Favorite layering combinations for strings

Discussion in 'SAMPLE Talk' started by pipedr, Jul 10, 2018.

  1. pipedr

    pipedr Senior Member

    Apr 19, 2018
    Many have mentioned layering different string libraries libraries together, and I was wondering which were your favorite combinations and why?

    Some libraries are marketing solo instruments to be layered with their ensembles, as “first chairs”—recorded in the same venue or matching solo booth. But some solo instruments (Josh Bell, Chris Hein) are dry and supposedly can be layered in as well. Which approach is best?

    If layering one solo instrument with an ensemble is good, is layering several solo instruments better? How many is enough?

    How about layering in chamber or divisi sections with larger sections?

    How do you deal with different ambiences in different libraries?
  2. EuropaWill

    EuropaWill Senior Member

    Aug 24, 2016
    Also curious about this. As I have VSL Dimension Strings and find they could use a dose of lushness, soaring or "Hollywood" qualities at times which is missing. They have a smaller particular sound (especially the violins which curiously sound like meowing cats in the legatos), so the blending characteristics of the other libraries must match it well.
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  3. Zoot_Rollo

    Zoot_Rollo Throbbing Member

    Jul 1, 2016
    i'm looking for a lush-ish library to layer with my detailed dry strings as well.

    i like Chris Hein's ensemble patch approach with his Solo Strings.

    but i wouldn't mind something like CSS to paint some broad damp washes.

    Hyperion Micro is pretty good, especially at the sale price.

    Soaring/Adventure Strings

    CraigPetersSI likes this.
  4. markleake

    markleake Recovering sale addict

    Nov 8, 2015
    I think it is "whatever works" for what you are trying to achieve.

    I know that doesn't really answer the question, but really, there are often a lot of combos that work well. You can even layer larger libraries with other large libraries sometimes.

    Generally I would layer a solo strings lib like CSSS for more detail and to help with legato playing. Something that is more soloistic though would work less well, as the way the instrument plays can get in the way. The more volume you have on the solo instruments, the more you want to make sure the tone and room matches what they are doubled with, although sometimes you *don't* because you want them to change the tone. Dry or wet, usually it's not too hard because you don't have them doubling very loud.

    Even a library like the Bohemian Violin can sound good layered with a big string section if that is the effect you are after.
  5. klawire

    klawire Active Member

    Jan 3, 2013
    It really depends on what you want to achieve. I usually layer 3 libraries, for example Jaeger strings for "bite" and great legatos, Hollywood Strings for lushness and SWAM strings for added detail and performance control. This sort of approach works best with relatively dry libraries. I then add reverb on top to further glue the sounds together.
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  6. thevisi0nary

    thevisi0nary Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    This is gonna be a good thread, I love reading anything about layering.
  7. Vik

    Vik Scandi Member

    Dec 15, 2013
    Here are some of them, posted a while ago in another thread:
    Cinematic Studio Strings Violin 2 layered with Berlin Strings V1
    SSS Cons Sord and Flautando layered
    CSS violins layered with CSS viola
    The Spitfire Symphonic Strings Long Con Sord Celli, full vibrato
    SCS Flautando + SCS Long CS + SSS Celli Long
    Berlin Strings Whole Ensemble Sustains Soft m with Olafur Chamber Strings Grid #1
  8. OP

    pipedr Senior Member

    Apr 19, 2018
    That sounds like an interesting approach--getting the best of each individual library. Can you post an example of the individual layers and the whole?

    I'm also trying to layer dry strings with ensemble strings--Josh Bell Violin with 8Dio. I like that it can give detail, but it's difficult to get the balance right. Push up the dry strings and I lose the lushness of the ensemble in the ambient church. Set them back, and I lose the detail. Also, if I try to add several solo instruments, it can somewhat smooth out the note transitions of not-perfect legato, but again can lose that ensemble tone.

    I saw this, which suggests just setting up a common reverb send, but that doesn't exactly work for me...

  9. OP

    pipedr Senior Member

    Apr 19, 2018
    So, here is a passage I was working on, attempting to layer solo violins onto ensemble violins.

    1 is the ensemble strings alone, done with 8dio Agitato. I wanted the note transitions to sound smoother and also get some more definition. I thought I would try a "first chair" approach, and maybe add a second violin based on the theory that smooth ensemble strings in part depend on imperfect timing of the note transitions between players, which smooths things out.

    2 is the melody with 8dio Anthology Solo Violin. The legato on the solo is not perfect, but the ambience matches the Agitato library.

    3 is Josh Bell. I love the tone of this violin, but how to layer it with 8dio Agitato? I ran this through Virtual Sound Stage 2 with the violin2 preset and Concert Hall B, and then through UAD Ocean Way and then a send to Breeze2. The direction, i think, matches, but note that it doesn't sound (at least to me) to be in the same ambient space as the 8dio Anthology Solo Violin. Not sure if there is a better way to do this...

    4 is the ensemble strings with the 8dio Solo Violin as a matched ambience "first chair"

    5 is all three together.

    I think I like 5 with all three the best, and I don't really notice that Josh Bell is not perfectly matched in ambience, and it actually sounds a little more 3 dimensional, perhaps. It was more important to match the stereo image, I think, as Josh Bell dry and center did not sound right to me at all.

    What do you guys think? Could this be done better? Any other techniques for this purpose?


    Attached Files:

  10. AlexanderSchiborr

    AlexanderSchiborr Senior Member

    May 1, 2014
    With Strings I layer not that much in the higher registers, but a little more in the lower registers. Always depends on context. However here are few presets I go for:

    1. Soaring Violins´(higher Register)

    Often one patch with molto vibrato layered subtle with a solo Violin to add more definition

    2. Pads for Glue (Violas)

    Often I use 2 different Violin patches one for the real goose, and one for the bite. The one for the goose has often recorded real pp or even ppp dynamics. The normal one can add a bit of aggression

    3. Cellos Soaring

    1. One Main line with good legato scripting. Another for a bit more body sound added subtle in unison to the mix

    4. When doing octave lines, I often use real recorded 8va Patches because they glue more authentic and timbre sharing sounds very often better. Especially with lower instrument groups like the classic Cellos / DB in octaves I almost never layer Cello Patch + DB Patch instead of going for a 8va Patch.

    5. Fast lines / runs. Don´t use only runs patches but add loose Spiccato / Staccs to add bite at some spots. Ecspecially when Vlns are playing not super fast they don´t dont slur that much but have a kind of Spiccato with a slight legato intention.

    There are many more but these are a few basic ones. Also keep in mind that sampled strings often don´t sound right out of the box when it comes to "weight" in comparison to the real thing because they can occupy much more frequency spectrum in room because all the absorbers missing plus there is no interaction soniccally on the stage, so I often tend to attenuate certain of those frequencies which build up overproportional, often that are the lower mids. Also a nice 2.3 khz cut can get your upper strings sound more silky.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2018
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  11. col

    col Senior Member

    Jan 24, 2016
    Yes I prefer 5.

    Did you try a stereo spread plug on the Joshua Bell to " de centre " it a bit ? Sounds like it could use a bit more cc expression action as well.
  12. Casiquire

    Casiquire Senior Member

    May 7, 2013
    My combination is fairly obvious...LASS+ Dimension Strings. LASS features a prominent swell at the beginning of notes and a soft legato transition. DS has a very direct legato transition and no swell at all, even in the progressive vibrato articulations. DS is almost too precise of course, but LASS is a little wild sometimes, so the two blend perfectly but even out the flaws of one another.
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  13. OP

    pipedr Senior Member

    Apr 19, 2018
    I thought Virtual Sound Stage was supposed to "de centre" the dry instrument and put it in it's proper space?

    But you're supposed to add your own late reflections to it, so I used UAD Ocean Way. Not sure if that messed up the stereo image...It's my first time trying it out, so not sure if I'm doing it correctly.
  14. Vik

    Vik Scandi Member

    Dec 15, 2013
    Thanks. Would be really interesting to hear a few notes of that. :)
  15. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    I'm less looking for adding libraries to blow up or widen everything. Well, I sometimes do, but I'm mostly looking for 'a' good playable library that simply works.
    I already wrote that in a thread or two (or more), so sorry for repeating it here.
    My standard set is a stack of Audiomodeling Solo SWAMs and Solos of Dimension Strings. For some room I added wet performance legatos from Spitfire Chamber Strings. Works well for everything arco that isn't repetition stacc/spicc. It's for first violins: 5 SWAM, 5 Dimension players + SCS, second violins: 4 SWAM, 4 DS players + SCS, violas and celli: 3 SWAMs + 3 DS players + SCS. Basses are DS and SCS only. It matches well with the shorts from CSS+CSSS (with some EQing).

    'Naked' example here:

    For tight traileresque ostinatos I like Berlin exposed spiccs + LASS spiccs.

    Great for Pad-Chords is HZ super flautando with CSS/CSSS on top. Beatiful combi!
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  16. averystemmler

    averystemmler Senior Member

    Sep 22, 2017
    I usually prefer layering non-directly. That is to say, somewhat mirroring the harmonic structure of my traditional string parts with either non-traditional articulations or other instruments all together, but not layering note for note. Impact Soundworks' "Ebow Lyre" from their Highland Harps library is one of my favorites for this. It can give a nice "jangle" to the strings without really coming off as a separate instrument.
  17. OP

    pipedr Senior Member

    Apr 19, 2018
    Thanks for the examples. Do you use the SWAM and Dimension strings dry or put them through a convolution reverb or other processing? Any reverb on the end?
  18. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    A bit of depth comes from the SCS layer. At the end I add an algoritmic reverb depending on the mix. But nothing special. My reverby mind changes all the time :)

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