The work week of a certain violinist began and ended at polar extremes!
Monday: 6 hour studio recording session with my quartet for the heavy metal band Alesana’s forthcoming release. . . later that evening a meeting with a really cool bride about her upcoming August wedding for which I’ll be arranging some Keane and Adelle tunes for string quartet.
Friday: Jazz violin and vocals with guitar and bass by Nate Macy & Nolan Staples for the Mama Baby Haiti charity event aboard the Portland Spirit: a room filled with midwives, doulas and those who love them gathered together to support the efforts to provide birthing services and pediatric care to mothers and children in Haiti.
For myself and many of my friends who make music for a living, there is rarely a “normal” week… and if there is, we often find ourselves wondering if we’re doing something wrong! In all of the hubbub of going and coming, I’m trying to learn to just take each moment as it comes and invest fully–even if tomorrow may find me playing a totally different style in a different place with different shoes!
Why? #1. Just step away from that synthesizer… I’m saying this because I care! Everything you stand for as a socially conscious, artistically sensitive singer songwriter is about to be compromised if you use fake strings. They WILL be able to tell.
#2. Using a musician with studio experience will save you money in the long run. Time IS money and you are paying for it by the hour with your engineer and possibly your studio rental. It’s a lot harder to “fix” problems with a live instrument than with midi and because of the way string players bow, you just need someone who can give you a good clean take—fast, pristine, in tune and artistic.
#3. Go local! You’re lovingly tending every step of this process. Do you really want to have your string parts traveling through cyberspace from some dude in Nashville? No you don’t! You want to be there to tell that fiddler the story of your song and help her convey the message and if you need to make changes, you want someone who can accommodate you.
In my mind, string sessions are either about a solo line, creating a string section sound or some combination of the two. For solos, typically I come up with my own after you give me a general idea of what you’re looking for. Having a scratch mp3 ahead of time that I can play around with at home will save time but I’m also happy to improvise.
For string section sounds, depending on your needs and your budget, I can either be multi-tracked to create the sound of an ensemble or better yet, I can assemble an additional violin, viola and cello to record together for the most rich, authentic sound option.
In other words, is it really, really expensive? I can work with you to find the best way to get the sound you want with the budget you have.
I’ve worked on recording projects ranging from Sony ATV studios in Nashville to home studio setups. Regardless of the level of bling in the studio, it is definitely important to have an engineer who knows how to record strings. Tone is key and violins can really get pretty nasty if not handled properly. Don’t be disheartened though—most engineers are going to love to use their chops and set that microphone up just right!
I can play both fiddle and violin (they are the same instrument, it’s just how you play them.) A frequent scenario is to have me lay down string pads for certain sections of a song and then do a solo fiddle section at some other point.
I can also arrange strings parts so if you are looking for more of a string section sound, you definitely don’t need to worry about finding someone else to hire to write parts. If you have an idea, but you’re not the nerdy musical notating kind of artist, you can even sing me your concept and I’ll write it out into string player language.
Some of the folks I’ve recorded for over the years:
Five O’Clock People
George Fox University Chapel Band
Laura Van Horn
I’ve been doing session work for almost 15 years. I’m happy to send you additional samples and references too. Contact me through my website at www.effesenden.com!