without any additional players. https://soundcloud.com/realstrings/portrait-strings
      I’ll email you also Francis.

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