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Which orchestra to record?

J Slater

New Member
I'm doing a film where I got lucky enough to have a budget for live orchestra. Doing this in Los Angeles (where I am based) would be nice, but I'd like to stretch my dollars a little further by going to Europe. (Plus get a little vacation in the deal.)

I assume London will be as pricey as Los Angeles, but I know that people will often record in Prague, Budapest, even Moscow. The Strezov Afflatus strings sound pretty cool, too, so I'm guessing they were recorded in Sofia? Now that I think about it, I love the sound of Alex's Cinematic Strings, too, so I wonder if Australia would be reasonably priced?

There are two main factors (aside from price! ;) ) that I'm most concerned about. First is the sound. I'm looking for warm and "pretty," especially in the strings. I assume all orchestras can go from epic to pretty, so maybe that's a non-issue, but are there particular orchestras that are known for being more or less so?

The second factor is tuning. Years ago, I did a session on the cheap by hiring college students. They were supposedly "the best" players, but the tuning was a nightmare. I've been scared of hiring a live orchestra ever since.

Any thoughts or advice?
 

JMJ33101

Member
You could ask the director or conductor to “direct” the players to play “pretty” or sweetly is a better word or however you wish. Are you the composer? Or you hired a composer?
 
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J Slater

J Slater

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I should have been clearer - yes, I'm the composer.

On the pretty part (I agree, "sweetly" is probably the better word ;) ), I know I can ask the orchestra to play however I need, but I'm just wondering if certain players, or even certain rooms, are inherently sweeter (or more aggressive) than others.

For instance, the various sample libraries I use have drastically different timbres. If I could choose one and say "that's the tone I want," it would be Cinematic Strings. I'm just wondering if that tone is largely the room and orchestra that Alex used, or can I duplicate that just about anywhere?
 

Red Room Audio

Active Member
We've recorded with Four For Music in Sofia (George Strezov's production company) and couldn't be happier with the experience. They offer excellent remote service and have a very professional team. If you have the means to travel there to conduct, produce or simply be a part of your sessions, I highly recommend it. They're very hospitable and great to work with. And of course the orchestra is top-notch!
 

bryla

Orchestrator
Would always recommend being in the studio in person and I would highly recommend Smecky Studios in Prague and Eastconnection in Budapest. Top professional, great sound and quality of musicians.
 

Sopranos

Senior Member
My guess is that these developers would be more than happy to share/plug their musician sources and venues... you should reach out and ask them directly who they used if you like their sound.

Cheers!
 

JMJ33101

Member
I should have been clearer - yes, I'm the composer.

On the pretty part (I agree, "sweetly" is probably the better word ;) ), I know I can ask the orchestra to play however I need, but I'm just wondering if certain players, or even certain rooms, are inherently sweeter (or more aggressive) than others.

For instance, the various sample libraries I use have drastically different timbres. If I could choose one and say "that's the tone I want," it would be Cinematic Strings. I'm just wondering if that tone is largely the room and orchestra that Alex used, or can I duplicate that just about anywhere?
Maybe if you have a medium sized section, maybe an 8/6/5/5/3 or something similar to that, you could write whatever part of the score that needs a sweet line by just having 4 1st Violins play that line. Most of the Old 60s scores sounded very much chamber like. Take for example Erich Korngolds “The Seahawk main title/suite. It’s about 5-6 mins i think. After the Fanfare intro, there’s a “sweet” part somewhere in the middle of the piece. But I’d encourage you to listen to the whole piece and some older scores such as The prelude of Ten Commandents by Elmer Bernstein
 

JMJ33101

Member
I don’t think it really matters what orchestra records the music. Look at the London Symphony Orchestra. They recorded Star Wars, and now the Violins section has been completed replaced by new people, but they still have the beautiful full sound that the orchestra had 40-50 years ago.
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
I would never choose an orchestra based on sample library recordings. Recording samples is a very different process. If I may be so bold, in my experience it is better to use a smaller ensemble and hire better studio musicians than try to go somewhere cheap and get a bigger ensemble. Better musicians work more quickly and allow you to focus on creating good music rather than fixing problems.

However the key element in this process is having well orchestrated and copied music so that the musicians can truly perform at their best. Without that, you'll have issues no matter where you record.

Edit: It's also important to write for the ensemble you plan to use. People run into problems when they write things that are meant for a top LA or London studio orchestra and then try to record with musicians who are less skilled or experienced. The top studio musicans know how to cover a number of faults and never say a word.
 

Sears Poncho

Senior Member
I don’t think it really matters what orchestra records the music. Look at the London Symphony Orchestra. They recorded Star Wars, and now the Violins section has been completed replaced by new people, but they still have the beautiful full sound that the orchestra had 40-50 years ago.

Yes, a top orchestra will attract top players. As for your first sentence- HAAAAAAAA! Yeah, it matters. Some are all good and stuff. Some suck.
 

JMJ33101

Member
The horns are cracking up notes and Trumpets can’t hit those high notes. The Timpanist messed up a single turn page and has to look at the conductor for his cue. The Strings are out of tune. Just to name a few mistakes by Bad orchestras hahaha.
 

WhiteNoiz

';...;'
Tenderly. It's more poetic. Inspire them to work that instrument and pour their soul into the performance. Ignite their inner warmth. Spark that little flare that will warm you through memories on those cold days. When you were a youngster, looking at the stars and thinking which library to start with... This could all have gone so differently. But you're there. They're looking at you. You connect. That electrifying glimpse before they look down and... Sob. Make them feel. Get them in the mood... It's the little things. But maybe I'm thinking of another mood. If you wanna turn them off maybe write Spiritoso. Priotrities... :whistling::rolleyes:
 

LHall

Senior Member
Believe it or not, Nashville has some of the best players you'll find. Yeah, it doesn't have the romance of Europe, but it's pretty cool. BTW, I recorded an orchestra project in Kiev a few years ago. Make sure you're careful about WHEN you go. We got there to find out that it was during "holiday" time when most of the A players were gone and we ended up with a lot of second string (pardon the phrase) players. Project came out fine, but certainly required more work than it would have.
 

MPortmann

Active Member
I concur with Prague orchestra at Smecky (or Rudolfinum if wanting Hall sound). For me, with any orchestra, the relationship w the conductor is so important in making that choice. Find someone that connects emotionally and technically to your music, makes themselves available for preproduction discussions, score and parts proofread in advance and can translate that to their orchestra. My experiences in Prague have been tremendous. Recordings all go super smooth.
 
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J Slater

J Slater

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Believe it or not, Nashville has some of the best players you'll find. Yeah, it doesn't have the romance of Europe, but it's pretty cool.
Wait ... there are musicians in Nashville???

That might be an interesting option. Part of the appeal of Europe (or Australia) is getting a tax deductible vacation out of the deal, but Nashville would be easier, and from what I've heard, session players in Nashville are way cheaper than Los Angeles. Probably more expensive than Eastern Europe, but cheaper flights and less jet lag does make it tempting.

Do you know who I would contact to contract the players, and is there a specific studio everyone uses for this sort of thing? It's most likely just the strings that I would be recording.
 

LHall

Senior Member
Wait ... there are musicians in Nashville???

That might be an interesting option. Part of the appeal of Europe (or Australia) is getting a tax deductible vacation out of the deal, but Nashville would be easier, and from what I've heard, session players in Nashville are way cheaper than Los Angeles. Probably more expensive than Eastern Europe, but cheaper flights and less jet lag does make it tempting.

Do you know who I would contact to contract the players, and is there a specific studio everyone uses for this sort of thing? It's most likely just the strings that I would be recording.
I will PM you.
 

Sears Poncho

Senior Member
and from what I've heard, session players in Nashville are way cheaper than Los Angeles.

Are you going to be using "Union" musicians? If so, and if this is a vanity/commercial recording session, the fees will be the same. And if not, your options are much wider. And musicians can be "hand-picked". But the Union thingy is complex, and some union locals can be assholes and seek revenge blah blah.
 
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