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Is layering strings something common ?

Songcamp34

New Member
Hi ! I am a newbie.

By layering, I mean, like with synths for fattening the sound, using many strings patches to make a big sounding one.

For example, you use sustained strings with a good library, and you decide to add the same kind of strings playing exactly the same notes, but from another library.

With synths, it works very well, and it make the sound bigger, but what is it with strings ?
I have no knowledge, but I think that layering (in this way) would destroy the strings sound because it would be totally unrealistic (it's like playing two differents orchestras in the same time)

Is it common to do this with orchestral strings ?

In this song, at 1m22s :


I love the string sounds, it sound very full, but do you know how the producer got this sound ?

Is it about using many strings libraries and layering them, or just by getting the good one to make what you have in head ?

Sorry for this noob question, I am totally a noobie about orchestral instruments !!

So to make it short :

  1. Is layering strings (I take East West staccato + 8dio Staccato and make them play the same midi notes to make it fatter) is something that is used, or should it be avoided ?

  2. To get big sounding strings (in the context of EDM/Pop), is is all about getting the right libraries ?
Thanks !!
 

nas

Active Member
It is common. Either for fattening up the sound, or to blend the different sonic characteristics of the two libraries (i.e a darker warmer sound from one library with a brighter sound of another). Or to add a level of detail and expression by blending a smaller ensemble or solo strings with a larger string section.
 

Manuel Stumpf

Active Member
This is absolutely common!
Layering works very well for strings.

For example you can layer staccato/spiccato from two libraries where one has a more bouncy character and the other has a more pronounced bow stroke, where the players dig in :)

For more realism sometimes it makes sense to record the 2nd line in midi again, instead of copying the first one. Then they are not exactly equal.

But be warned layering for woodwinds does fail most often. For brass it is almost guaranteed to fail.
 
OP
S

Songcamp34

New Member
Thanks for your answer !

Just a question : you say layering (for example) staccato and spiccato, but my question was about layering the same kind of instruments.

For example : layering 2 or 3 staccatos strings (from different libraries), or 3 sustain strings.
 

Saxer

Senior Member
Producing hybrid orchestral music isn't very different from producing other styles. You do everything you can until it sounds right to you. It's different when you write for a real orchestra (more or less one note per instrument and keeping everything playable for the musicians). But good orchestral mockups needs the use of a lot of production tricks to sound like a real orchestra.
So yes, layering is common. But it's helpful when you know what you want to achieve. In my experience layering small sections with bigger sections sound more like smaller sections. And stacking too many layers can turn good sounding strings into a padlike synth. It's all try and error.
 

oxo

Active Member
yes, i would say most people do layering for strings. i bought some string libraries only for layering. there are many different reasons for layering. just a few examples:
- increase of the section size
- to get more definition (large section combined with solo instruments or small ensembles)
- to get a more smear/smoother sound (stack two big sections)
- layering dry and wet strings
- layering a neutral standard library with expressive strings for a more emotional / lyrical sound
- layering strings with tiny differences in attack and swelling, to get a more human feeling
- layering differnt legato strings for more fluid lines
- layering strings with differnt vibrato type (for example for more human feeling or for soaring strings)
- etc.

especially older libraries that sound rather static need layering.
 

Meetyhtan

Noise Maker
Layering can be a great and easy method to discover some new or rarely used texture elements in your sounds. Lots of possibilities I still want to play around with for myself.
And of course: What ever sounds good :)
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
Layering is a great technique like everyone described so far, but *not* layering can also be great. There's easily room for both techniques. Sometimes a layered, fattened sound means that higher frequencies get smoothed out too much, and for orchestral instruments that's not always a good thing. The "clarity" and "bite" and "spatial precision" in the stereo image - these things often come from those higher frequencies, even for bass low end instruments.
 

ridgero

Member
I started in 2004 with producing electronic music (Reason, then Cubase) with many different synthesizer. I know what a synth can do and how to program almost any common sounds.

I started to work with orchestra sounds in 2008 (East West). Since 2014 I quit the electronic part and only work with orchestral libraries and from that point only focused on orchestral music. I've learned so much about layering melodies and sounds.

The most valuable thing I've learned is: How to orchestrate a piece that sounds big but not messy.

In many electronic music tracks things are so messed up... e.g. a lead synth which is programmed to play 3 octaves per note.
 

667

Senior Member
I almost never do it, sounds good in isolation but turns your mix to mush very quickly. I suppose if I was frustrated and not getting the sound I needed, it might be something I would try.

But every time I end up pulling it back and simplifying the mix instead. Maybe because I use 99% Spitfire / Air Lyndhurst libs; probably if I was using VSL DS + LASS I'd have very different experience.

Does anyone have some examples they could post? Something that sounds so good they do it every time? Or is it always specific to the piece?
 

DivingInSpace

Active Member
Thanks for your answer !

Just a question : you say layering (for example) staccato and spiccato, but my question was about layering the same kind of instruments.

For example : layering 2 or 3 staccatos strings (from different libraries), or 3 sustain strings.
That is what he meant, that you layer a staccato/spiccato with the staccato/spiccato from another library.
 
I don't think there's a definitive yes or no answer to this question. It's highly dependent on the samples themselves, and also the application. If you are featuring strings in relative isolation and foreground, like in a fully orchestral piece, then you might have to be more careful about blending strings from different libraries (as sense of room and space may be more important for "realism" in that context, and different vendors use different spaces/mics/etc).

In the EDM example you linked, I assume you're talking about the sustained chords in the background, which I don't even know if I'm immediately picking out as strings. Might be just a synth pad going on there. When strings are used in a more supportive role like this, to fill out certain areas of the mix, I'd think it's much easier to blend different string libraries. And in this genre the expectation of realism is not as high as orchestral music anyway.

In either case, I would just experiment and see what sounds good. There's no hard and fast rule to any of this.
 

Batrawi

Active Member
It's very common. But to me it just sounds as if several persons are speaking at the same time. Very annoying. Unless the ambiance character is almost identical for the blended instruments (and how common is that?!) then I wouldn't use this technique.
 
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