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String Tricks

String Tricks with Lori Graves

Today I want to let you in on a few tricks that you can use with your strings on your organ. The reason I decided this topic is because I have been working on two pieces that use these little tricks. I will be recording on Thursday and hope to have it up on youtube Thursday night. Can't wait!

I won't go into individual instruments like violin, viola and cello as that will be another post with a wealth of information. Strings are one of the most versatile voices you can use besides your flutes and tibias and there are so many ways to use them than in the traditional way.

I love to play movie music! In particular I enjoy playing arrangements of John Williams as they lend themselves so easily to the organ and keyboard. Everyone might remember him for his music in Star Wars, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Shindler's List and the Harry Potter films, but his music goes all the way back to The Cowboys with John Wayne! In order to get his haunting string section I use the string ensemble 2 on the Lowrey organ. On other instruments and keyboards try looking for a medium range string ensemble, synth strings will not work. Place String Ensemble 2 in Orchestra 1 and push the octave on the string ensemble to +1. Then take the String Ensemble 2 and place that also in the Orchestra 2 and push the octave on the string ensemble to -1. You can then go into Balance levels and even out the volumes to your liking. If you want to play EZ style you can then go into the upper harmony section and add trio or block chord to your right hand melody, stay away from Harmony's that say Octave or barbershop. I have used this numerous times on his music as well as music by Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean) and any other time you need a strong sting foundation for building your orchestral sound.

The next trick that I use was learned from Bil Curry at Lowrey. Bil and I are old friends and whenever I have a question about anything on the Lowrey I go to Bil. One time I was using a trumpet and I remarked that it sounded too brassy. His solution was to turn on the Upper String 8' tab and put the string volume to almost nothing, until the brassiness disappeared. There were many times where we exchanged sound and voicing ideas that later got put into future instruments.

One thing I learned about strings is something I learned as a concert pianist regarding sustain. Many times when we use the strings, many people will add sustain to make the strings sound smoother. But, I noticed that the faster I went the blurrier the notes got, and it wasn't through technique fault. So I had to cut back the sustain on the strings, but didn't want too dry of strings. So I added just a tad of Reverb. It gave me just enough to get rid of the dryness without blurring the notes too much. When I want dry strings for Baroque music I use the voice Chamber Strings.

One last trick that I have discovered is the Tremolo Strings. It's a voice I don't use often but it used for moments of suspense in music. I am currently working on a piece that starts with tremolos strings and then fades out, so I solved it by using Dynamaic Keying (sometimes it is marked touch or touch sensitive). With Dynamic Keying on I strike the keys a little harder than usual and then relax my hand on the keys which will then let the tremolo fade out. I also will back the Tremelo Strings up with either a lower volume Warm Strings, or String Ensemble 2 or 3.

Well it's back to practicing and getting ready for filming on Thursday. Wan't a hint on the two songs I will be playing?

A fiery horse with the speed of light...

1920's no mag.

#voicings #strings #soundtricks #voicingtricks

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