Horns and Strings

Arrangement, instrumentation, lyric writing, music theory, inspiration… it’s all here.
Post Reply

Horns and Strings

Post by Essex Boi »

I’ve probably posted this in the wrong forum, in which case Mods please move accordingly.

I’m currently obsessing over “Laura” by Bat For Lashes. A beautiful, delicate, seemingly sparse track.

https://youtu.be/UznHTBZIa8E

I’m particularly taken by the horns and strings, which lay the foundation as the song builds. Anyhow, a two part question:

1) Ignoring the piano, does anyone know (or willing to have an educated guess) what combination of instruments are playing?

2) Does anyone have any tips (aside from hiring an orchestral arranger) for creating such a dense, rich palette with soft instruments? Whenever I try to create something like this it always sounds too ‘busy’ if you catch my drift.
Essex Boi
Poster
Posts: 75 Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2022 1:10 pm Location: Not the bit of Essex on the telly
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by Drew Stephenson »

On point one, can't help at all I'm afraid. One horn sounds pretty like another to me! :D Other than I think the high part is a trumpet or cornet?

On point two, I think one thing to watch for is being really clear about what each instrument is adding.
When I first started adding VST instruments I was largely just hitting triads and wondering why it all sounded a bit 'meh'.
I found this video a really useful introduction to creating more engaging string parts, I suspect it will translate to other instrument groups as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkatcvI ... L&index=75

Apologies if this is teaching egg-sucking!
User avatar
Drew Stephenson
Apprentice Guru
Posts: 25090 Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:00 am Location: York
(The forumuser formerly known as Blinddrew)
Ignore the post count, I have no idea what I'm doing...
https://drewstephenson.bandcamp.com/

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by Wonks »

IIRC, George Martin said that he only ever used a maximum of three different lines/parts in his string arrangements.
User avatar
Wonks
Jedi Poster
Posts: 17233 Joined: Thu May 29, 2003 12:00 am Location: Reading, UK
Reliably fallible.

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by The Elf »

I do a lot of orchestral arrangements. There are a few aspects to creating convincing, brass/string parts, but I'll condense it to:

Think of each monophonic line the way that a single player would approach it. Avoid jarringly large and 'atonal' jumps in notes - rather, try to give each part a pleasingly 'melodic' line. Use passing notes to move between wider intervals and embellish/smooth a line. When notes repeat, consider achieving this with dynamics, rather than triggering a new note. Use legato options when you can. Play each line as a separate part and don't try too hard to align them, but let them happen naturally. Assign closer intervals (up to fifths) to higher parts and wider intervals (5ths plus) to lower parts.

And ignore any and all of the above if it suits your aim!
User avatar
The Elf
Forum Aficionado
Posts: 20240 Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by Folderol »

I would add:
Remember that people playing wind instruments need time to breathe :tongue:
User avatar
Folderol
Jedi Poster
Posts: 18430 Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2008 12:00 am Location: The Mudway Towns, UK
Yes. I am that Linux nut {apparently now an 'elderly'}
Onwards and... err... sideways!

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by Sam Inglis »

It's hard to isolate individual instruments because they're quite low in the mix, but I'm fairly sure there is French horn, trumpet or cornet and tuba/euphonium as well as cello and double bass there.

One interesting and unusual thing about that track is that because it's otherwise so sparse, the string and horn arrangement actually provides a lot of the low end. It's very effective there, but you probably wouldn't want all those long bass notes in a busier arrangement or a more uptempo song.
Sam Inglis
Moderator
Posts: 3054 Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 12:00 am

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by forumuser840717 »

Essex Boi wrote: Fri Jan 27, 2023 1:29 pm I’m particularly taken by the horns and strings, which lay the foundation as the song builds. Anyhow, a two part question:

1) Ignoring the piano, does anyone know (or willing to have an educated guess) what combination of instruments are playing?

Musicians:
Cello – Chris Worsey, Ian Burdge, Sophie Harris
Double Bass – Richard Pryce, Steve Rossell
French Horn – Richard Watkins
Trumpet – Dan Newell
Trombone – Mike Kearsey
Tuba – Oren Marshall
Piano – Justin Parker
Vocals – Natasha Khan
Conductor – Sally Herbert

Horns & Strings arranged by Natasha Khan
Additional Arrangement – Sally Herbert

Never heard that before. I like it. Amusingly, the french horn player is a friend I've known for over 30 years and recorded many times, who was also one of my sister's horn teachers some time ago at RAM.
forumuser840717
Regular
Posts: 451 Joined: Thu Jun 16, 2016 5:20 pm

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by RichardT »

I think Dave Stewart did a series of articles in SOS on string arranging.
RichardT
Frequent Poster
Posts: 4331 Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:00 am Location: Ireland

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by sonics »

The arrangement is kept simple, and very "dark".
Parts are played mf at most, but mostly quieter.
There are no upper strings at all, just 'cellos and basses.
The parts are almost all dotted crotchets, and playing on the beat.
Nothing fights with the voice, rhythmically or in frequency range.

It's a sparse, and unusual (for pop music) arrangement.
sonics
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1809 Joined: Wed Jul 16, 2003 12:00 am Location: Canada
 

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by tea for two »

What a voice.

From comments
"My sister is called Laura and she is an absolute superstar, she helped me through my abuse and trauma."

Essex Boi wrote: Fri Jan 27, 2023 1:29 pm 1) Ignoring the piano, does anyone know (or willing to have an educated guess) what combination of instruments are playing?

2) Does anyone have any tips (aside from hiring an orchestral arranger) for creating such a dense, rich palette with soft instruments? Whenever I try to create something like this it always sounds too ‘busy’ if you catch my drift.

Forumuser840717 cleared up Num 1).

Num 2)
This is what I would do it's a little different to what's on the song.

So please look the other way as She has almost 7 million views I'd be lucky to get 1 view lol.

1. No Strings doubles the vocal notes :
so if a C is being sung, then Strings should play something other than C.

2. No String notes in frequency of Singer's voice :
this is tougher, sometimes it can't be avoided in which instance at those moments quietening the strings (diminuendo I suppose).
These are done on this song by the singer Natasha Khan in how she wrote the Strings.
So for a song like this if you have a deep voice let's say baritone or tenor then you can put in Violins. If your voice is soprano or mezzo then put in just Cellos, Double Bass as is on this song.

3. No Strings doubling the main accompaniment :
here it's Piano so whichever chord Piano is playing, Strings should avoid doubling the root note when the Piano chord is played.

4. Brass can really take over a song as this rough shodding any accompaniment :
so playing Brass softly as softly is played on the song.
Playing Brass loud then pushing it to back of the mix wouldn't work.
Brass not doubling the notes of the Strings nor Piano nor Voice. Brass can play the same notes just not at the same time as the other main parts.

5. How would Kick Drum, Bass Guitar work with Strings Brass on this song :
it probably wouldn't that's probably reason there are no Drums nor Bass Guitar. If Drums were to be added it would probably be just soft rides, soft splashes here and there.
(Wonderwall is a neat example of Cello working with Drums and Bass Guitar).
tea for two
Frequent Poster
Posts: 3631 Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2002 12:00 am

Re: Horns and Strings

Post by Essex Boi »

Thanks everyone. Lots of helpful advice, as always. Now I have to put it into practice. I’ll post the results, assuming I eventually craft something worthy of being set out into wide world.
Essex Boi
Poster
Posts: 75 Joined: Thu Dec 22, 2022 1:10 pm Location: Not the bit of Essex on the telly
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Post Reply