Advice on composing for string orchestral + choir


Senior Member
So I've been trying to reconnect with all my university voice leading and counterpoint lately, but also trying to write for strings and choir.

Here's a noodle that gives something of the *sound* I'm going for:

And I have a reasonable sense of what I need to do to write an actual composition with proper voice leading etc in the strings. Or in the choral parts.

But I wonder if anyone would have any advice specifically on the *combination* of SATB choir with SATB strings?

Are there any reference points for how the voice leading and counterpoint of the strings interactions /or works independently with choir, or vice versa?

Or any particularly compositions for string orchestra and SATB choir that would be particularly good to study?

To maybe hone the point a bit, here's another noodle - again not a composition, just looking for a sound, seeing if the instruments will blend, (also test driving my new Spitfire Harp + Rocotti libs) ... the usual kind of noodling that's almost more sound design than composition (but that I find I need to work out in detail before I get stuck into nuances like melody or harmony of voice leading, otherwise I'll end up tripping over everything at once:

And this noodle shows the strings and choir(s) starting to cohere in a "sound", while individually starting to exhibit some actual voice leading texture. But they're at most kind alternating in who gets to be contrapuntal in a given moment, and not really interacting in terms of any thought out voice leading.

Wheres in the first noodle I'm trying to work out how to write voice leading for everyone at once.

Kind of a vauge question, but any thoughts would be welcome!
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A more choral specific composer would have better advice, but I've always treated the choir as another section, that is strings/woodwinds/brass/choir. In terms of notes they can work off the same basic 4 part writing, except with the added concern of a more limited range within each part..and also words/vowels. In that light you orchestrate it as any other section.

Voice leading is key as in most things. Getting each line to flow individually is the biggest thing usually missed. Commonly people grab a keyboard full of chords at once which sounds very, well, like a keyboard player rather than a choir. The other is that the parts have to breath. VI may not have to, but it doesn't sound natural otherwise.

In terms of listening the Bach stuff is always a good place to start since it is all about writing in counterpoint and how the 4 voices translate from instruments to voices.

I like your idea and hope you keep working with it.
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Active Member
I love the choral + string piece - I think it qualifies as slightly more than a "noodle" :)
The entire composition sounds coherent and as well as very ethereal and emotive.
It had me entranced throughout.
The choir sound and the strings blend and complement each other really well.
In terms of voice leading it felt both fresh, but also timeless.
I like the way in which the choral and string parts interact with one another - with the strings sometimes working a support and anchor to the voices, and at other times as a leading or call and answer format.
Very impressive.

PS what choral / string libraries did you use?


New Member
I am not someone who can comment on the technique and technical "goodness" of the pieces, but I totally agree with rudi! I really liked both of your "noodles" and really was moved by them. If you use them as a basis for full pieces, I predict the music will be outstanding.


Active Member
My 5 cents: if you write voice leading in polyphonic SATB counterpoint, then you'd probably have to use strings for doubling a lot since you have 4 voices but 8 "instruments" to work with.

But the other option is to have counterpoint in SATB and block harmonies in strings. If you choose block harmonies, you could vary the sound by shortening some notes and introducing pauses (to bring rhythmic variety), using things like figuration and taking individual string voices in and out to emphasize certain part and create crescendo/diminuendo... It would be interesting to try, I have no idea how this would sound with B in choir and cellos basses in strings.