On Friday, we had the pleasure of recording some violin and viola parts for a composer who had already recorded the cello parts himself. As he hadn’t heard his composition performed on real instruments before, it was a pleasure to hear the music unfolding – one layer at a time.
One of the skills require in overlayering parts to an existing track is keeping a very accurate rhythm. It would only require one part to be rhythmically unstable for the whole track to sound uneven, so it is vital to make sure that every take is absolutely perfect. In a real ensemble situation, players have lots of subtle non-verbal cues between them and when these are missing in a studio situation, it is a matter of remembering exactly where the phrasing and speed alter in the minutest detail.
In the case of this composition, there were accelerandos which occurred over several bars as well as many changes of tempo. It is possible to record by stopping at each tempo change and editing but as we only had an allotted time of two hours, working swiftly was of the essence and therefore we did each individual layer in a single take. This meant that the changes of tempo had to be smooth and precise.
Due to extraneous noise around the recording studio caused by some building work in the vicinity (which nobody could have predicted!) the whole project did run over time a little, but the composer was absolutely delighted with the end result of the real strings – which hopefully brought his composition to life.