Occasionally we are approached by clients who are self financing a project or who are on a very restricted budget, yet are unhappy using samples and still would like to add real strings to their track. Often, it is a private project with a tight budget, which (without going overseas and potentially risking the quality of player) would make hiring a full string section and large enough recording studio out of the question. With modern technology, several options are open – either using a high quality sample string sound as a base and layering a few real players on top (to give a more realistic and convincing effect than samples alone), or hiring a handful of very good players who are able to overdub themselves accurately – subtly varying the bowing, level of vibrato and microphone positioning on each take to try and sound like different people.
Although we always recommend that when the budget is not an issue, as many players are used as possible to capture a natural sound – surprisingly overdubbing can work well as an alternative to synthesized strings – although requires great concentration and an attentive engineer to sound convincing. This week, we were asked to overdub to create the sound of 64 string players – which is more the scale of string section found in a large symphony orchestra. Because each section was divided into two separate harmonies (or lines of music), we had all in all 8 layers for each line of music. The parts were recorded to be one element of a track which had plenty of other instruments and effects going on, so the overall sound was more convincing than adding synthesized strings, yet didn’t break the bank.