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!).