Musician’s Take: 3 Great String Arrangements / Zohar Karp

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Zohar Karp, one of the musicians in the utab team, explains what makes a great string arrangement for songs

We are all familiar with the power and diversity of the strings from the world of classical music and film score repertoire. The combination of such a classical oriented instrument within the up to date pop and rock music creates a new, fresh and rich texture.

Read below about 3 songs that in my opinion represent the best strings arrangement; How strings can be part of a whole, complete fine tune production.

Unfinished Sympathy - Massive Attack- String Orchestration by Will Malone

Right from the beginning of this Massive Attack song, the strings accompany adds a layer of discomfort, a lack of stillness even.

The evolution of this arrangement is a sure lesson for everyone who wants to master the craft of writing for strings in a non classical environment, or simply to enjoy good music. Listen to 3:05-3:55 for a great demonstration of how every line of the strings develop independently, creating a rich texture.

Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins - String Orchestration by Butch Vig and Billie Corgan

This amazing song was originally meant to be arranged for a full band, but after a few failed attempts they were both convinced that a smaller production will serve the song much better. As a result, the intimacy hidden in this song is more pronounced.

This song magically conveys a sense of longing, regrets over lost years while maintaining a high and strong energy, much of it because of the strings.

Drive - R.E.M. - String Orchestration by John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones is likely the most known arranger in this article and less needed to be introduced. As the bass and keyboard player of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones sure earned his place at the history of rock n roll.

Easily, I could pick up any other song with strings arrangement from “Automatic For The People” album, all of which Paul Jones was credited:
“Everybody Hurts”, “Nightswimming” and “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight”. For me, the way the strings “sneak” into the song (1:35) is worth noting. The way that the strings and the angry, distorted guitar are combined together, playing strong and rich parts without disturbing each other is a musical wonder, it’s a perfect example of production mastery.