Yesterday evening we worked with a talented vocalist and composer who had written his own string parts to compliment a song he is releasing as a demo. I had assisted by notating the music a few weeks ago and therefore when we started working in the studio, he was eager to resolve some timing issues which were difficult to notate as they were to do with ‘feel’ in certain phrases and were therefore a little too subtle to have discerned from the original midi strings. The string parts had been scored for viola, violin 2 and violin 1 so we laid down one track of each from my notation so that the composer could then easily identify which parts needed a different emphasis with timing and bar numbers as a reference point. Once we found the small phrases which needed to be changed, he was able to sing the phrase as required and easily convey what he intended – I quickly notated this on manuscript and we were then able to proceed without a hitch.
This was a very good example of how written notation sometimes needs to be augmented by verbal instructions. The convention among orchestrators is to write an Italian phrase underneath the stave which clearly tells the musician what the composer would like – the alternative is for the composer to be present in the recording studio and to instruct the session musicians of the ‘feel’ of certain passages.