Last Monday, we recorded three songs for an independent singer / songwriter based near to Milton Keynes. The client had written a number of songs, many of which required strings – either as a full orchestra or a string quartet. Sometimes, when non string playing musicians approach us with string parts that they’ve arranged themselves, results can be variable. One common problem is string parts that have been played into a keyboard and scored by a midi device (such as protools), without the understanding of notation. If the parts are inputted inaccurately, then all kinds of rhythmic anomolies can be present in the scores, as well as instruments frequently being allocated the wrong clefs. Sometimes the programme is not aware of the intended key and copes by placing accidentals all over the music, making it more difficult to read. Sometimes, the wrong enharmonic notes are assigned (such as a Db instead of a C#) and this takes time to comprehend, even for experienced session musicians.
Setting aside notation issues, we have often received parts without any use of harmony, such as individual lines of instruments all playing in octaves. This does not make best use of having a live string orchestra in the studio as a far greater effect can be achieved by scoring sympathetically for strings.
When session musicians are presented in the studio with inappropriately scored music, or scores which are full of mistakes, not only is costly studio time wasted, but it can sometimes feel that the full potential of what live strings can offer is not being made best use of. If bands and musicians invest in the services of a professional string arranger, the qualities of of hiring an orchestra to play on the track can be far more effective.
This week, we were delighted to be given string parts that were well written for the instruments and were harmonically full. They also had a conversational feel with one instrumental line answering another and the overall effect was complimentary to the rest of the track and a real pleasure to play.