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Faking A String Section In Your DAW | Audio Examples

These audio files accompany the Faking A String Section In Your DAW workshop in SOS July 2023 issue, and feature a section of a real-world project where I improved the sound of the originally-supplied MIDI strings using the techniques discussed in the article.

If you'd like to download the DAW project from which these examples were generated, and experiment for yourself with the balances of all the different layers, effects, and backing stems, check out for a link.


The rather unnatural-sounding initial strings track I was supplied with for this mix, and which was created using a simple string-ensemble keyboard patch.


To get a more musical ensemble sound, I first split all the individual string parts to separate tracks, so that I could use Vienna Symphonic Library legato patches (in conjunction with MIDI note overlaps) to give smoother note transitions. Then I spent some time editing the note Velocity values in each case to improve the tone and phrasing of each line. This example shows the end results of this process.


Here's the sound of one of the live overdub layers (performed on a viola), recorded with a pair of Oktava small-diaphragm omni condenser mics (spaced around nine inches apart) set up at a distance of around six feet in front of the instrument.


For this arrangement, I decided to overdub two of the arrangement's lines, as both contained melodic movement, and layered three takes for each line. Here's what a dry balance of those six layers sounded like. All the parts have been edited for timing and tuning in Celemony Melodyne.


Combining the live overdub layers (as heard in the srt_04_LiveOverdubsAllLayers file) with my reprogrammed sampled strings (the srt_02_NewMIDIStrings file) already gives a much more realistic string-ensemble timbre.


To help the live overdub layers blend better with the samples, I added some short ambience reverb to the overdubs. This is what the effect sounded like on its own.


Here's how the string ensemble sounds with some ambience reverb (as heard in the srt_06_AmbienceReverbSolo file) added to the live overdubs. Notice how the live-performed parts now blend a little better with the samples.


As a final touch of flattery, I also added a hall reverb to all the string parts — both the live overdubs and the samples. I've isolated that effect for this example, so you can better hear its character.


The final string sound I used to replace the original strings track heard in the srt_01_OriginalMIDIStrings file.


As a final demonstration, let's compare the sound of the originally supplied strings track (this example) with the sound of my final reprogrammed and layered string-ensemble texture (the srt_11_NewStringsFullMix file) within the context of a full backing arrangement, complete with drums, percussion, bass, and keyboards.


My final string parts within the context of a full backing arrangement, for comparison with the srt_10_OriginalStringsFullMix example file.