Hiring a String Quartet for Recording

The String Quartet format (two violins, a viola and cello) is a very popular form used for adding string parts to tracks in all genres.

So what are some of the things clients should bear in mind when looking to hire a string quartet for a pop track or other recording project?

1. Using a professional group is probably the most economical way of working – as we are frequently asked to re-record string parts laid down by previous disappointing results from student musicians and amateur string quartets. When it comes to the recording studio, clients need players with exceptionally accurate tuning and good tone (especially when using a close mic), so that the music can be sight read perfectly and recorded right straight away, without expensive studio time being taken up with poor takes and further countless hours spent in post production using autotune, excessive reverb and other studio techniques to hide weaknesses in the playing.

2. Getting parts properly notated and ideally orchestrated by a string arranger will help get the maximum best effect of hiring a session string quartetfor a track.  If you have written your own string arrangements, or used a midi generated score, it is highly advisable to get a string player to check them through to make sure all the parts are playable and readable by the string quartet in the studio.

3. Studio or location recording?

There is a further, in depth article discussing the merits and drawbacks of location recording here: but if you’re using a studio and close mics to record strings for a pop track, it may be worth using good separation between the players to help reduce spill between the different microphones. There are several effective ways of micing up a string quartet in the recording studio, depending on how you want the strings to sound and perhaps that’s a subject for another blog post! Then you’ll have more flexibility with panning and other post production when putting the strings into the mix.

4. Recording the strings last is often helpful, so that the string quartet can hear the existing track back through headphones and fit their playing precisely with the timings of the track. In an ideal world, the string arranger will have written the scores once the rest of the track is nearly completed (even with a guide vocal in), so that he or she can add the strings in the most effective way and enhance the song without dominating it or getting lost in the mix.

If you are interested in the costs of hiring a string quartet or even a solo string player for a track, please see our specialised website dealing with session work String Section.