StringSection Blog

Posts Tagged ‘session strings’

David Roberts – St Clears Album

Monday, April 6th, 2015

It’s always a pleasure to receive in the post a little package and realise it’s an album you’ve been part of. It’s even nicer when you genuinely enjoy the music contained on it and this happened the other day when a copy of the album ‘St Clears’ dropped through my letterbox. It’s a really lovely collection of songs by an up and coming singer, songwriter and guitarist called David Roberts. String Section supplied the session strings for the tracks ‘So Long’, ‘Indian Blues’, ‘The Glowing’ (where cellist Julia Graham contributes a beautiful cello solo) and ‘Changelings’. Producer Adam Huyton and mixer Andy Seward have done a fine job in creating warmth and clarity in the sound. It compliments David’s songs perfectly as they have a gentle, elegiac and wistful quality which is genuinely affecting. You can read an extensive review of the album here:

Listening back to the finished product brought back some happy memories of the day we spent recording the strings. The studio was located in rural Herefordshire and whilst Julia recorded her cellos solos in ‘The Glowing’ I went for a nice walk across the river and enjoyed some lovely views. Julia did likewise when I recorded a couple of tracks without her – I seem to remember her returning with a couple of punnets of strawberries!

I’d like to wish David well with promoting the album and hope that it receives the attention it deserves.


Recording a String Quartet at a studio in Herefordshire

Monday, August 5th, 2013

A couple of Mondays ago, myself and Julia (cello) recorded session strings for a talented independent singer/songwriter called Dave Roberts who had written all of the strings for four of his tracks and initially hired me to notate his completed midi files. From the beginning, Dave was a pleasure to work with as his instructions were very clear and he had a real attention to detail which resulted in well written string parts that complemented his songs really well.

 The recording sessions took place in a rural area of Herefordshire in a first class recording room. This must rank as the most idyllic location we have recorded in thus far, and the spacious, wood paneled rooms had thick curtains on adjacent walls which created an cleverly controlled sound. Both Dave and studio engineer Adam presided over the session, which involved a solo string quartet (with myself playing the viola, second violin and first violin parts).

Recording violin and viola parts

Recording violin and viola parts

 As it’s always good practice to start with the lowest instrument (so that each subsequent layer can build on the accurate tuning of the bottom part upwards), Julia recorded the cello part first for all four tracks. In situations like this, it’s also good to record each instrument separately (and not simultaneously) so that the producer can then have the ability to mix and process each of the four instruments separately. Her rich sound filled the room and as always proved a hard act to follow. I then added a viola layer over her cello tracks, making sure the tuning was kept spot on. This is potentially a tricky way of doing it, as in a ‘live’ string quartet, players will be continually adjusting their intonation with both players above and below them. With overdubbing, if any notes are not exactly in tune, it could make it hard for the subsequent layers to blend well.

 After the two violin parts were added we then returned to one of the tracks which had tremolandos all of the way through (a rapid repeating of a single note which creates an atmosphere of tension in a piece of music). As these seemed better suited to a larger string section, we took the decision to over-layer four violas and eight violin parts all in all.

 Recording sessions often involve lots of playback and sonic adjustments, and therefore studio time can slip away easily. The whole session on this occasion was completed half an hour early and everyone was happy with a job well done. It just remained for myself and Julia to travel the 100 miles or so back home again!

Usman Riaz – Circus in the Sky

Friday, December 14th, 2012

This week, we were delighted to receive some complimentary copies of the new album by  Usman Riaz entitled ‘Circus in the Sky’ – for which we provided a string section (as both an orchestra and solo instrumentalists) on three of the tracks: ‘The Adventures of the Lost Boy’, ‘Descent to the Ocean Floor’ and ‘Fragaria Dreams’.  The album is released through EMI Pakistan and is a varied and eclectic mix of styles. Usman  is developing a big following as a guitarist and composer. Some excerpts from his latest album can be heard here:

We wish Usman all the very best with his album and look forward to working with him again in the future.

Recording at After Dark Studios

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

On Sunday evening, starting at 6pm – three of us were engaged to add six individual string parts to 8 tracks being independently produced by a singer songwriter. The studio we recorded in (After Dark Studios in Soho) was chosen by the client and this was the first time that we’d recorded there.

Our brief was to record live strings for 8 songs (with us recording in the region of 40 minutes of music) and this was completed within the 3 hours which had been allocated for the session. One reason that the recording went so smoothly was that plenty of preparation had been done on the scores beforehand, with me arranging and notating the string parts on Sibelius software and emailing these over to the client for approval. By the time we arrived at the studio, the scores were all ready and note perfect so that nothing needed to be changed on the evening (which could have disrupted the session and eaten into valuable studio time).

The client was delighted with the result at the end of the session and commented that adding live strings to the track had added a sophistication and soulfulness that could never have been achieved with samples.

The Florin Street Band – My Favourite Time of Year

Friday, November 19th, 2010

Back in the summer, we were approached to take part in a very exciting project – to record the real strings strings for a song by composer Leigh Haggerwood. Leigh (who has recently become known as his Victorian alter ego ‘Travis Shenanigans’!) had the idea of writing a proper Christmas song, with festive lyrics and a real ‘feel good’ melody and as soon as we heard it, the players on the session realised it was extremely catchy and likely to do very well indeed. In these days of large record company promotions, the X factor and various facebook campaigns to download silence or novelty songs, it’s a refreshing change to hear a proper old fashioned Christmas Song that actually makes you feel… well…. Christmassy! The song is called ‘My Favourite Time of Year’ by the Florin Street Band and is well worth a listen over Christmas. Because the project was entirely self funded without record company backing, it’s down to the general public to support it and get it into the Christmas charts. If initial response from everyone who has heard it so far is anything to go by, it should do really well as it is far more original than anything else released over Christmas.

The string parts were quickly notated and we went into Sarm Studios to record them in the same week as Leigh had gathered the English Chamber Choir and a whole host of other talented British musicians including James Ryan on drums to appear on the song.

By autumn, it was time to record the video which was filmed overnight at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge Gorge and it was a real pleasure to appear in the film, playing a busking violinist in period costume – re-creating the violin solos and string parts that we had recorded back in August.

When I was at music college, I did quite a bit of busking to make ends meet, so although I’d never busked in a top hat before, I felt very at home in the role!

Today, the Florin Street Band website is now up and running and the video and song can be enjoyed online – the band also have a facebook page where people who like the song can keep up to date with all the latest news.

Here’s the video, with me as a busker!: