Strings are an integral part of a lot of mainstream music these days, but the difference between a meaningless mush and a soaring arrangement is vast. Top string arrangers are worth their weight in gold, but for many of us the cost is prohibitive. Here are 5 ways to better strings that cost you nothing.
Stay Away From Chords
The most basic way to add strings to a track is just to double up the piano chords with a string pad. Whilst there is nothing musically wrong with this, it has two issues. The first one is that when you come to mix, the strings are sitting in quite a lot of the frequency spectrum and make the sound mushy and lack definition. Secondly, they can be quite boring and not really add a lot to the arrangement.
Create Single Lines With Different Sounds
Try using single line motifs, such as long top notes that last for several bars using a sweet soft string sound, then add a middle note motif using a slightly harder arco sound. Be careful as you descend down the octaves as this where it can get mushy - you might find a set of cellos works.
Use Volume Automation
Listen to any real string arrangement and you will hear a vast change in volume as they play, dynamics are even written into scores. Take time to work with volume and dynamic automation throughout the track and you will hear the difference.
Use Speed Variation
Again, real strings have speed changes as they play, so take time to put speed changes into an arrangement. It might sound a little odd in our time correction obsessed world to think that making parts more fluid is an improvement, but pushing and pulling the parts against the beat can bring real interest to your parts.
Take Time To Choose The Sounds Carefully
Once you have a string arrangement you like, then take time to audition different sounds with the parts and see how they work.
It’s easy to be tempted to buy expensive specialist string libraries that include thousands of articulations, however if you don’t know the basics then you may be wasting your money. A little time and care can transform your string parts. There are our 5 tips, please to share your tips too.