Tag Archives: string arranging

Olly Murs Army of Two

The 2nd single from Olly Murs’s album Right Place, Right Time is Army of Two, with strings by realstrings.com , produced by Futurecut.
Sometimes you do a basic arrangement on a high-profile track, sometimes it’s a featured arrangement on an unknown track, and occasionally you hit the mark with an arrangement that does both.

Army of Two features plenty of strings.  Here’s the track with the string score.

And the official video.

Best of realstrings 2012

Here are some highlights of string arranging and recording work from 2012.  With thanks to all the musicians, artists, producers and labels.

Olly Murs, Right Place Right Time
Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton, Just a Fool
Lemar, Invincible
Stooshe, See Me Like This
Military Wives, Stronger Together
Kanye West, To The World
The Overtones, Higher
Skrillex, Ruffneck Bass
Rose Spearman, Ain’t Getting Better
Tara Palmer Tomkinson, Flawed
Fran Smith, Ghost of a Chance

Virtual muso starter kit

I was the first!  Alright, I’m sure loads of people were doing it before me, but when I set up realstrings.com 12 years ago, being a virtual musician was still a rarity.  Now plenty of musicians are adopting the model.

I’m sometimes asked for advice, and although I know absolutely nothing, I tend to give it anyway.  So here are my suggestions for getting in on the virtual session thing, also known as remote sessions, or i-sessions or whatever you want to call it.

Play an instrument, well.  Or in my case, fairly well.  If you can’t make a better sound than samples, practise some more.

Play with feel.  Samples sound bloody amazing!  They just ‘feel’ shit, so your feel as a player is what will get you work.

Be an improviser and arranger.  Playing what other people have written for you limits your opportunites.  Most producers and composers will come to you with a rough idea of what they want, but your contribution is more than just playing, it’s creating the best lines for your instrument.  And as an arranger you have more of a musical identity than a performer.  Avoid asking ‘what do you want me to play?’

Work with other musicians.  If you are a flautist, hook up with other woodwind players to offer your orchestral section.

Specialise.  Avoid pretending you can play all instruments in all styles.  No-one likes a blagger.  This is particularly important if you play an instrument that is quite common. Sorry drummers and guitarists.  Aim to offer something more unique.  If you have tubular bells and timps, tell the world, don’t worry about the limited need for a rare instrument; the world is your client base, and it’s frikkin’ big.

Diversify.    Write music for your instrument, for production libraries and loops packs.  If you have your own projects on the go, you never have that dreaded moment when you realise you have no work.

Be flexible, be adaptable. You’re not turning up at a certain place at a certain time. This is different way of working. Forget the old rules. Get involved with projects, even if it means pitching for free.

Have a decent recording set-up – good mics, pre-amps, live space. Don’t take the piss with tatty stuff.

Get a website and blog.  I don’t see the point of making it look corporate, unless you are trying to be a stuck-up git.  Be personal, chatty, approachable.  Blog some, and not just about how great you are, write about your passion for your thing, and show your insider knowledge.

Chat on Twitter.  In the days when I schlepped round studios, I reckoned you needed to hang out in them to get work.  Twitter is the new studio kitchen (and toilets probably).  And don’t just tweet about what you are doing, be sociable, have a laugh (ok, I know I’ve been guilty of blowing my own trumpet a bit too much).

Make videos.   Blogging is good, making vids is better.  Don’t stress about giving away secrets, share your expertise (also known as ‘exposing your working practices’).  Publishing online shows you know what you’re talking about.

Help others.  If you set yourself up as some sort of specialist, expect others to want to ask you questions.  Don’t be an arse and ignore them, respond, offer your opinion, encourage, be compassionate.

And the final rule is – be yourself, project your own identity, which may mean ignoring this advice completely.

Here are some other virtual musos to check out.

Dominik Johnson
Hugh Davies
Hugh Lawrence
Session Solutions
Chris Alpiar
Marc Papeghin
Sandro Freidrich
Dave Chapman

Realstrings Vol 4: hip hop

Hot on the heels of our credit for Kanye West, comes another loops pack – Realstrings Volume 4: hip hop.

A collection of 83, 2-bar loops (full and stripped down mixes), plus 72 phrases, at tempos from 75 – 100 bpm.  The material reflects how strings are typically used in hip hop, featuring minor and modal harmony, staccato rhythms and stabs, musical influences from disco, world and classical, dark as well as dynamic moods, and gritty performance.  The pack is available from Loopmasters.

This video looks inside the pack, and explores what strings bring to hip hop.


Online Loops Sequencer – part 2

Version 2 of the Realstrings online loops sequencer is up now, loaded with some loops from Realstrings Volume 2 and from Realstrings Volume 3.

There are improvements to the transport controls, a pre-loaded arrangement, mute and volume controls, and some visual updates.  Respect to Flash programmer Chris Savage who has overcome some challenging technical difficulties to create this.  The sequencer does not have the functionality of a computer-based DAW (digital audio workstation) but for a browser-based interactive programme I reckon it’s stunning.  We are now working on a version for ipad.

The sequencer allows you to play with some of the loops before you decide to buy, so you get a better idea of whether your music would benefit from these packs than you might get from the usual audio demos.  I’m confident it will be a valuable way to demonstrate any construction-kit style loops pack and if you are a loops creator who would like to license this Flash programme from the developer, please comment here or use the contact page.

online loops sequencer

Emotional connection

Music touches us emotionally.  It can do this in isolation but more often it is linked to another human experience.  Music in film is an obvious place to see this, but even in pop, music works in conjunction with other emotional stimuli –  often cultural and social.

Military WivesSo it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Military Wives are number 2 in the album chart.    We contributed strings for 3 of the tracks.  There may be critics who will dismiss the content of In My Dreams as trite, but don’t dismiss the response of thousands of people who have bought this music and have made an emotional connection with it, and with what the singers represent.

Here is an excerpt from With Or Without You.  Produced by Jon Cohen, released by Decca.

Realstrings 2011

My Christmas holidays treat is to play around with pretty pictures in Final Cut.  And this year in iStopMotion too.  Oh yeah, and to review some of the jobs for realstrings in 2011.  With thanks to all the artists, musicians, producers, composers, publishers and labels.

In the charts with Olly Murs

Finally, a track I worked on at number 1 in the singles chart!  Olly Mur’s Dance With Me Tonight, produced by Futurecut.

You have to listen pretty carefully to hear our contribution which doesn’t start till about minute before the end.  Strings were arranged and recorded throughout the track but just the last bit made it to the mix.  Simple arrangement, straightforward to record, not much different from any other pop job, except this is doing good business!