StringSection Blog

Posts Tagged ‘programming synth strings’

When you don’t need strings…..

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Occasionally we receive enquiries from people who would like parts written or a string arrangement for a pop track but on listening to the track, it sounds very full already without strings: in short, adding strings can just be one more thing that makes a song too ‘busy’ and risks overloading the listener with too much going on.

Although in many cases, strings can be written around melodies and other instrumentation to fill in, enhance, support or even add new counter melodies there are some songs that just won’t benefit from strings at all and if the string arranger has sound musical judgement, he or she may advise a client not to use their services at all.

So what type of song may not need strings at all?  Any track which is already heavily laden with guitar and percussion, vocals, keyboard and bass will need to have ‘room’ in it for strings – either as an instrumental break, or in a verse / chorus where things are quieter and the strings can come through. Strings can also be used to add a ‘sheen’ of simple chords over the top of other instruments if there is already a lot going on. When a track sounds complete with a full range of notes already covered there may not be any benefit at all from including yet another group of instruments  (a string section) and the song can begin to feel cluttered or over the top.

Problems can arise when a band or songwriter have already produced a song then decide afterwards that they’d like to include strings as well on top of everything else. If the piece is written knowing that the strings will be coming in at some point, space can be left for them (a bit like designing the layout of a room and leaving space for a sofa rather than cramming it in somewhere as an afterthought!).

Enhancing Synth String Parts

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Although some clients who require string parts arranging for their tracks just give the string arranger ‘free rein’ to compose the parts in their own way and send the file over for approval or amendments, there are many people who already have some idea of how they’d like the strings to sound and have started to put together some strings for their track using Logic or other software. When this happens, I am usually sent the finished track with some ‘guide strings’ in and asked to notate these ready for studio recording (a relatively simple job), or to make them sound more natural by adding some movement or spacing the chords to allow the strings to sound fuller and more rich. When synth strings have been played in on a keyboard, it’s always a challenge to give them the characteristic feel of a real string orchestra because fingers going down on a keyboard cannot move in the same way as fingers naturally move up and down a stringed instrument. There are also clients who simply send the basic chord progression that they’d like and ask me to create something more elaborate with the strings, rather like producing an elegant frame for a painting – simply embellishing the existing ideas with the finishing touches. An example of this could be a track where the strings have all been programmed in the mid range on sampled synths and listening to the balance of the track overall, the range of the strings could be expanded. Extending the range can give the whole track a feeling of a ‘lift’ and lend it a sense of climax that it couldn’t have achieved with synthesised strings in the middle register. It’s also a matter of taking into account where the range of existing instruments and vocal lines are, then putting the strings in the ‘gaps’, weaving harmonies around what is already there.