Recording a String Quartet for a Short Film Score

On Tuesday 11th November, a composer called Paul Tyan hired our string quartet for a recording session, to provide strings for a short film entitled ‘The Wing’, written by Nick Landa and directed by Assaad Yacoub.

The recording took place at The Smokehouse Studios in Wapping, London – and was engineered by Jonathan McMillan. During the session we recorded three short pieces for the film as well as an additional track of ‘string sound effects’, small fragments of sound which could then be inserted into the film as appropriate.

As the conductor was present to conduct and guide the session, we were able to get it exactly as he intended and he was very happy with the overall sound. Very little editing was required, with tracks laid down generally in single takes. We also experimented with recorded the track with and without the use of a click track. As is often the case, the click track can ensure clinical, rhythmical accuracy but this can compromise the natural feel between the four players and small, expressive nuances in the performance can be lacking. Playing without the click track can provide this space and feel but can slightly alter the timing as the speed of the track can vary from the precise click speed.

When recording for film or television, tracks often have a specific time frame, down to a fraction of a second – which is why click tracks are so frequently used. In this instance, the timing was less critical so the composer took the decision to conduct a couple of the tracks without the click which we all felt would have straightjacketed our performance.