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Disco string section
Old 20th November 2008
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
pieter's Avatar
 

Disco string section

Dears,

What would I need to obtain one of those disco string arrangements?

Could I overdup one violin/alto player 15 times or will it never have the same impact ?

The arrangement has been written out so I am not referring to the musical arrangement itself.

Gearwise, I have access to 2 dpa 4091s or and AEA R88.

Thanks,

Pieter
Old 20th November 2008
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Recording one violin 15 times will not sound like 15 violins because all violins have different timbres. And all the players in a violin section will not be in the same place in the room. Recoding one violin in the same place over and over will sound hollow, like a flanger effect.

If you really need to do this with one player, have him/her move a foot or so in any direction for each take, but leave the microphone(s) in the same place. If the player can borrow a few violins from friends and use different violins for different takes, all the better. Otherwise, have him/her play the same notes on different strings for some of the parts. The idea is to vary the sound of the instrument, and the sound of the room placement, as much as possible for each take.

--Ethan
Old 20th November 2008
  #3
Gear Nut
 
Hard2Hear's Avatar
 

2 words for you

East West
Old 20th November 2008
  #4
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Barry Lird's Avatar
 

How many violins does the string arrangement call for?

I'd suggest a minimum of four players doing three or four passes.
Old 20th November 2008
  #5
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by pieter View Post
Dears,

What would I need to obtain one of those disco string arrangements?

Could I overdup one violin/alto player 15 times or will it never have the same impact ?

The arrangement has been written out so I am not referring to the musical arrangement itself.

Gearwise, I have access to 2 dpa 4091s or and AEA R88.

Thanks,

Pieter
Yep, from experience, you can do that - it will sound great. East/ West vs. a real player times 15 dubs ---- no contest - get the real player.

It's the slight de-tunings of several players that gets you the big sound. One player will do the job very well.

DPA's first..... ribbon mics are nice but if you have a good player you will like the DPA's better.
Old 20th November 2008
  #6
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lespaul666's Avatar
 

Maybe it's time to phone up MFSB.heh
Old 20th November 2008
  #7
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allencollins's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
Recording one violin 15 times will not sound like 15 violins because all violins have different timbres. And all the players in a violin section will not be in the same place in the room. Recoding one violin in the same place over and over will sound hollow, like a flanger effect.

--Ethan

Not true at all. Creative use of pitch, chorus and time compress/expansion effects can make 1 violin sound like 15. Or make violin a sound like a viola. No problem. I do it all the time no flange no artifacts. I do it with vocals too.

In fact a perfect example of this is Dust in the wind by Kansas. Isn't it wierd how there is a viola in that song but but no viola player played on it? They sped the tape up Robbie played the violin then when it was slowed down it was instant viola.

Did you ever use that plugin clone ensemble? Probably not good enough for prouduction but the concept of the plugin is all you need to know. Another trick is to use the formant capability in Melodyne. That can make
a big difference in timbre.
Old 20th November 2008
  #8
Gear Head
 

Here in Nashville, we use 3 or 4 players all the time and stack them 3 or 4 times. That would give you 16 violins. I'm not sure about your musical arrangement, but it would be most typical to see violins played in octaves and sixths (and to a lesser degree, thirds) to produce the usual "disco" string sound. Having said that, you could get by with one violin player in the following scenario:

Assuming that the part is written as octave unison lines,

The violin part could play the "top" part with four passes.

THEN, have him put on the mute and play them again. That will give you 8 passes on the top part. It's also a good idea to vary the mic placement and/or the mic itself on each pass.

Do the same for the bottom part, and you would than have 16 tracks that should sound pretty thick.

Again, I would recommend at least two players in this setup. If they are good players who play in tune, you might possibly run into some phasing issues. This will hollow out the sound and make it sound somewhat flangey.

I hope this helps.

-Jonathon A. Willis
Riverwind Productions
Spring Hill, TN
Old 20th November 2008
  #9
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by allencollins View Post
Not true at all. Creative use of pitch, chorus and time compress/expansion
effects can make 1 violin sound like 15. Or make violin sound like a viola
No problem. I do it all the time No flange no artifacts. I do it with vocals too.

In fact a perfect example of this is Dust in the wind by kansas. Isn't it wierd
how there is a viola in that song but but no viola player played on it? They sped the tape up Robbie played then when it was slowed down it was instant viola.

Think out side the box ethan.
You are right about the dubbing of 15 violin tracks of the same player will not sound phasey or flangey. 2 good violin players playing the same line sounds like hell but as you start to get over 4 you start to get a lush sound.

Use of pitch, chorus, time compression will only SCREW up the sound of a beautifully played violin - don't do it unless you want an effect and a bad one at that. Listen to some more orchestral records.

If you do not feature it prominently in the mix, you can get away with tuning down a violin or even taking it down a whole step or two in software but it will not have the resonance of a viola - and it will sound like an effect. Traditionally a viola is only tuned a fifth down from a violin. You could cover the viola range with a cello and and/or a violin detuned. But that extra cavity of the viola body gives it it's own unique lovely resonance.

A lot to be learned by the 500 years of the best of humanity's music in classical.
Old 21st November 2008
  #10
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by lespaul666 View Post
Maybe it's time to phone up MFSB.heh
LOL

many of them have passed away but i can contact the contractor who took over after don renaldo passed away.. most of the players are from the philly orchestra

i didn't see one guy on the preview of the PIR gamble and huff special that will air nationally on PBS in a month or 2 [whenever their next drive for dollars is] from the original crew

he can always send me a split out subbed track and i can get them to play

6 -2-1 doubled was the norm

8-4-2 doubled was for the bigger dates
Old 21st November 2008
  #11
Lives for gear
Sigma will also remember when you had to get a contractor that would look the other way when when you doubled. Union rules dictated no doubling because if you wanted 16....you should pay 16.

Which is why you would always record the run down, while everyone winked.

Anyway...two violinists hate to play in unison. Conventional wisdom is that you need at least three playing together to mediate the pitches. Two will opt to play in octaves, and sometimes they might not even tell you, they just do it because they know.

So if you are going to try to do 16 passes, I'd make a third down an octave. It will give it a lot more body without apparently changing the sound.

You might also consider a hybrid of live and sampled. If you can get the part laid out with samples, sometimes it just takes a few live passes to seal the deal. I hase some sample banks which have all the classic disco moves....the flissandos and rips presamples. they sound fabulous.
Old 21st November 2008
  #12
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steffmo View Post
Sigma will also remember when you had to get a contractor that would look the other way when when you doubled. Union rules dictated no doubling because if you wanted 16....you should pay 16.

Which is why you would always record the run down, while everyone winked.

Anyway...two violinists hate to play in unison. Conventional wisdom is that you need at least three playing together to mediate the pitches. Two will opt to play in octaves, and sometimes they might not even tell you, they just do it because they know.

So if you are going to try to do 16 passes, I'd make a third down an octave. It will give it a lot more body without apparently changing the sound.

You might also consider a hybrid of live and sampled. If you can get the part laid out with samples, sometimes it just takes a few live passes to seal the deal. I hase some sample banks which have all the classic disco moves....the flissandos and rips presamples. they sound fabulous.

i know noooothiiiinnngheh in fact i thouight local unions deterimined that and it was true in NY but not philly ...but..ehhh i never counted other peoples money so who the hell knows?

unions can't live with em..can't live without em
Old 21st November 2008
  #13
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reid's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by allencollins View Post
Not true at all. Creative use of pitch, chorus and time compress/expansion effects can make 1 violin sound like 15.
Are you high?

Quote:
Originally Posted by allencollins View Post
I do it with vocals too.
Now that's a trick I'd pay to see - make a vocal take sound like 15 violins.
Old 21st November 2008
  #14
Old 21st November 2008
  #15
LAU
Gear Maniac
 
LAU's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by pieter View Post
Dears,

What would I need to obtain one of those disco string arrangements?

Could I overdup one violin/alto player 15 times or will it never have the same impact ?

The arrangement has been written out so I am not referring to the musical arrangement itself.

Gearwise, I have access to 2 dpa 4091s or and AEA R88.

Thanks,

Pieter

Contact Pete Whitfield.....he can do it for you.

::| RealStrings |:: real strings arrangements, orchestrations, recordings, samples, loops


.
Old 21st November 2008
  #16
Lives for gear
 
jjblair's Avatar
I have a copy of the multis for "Staying Alive." You would be shocked at how small the string section is. I'm guessing 6 players, and not even doubled.
Old 21st November 2008
  #17
Gear Guru
 
Ethan Winer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by allencollins View Post
Not true at all. Creative use of pitch, chorus and time compress/expansion effects can make 1 violin sound like 15.
Yeah, but it will sound like 15 electric violins! heh

Really, been there, done that, many times with both excellent and bad players. It's never the same as multiple players. However, Barry's suggestion to use four players doing three or four passes makes a lot of sense. When I recorded my cello concerto I recorded eight violin players, four violas, and six cellos, all three passes each, and it sounds like a full orchestra.

Quote:
They sped the tape up Robbie played the violin then when it was slowed down it was instant viola.
Yes, that's a good trick too, and it solves the "flanging" problem by offsetting the instrument resonances. But for written string parts, unless the player is very good, you'd want to print the music parts transposed.

--Ethan
Old 21st November 2008
  #18
Gear Nut
 
pedalboy's Avatar
 

I'm just a nobody violin-playing songwriter in an apartment - so take my advice with a grain of salt - but I often run into the problem of wanting to put string section sounds in my songs, but being the only guy in the "band" and having to multi-track my part a bunch to get it to sound good. So I've had a little practice.

You can do all the things mentioned, like moving the mic around, moving the player around, swapping out violins, pitch shifting, playing on different strings in different positions, etc... but you will likely still run into problems if you just have one player, because the way each player does vibrato is pretty darn characteristic. The way they attack and express each note can also be remarkably consistent from take to take (but not player to player). I didn't notice this until i quad-tracked myself and noticed that I vibrato'd and attacked each note nearly identically. It did not sound like a small section - it sounded like four of me. I'm not a great player by any means, so once you make a good player aware of this, (s)he should be able to compensate by varying the use of finger/wrist/arm vibrato, etc... I personally just did away with the vibrato and played each note straight - which sounded good for the part.

Two players isn't a free lunch either. If they are playing in unison/octaves, I think they'll really be tempted to play in tune with each other - which may not be perfect to the track. If you have three, they might not have that tendency as much...

Steffmo makes a good point - a mix of live and sampled is sometimes good, especially if you've only got a player or two to work with. What I have done (because as I said before, i'm not a great player) is to record a sampled string section and monitor off that while recording the violins - it helped me stay on pitch and sound "tighter." Mix in a little of the sample part below the live strings for a kind of foundation sound, and get your "real string random variation" sound from the live strings.

You should run the numbers though. It might take so long to do all this with one player that you could SAVE money on studio time by hiring four players and doing a few passes.

Let us know how it goes, and post back if you find any good tricks or something that *didn't* work...
Old 21st November 2008
  #19
Gear Guru
 
Sounds Great's Avatar
 

I thought a lot of the Disco string sounds were Elka String Machines, Arp Omni's, Solina String Ensembles, etc.
Old 21st November 2008
  #20
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Sigma's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by pedalboy View Post
I'm just a nobody violin-playing songwriter in an apartment - so take my advice with a grain of salt - but I often run into the problem of wanting to put string section sounds in my songs, but being the only guy in the "band" and having to multi-track my part a bunch to get it to sound good. So I've had a little practice.

You can do all the things mentioned, like moving the mic around, moving the player around, swapping out violins, pitch shifting, playing on different strings in different positions, etc... but you will likely still run into problems if you just have one player, because the way each player does vibrato is pretty darn characteristic. The way they attack and express each note can also be remarkably consistent from take to take (but not player to player). I didn't notice this until i quad-tracked myself and noticed that I vibrato'd and attacked each note nearly identically. It did not sound like a small section - it sounded like four of me. I'm not a great player by any means, so once you make a good player aware of this, (s)he should be able to compensate by varying the use of finger/wrist/arm vibrato, etc... I personally just did away with the vibrato and played each note straight - which sounded good for the part.

Two players isn't a free lunch either. If they are playing in unison/octaves, I think they'll really be tempted to play in tune with each other - which may not be perfect to the track. If you have three, they might not have that tendency as much...

Steffmo makes a good point - a mix of live and sampled is sometimes good, especially if you've only got a player or two to work with. What I have done (because as I said before, i'm not a great player) is to record a sampled string section and monitor off that while recording the violins - it helped me stay on pitch and sound "tighter." Mix in a little of the sample part below the live strings for a kind of foundation sound, and get your "real string random variation" sound from the live strings.

You should run the numbers though. It might take so long to do all this with one player that you could SAVE money on studio time by hiring four players and doing a few passes.

Let us know how it goes, and post back if you find any good tricks or something that *didn't* work...
ABSOLUTELY TRUE i was just going to mention that..and the better player you are the worse it gets when ya double and triple etc..
it's like bkg vocals..1 normal vg singer and doing 3 part harm 4x's and it sounds big..then you work with someone with perfect pitch, vibrato and timing like when i cut sheena easton and the more you stack the tracks the SMALLER IT GOT because she was actually phasing she was that tight..i had to put ddl's and chorus fx on each track set differently in [this was tape days] to make it sound bigger
Old 28th November 2008
  #21
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pieter's Avatar
 

Many thanks for all the great advice !
Old 2nd December 2008
  #22
Here for the gear
 

that real string sound

There's some great advice in here already - I'll try and add some also, but any of these suggestions have to be prefaced with the understanding that if you want a natural orchestral string sound and you have your composition accurately scored and you have the budget, there is no substitute for a big bunch of players in a big room, playing together!
I've just come back from sessions in Sofia (Bulgaria) for a tv movie and the simple, natural sound is beautiful.
But not all composers and producers want to (or are able to) work like that. Tracking up strings (just one or a few players) allows for flexibility in production and the very process makes you create music in a different way. I've been working like this for a while and have a few credits.
So here are my tips (some of which have already been suggested!):
Use as many different instruments as possible - I have 12 (violins/violas).
Play slightly differently each time (like vibrato speed, fingering).
Stretch the budget to get another 2 or 3 players - every player has a distinctive sound, even on different instruments.
Move the mics (or the players) around so you never exactly duplicate.
Add a little sample.
Pan randomly!
Strings are indeed a strange artifact! A continual contradiction between togetherness and randomness! Not sure if I can embed a YouTube playlist here...
Old 13th June 2014
  #23
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Disco strings sample

Old 13th June 2014
  #24
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timtoonz's Avatar
And pick up a copy of the 'SmartViolins' library.

Has a whole patch of 'disco licks' and disco bends that I've used many many times to great effect. Perfect for recreating or supplementing that classic cheese ball 70's sound.

Adding a couple live players would really seal the deal for most pop tracks. Unless of course you have the budget to hire a real live section (4 or more). Nothing beats the real thing. But 'Smart Violins' is a useful little tool to have in your bag o' tricks.

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr0...ter_sample.htm
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