Let's talk about strings, baby

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Analogue Crazy
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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by Analogue Crazy » Thu Nov 05, 2009 12:23 am

From my experience:

Andromeda - Huge thick Analogue Strings due to the VCO's and pleanty of life and movement, in the studio i tend to turn off background tuning. The 16 note polyphony is great and means you can stack VCO's in Unison X and still have sufficiant polyphony. Endless possibillities and such a warm sound.

Juno-60 - Great warm Analogue strings but long fades are a no no due to the snappy envelopes. The internal chorus unit sounds is great and pushing both buttons in gives you a tremelo chorus that can be effective on some string patches. The stregnth of the Juno is programming string sounds in very little time due to the simple but well thought out voice archetecture.

Jupiter-4 - Not capable of many but i got a couple of great Analogue String sounds out of mine, one of which i used in almost everything i did and became a signature sound. Like the Juno the envelopes are too fast for a long fade in but the stregnth of the JP-4 is lead string patches to play a melody with. I put mine into Unison II mode which gave 2 voices of dual VCO polyphony and played some beutiful high string harmonies and melodies.
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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by calyx93 » Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:43 pm

For a good, accurate (but VERY variable) TRUE standalone string synth ensemble effect, look no further than this:
http://www.synthoma.net/p/index.php?opt ... Itemid=134

Probably one of the most satisfying additions to my rig - and when used with the right patch and dialed in right, it sounds absolutely gorgeous. Shimmery and silky on top, swirly and transparent in the mids, and even reproduces that lovely growl of the low end/bass of the Solina.
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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by ItsMeOnly » Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:35 pm

For strings I discovered 01/W (Analog Pad - it's in the 2/3rds of the song), after that, K3 does a nice warm analog strings

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by b3groover » Sun Nov 08, 2009 2:05 am

balma, I'd love to hear that EX5 string patch. Have you thought of selling it?

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by balma » Mon Nov 09, 2009 3:30 pm

No, I didn't even know that I could sell such stuff.

It's easy to create those kind of sample sets with a little bit of patience.

This kind of sample work: a single patch based on multisamples or several samples, can also be done with the VSYNTH using the 16 zones split.

You just need a decent sampler with a reasonable amount of memory, and with the variphrase technology, picking 16 notes from C1 to C6 should sound very close to the original sample.
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Re:

Post by 0e0 » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:56 am

synth3tik wrote: I also think that the Oberheim Matrix 6 is excellent in this department.
yes...the modulation options make for really expressive patches. and the weak slope of the filter makes for a more natural sound.

j

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by Malik » Tue Nov 10, 2009 8:00 pm

I'd have to second (or tenth) some of the early responders in praising the E/SQ family of Ensoniq for amazing strings. With the 8-bit samples, multiple software LFOs and envelopes and the Curtis filter, my SQ-80 really can't be beat when it comes to strings. As far as I'm concerned, it tops the Juno-60 and even my Andromeda.

The Andromeda's sound is vastly incredible- huge, moving, massive...but the strings end up being more "pad-dy". (probably a reflection on the synthesist; not his tools) Between the Andy and the SQ-80, I have all atmosphere covered perfectly.

Don't forget to add in some DP4 reverb and phasers for extra movement. ;->

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by Shanesaw » Wed Nov 11, 2009 10:01 pm

In Keyboard Magazine's 1984 "Synthesizer Technique" book, Bob Moog discusses the timbral complexity of the violin and suggests a few different methods to achieve convincing string family emulations.

" String Instrument Acoustics. The violin bow is coated with rosin which makes it grip the string. As the bow is drawn across the string, the string follows the bow at the point of contact. When the string pulls on the bow with a greater force than the rosin can hold, the string breaks loose and snaps back, and the cycle starts over. The string motion causes the violin's bridge to rock back and fourth with a sawtooth-wave-like motion. Of course, the amount of bridge motion is very small, but it is enough to set the entire violin body into complex vibration.
Although structurally simple, the violin body has a great many mechanical resonances. The strength of the resonances and the evenness of their spacing throughout the spectrum determine a violin's sound quality. Fine violins have a main wood resonance very close to 440Hz, the frequency of the open A string. Other strong resonances are the cavity resonance (caused by the acoustic properties of the air inside the violin box, rather than the box itself) near 294 Hz, the frequency of the open D string, and a wood resonance close to the frequency of the open G string. In addition there are literally dozens of lesser resonances that are set into vibration by the harmonics of the tones.
What are the effects of these resonances? First, they increase the acoustic output of the violin. A violin with a weakly resonant body just sounds weak and soft. But more important for our purposes, the multiple closely-spaced resonances emphasize some harmonics and suppress others in a nearly random manner. Furthermore, when the pitch of the tone is changed even a little bit (in vibrato for instance), the amplitudes and phases of all the harmonics vary markedly. You can see this if you watch a violin signal on a oscilloscope; the waveform is complex and always changing. As the pitch of the string signal changes, the amplitude of each harmonic rises and falls independently of the others. The total sound appears to be of constant loudness with a warm, rich quality.
Max Matthew's Electric Violin. Dr. Max Matthew's is director of the Acoustic and Behavioral Research Center at Bell Labs. Over the years he has actively participated in electronic music research. His projects have ranged from building a 96-input mixer for composer John Cage to performing pioneering work in computer synthesis. One of Matthews's most interesting projects is a violin that uses conventional strings and fingerboard, but replaces the violin body with a set of special electrical resonances. The ridged plastic bridge on Matthews's instrument is mounted on a block of solid wood. Pickup magnets are located on the bridge under each string. The string signals thus produced are analogous to the vibrations that go through the bridge and into the body of a conventional violin. The contain all the harmonics of the string tones, but are not modified by any acoustical resonances.
The significant aspect of Matthews's instrument is the manner in which the raw string signal is processed to achieve the characteristic violin timbre. The string signal is fed through an electrical filter array that is an electrical analog of a violin body ((f**k cool!). Matthews's design calls for 36 separate resonant filters whose center frequencies run from 175 to 8,000 Hz! The resonant filters are connected in parallel; the string signal goes through all the filter sections simultaneously. The output of the filter array has the warmth and richness characteristic of the tone of a fine conventional violin. Many trained violinists who tried Matthews's electric fiddle said that it was the best violin they have ever played."
Ok... there's a few more paragraphs that discuss the timbral qualities and peaks and dips and refer the reader to some pictures of waveforms. So, if you have access to this book, which I checked out at my university library, feel free to read those details. For now, I'll advance to the good stuff.
"Faking String Instrument Frequency Response. Unless you're unusually well equipped(hardware-wise, that is), your electronic keyboards wont have complex filters of the type needed to simulate really good string timbres. Two ways of faking it are to build up a complex frequency response with several simple filters or to modify a spring reverb unit. Lets take them one at a time.
To build up a complex frequency response, you should have a mixer and a variety of linear (non-distorting) sound modifiers. Graphic and parametric equalizers are good, and wah-wah pedals can be used, as can phasers that allow you to shut off the modulation. Feed your keyboard signal to all modifiers simultaneously, using jack multiples or Y-cords. Feed the outputs of the sound modifiers to the mixer input. Play with the controls, including the equalizer controls on the mixer. I won't guarantee that you'll wind up with a fat string sound, but I have heard this approach work more than once.
If you have access to a spring reverb, try experimenting with stuffing the springs themselves with a very small amount of fiberglass or foam rubber. This absorbs some of the vibration in the springs, and therefore shortens the reverb time. If you get the right amount of sound-deadening material in the springs, the reverb unit will loose all of its metallic twang and begin to sound a bit woody. This is because the frequency response of a spring-reverb consists of a series of very sharp, closely spaced peaks. Dampening the vibrations in the spring spreads the peaks out and reduces their heights.
One approach to string timbre fakery that probably wont work is the use of a flanger. It is true that a flanger's frequency response consists of a series of peaks and dips. However, these peaks and dips are harmonically related, which means that a note's harmonics will either miss all the peaks or they will hit a whole series of peaks. This produces an unviolin-like response in which certain notes will tend to jump out. A well-designed violin body or multiple resonance filter array has peaks that are not harmonically related, thus emphasizing some harmonics and attenuating others of virtually any pitch you care to feed into it.
To simulate string tones, you should start off with a bright waveform, one with nearly all harmonics present. Sawtooth and narrow rectangular waveforms are good. If you have a modular synthesizer with more than one oscillator, or if the oscillator has more than one waveform output, try feeding the oscillator outputs through several filters or modifiers and mixing the filtered outputs. Your overall EQ should include some mild highpass filtering to attenuate the lowest octave of fundamental, and some mild lowpass filtering above 8kHz or so.
Animation (frequency and waveform modulation) is important in string tone simulation, but must be employed with care. Vibrato must be continuously shaped by increasing both the rate and intensity as each individual note progresses, and by withholding vibrato entirely when fast passages are being played. Delayed vibrato that builds up from zero frequency modulation every time a note a new note is depressed is also useful. If you have a synthesizer with voltage-controllable rectangular (or pulse) waveform width, try modulating the pulse width very slowly to simulate the sort of variations a violin player achieves by bowing different points on the string.
String instrument envelopes are generally simple - slow rise, full sustain level, and medium decay. It is generally only necessary to shape the overall loudness, although you may want to employ a slight bit of lowpass filter envelope to make the sound get brighter as it gets louder. Of course, vigorous, rapid violin tones do not have slow attacks. The starting transients of such tones are brief and have high noise content. If you have a modular synthesizer or are experimentally inclined, try shaping pink noise with a very short envelope and then apply the shaped noise to modulate the oscillators frequency. This will give a "gritty" attack transient that suggests vigorous bowing.
Simulating string instrument tones is a complex business that requires a lot of experimentation. Although filtering requires special attention, no one aspect of string tone simulation is so important that its proper use alone is enough to achieve good results. The interactions among waveform, animation, enveloping, filtering and of course appropriate phrasing must be developed with taste and care. You may never actually wind up with a really good string tone simulation, but you will learn a lot about sound while you work." Bob Moog

I have yet to try any of the above techniques and I don't have a spring reverb to modify either. I'm guessing it is possible to set up the huge filter array with something like Tassman or a Nord Modular right? Interesting how the bow/string/violin body interact to form the string timbre no? I'd like to hear anyone's attempts at the above!
"There was never a notion that a synthesizer would be used by itself for anything" - Robert Moog (1934-2005)

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by pflosi » Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:06 am

that was a good read.

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by drsynth » Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:57 am

The subject of "strings" gives me grief. I've always considered the term to be a broad one.

For instance, sampled strings (Kontakt, Roland string sets etc.) I'd consider a use of one kind. Then there is the "synthetic" strings. I think this is where this discussion is mainly directed.

Synthetic string patches come in many flavors too. I am a big "Prog Rock" string fan. I tend to think of the vintage stuff but mainly Mellotron strings. I am old enough to remember my first hearing of "Strawberry Fields" on the radio and recall it with affection. "Watcher of the Skies" by Tony banks was a cordoroy-bell-bottoms shitting moment. "Epitaph" by King Crimson had me kneeling at the altar of Fripp. So for me the M-Tron is irreplaceable 'cause I've never had the fortune to own my own Tron.

Then there are the purely synthetic renderings. To me an Arp Solina, Elka Rhapsody, Eminent 310 and such were the "poor-proggers" only retreat (thought they were still pretty expensive). I had an Elka in the 70's and later I had what I consider the most under-rated string synth - the Roland Paraphonic 505 which I still consider the best imitation of the Vermona Piano Strings (without actually being a Vermona). I'd still give a kidney for one today. I will also give a nod to the lowly Clavia Lead 2X. Great presets and filters there.

All that said, the Polymoog string sounds that Gary Neuman used on "Are 'Friends' Electric?" is an example of a whole 'nuther genre of string synth progression after the 70's Prog Rock era. A fave of mine for sure. Ultravox and O.M.D. ("The Romance of the Telescope" especially good example) used the same type of more minimal "SciFi" string sounds. More dry with a flavor of crisp, stark movie soundtrack stuff. Thomas Dolby ended the era with a heavy helping of synthetic strings in a couple of classic albums. Mostly Jupiter 8 stuff (I think). There is plenty of good stuff still being produced. (e.g. 808 State, Radiohead)

As far as "imitating strings" goes for me, I'd stay well clear of any advise for anyone on that regard. It it too subjective for me. I love all string sounds and particularly mellotron and synthetic strings. I have little use for sampled stuff. I do occasionally fine a use but it is rare. Just my style I guess. I luv synthesizers!

-David
-I was a teenage synthaholic-

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Re: Let's talk about strings, baby

Post by drsynth » Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:13 am

Oh, and BTW, in case you haven't see it, a great example of the Polymoog filter treatment for everything from vox humana to brass with strings in there somewhere. A use of the filter with a Jupiter 8 as a sound source.



-David
-I was a teenage synthaholic-

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