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Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2017 7:57 pm
by Doug Working
I don't have a while lot of money. Been wanting to record a CD of my guitar instrumentals to leave to my family and especially my grand children. Something to remember me by when I get called away from this earth. Also, I figure I could use it as a demo CD and maybe perform in local churches in this area.

I searched for a local recording studio, but discovered that an old friend has a decent set-up in his home, so that will definitely be more affordable.

What I want is to add a little string section and orchestration to fill in some of my solo tracks, like Chet did on so many of his recordings. And I am sure he didn't go out and hire an orchestra or string section when he recorded in his home studio! So to be honest, I'm totally in the dark as to how this magic is accomplished.

I thought about using backing tracks, but with a backing track you are tied to THEIR arrangement. What I want is to do my own arrangements and simply enhance and fill in as desired.

Anybody here have any expertise on how this can be done? Others are doing it all the time, I'm sure. I'm just not in on the secret.

All help will be appreciated.

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 3:17 pm
by Steve Moran
It's fairly straightforward to create a backing track though you probably need to get a couple things. Costs of small digital multi-track recorders can be very inexpensive today. If you can buy one of those and a reasonably good keyboard you can do a lot. The keyboard I got about 15 years ago or so (a Yamaha) has good rhythm (i.e. drum) sounds as well as many strings and orchestra sounds that are realistic and I think cost about $220 then. Figure out the song you want a backing track for and figure out how many beats per minute it is as well as length. Then set up your drum track first and record it. You may realize you want the song to change pace throughout and my Yamaha keyboard can do that on the fly. You'll have to plan out the song first, record your rhythm/click track, and then record the other backing parts you want on it such as strings, bass guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar, etc. The key thing is the first rhythm track is the glue that holds it all together to play all the other instruments to. A good sequence can be to record the drum/click track first then record an acoustic rhythm track to go along with it which defines where the chord changes are in a song. It's fun to make backing tracks. Perhaps a microphone would be something you'd want to get also. There are some good quotes from Paul Yandell on this Chet website on what mikes he recommended. Maybe you have a guitar and can get a recorder that sounds fairly good direct in then you may not absolutely have to get a mike. A good delay pedal will leave a good ambience to your lead part if you have it, or the digital recorder may have a built-in delay that sounds good. When you record a backing track if you want your lead playing to go on top of it just save a track on the digital recorder for it. You'll want two versions of the song; one without your lead playing and one with it. You may have to put sound cues into the backing track at some points in a song if there's no clear lead-in of which I use sort of a hi-hat tap sound (usually 3 or 4 taps). I would think if you already have your guitar rig you could get a recorder/keyboard/mike combination for $500 (or maybe a little more) that would sound good. Hope this helps and good luck.
Steve Moran

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 10:27 am
by Ray Bohlken
Doug, here is what I used to record songs for a home made CD that I inflict on friends from time to time. I had a lot of fun doing it and it turned out decent sound wise. I hope this is some help.
Take care and I hope you get some answers you can use.

I use this to cut down on the input signal to stop it overloading the recorder. ... SwDn5Z4tD3

I have an older 4 track version of this model that works great for for me. ... SwHsRYCOtC

I some times use one of these to mike my amp rather than go direct. ... XQTT9RxKxl

I use Band-in-a-box and choose what instruments I want to be in the backing band. Enter the chords for your song, choose the instruments, chose the tempo, and choose one of the MANY styles you want and it will generate a back up in MIDI or Wave...maybe even MP3. Check out some of the demos on Youtube, I think it even allows you to use it as a recorder program through your computer, although I've never tried that. I used the styles to good advantage when I was messing with recording some Ventures tunes and used that was playing not so much. In addition, there are many free BIAB files on the internet and they may already have songs you are interested in playing....saves the time of you entering them -

Band in a box web site

Realtracks 232 demo on Youtube - I don't know if this comes with a BIAB purchase or if you have to get it seperatly.

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 6:00 pm
by Steve Sanders
I too have been wondering how to do this too!!! My own personal solution is the MEL9 pedal by ElectroHarmonix. It has a nice string section along with some others. Check out the YouTube videos demonstrating this amazing pedal. Will it sound like "Chet Atkins In Hollywood"? No, but very nice. It's not like it's in the first position on a recording, that is for your guitar. But as "background" strings you just can't beat it!! "That is my opinion and it ought'a be yours"!! Now who used to say that??!!! Steve

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2017 10:57 am
by Doug Working
I really appreciate all the answers and advice! You guys are the greatest!

I'll sort through this information and see what I can employ.

As I said, I don't realistically ever expect to be famous as a guitarist some day. But I DO practice my fingers to the bone daily, trying to emulate Chet. Been doing that for a long, LOOOOOOOOONG time. My playing seems to plateau, but I believe if I keep chipping away at it, a breakthrough will come. I just need to be patient.

Hey, that even sounds like an interesting topic to post someday!

But anyway, as I said, for now, I just want to record my playing perhaps for an heirloom. If it takes off after people listen to the CD, and people start calling me to perform at churches or events, well then, that's great too. Icing on the cake.

My overarching thought in all this is that it is SAD, and a total waste to practice and perform for your own pleasure all your life, when others could be getting enjoyment out of your playing, too. And what really strikes me is this: if there is no recording of my playing, then after I die, it will be as if I never existed!! Total obscurity! I can't bear that thought! We're talking thousands and thousands of hours of my life hunched over the guitar, and for WHAT? To be never known or remembered???

That is a bitter pill!

i'm sorry to digress and wax philosophical, but I've been bottling this up for a long time.

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:29 am
by Steve Moran
Your last paragraph speaks of how much you want to play in front of people which is a good thing. If you enjoy hearing the music you make with your guitar chances are others will too! Learning something uplifting (like playing Chet style guitar) is good for the one playing it even if only for themselves though I understand wanting to leave something of yourself with others. The mortality part is hard to figure out. Good luck to you in recording - you'll have fun and likely have a positive impact on others around you!

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 10:52 am
by DagerRande
Doug, I'm with you on the sentiment you expressed at the end. I perform quite a bit but still haven't recorded and I too worry about not leaving my musical legacy behind when I die. I'm 68 now. My goal is YouTube videos.

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 7:15 pm
by Doug Working
Just think if Chet had never been recorded. (Maybe in a parallel universe). But the point is, we would all NEVER KNOW (the gift) and inspiration would be at an all time low, and who knows, perhaps Hendrix would be considered the greatest guitarist that ever lived. Oh, rats! I forgot! There are still a lot of people out there who believe that garbage. One of them is a friend of mine. Very adamant about it, he is. We absolutely do NOT see eye to eye! To each their own, I suppose, but we all know Mr. Hendrix was not worthy to tie Chet's shoelaces. (Or to polish his guitar).

Anyway, I digress.

I do play in church. We have a bass, keyboards, drums and my guitar. But getting to do an instrumental solo in this church is like trying to pull teeth.

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 8:20 am
by DagerRande
Doug, I know what you mean about instrumentals. I get to do one every once in awhile but I also don't promote myself. Everyone in the band knows that I'm a Chet fan and they also know that my solos are dependent upon being asked by someone else in the church. As far as discussing Chet vs. Hendrix, I can usually use logic to make my point. You can't do nearly as much with a flat pick and one string at a time!

Re: Adding string section and orchestration?

PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:10 pm
by Doug Working
True. ESPECIALLY if your brain is soaked in LSD.