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Help with orchestra chords.

D-Pain

New Member
Hallo guys

Im new to the orchestral (cinematic music)
Im pianist and i have a good knowledge with chords,
But when it comes to strings i use the chords the same way i use them in piano example below, and i always use ensemble patches for chords (css 2 for example)
Is this the right way to use strings for chords, any help will be really appreciated

and looking forward to your response.
 

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Willowtree

I make music
I wrote a response to another question like this a while ago, which you can find here:

In short, if you don't care about emulating real orchestral strings and want to use them as essentially a synth, write them however you like. If you want to emulate a real string sound, no, you cannot write them as if writing for piano, not even remotely!

This is an enormous topic which can scarcely be covered in a forum post. I'd recommend signing up for a uni course or find a private teacher to help you with this. If that isn't an option, I'd look to online courses. Ideally, write for real players to get real experience writing for strings. The best way to learn to orchestrate well is to learn from your mistakes. :)
 

dzilizzi

Senior Member
Just as a quick answer, never play a standard triad if you don't want to sound like a string machine. Inversions are okay. Use your mod wheel. Paul Thompson from Spitfire has done a couple of videos about playing for strings which helped me a lot. Generally the cello an bass play octaves. Each section normally plays only one note.

Rick Beato also has a YouTube video on chord voicing, though it relates generally to all orchestral instruments, not just strings.
 

Gabriel S.

Member
Hallo guys

Im new to the orchestral (cinematic music)
Im pianist and i have a good knowledge with chords,
But when it comes to strings i use the chords the same way i use them in piano example below, and i always use ensemble patches for chords (css 2 for example)
Is this the right way to use strings for chords, any help will be really appreciated

and looking forward to your response.
Try to learn first 4-part harmonization, like Bach Chorales, etc, that kind of stuff. Learn the basic rules of that era (avoiding parallel 8ths & 5ths, preparation of the 7th, circle of tension, doublings, etc). That will help a lot.
 

Willowtree

I make music
Try to learn first 4-part harmonization, like Bach Chorales, etc, that kind of stuff. Learn the basic rules of that era (avoiding parallel 8ths & 5ths, preparation of the 7th, circle of tension, doublings, etc). That will help a lot.
Definitely handy advice for all orchestral writing, and musical writing in general. Though, I'd recommend you approach this carefully unless you've got a good teacher on hand. Some of these concepts can be easily misunderstood.

Just my personal recommendation, you do know yourself best of course, OP.
 

youngpokie

Senior Member
Just to clarify a common misunderstanding... if you're working with block chords, then yes it's FINE to orchestrate string and piano chords in the same way. Many times you will find it hard to orchestrate them very differently.

This is because proper voice leading in chords takes priority over anything else, and also because both piano and strings each have a consistent tone quality across their respective ranges, so there is also no impediment of any kind to proper voice leading.

If you can learn only one thing about voice leading, then make sure it is the simple principle of the correct motion of voices. This alone will transform how your chords sound and it is quite easy to learn.

In fact, the way to connect the most common chords (I to IV, IV to V, V to I and so on) has been standardized for probably a couple hundred years. They fit on a single page that you can print out and apply without overthinking or re-inventing it. And you certainly don't need to waste time studying parallel 5ths and stuff like that in the beginning, because it will have very slight impact on the sound.

In other words, it's not that you should orchestrate chords differently for strings than piano - it's that the piano chords you attached have incorrect voice leading. Done right, they will look either identical or very similar between piano and strings.

When people caution about piano-like orchestration, they usually mean a different issue: voice distribution, figuration and the like.

In music written for piano you have close voicings in the left hand in the lower register, close voicing in the right hand in the higher register and a gap in the middle, sometimes as wide as several octaves. It sounds splendid on the piano and terrible in orchestral version, where you want wide voicings in low register that get closer and tighter as you go up. And if of course you want something in the middle to make sound...
 

YuyaoSG

Member
You might need to think of voicing the strings arrangement. Open and close, high range of low range, there are all have a different effect. And you'd better avoid the same direction of the 5 lines. Try to do the contrary direction.
 

Eric G

Active Member
Hallo guys

Im new to the orchestral (cinematic music)
Im pianist and i have a good knowledge with chords,
But when it comes to strings i use the chords the same way i use them in piano example below, and i always use ensemble patches for chords (css 2 for example)
Is this the right way to use strings for chords, any help will be really appreciated

and looking forward to your response.
Hi D-Pain,

If you are willing to invest some money I would strongly recommend (Flash Sale ends today $249, not sure of the regular pricing):

https://evenant.com/orchestration-reloaded-string-arranging/
Its written for the Pianist and focuses on String writing as the foundation of orchestral writing. The instructor takes you from a piano sketch to fully orchestrated Strings and eventually full orchestra. Very practical and comprehensive. And before you get into the Sample Library purchasing addiction you will need to be educated on how to use them.



 

mybadmemory

Senior Member
A few ideas:

* Think of the 5 string instruments as 5 voices.

* Play one Voice per instrument for a total of 5.

* Basses and cello often play octaves.

* Violas are often used to fill out harmony.

* Violins are often used for melody. And are also often used in octaves.

* String arrangements love some counterpoint. Violins and Celli are the main melodic instruments with viola and basses often having a supporting role.

* Don’t use block chords, but rather inversions and space things out. Especially in the lower half of the keyboard. The further up you come, the closer the notes can be.

* Don’t change all five notes at the same time. Try to make each line interesting in its own right by changing notes at a different time or in different directions.

* Don’t forget the CC dynamics. When you graduate from ensamble patches, give each line its own CC curve.

* Prepare to spend the rest of your life learning. :D
 
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