Last week, four of us travelled down to a recording studio called ‘The Chiller’ in Thursley, Surrey to record 10 pieces for an independent composer. Each piece was scored for string quartet and generally lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes. As none of the pieces were technically difficult, we were able to record quite a lot of music in four hours. The composer attended the session and as we weren’t playing to a click track, he conducted us in at the beginning of each piece so that the tempo was exactly what he had in mind.
Although beforehand, the idea of overdubbing an extra layer of strings was discussed, the client decided that the sound was full enough with just a string quartet. One danger of recording two layers of a string quartet can be that by having two string players in unison on any one part, the sound can end up thin with vibrato clashing. With an overdub of four players being neither a string quartet (with the beautiful sonority of individual instruments) nor a larger string section, this often doesn’t sound satisfactory. In the event, the sonority of a quartet gave the sound that the client was looking for and it suited the character of his music.
We’ve observed several times that recording one player per part (as in a quartet) can have a stronger sound with more impact because the individuality of the musician comes to the fore and the sound is more soloistic.