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Topic: What's up with the strange string numbers?

  1. #1

    Unhappy What's up with the strange string numbers?

    I know I'm pretty new to sample work, but when I hire a live orchestra I hire:
    18 Vln 1
    16 vln 2
    14 vla
    12 cellos
    and 10 -12 basses.

    Thats not to say that you can't bump up or down the numbers of strings a little tiny bit, but what's up with these sample libraries?

    I just checked out Kirk Hunter's library--24 unison vlns? Then split 10 1st and 10 2nds? If I wanted to write for Vln unis. I'd be 10 players short. If I added one patch of 10 1st vlns, I doubt if they would blend that well in unison. If I wanted to write for 1st and 2nd vlns I'd have to think too hard to figure out a combination that was close. Just using the 24 unison patch for this would give me 48 vlns. And, that's too close to that 101 strings records my parents gave me for christmas when I started listening to "classical" music.

    Why not 18 1st vlns, 16 (separately recorded) 2nd vlns and 8 vlns for div. parts. Com' on. I guess the 10 player sections could be used for div. parts. That's not too bad.

    To say the least I'm getting a bit frustrated. Even my beloved QLSO Gold has only 11 2nd vlns. I don't think this patch was meant to be used as 2nd vlns, but It's as close as it gets with only 5 players short. Though a bit heavy for div., I do love the more intimate sound of that patch.

    And, I heard a while back that VSL doesn't even have a separate 2nd VLN patch. Is this true?

    Can somebody please explain to me why? Is it that much harder and more expensive to hire the extra guys for the day. I know some orchestras around the country are cutting back on their string numbers to save money. But, even for sample work 10 1st and 10 2nds is just weird. Too little for full orchestra. Too big for chamber orchestra. Maybe we can use it for pit orchestra work? Maybe I can mix it in on record dates or something...Nah.


  2. #2

    Re: What's up with the strange string numbers?

    You have to remember that each note you hit on a string patch adds up to all the players. Since it's quite common to play 2-3 note harmonies on 1st violins for example, this effectively amounts to the number of players doubled. So two notes on a 14 violins patch really sounds like 28 violinists.

    I'm not saying that this is the reason behind the odd numbers, but it certainly seems like a plausible reason.

    Ultimately, I suspect it comes down to economics.
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  3. #3

    Re: What's up with the strange string numbers?

    And still counting the beans... one has to remind the intention of sample libraries here, they are usually supposed for sketching before it comes to the real thing. However you have an advantage here, you don't need to be super-real. That means, if you feel the tiny sections are too small for you (by counting the numbers at it seems to me you did) instead of paying attention to their sound, you could just add two libraries or articulations of choice on top of each other to make the count go up. As far as you heard about VSL you're right - they didn't record a 2nd violin ensemble setting yet - they found out in their researches it doesn't matter a lot if 16, 14 or 12 violins was the section size and therefore recorded a whole lot more articulations for the one violin section they did. With combining different articulations (reach for alternations, repetitions, legatos and sustains, and more choices) you can always double the size of your section easily. Later on they added Chamber strings so you can now also write perfect divisi.

    However nobody hinders you to combine VSL with SISS, KH with QLSO, GOS with Session Strings, ..., whatever. Layer small sized section samples on top, add solo violins. There are endless possibilities. If you want to stick to one of them only, consider tuning the patches you want to use down a halftone or a wholetone. That will change timbre enough to also match for the broad unisons people write all day. If the not drastical timbre change is not enough reason for you sample developers weren't going for larger sections yet, the economical perhaps is: The prices for the libraries would go up siginficantly hiring more musicians... And also usually time is money as well - you'll see that in striped down articulations, whole tone sampling with or without masking, ...


  4. #4

    Re: What's up with the strange string numbers?

    How many here could blindly listen to a string patch and say exactly how many instrumentalists were simultaneously recorded? The SI Strings, for instance, used less players than many of the other libraries, but their sections sound easily just as big and full. I respect those that strive for authenticity, but it seems like things such as recording technique, recording equipment, hall sound, commitment of the players, etc. is much more germane than the actual headcount.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island

    Re: What's up with the strange string numbers?


    There are many different string configurations depending on the orchestra. Your particular arrangement calls for a 70 to 72 player string section which is huge if you look at the roster of most orchestras. Add in the usual complement of brass, woodwinds and percussion and you must have over 100 players (not to mention it must cost you a fortune to hire). The London Symphony Orchestra has about 63 string players, the New York Philharmonic about 65 string players. Most orchestras have smaller sections- for instance, the Seattle Symphony has about 57 string players.

    Just as different orchestras have different sizes of string sections, so do sample developers. I'm sure it is a combination of various factors including personal taste, cost, the size of the venue, the viola player no-shows, etc. As far as dividing the violins, when I did GOS I could not understand why orchestral libraries did not have seperate 1st and 2nd violin sections like real orchestras. I believe most, if not all string libraries have followed our lead and now provide both 1st and 2nd violin sections.

    The problem with just having unison sections is that strings do not always play in unisons. And if you play a chord with a 22 player unison section, you hear 66 violins. It may sound big, but not realistic. To address this problem, we developed ensemble building with Personal Ochestra where you build or supplement sections with individual instruments.

    Personal Orchestra may be the only library that you can get the large size of string sections you are specifically looking for. In addition to the usual unison string sections, GPO offers many solo instruments to build ensembles or to layer with your sections. You can add an additional 24 solo strings to the section strings and can actually build a 71 piece string orchestra.

    What I like most about this approach is the ability to play divisi and separate parts. This opens up almost all the orchestral literature. Also, having solo strings weave in and out, with different start times and different dynamics, lends to realism. It takes time but the results are worth it.

    Here is a demo of a string section made with individual stringed instruments -
    http://www.garritan.com/mp3/FantasiaTheme-ThomasTallis.mp3 And another demo using ensemble building - http://www.garritan.com/mp3/fm-CombinedStrings.mp3

    We will soon be releasing GPO Advanced which will have even more solo strings from which to build large string orchestras or string sections of any sizes. Many more articulations will also be added to the strings. More on GPO Advanced later.

    We are also working on the next generation of digital orchestras. The new Sonic Morphing Technolgogy will build upon this ensemble building technique to build orchestras of any size with individual expressive instruments. I believe this will revolutionize the way people think about and perform with virtual instruments.

    Gary Garritan

  6. #6

    Re: What's up with the strange string numbers?

    Hey thanks for all your input. Makes a lot of sense.


    I did grow up with the New York Phil sound. I went to school at Juilliard where our orchestra was modeled after the Phil. Big string sound is what I'm after, but I don't want to loose that intimate flavour like some do.

    Your demo is very, very close to what I like. I'm very use to working with live players and real orchestras having conducted my arrangements with 4 major orchestras in the US and Canada.

    I'm eagerly awaiting your new digital orchestra. I'm very impressed so far with the Strad. demo and the sonic morphing capabilities.

    I'm being very, very picky here because I have a broken heart. You see, I had made a decision to work only with real orchestras and about 3 years ago the work dried up for me. I did some research and found that 80% of the work is sampled these days and that most clients expect really top notch demos. Demos that sound like the finished thing. So, I jumped on the band wagon and I've started to work a lot again.

    So, please don't take anything I say personally. In me you have an ardent supporter, but also a bitter temperament to some of what's going on here.


  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Olomouc; Czech Republic

    Re: What's up with the strange string numbers?

    Its true that number of strings in section isnt all.....(SISS for esample) But I would like have separate String sections in VSL.... There IS a difference. Listen to EWQLSO 18V and 11V - there is BIG difference in sound.

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