In Depth: How to program realistic strings

Christian begins the almost impossible task of condensing his self-taught skills into a bite-sized YouTube video so that you can avoid the pitfalls, rabbit holes and cul-de-sacs of his “technology vs theory” adventure.

In this first part, we look at the best practices for programming string samples in the most realistic way. We look at the equipment you may need for using samples in our other videos, but first let’s get the very basic questions out the way:

How are the instruments laid out in an orchestra?

When looking at a strings session, from left to right you will see 5 sections: first violins playing the highest notes, then second violins, then violas, celli and finally the basses playing the lowest notes (they usually sit behind the celli players). Keeping the string sections in this pitch hierarchy is a great tip when starting any composition.

What is the difference between a Chamber and Symphonic orchestra?

Chamber = Small

A standard chamber string section would usually consist of 6 first violins (V1), 5 second violins (V2), 4 violas (Va), 4 cello (VC) and 2 bassi (CB). Useful note: this will often be written in shorthand as 6,5,4,4,2.

Symphonic = Big

A symphony string section is much larger and will be 16,14,12,10,8.