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Topic: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

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  1. #1
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    Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    why not discussing and sharing our tips, mixing or arranging tips, about strings samples ?


    Actually i tried to reproduce a short extract from Alan Silvestri's Cast Away soundtrack, let me know your comments : sampled version at first, then original version

    http://annecywebtv.free.fr/alan-silv...d-and-real.mp3



    I think it sounds good for samples. Still it can be improved. I used EWQLSO platinum on that one, as well as VSL chamber string legato ( violins only )

    One of the things i noticed on some orchestral recordings, is that the strings sound close but also far , it's difficult to explain... So i used all the 3 mics position of platinum, i put the close mics higher than the front and same level as surround mics, i'm not an expert at mixing though so it has perhaps too much reverb ? ( due to surround mic )

    Also i played a lot with release and attack time , the problem in midi is you can't adjust in real-time the attack and release time with midi controller ( if someone knows how to do that please tell me )
    So i used the write/read automation feature directly in EWQLSO VST :/ to change the attack and release along the track , not very easy i wish i could do that with midi controller



    - Orchestration :i used normal sustain patch from platinum, some lyr patchs , and also sordino patchs for the higher notes ( it makes them smooter )
    VSL chamber string = legato-2layers (modulation wheel)

    And you ? what are your secrets ? EQs ? using different libraries ? particular reverb ?

    I think it's about time to fix that strings issue

    Good bye

  2. #2

    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    Hi John,

    This is the holy grail of sampling (along with all the other ones. . .) isn't it? I posted an mp3 link elsewhere on this forum on the subject of pianos in mixes, but in fact the major task in the arrangement was the strings (violins).

    Here is the link:

    http://stephenphillips.faces.com/TuneFeeds/740323/

    As you can hear, the violins (and solo violin) are real, not sampled. There are violas cellos and basses in there too (including walking string bass) all sampled.

    I did the violins myself (I am a violinist) late one night at our main rehearsal studio. I had a rough-up 2-track of the backing on my MD player and listened over phones. Had microphones arranged as per normal session. I recorded each line (it is a 4-layer arrangement + solo) from a different position on the floor, where the 'real' players would sit, until I had about 40 takes of lonely me playing each one. Later I dumped the recordings into Logic and spent some time lining them up, as best I could. All of a sudden, I had my Hollywood violins, in the acoustic of our studio. I was glad the experiment had worked.

    The lessons from this exercise are several:

    It is important to avoid 'mass' attacks. The ensemble recordings of all the libraries, of course, having recorded a group of real players, have a 'burnt in' group attack, but generally only one, whereas the exact quality of this imperfection is always varying. GPO, with its ensemble building feature, is a great tool for learning the effect of 1+1+1+ . . . on the overall sonic impression.

    Dynamically, there is a colossal amount of movement within a section (usually more than is strictly desirable) but that is the charm, the authenticity, of what we hear as 'real'. Mimicking this, then, requires either blending different libraries [which I do eg, GPO, Ultimate Strings (both recorded dry) and usually some synth-pad style patch well down in the mix to encourage movement], with different expression etc. or running a take into audio and doing another, with different characteristics. Unfortunately, there can still be phase cancelation of identical samples this way, but it is less likely. Some libraries (like GPO and Symphonic Strings) give you MOD wheel access to timbral variation. This is a God-send if used sensitively. The thing that will really 'give it away' (as can be heard on some notes in your lovely mp3) is a 'cycling' of the sustained sample. This is not a quality that ensemble string sections possess. The 'movement' in the sound is more rapid and more random.

    The there is the elusive matter of getting the distance right, as you are aware. The 'set acoustic' libraries like ESQLSO are great for studying the sound at different perspectives, and so is listening to the fine recordings of many film soundtracks and classical labels. You really have to at least use some sort of convolution reverb for realism (Gigapulse is my favorite but I use Space Designer in Logic a lot on the Mac). DON'T push all of the sound hard left and right, an orchestra invades one's senses by stealth and from MANY directions. Sending a little of the violin sound (for example), on a separate track or feed, over to the far side helps spaciousness in an amazing way. Or, do as they always used to, and place the second violins opposite the firsts, where you will normally find the cellos these days, it makes a huge difference and, as Gary Garritan says, is something not conveniently achieved with 'set position' libraries.

    Have to really run now, have a rehearsal for our baroque concert tonight, let's talk some more about this and I will see if I can produce a couple more examples.

    Cheers,

    Stephen

  3. #3

    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnCarter
    One of the things i noticed on some orchestral recordings, is that the strings sound close but also far , it's difficult to explain...
    A simple trick to bring string section to the front, is to double the string tracks with a solo instrument.

    Simply dublicate the violin-section track and set it to solo-violin.
    Now play with the volume of the solo-violin. Do the same with violas cello and bass.
    You get a nice expressive and dynamic string track when slightly moving the solo instruments volume.

    Kirk Hunters library is perfect for that since it has section, chamber and solo strings, which sound perfectly together.
    But also the EW-Gold violin sounds great in combination with the section.
    I remapped these different patches in one kontakt instruments and set the version on midi-controllers.
    So I have a kind of colour mixer in one instruments which works for violin violas cello and bass.
    This technique works great with brass too.

    Chris Hein
    Chris Hein - Horns / Chris Hein - Guitars / Chris Hein - Bass
    http://www.chrishein.net

  4. #4

    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    What I think is the most important thing is the realtime recording and use of expression. When I play melody live I'll try to get the musical idea just by playing it (and imaging I'm one of the players on stage) and using mod patches to get expression automations correctly. Layering solo instruments are truly one good way to add realism. Now I don't have any libraries that have controllable vibrato but it also adds a lot of realism.

    I once tried to layer only solo instruments and just little bit of Opus1 ensembles. Here's sample of it: http://www.mikseri.net/music/play.php?id=98257&type=hi

    I hope the link works. Anyways I used a lot of Kirk Hunter solo strings and some Opus1 ensemble patches. With different KH patches I got very nice small ensemble sound.
    Passion for Sound
    http://www.soundreel.com

  5. #5
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    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    Thanks Stephen for that long and interesting post. I'll try to apply these tips as soon as i'm home

    I noticed when strings are playing a melody in legato, there's often a slight crescendo at the beginning of each note, it's something we lack in libraries , perhaps we could use the lyrical patch of EWQLSO, but i think it's a little too slow for that purpose


    By the way, i updated my mockup , i put the sampled version at first, and the original version after , so we can see together what we could improve. I think the sampled version sounds bit hmm , nasal perhaps ? I've the feeling the real version is closer, that there's less reverb in it, but i'm not sure

    http://annecywebtv.free.fr/alan-silv...d-and-real.mp3

    There's clearly much more variation on the original recording, that slight crescendo during the transition , etc... and the sound is "smoother".
    The notes are "flowing" , damn i'd like to have that sound

  6. #6
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    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Hein
    A simple trick to bring string section to the front, is to double the string tracks with a solo instrument.

    Simply dublicate the violin-section track and set it to solo-violin.
    Now play with the volume of the solo-violin. Do the same with violas cello and bass.
    You get a nice expressive and dynamic string track when slightly moving the solo instruments volume.

    Kirk Hunters library is perfect for that since it has section, chamber and solo strings, which sound perfectly together.
    But also the EW-Gold violin sounds great in combination with the section.
    I remapped these different patches in one kontakt instruments and set the version on midi-controllers.
    So I have a kind of colour mixer in one instruments which works for violin violas cello and bass.
    This technique works great with brass too.

    Chris Hein
    I know what you mean, indeed this is good to add expressivity. The problem i think with this method : it adds too much vibrato to the overall sound. A solo string instrument usually has a strong vibrato if we put it in front of the mix. The thing then is to mix it a little in the background, i think this method works well with VSL chamber strings.

  7. #7

    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    For what its worth I beleive there are woodwinds in the ensemble when they play the second pass. Flutes and perhaps a low velocity oboe... Hard to tell as its reeeaaally low.

    But this would both add smoothness AND clarity

    Do you have the midi-file?

  8. #8
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    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    yes i have the cubase project as well, but on my Home's computer, i'll upload it sunday

  9. #9
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    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    Speaking of strings, I need a violin/viola player to overdub a few notes (for realism) against a fifteen second or so snip of a sampled string part on a song. Anyone who plays the real thing up for it? I can send an mp3 to reference the overdubbing against... the person could then send the raw wavs back to me via yousendit or whatever so that I could work them into the mix.

  10. #10

    Re: Let's share our tips to make strings sound good

    It's not exactly what you're looking for probably... but here goes:

    Samples are samples (with the exception of strady 2.0). They can go thus far. I do think that what you write plays a highly important role to how it will be rendered later on.

    Knowing the articulations you got, helps.
    Not having an ostinato of 50 secs line in the strings (which ok it is doable in real life and of course pedals like that high or low happen) where looping will take place and everything will be ruined also helps. If you HAVe to do it, make sure there are interesting things going on that destract the listener from the strings.
    counterpoint skills harmony skills and smooth melodic transitions help...

    Things like that I mean...

    It is my strong belief that the better you write music, automaticaly the better your mock-up will sound! Am I wrong?

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