for a long time I have been testing how to create well-sounding orchestra string sections with a combination of samples and multilayered live string tracks. The idea may sound easy. Hire some string players, put up some microphones, and mix that into your mockup. Nope, it will not work, at least not so easy. The key to make it work is that samples and the live playing have to adjust to each other.
The mockup has to be quite good already, because live playing can glue together what falls apart in the sample world - but it can not plister artefacts and glitches. Also it is hard to play along with a mockup that is not in tune, at least not from the point of view of an orchestra musician. And finally the timbre has to be adjusted to the character of the samples. If a big section sound is targeted the vibrato has to be smaller and the sound crisper than with an intimite chamber orchestra sound.
In a way it is easier to achieve this with a multitracking technique than with a group of orchestra musicians, because if only one person is involved less communication and adjustment is necessary. On the other hand multitracking has its own stumbling blocks. The spacial panning has to be very exact, the playing style has to be varied in a certain range, and for a better result different instruments should be used (I use 3 violins and 1 viola). BTW here is where the samples help - since some of them are very well recorded they add sound and air to the result.
Then, last not least, the question of microphone and, very important, room acoustic has to be adressed!
If this all is worked out then on the other hand the benefit is obvious. Composers are not restricted to writing "sample-like" but can return to write idiomatically without the fear of the result being synthy.
Here is the result of a cooperation with the composer and orchestrator Antongiulio Frulio who made a wonderful strings mockup:
did you record a section or did you overdub solo strings ?
It sounds great !
Inspired me to do overdub...
This is overdubbed, I played the live strings are all one by one.
Here is a view into the kitchen: The multitracked live strings layer only. It was not recorded for being presented without orchestra backing, but since this is an information thread, here it is anyway.
I recorded every voice by playing along with the original mockup, but did not hear much of the other recorded voices. Then put the mockup away and this is what it sounds like. May be interesting for anybody that never played in an orchestra or attended rehearsals.
Thanks for posting Hannes, love the piece by Antonio, adding the live stuff might have been hard but it was worth it.
Thank you RickD. I have been playing in orchestra professionally, so the chops are there. Especially violin is critical, but that is what I studied 10 years for in conservatory. People that are used to record with live strings may know that there is a difference even between pro's and pro's.
Establishing the technical process with its subleties was not easy but now I am there.
I really love the overall sound ... when I listen to the mockup version only, I say it sounds really good. But still I feel, hmm it lacks something when you add the live strings all the emotion of the piece comes out ! And at one moment it was almost as if I was listening to one piece of Batman Begins soundtrack