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Topic: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

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  1. #1

    The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    I'd like to know how other people sequence their string pieces. The one I composed and posted up recently was a real challenge for me.. here's why.

    Basically, starting the piece is the hardest, because it's a blank slate. So I start with the violins. And as I'm recording the violin line, there is no point of reference. I basically have to hear the other string lines in my head and record the violin line the WHOLE WAY THROUGH. If I stop recording, I'm screwed, right? Because with all the modulation going on for dynamics, and the lengthy sustains of the notes, in order to pick up RIGHT where I left off, I would have to somehow match up the previous modulation wheel value, AND delete the previous "MIDI off" event so it thinks I never let up off the keyboard. I'm sure there's some kind of tool in Sonar that would let me select two notes and say "merge" in order to connect them together.. so that would solve that issue. I could simply hit record, and continue playing, and merge the two notes together (the last note I recorded on take #1, and the first note on take #2). What about modulation, though?

    And what about recording line by line? Is there any easier way? Maybe loading up a full keyboard string patch, and playing it in with chords, and then cutting and pasting the proper notes to their separate staves. But that would also be pretty time consuming and challenging.

    It's kind of hard to explain this process, but I think the description above nails it. How do you go about tackling this?
    Sam Hulick
    Composer
    http://www.samhulick.com/

  2. #2

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    Sam,

    Rather than taking the ideas from your imagination and going right to playing it into the sequencer, go from your imagination to manuscript, whether it's digital (Finale, etc.) or analog (manuscript paper).

    That way, you can worry about the performance later, after you've completed the composition.

    BTW, the beauty of something like Finale, is that you can play your ideas into it, just as you would a sequencer.

    In my view, the sequencing part of the process should be completely separate from the composing part of the process. By doing both at the same time, you may be compromising on the qualty of the end result.

  3. #3

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    Ah yes... except for the fact that I can't read/write music. I mean, I know the notes on the staff, but it's excruciatingly slow for me to read staff. I don't own Finale though, nor Sibelius. I'm not sure I could justify the purchase at this point...
    Sam Hulick
    Composer
    http://www.samhulick.com/

  4. #4

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    Great topic!

    I have battled with this myself since I started working with sample libs and vst's.
    Over the course of time I have tried many techniques and ways for writing for strings, however the best I found is really starting with the violins.
    It's hard to play/record just a melody line out of the blank so basically I play two at the same time usually emulating the 2nd violins or violas. Then I play/record the cellos and basses with a full string patch making one or two basslines or sometimes chord. Since I work with Sonic Implants strings and their sections are smaller I can play several lines on each section which is a plus.
    Only then when each note is recorded, tweaked, etc is when I record the modulation/expression.

    I don't find very hard to stich different parts it's just a question of practice.

  5. #5

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    Sam,

    If you absolutely have to capture the parts into the sequencer, then the only alternative I see is a two step process. First just play the parts into the sequencer just to get them "documented" (don't worry about minor mistakes or nuances), and then go back and either edit them to perfection, or re-perform them until you're satisfied. Without having notation to fall back on, I can't think of any other solution.

  6. #6

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    What I do sometimes is start with a full strings patch to figure out what I want to do. I then start to sequence in the strings usually starting with the upper register. Seeing as you are using Opus1 try forgetting about the division of 1st and 2nd strings and just play large sections (three notes or so). I find I get a great sound from the VSL strings this way.
    I continue to move down the "scale" with the violas, cello, then bass. Thats one of the methods I use (becuase it can change depending on what I am hearing in my head) but I hope it helps.
    Chris

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    Quote Originally Posted by MDesigner
    Ah yes... except for the fact that I can't read/write music. I mean, I know the notes on the staff, but it's excruciatingly slow for me to read staff. I don't own Finale though, nor Sibelius. I'm not sure I could justify the purchase at this point...
    SAM!!!! How long are you going to put off learning the language? I thought you were going to take care of this.

    Here, I'll teach you right now.

    I'm not being facetious, I am dead serious.

    In western music, we use seven letters to represent notes. ABCDEFG, repeating ad nauseum.

    Here's how you remember the notes in treble clef. The lines, starting from the bottom and going up, are E-G-B-D-F. Every Good Boy Does Fine. The spaces are F-A-C-E. Easy, right?

    Bass clef. The lines: G-B-D-F-A. Good Boys Do Fine Always. The spaces: A-C-E-G. All Cows Eat Grass.

    Notes: Whole notes look like footballs, outline only, not colored in. They get four counts. Half notes look like whole notes with a straight stem. Two counts.

    Stems: Whenever you draw notes with stems, the stem should be about an octave long, so if you're drawing a treble clef bottom space F, the stem should go approximately to the top line of the staff. When a note is on the bottom half of the staff, you draw the stem on the right, upward from the note. When a note is on the top half of the staff, you put it on the left hand side and point it down.

    Notes continued: Quarter notes look like half notes, except the football part is colored in. They get one count. Eighth notes look like Quarters with a flag. 1/2 count. Sixteenth notes get two flags. 1/4 count. Thirty-second notes, 1/8 count. You get the picture.

    Beams: When multiple eighth and smaller notes are grouped together, we use beams instead of flags to determine their length. One beam, eighth note, two beams, sixteenth. Just like flags. You can use a little "stub" of a beam to indicate different note lengths within a beamed set.

    OK, the time I took to type that is about how long it takes to learn how to read that much music.

    So, in return for my investment in your music education, it is now time for you to go get a beginner piano book, review what I've written, and then come back and give someone else the next lesson...modifiers like sharps and flats, dotted notes, and time signatures.

  8. #8

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    It also helps to learn the spacing of intervals. Look at the staff, if you see one note sitting through the line and the note above it also sitting through the line, thats an interval of a third.

    Note sitting through the line, next note on the line - a second.

    and so on.

    Also, say to things to yourself like, that note sitting through the bottom line of the treble clef is - E - it ALWAYS HAS BEEN. Always will. Its been E for hundreds of years and its not gonna change! Burn it into your memory.
    ---------------------------
    - SCA - Sound Studios -
    www.sca-soundstudios.com
    ---------------------------

  9. #9

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    A couple of ways you could go about the problem you describe;

    load up an "all strings" patch, create your part, the movement in it, the inner voicing and so on, then distribute it to the various string sections as desired.

    Orchestration is not without experimentation.

    Another approach (that some frown upon), create your theme on a piano, get the harmony and counterpoint established, then you can make decisions on how you would like to distribute the parts, what instrument plays which line and so on.
    ---------------------------
    - SCA - Sound Studios -
    www.sca-soundstudios.com
    ---------------------------

  10. #10

    Re: The difficulty of writing long string lines (how do you do it?)

    Quote Originally Posted by MDesigner
    If I stop recording, I'm screwed, right? Because with all the modulation going on for dynamics, and the lengthy sustains of the notes, in order to pick up RIGHT where I left off, I would have to somehow match up the previous modulation wheel value, AND delete the previous "MIDI off" event so it thinks I never let up off the keyboard.
    I'll address just this issue. I also use Sonar, and the easiest way to record the expression (mod wheel) on the string parts are in this order.

    1) Record the string part first WITHOUT using the mod wheel at all.

    2) Go back in the piano roll and make any manual per note adjustments you
    need to make to that line.

    3) Go back to the beginning and record your mod wheel movement right on top of the track you just recorded. That way your expression and your original string line are always separate (but on the same track) and can be edited separately.

    This will also give you a more human feel than notation, being that the expression is played live. With the exception of parts that you just can't physically play on a keyboard. In that case, piano roll editing will work well for you.
    Liam
    "The biggest risk of all , is never taking a risk"

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