Manor House Music String Section

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a good session musician?

  London has long held an excellent reputation for providing high quality session strings, in particular string players. Our musicians offer a superb level of  sight reading and ensemble skills, meaning we are able to work to a deadline without time being wasted in rehearsals and re-takes.

Clients wishing to hire studio musicians without the worry of expensive preparation or practice frequently use real strings recorded in London. 

Our string players are comfortable working with different styles of music - whether it's traditional folk, high energy rock, jazz or classical. Because the String Section musicians work together regularly as a permanent ensemble, we play tightly to achieve the best sound when recording live strings whether recording a string quartet or a larger section.

What instruments make up a string orchestra?

A string section includes violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Each instrument adds a different quality to the sound. The range and scope of stringed instruments are perfectly balanced to build a versatile group, either as an accompaniment - or as solo instruments in their own right.

Why not just use good quality sampled strings?

Sometimes even big budget tracks are produced using good quality synthesised strings when that sound is specifically required, although the effectiveness of using sampled strings can depend greatly on the skill of the string arranger who has written the orchestration. By using real stringed instruments and highly skilled classical musicians, there is the feeling of an 'up and down bow stroke' as well as slurred phrasing and all manner of staccato and spiccato bow strokes - all of which are difficult to imitate artificially, especially when played in on a keyboard. Real strings have a unique quality and of course come with the phrasing, interpretation and creative input of professional musicians who 'think like a string players' rather than a synthesiser.

I have an idea of how the strings should sound but don't have the score written.

We can undertake string arrangements, composition and recording of original music, for example as a feature in film, radio or television programs. We are also happy to arrange string parts to enhance rock or pop tracks and score the parts for each instrument. We can either work independently or in close collaboration with clients until they are happy with the score.

If you have already composed a piece but need specialist advice when it comes to writing for strings - we are happy to check through the score, making sure all the parts are playable and use the instruments to their full potential. We are often asked whether it's possible to turn up and improvise in a studio, but we've found it's far more practical to get the music properly written first so that we can play it 'right first time' on the day.

Where are you based?

We work mostly in studios throughout London, the South East, the Home Counties and the Midlands. Any travel costs to and from the studio are charged at a reasonable rate....but of course these days, much of our work is undertaken without meeting the client in person. As online session musicians, we frequently collaborate with producers and artists overseas, providing studio strings for a variety of projects.

I only need a solo instrument...

This is absolutely fine - we are frequently approached by people who just need to hire a fiddle player or who would like some soulful cello parts for a recording. From our pool of players, we can organise anything from a soloist to a larger section for those who would like to hire a string orchestra.

So it costs money to hire these session musicians?

Yes, we're afraid so! The cost of hiring session strings really depends on the scale of your project and the number of players you need - very simple parts for a couple of tracks can be laid down relatively quickly and if you don't mind waiting, we can try and incorporate this into a day when we're in the studio working on another project. If you would like to send over a track or score we are happy to listen or look through it and give you an estimate of the studio time needed and a more accurate estimate of the likely fees. As the cost of hiring studio musicians for the first two hours of playing drops significantly thereafter, it is often far more economical to have more than one track recorded in one day once we are already set up in the studio. It is most economical of all to finish  several tracks without strings, get all the string arrangements prepared in advance and hire a string section to record the strings all in one day, leaving you to just mix and master. 

Composition, arrangement and notation fees are dependent on the complexity of the music but please do get in touch to discuss your ideas. We can notate from midi or keyboard parts, write something original or build on your existing ideas to get the best effect of using real string players on a track.

Do you need rehearsal and practice time before the session?

Not usually, as we are all excellent readers we can usually turn up and 'get it right' on the first take. If you have written highly virtuosic music that needs rehearsal beforehand, just send parts through to us a few days early - generally we do not charge extra for any preparation time before turning up at the studios.

What are your session rates?

Really session musician prices depend on the scale of the project and the number of studio musicians you need but please do contact us with your requirements for a precise quotation. We are able to look at the score then give you an estimate of how many players are needed and how long it might take to record all the parts. Any arranging or notation fees are again dependent on the complexity of the music but we are happy to listen to your track and discuss any ideas you have. Wherever possible we find creative ways to work within your budget and keep costs as low as possible. If we are asked to fix a live string orchestra for recording, there may be a small additional session fixers fee just to cover the time and admin involved in phoning lots of people up and booking the best players for the job.

Can you record the live string parts first so that we can add a vocal and other instruments afterwards?

Generally it works best to record everything else in the track and arrange the live string parts to compliment other instruments unless the strings are the central point of the track, in which case the other instruments can be written to fit in around them! If you have already recorded some beds of synthesised strings and want to increase realism by using a few real strings for the track on top, we can easily do this.

Can I book a group of young female players to appear in a music video or on television?

It is surprising how often we are asked for this as we are an equal opportunities group. Musicians are invited to play in String section based on merit - a high standard of playing, 100% reliability and strength of sound. If you need a certain look for a video, we can't really help, but if the way string players sound is your priority, we like to think we do a good job.

What is online collaboration? Are you happy to work with clients based outside the UK via the internet?

Yes - 'online sessions' are a very straightforward procedure these days. Very often, we are approached to work with producers based in other countries or in other parts of the UK where it may be impractical to meet in person. The client can simply upload and send over their tracks which need strings and we will book ourselves into a studio with an engineer and record the string parts here. The final recording can then be sent back, ready to be mixed and mastered along with the rest of the instruments or parts on the track. If parts need to be arranged or written by us, this can also be done collaboratively online - we send over a draft score for approval and once the client is happy, we will then go ahead and book into a studio to record the parts with real strings. Payment can also be made online but must be in English pounds.

Are you available to play for live concerts and tours?

Although generally we specialise more in recording work, if you need live strings for gigs either in the UK or overseas, please do contact us to discuss your ideas.

What kind of projects can you add live strings to?

We arrange and record studio strings for singer songwriters, classical recordings, rock and pop albums, library sounds, radio and television advertisements, film soundtracks, computer games and live concerts. The majority of our work is adding string parts to rock and pop tracks....when you start to think about it, there are lots of pop songs with stringed instruments in, from solo violins or string quartets or full orchestras.

Can you supply other orchestral instruments for my recording?

We mainly specialise in session strings but if you are looking for other orchestral musicians to play on your track (such as a session flautist, horn player, drummer or harpist), we are very happy to point you in the direction of recommended colleagues who you can liaise with directly. If you are looking for a specialist brass or woodwind arranger to collaborate with, we can certainly pass on details of professional arrangers who specialise in this area.

Do you have your own studio?

No, the choice of recording studio is up to the client. We can recommend reasonably priced studios where we have found excellent engineers who are adept at recording strings (which means that session time will often be especially productive) and these can range from small, home studios to larger premesis if you need to accomodate a full section or include other orchestral musicians. Some of the studios we have played in include Fitdog, RAK, Miloco (The Engine Room), Air Studios (Lyndhurst Hall), Abbey Road, name but a few!


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