Let's talk about strings, baby

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
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Stab Frenzy
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Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by Stab Frenzy » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:39 am

Yesterday I was playing around with the V-Synth trying to get a nice vintage-sounding string patch for a track we're working on at the moment. I realised that I'd never really thought too much about them, and how to make them.

This thread is for discussion of all things string, which synths are good for strings, what are some good techniques for string patches, etc.

Fire away!

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Post by tallowwaters » Fri Mar 21, 2008 1:51 am

stings almost need to be layered with breathy 8 bit choirs/mellotron as interpreted by fairlight choirs.

i love pizziccato (f**k it, i'm not italian and i dont feel like looking it up) strings layered with those girly voice choir stabs, or trans multiplied with a nice garagey/trashy verb stapled on. i can phone those f**k in all day, which is unfortunately why i had to quit using them... :cry:
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Post by Jack Spider » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:00 am

My main instruments for strings are the Jupiter 6 and ESQ-1. Although the Jupiter sounds better, the ESQ has more going for it for strings with the extra oscillator and three assignable LFOs.

It was watching Steve Porcaro's 'Star Licks' video in which he uses an Oberheim Xpander to program string sounds, that I learned a few tricks for programming string sounds:

- Use PWM rather than sawtooths for more 'movement'
- Assign LFOs running at different rates/depths on each oscillator if possible
- Have the keyboard track the LFOs, so that the LFO rate is faster on high notes slower on low notes
- Detune oscillators slightly
- If a sampler/rompler is available, use staccato string samples for the 'attack'. This is obviously how the D-50 works, but as Steve's video predates the D-50, he used an Emulator for the samples, doubled with the Xpander.

Here are a couple of string patches from the Jupiter and ESQ. The Jupiter patch is one of Push-Pulls (I couldn't be bothered recording one of my patches!) and the ESQ is a 3-sawtooth detuned string sound. I then assigned an LFO at a different rate to each osc for a Polymoog/Vox Humana style string.

http://media.putfile.com/Jupiter-6-Callisto-Solina
http://media.putfile.com/ESQ-1-Stringy-Humana-Thing

These would both sound better with a nice subtle, washy chorus.
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Post by hfinn » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:22 am

Aside from a dedicated string synth, the OB-X is my absolute favorite.

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Post by OriginalJambo » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:23 am

The ESQ-1 rocks for strings - definitely my favourite at the very least.

Here's a selection of patches playing a MIDI file. No effects were used.

Other notable mentions are the PolySix (especially with the ensemble effect!), the JX-3P (the chorus effect comes into its own here) and the JD-800 which just has some great string patches.

I think the secret to a good string sound is either a good chorus/ensemble effect or several oscillators beating against each other. I prefer sawtooth string sounds to PWM ones usually but that's totally subjective.

What makes the ESQ-1 excel at them? The combination of 3 DGOs, 4 envelopes, 3 LFOs (one for each audio oscillator!) and a lovely CEM filter that gives a very warm, dark sound - perfect!
Last edited by OriginalJambo on Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by synth3tik » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:32 am

Well, I think many Roland boards are great for strings. I have to be honest I am not a fan of many Roland synths that came out since the early 80's, but for strings they are a must. I recently got a JD-990 that will become my string machine of sorts. I also think that the Oberheim Matrix 6 is excellent in this department. I would assume that the Matrix 12 would be even better, sadly I do not think I will ever have that chance to get one. In a closet I have a Roland RS-202 sting synth that maybe I should pull out and play with. That thing has some rather warm strings.

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Post by Bitexion » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:20 am

One of the tricks is to apply so much modulation to the waveforms that it tricks the ear into hearing just a "blur", thus creating a smooth stringsy sound. Several LFO's at different speeds, PWM etc. But not so much modulation that you hear the pitch change well. Then it'll just be a mess.

I love certain SQ80 strings patches too, they just sound so huge, alive and RAW sometimes.

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Post by braincandy » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:44 am

My favorite synth for strings was my K2VXs. Huge and epic. I used them alot with my old band. It's been a few years since I've owned it, but I remembered the patches I used being particularly lush. It also did synth strings really well, too (sounded a little like some "Love Will Tear Us Apart" Omni string patches I've heard).

I've actually tweaked some decent string sounds out of my AN1x and with the reverb cranked, it sounded pretty good. Not so much an analog emulation, but a string-like patch that was almost rompler-like. I always use pulse waves instead of saws for string pads.

The JD-990 does a good job with strings and it can cover a lot of ground with the Vintage expansion: Mellotron, analogish pads, the classic grainy JD-990 string preset, and phasey string machine patches.

For analog strings, nothing topped the OB-8 I had. Perfection.

I can't program realistic strings to save my life and most of my best edits are happy accidents. One thing I always do, and it's cheating, I guess, is to use a lot of reverb. It just adds an ethereal quality and size for those big string pads that I love so much.
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Post by Cycom » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:46 am

Roland Super JX.

As good as some of the string presets are (Cello Orchestra and Soundtrack are both stunning).....with a little programming you get coax some lush, and I mean LUSH strings out of this poly.
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Post by Bitexion » Fri Mar 21, 2008 3:48 am


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Post by stillearning » Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:25 am

Cycom wrote:Roland Super JX.

As good as some of the string presets are (Cello Orchestra and Soundtrack are both stunning).....with a little programming you get coax some lush, and I mean LUSH strings out of this poly.
I have to agree. For analog strings it's the best bang for the buck board I can think of.

For realistic orchestral strings, it's the Kurzweil K2xxx series, especially with the Orchestral ROM board. Capable of some very full symphonic sounds, as well as solo strings.
As always, kindly allow for the possibility I have no idea what I'm talking about.

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Post by Mr. Black » Fri Mar 21, 2008 4:42 am

The more LFO's per program the better,you may not feel the need to always use that many, but it's better to have more than less, push the filter's cutoff frequecy fairly high,detune,fine tune, a couple of string sounds i have spent some time recreating as of late,Closedown- from the Cure's Disinigration album 1989,i took a Mellotron patch from the JD800 string card, tweaked that put a reverse reverb on it, and sent it through a combination of LPF, HPF, it sounded more like a (Chamber Ensemble) after this,then layered it with a JX8p patch (High String's) that i just made a little more lush, gave it a slightly slower attack, and changed the chorus settings.It may not sound exact but it sounds closer than most of the later live performance's i have seen on youtube from them.

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Post by solderguy » Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:45 am

Another reason for great string-sounds from ESQ-1 is that each voice not only has three LFOs.... each voice has it's own distinct set of three LFOs, ie. there are a total of 24 LFOs. In order to keep them distinct for each voice, keep the "LFO reset at start of envelope" (or whatever it's called in the menu) turned off. A bit of detuning helps too... plus control of attack time by key velocity.

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Post by severen » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:30 am

my synth skill makes PWM string hard to express :(

What did you think Nord G2's string osc? Isn't It Funny?
I like this

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Post by mr.cabra » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:57 am

Not that I have a lot of different string synths, but I my Juno 6, and my Crumar orchestrator. Plus I just got a Korg poly ensemble, but it's being repaired. There's probably a lot that work for you.

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