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Topic: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

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  1. #1

    Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    So I've got a question that I already know the answer to. The answer is, "However it sounds best". Here's my question:

    I'm producing a pop song and despite what owners of other libraries might say I think GPO4 strings sound fine outside of the orchestral setting. What I'm wondering is how would the panning be different? In an orchestra setting the violins are one of the most far left panned instruments. Should I bring them closer and put the guitars outside on the extreme left and right or vice versa. Has anyone experimented with putting all strings section predominantly on the left or right?

    I've tried a lot of these option but I'm just wondering what the gurus here have to say on the subject.

  2. #2

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Dane Grant View Post
    So I've got a question that I already know the answer to. The answer is, "However it sounds best". Here's my question:

    I'm producing a pop song and despite what owners of other libraries might say I think GPO4 strings sound fine outside of the orchestral setting. What I'm wondering is how would the panning be different? In an orchestra setting the violins are one of the most far left panned instruments. Should I bring them closer and put the guitars outside on the extreme left and right or vice versa. Has anyone experimented with putting all strings section predominantly on the left or right?

    I've tried a lot of these option but I'm just wondering what the gurus here have to say on the subject.
    I use GPO4 for a lot of pop music. I typically leave the orchestra panned in the typical orchestral arrangement, or if it's just strings, I bring it all a little closer to the middle. If there's a lot of bass guitar, the double basses are usually eliminated from the arrangement. Double track your guitar parts, play the chords in different inversions, and pan them wide, like at 100% L and R. But you're right, it all comes down to what sounds best, you can start here, and then make subtle adjustments until it feels right. GPO is GREAT for pop music.

    Jim

  3. #3

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    This isn't strictly a panning tip/trick, but it may be useful (it's probably been mentioned before, but it's worth stating again). Try adding a delay to each string part with a delay of 20 - 30 ms for one side (the other side should not have a delay). For example, delay the left side of a stereo track by 20 ms and leave the right side of the track alone. People use this technique to simulate stereo recording, but it could also help thicken string textures. I find that this helps string parts of any library sit better in a mix.

  4. #4

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    Good one, Dane - You're right that GPO strings can sound fine in a pop setting - I've used them that way myself many times. -- I want to add, that the GPO strings can sound more than fine in their usual orchestral setting, contrary to whatever the "instant gratification" crowd (push a key--expect instant brilliance without effort) may think.

    I want to pass on advice from a very experienced music producer which I've used every since:

    --#1 - Forget about what the traditional seating charts are. That really has nothing to do with what makes the best recordings.

    --#2 - A natural follow-up to #1 - dare to move the string sections wherever they work best.

    --#3 - Here's the "seating chart" which I usually use, based on the advice mentioned above--simply because it makes for a more balanced, pleasing recording:

    1st violins in their usual place half way between center and hard left.

    2nd violins exactly opposite from the 1st violins.---Those two sections are often playing in octaves from each other, so why scrunch them together on the same side of the recording. Do this one thing - the two sections mirroring each other, and instantly you'll have better sounding recordings.

    Violas - sound great still kept at center.

    Cellos - good still toward the right, but not as far right as in default library settings. Just don't have them in the same exact location as the 2nd violins - they can be a bit farther right.

    Basses---CENTER - To be precise, what I find works great, is for the bass section to be a tiny bit right of center, lead bass closer to center. It was established decades ago that the best place for bass frequencies in a recording are at center. If you want to hear how they don't sound right anywhere else, listen to the early stereo recordings by The Beatles. George Martin was experimenting and discovering stereo, and did some strange things with the stereo, one of them being to put Paul's bass off to one side. Interesting--but it didn't really work. Soon after that period, it was firmly established that the bass in pop music Must be at center.---(part of what determined this rule of recording is that needles would jump out of records if the bass was to one side - but that's only part of the reason bass was settled on being best at center. Can anyone doubt that bass frequencies sound best when grounded at center along with the vocals?--no, they really can't.)

    That's basically the best sounding spread for strings I've heard. I've tried many configurations - Once I realized it was lame to keep emulating what happens in a concert stage, then I felt free to go with the much more logical goal-- to produce a recording as per What Sounds Best!

    ---slight caveat - It's really best to have a lead instrument for each of those sections - and to put the soloists in a slightly different position than the groups. So, 1st strings may be at around 40% left, but the Concert Master lead violin can be much closer to center, around 25% with that same formula. Same with all the sections - lead viola off L or R. Lead cello closer to center than the section, and lead bass off a bit from its section.

    Try it. You'll like it.

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    It just occurred to me that very fine examples of combined pop/trad string mixes can be found in the recordings of Claus Ogermann.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  6. #6

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    I've mostly used the European seating arrangement as Randy has mentioned, violins 1 on the left, but violins 2 on the right. In a virtual space it is much more balanced.
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  7. #7

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    Quote Originally Posted by pcartwright View Post
    Try adding a delay to each string part with a delay of 20 - 30 ms for one
    side (the other side should not have a delay).
    How is this achieved? Would you, or someone, provide a step by step
    example?

    Thanx

  8. #8

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassist View Post
    How is this achieved? Would you, or someone, provide a step by step
    example?

    Thanx
    It depends what sequencer you use. But basically you put a delay-effect on the track, set the delay time to this amount of ms and then turn the DRY/WET-knob (or maybe it's called MIX or AMOUNT) on this effect to 100%. This way you get the delay only and none of the dry signal.
    Film Composer - www.juhanalehtiniemi.com
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    Mac Pro 6-core 3.33GHz

  9. #9

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    Randy,

    Your pan settings for strings sound pretty much like what I ended up with, through trial and error, on my own. I think the reason the bass sounds best panned to center is because the lower the frequency of the sound, the less we are able to percieve the direction that it is coming from.

    But let me take another approach to answering the question of the differences between pop and classical strings -- other than panning. To reference George Martin again, when he recorded strings for the Beatles, he used a string quartet and recorded it twice (four parts, two instruments on each).A new pop string library (I can't remember which one) also seemed to take this approach: i.e. it didn't stick with the number of instruments on a part that a classical string section would use (3 violins = 2 violas = 1 cello). It seems to me that, when you are recording and can balance the sound electronically, all string instruments can be given equal weight.

    Don Sebeskey's book on arranging for contemporary music on recordings says to increase the number of strings on a part when you want the section to "glow". By that, I think, he means the more instruments, the more the differences between them are evened out, and the less you hear of things like strings scratching and noises. Though he does strictly adhere to the classical formula for balance between sections (3 violins = 2 violas = 1 cello).

    That said, I am a novice at this, and I have been hoping that someone with experience scoring real string sections would jump in and address the balance issue (rather than just the panning.)

    Allegro Data Solutions

  10. #10

    Re: Difference between orchestral and pop sounding strings

    Hi, Ejr - If you're scoring for a group of musicians to play in a Real World band/orchestra, than the classical formula of 3-2-1 is fine to adhere to. If you're scoring for recordings done by a virtual orchestra, than none of that matters. You just layer in the number of instruments you think sounds good. - That's probably stating the obvious, but wanted to add that to the conversation.

    Randy

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