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Orchestration question - Two beautiful examples for LUSH string sound

curry36

New Member
Hello my friends,

I am trying to figure out the orchestration of these beautiful examples for that "hollywood/lush sound" with the goal to build a template, in which the main strings could sound like these two examples when properly orchestrated.

Unfortunately I couldn't find any resources, especially for the first example. I assume that divisi is playing a role in both tracks, also it doesn't sound like con sordino to my ears and ultimately I'm wondering if there's actually more than just strings in those examples (low brass layers?)

First example, right from the beginning:


Second example, on 0:35:


I'm excited to hear great wisdom from you guys :)
 

Mark Kouznetsov

ᴍʀ. ꜱᴋɪʙɪᴅɪ ʙᴏᴘ ʙᴏᴘ
I wouldn't call it straight up "Hollywood", as both examples are very understated. It's more in style with European composers. There is no brass (although I'm still listening to Desplat while I'm writing this). The Entrapment is a great score, for that particular cue mostly strings were used (gentle woodwinds can be heard towards the closure). The first example is closer to what you would call "flautando" nowadays, but I think those could safely be notated as con sordino. The sound of that still depends on HOW you play it. The mutes themselves could also be of great variety, changing the texture of the sound.Gentle Con Sordino will sound different than "sawing the strings as loud as you can... with mutes" con sordino. For MIDI, it's more a question of dynamic layers.

Although, the ensemble that was playing the samples you write with also plays a role. That's why con sordino from one library sounds different than con sordino from another. If you have an option, try flautando first. You can even experiment with harmonics patches. However, if you feel like that's not dynamic, swap to con sord.

Divisi is a whole another topic. You don't need those to get that sound. Again, depends on what you're trying to achieve, the size of your ensemble etc.

Lushness comes from the melodies, instrumentation/orchestration, voicings. And deciding which instruments to play and when.
Here's an example from a piece I'm currently working on:


It's not even con sordino. So is this:


So, overall, it mostly comes from arrangement and it's not something you can just "turn on" or load into your DAW. Although, using appropriate style of sample libraries helps. Then, it can go as big or as small as you want it to be in terms of overall volume, while still sounding lush.

P.S.: Try adding some gentle high woodwinds like flutes. Christopher Young also uses harp in the example above (and some subtle synths).
 
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ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
So since this is in the orchestration subforum, suggested voicings for lushness would be a good follow-up.

My advice is to relax on the modwheel.

Other things help ofcourse, I like the richness of trying to keep the 3rd and 5th in the bass for lower chord voicings outside of the cadence
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
one of the classic techniques is just doing open voicing between bass/celli/viola then violins in the melody.

This has the octave the beginning - but without the octave staying in the lower range of the violin will keep a nice warm tone as long as you're careful. I've uploaded a 2nd one keeping the violins in their lower range. There is going to likely be some crossing of the viola because I'm just playing random stuff in and then moving the midi around as an example - but as long as you're keeping your dynamics and voice movement in check with the viola/celli/bass then you can afford to dip into the same register as the viola and still stand out as a melody.

If you were writing for real, I'd suggest not playing the bottom two notes of each register - so keep that in mind with your voicing, as sample libraries often use the same sample for the bottom open string for the first 2 notes - which is not very soft, can't use vibrato for obvious reasons(and you can hear that clearly when the violins hit that G)

So if you're voicing lets say a Bb major - you could put the D at the bottom end of the viola and work your way down.( with the F in the cello and the Bb in the bass ). If you were to voice F# minor I'd put the F# in the viola, A in the celli, and C# in the bass - again, if you put the C# in the viola it would be it's first open string in the sample world)

likewise, here is a live demonstration of me voicing these chords(going through different starting points and inversions)


my USB has been goofing up so not sure the camera was working.
 

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curry36

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Hey, first of all thanks for your replies!

I am aware about the power of open voicings, and yes that might probably be more like the typical Hollywood sound (that Desplat example goes into that direction). The first example however plays pretty narrow voicings and doesn't head for the lowest possible registers. I was just curious what might have been done to achieve this sound (obviously room and microphones play a huge role here).

After a few tests I realized that con sordino (or emulations of such) are the best way to go for this sound, even though a conductor once told me that these are not con sordino strings. My flautando samples were sounding totally different to this, couldn't even use them for layering. However, the closer I get, the more I realize how impossible it is to emulate the character of this recording.

For the orchestration, I figured out that it's actually pretty simple. Narrow C minor 9/11, violins play the F3 and D3 triad on the left, Violas and Celli play E(b)3 and B(b)2 on the right. Also I felt that the center of these chords sound a bit louder / more resonating than the top and bottom notes. That might be because of the open strings (D3 in the first chord on second violin for example). Also there is subtle tremolo on the responses (every second bar) in violas and celli I think?

So my conclusion for this C.Y. sound is a combination of clever voicing (narrow voicing, considering open strings and distributing dissonances to the panorama), and on the other hand an immense post processing to achieve this kind of damped sound, wether you are using con sordino recordings/samples or not. Mainly removing a lot of frequencies between 2 and 3,5 kHz, widening the entire stereo image and working with room.

@Mark Kouznetsov Great sounding tracks! Tonally the aesthetics of the strings isn't going into that direction I am looking for as I am very precise with what I expect, but still it's sounding fantastic! Can you tell what kind of woodwinds you hear in the C.Y. example?

@ProfoundSilence Thanks for making a video on this and also for the tipp about avoiding the open strings when not intended, didnt think about that!
 
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iaink

Ouderling
Hey, first of all thanks for your replies!

I am aware about the power of open voicings, and yes that might probably be more like the typical Hollywood sound (that Desplat example goes into that direction). The first example however plays pretty narrow voicings and doesn't head for the lowest possible registers. I was just curious what might have been done to achieve this sound (obviously room and microphones play a huge role here).

After a few tests I realized that con sordino (or emulations of such) are the best way to go for this sound, even though a conductor once told me that these are not con sordino strings. My flautando samples were sounding totally different to this, couldn't even use them for layering. However, the closer I get, the more I realize how impossible it is to emulate the character of this recording.

For the orchestration, I figured out that it's actually pretty simple. Narrow C minor 9/11, violins play the F3 and D3 triad on the left, Violas and Celli play E(b)3 and B(b)2 on the right. Also I felt that the center of these chords sound a bit louder / more resonating than the top and bottom notes. That might be because of the open strings (D3 in the first chord on second violin for example). Also there is subtle tremolo on the responses (every second bar) in violas and celli I think?

So my conclusion for this C.Y. sound is a combination of clever voicing (narrow voicing, considering open strings and distributing dissonances to the panorama), and on the other hand an immense post processing to achieve this kind of damped sound, wether you are using con sordino recordings/samples or not. Mainly removing a lot of frequencies between 2 and 3,5 kHz, widening the entire stereo image and working with room.

@Mark Kouznetsov Great sounding tracks! Tonally the aesthetics of the strings isn't going into that direction I am looking for as I am very precise with what I expect, but still it's sounding fantastic! Can you tell what kind of woodwinds you hear in the C.Y. example?

@ProfoundSilence Thanks for making a video on this and also for the tipp about avoiding the open strings when not intended, didnt think about that!
As you have discovered, this sounds like con sordino in the Young example.

The rhythmic chords are vln 1, 2, and divisi vla. The celli are also divisi holding pedal tones (C, G at the start) an octave below, which is very soft at first.

Another point is, string players will normally avoid open strings unless it is best for practical reasons, or if they were instructed. The lower D on vln would be played on the G string - this will happen without any additional notation and without the players asking the conductor.

An open string, even con sord., has slightly sharper resonance, no vibrato, and would stick out in this context.
 
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curry36

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As you have discovered, this sounds like con sordino in the Young example.

The rhythmic chords are vln 1, 2, and divisi vla. The celli are also divisi holding pedal tones (C, G at the start) an octave below, which is very soft at first.

Another point is, string players will normally avoid open strings unless it is best for practical reasons, or if they were instructed. The lower D on vln would be played on the G string - this will happen without any additional notation and without the players asking the conductor.

An open string, even con sord., has slightly sharper resonance, no vibrato, and would stick out in this context.
Thank you Iain! You have very experienced ears. Now as you say, it makes sense that he didn't use open strings because of the continuous vibrato. Also I totally forgot about the pedal, it's so subtle.

So in this case would you say that Violin 1 & 2 are playing the first and third voice of that rythm section, and Viola the second and fourth voice because these seem to be the quieter ones?

And also what interests me is the sound at 1:00 / 1:01. Can this still be the colour of a Viola in a low register? It sounds so much like a horn or bassoon to me.
 

iaink

Ouderling
Thank you Iain! You have very experienced ears. Now as you say, it makes sense that he didn't use open strings because of the continuous vibrato. Also I totally forgot about the pedal, it's so subtle.

So in this case would you say that Violin 1 & 2 are playing the first and third voice of that rythm section, and Viola the second and fourth voice because these seem to be the quieter ones?

And also what interests me is the sound at 1:00 / 1:01. Can this still be the colour of a Viola in a low register? It sounds so much like a horn or bassoon to me.

Some orchestrators might interlock voices but I think it's more common not now - it is easier to read in the score top down.

I haven't listened too closely to tell which it is, but options for a 4 note chord might be to divided vln1 or divide vla. Another solution would be to divide all three voices, with each doubling a tone but not interlocked. In that solution the lower vln2 line would start Bb and fall to open G (unavoidable). The differences are subtle in a low register, soft passage like this. Open G is 'richer' than open D and not so bad...

Harp also doubles the rhythmic string line - not sure where it starts but I can hear it at 0:50 and 1:00 - which is what I think you mean? I don't hear horn or bassoon.

This is very much like a piano sketch orchestrated out quite nicely. And we are discussing the left hand.
 
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curry36

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Some orchestrators might interlock voices but I think it's more common not now - it is easier to read in the score top down.

I haven't listened too closely to tell which it is, but options for a 4 note chord might be to divided vln1 or divide vla. Another solution would be to divide all three voices, with each doubling a tone but not interlocked. In that solution the lower vln2 line would start Bb and fall to open G (unavoidable). The differences are subtle in a low register, soft passage like this. Open G is 'richer' than open D and not so bad...

Harp also doubles the rhythmic string line - not sure where it starts but I can hear it at 0:50 and 1:00 - which is what I think you mean? I don't hear horn or bassoon.

This is very much like a piano sketch orchestrated out quite nicely. And we are discussing the left hand.
Thank you again and sorry for my late response. I learned a lot from your analysis!

The part I meant on 1:00 is the two Fm7/9 stabs. The Eb and Ab sound very brassy to me, but it might just be the sound of violas in low registers (that would make sense if the vioals play the 2nd and 4th chord note from above in divisi). My ears are not trained enough to tell if that is the case.

I will also consider the harp as Mark already mentioned. Incredible soft sound, I didn't even notice. Probably only Room mics used on this cue for all of the instruments, would you agree?

@ProfoundSilence Thanks for sharing this! I will have a look at it. :)
 
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