View Full Version : Recording a string section ...

Mr Peete
12-01-2000, 02:19 AM
This isn't exactly Digi001 related (although I'm recordning into my Digi so... ) anyway ..

If I have a cello/violin player coming thru to record, what's the best way to mic/eq/amplify/etc .. I've never done this before.

Also ..

I don't have the space for an 8 piece (or however many piece) string section. Any suggestions (besides overdubbing til I die) that will make it sound like I have a whole bunch of people playin at one time?

12-01-2000, 04:50 AM
Amplify? What for?

I wouldn't use EQ, they will induce phase distortion that denature the sound, and those are subtle sound that you want to keep as natural as possible. Just see during the mix if there's a frequency pic that's irritating and cut it a little.

To make it sound big? Yeah, overdub it. Not to death though. You'll get a great thick sound with 3 or 4 overdubs.

Now the miking. Well, I don't know what kind of mics you have? Just experiment, it depends on the sound you're looking for. You can pick up the direct dsound from the sounding board of the instruments (in your face), or place a couple of mic to get the overall "orchestra" sound (natural). In the case of the couple, place the mics like a V, and basically, the more you spread the mics, the more you spread the stereo image.

Just...experiment! And change a litlle the mics position for each pass!
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12-02-2000, 06:58 AM
If tracking up. Use a different mic position for each overdub. This gived a more natual and lesss phasey sound. If poss different mics will help. Don't bother too much about eq. although rolling out all below 100hz and a little boost around 680 Hz makes the violins sound good generally. Don't mike too close ie less than 3 ft and pref. a little of axis. On the cello you can aford to go a little closer if you wish for a harder sound. Best cheap mic for the job a Calrec 1050. Good luck.

12-02-2000, 08:41 PM
It's not really possible to create the sound of a string section by overdubbing the same players. They have the same instruments, bows, technique, intonation, articulation, feel. The aural polyvalency, granular nature of the string section is unique to the sound of many players, instruments, bows etc.

After years of string arranging, I ended up with 13 players as a minimum to get THAT section sound. I.e. 6 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos and a bass, in other words, 3 quartets and a bass. Check out some of my work on Temptation, Come Live With Me, Best Kept Secret Heaven 17 - Luxury Gap, Beauty Stab ABC, etc then the players of London String Section (Gavin Wright) fixing for loads of things in the past 15 years - Massive Attack, Pat Methany, Madonna, etc yawn!

The preferred recording space is No.2 Abbey Road because it has a fantastic resonance for strings. You want to record by not feeling as though you have to force a good balance in the mix with the other instruments. Get the balance right as you record the section, get the sound to sit just right. You must not feel as though the board is doing the work, rather the string sound sits well in the track without force. This means micing close-ish and ambiently in phase accurate stereo, we use ambisonics also. The arrangement contributes most to the effect. Then of course, the accuracy of the playing.

Fewer players produce a solo-y sound and each instrument is too distinct, so typically you get stuck into the corner of having to put their sound out of phase, or delay, chorus, whatever to try to replicate the section sound. Most often a GM synth produces a far better section sound if mixed not too hot, then samplers are even better.

I'd say the less of a section you record, the quieter your arrangement should be. Try to aim for the resonance of the instruments and stay well clear of individual detail. My experiments with multitracking strings were always less than convincing, although it's just a different thing again.

Anyway, look, there are loads of string players, most read really well, you just get a nice space and the right amount of players together, some tasty condensors, you can record the whole thing quite quickly.

So probably no help there, good luck with your virtual section attempts. You wanna a bowed wash.
John Wesley Barker, Music Producer & Composer, Leith, Edinburgh
ProTools LE 5.0.1 / OS 9.0.4 / Apple G4 350MHz 192RAM

[This message has been edited by johnwesleybarker (edited December 02, 2000).]

12-02-2000, 09:57 PM
Yo That was deep!!!! Just today I was listening to 2 songs from Whitney Houston's Soundtrack The Preacher's Wife and am always staggered by really good string arranging. It really helps to have someone who knows what their talking about break it down like you did. I'm really starting to pay closer attention to how I'm arranging strings and This information has truly lifted the veil. Masterfully Broken Down.

12-03-2000, 05:48 AM
Concerning string overdubs:
Keep the mics in the same place and have the string players change seats. Works great. Easy eh.

12-04-2000, 06:44 PM
I've recorded a violin and Cello a month ago with neumann Tlm 193 condensors (miked up quite close). Recorded with both of them playing to a stereomix of the backing music and overdubbed about 10 times without monitoring the former played tracks back to them.
They varied and played different harmonies on different takes.

We panned all the violins to the left , first take hard left last take nearly center. Same for the cello's on the right (this is about their place in a real orchestra).

Voila une orchestra !!

I don't know about getting 13 players in, this seemed to work pretty good for us, beats synth strings, but you have to do a lot of takes to get that big orchestra sound.
After the first few takes you might think that it is never gonna work, but it works with all those different takes going at the same time.