August 8, 2013

It Makes The Difference

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Why do we need 60-70 strings for a pop album?
The answer is simple, it makes the difference.

First of all it makes the difference just to record with real strings rather then to use sample sounds or any other artificial sound library because real strings are alive and breathe. Normally we would use 15-20 strings for pop projects but we felt that we needed something special because we were working with one of the finest voices of our time. Agnetha´s mature and clear voice needed the back up of the warmth that only a full orchestra could create. An orchestra with it´s own sound and richness of overtones. An orchestra where you almost can smell the sound of wood while playing. An orchestra that would lay out the red carpet for Agnetha to tell her stories.

Secondly, we decided early on that this album would be played by real musicians and that the whole production would create a feeling that time has passed but without being old fashion. When you listen to some of the clips you might think, was it necessary to have so many strings when you don´t hear everything in the final mix? Of course it was! Even if you don´t hear the strings all the time they are always there creating an atmosphere that blends in with all the other layers of instruments and sounds. Only with this many can you create the rich and warm sound that makes this production sound like nothing else. This is also a great tool for a mixing engineer when creating the final mix.

It was also important for Agnetha to be supported by this “human voice” when she was going to be heard once again. I know that she was very inspired hearing the strings in her headphones while performing the songs. The strings also make it sound like a “film score” and we talked about that every song is almost like a short story on the screen. I know for a fact that this is also how Jörgen wrote some of his material. Agnetha was then the perfect person to transform the song from pictures to audio and now we don’t need to see the things we hear. We get the picture anyway!

String arrangements, most of the time, come in very late in the production when almost everything is ready. While working with the songs we also used sample sounds just to try out things so we knew that we where on the right track. When you record with this many strings you only get one chance to get it right. It´s too expensive to redo things.
Even though I´m the one that writes the arrangements and conducts the orchestra it was always teamwork between Jörgen and I and we spent a lot of time working the strings out before we entered a session. Once we’re in a session I´m in heaven. This is my environment. This is where I feel at home and comfortable. I wish everybody could be in front of a large orchestra to feel the power that is totally unstoppable. It´s a drug, a religion.

We recorded the strings at 5 different sessions and at every session Agnetha and Jörgen would start listening to the strings sitting all alone in Stockholm Concert Hall (1700 seats)
After that they would run up to the control room to listen to the pre-recorded full production with the strings added in real time.
This explains why all musicians have headphones. It´s because they play to the track that we brought to the session. Sometimes we also added a click track to get things as “tight” and swinging as possible. When you see me conduct I don´t have to help the orchestra so much with the time. It´s more to get the emotions right. When I see the clips I wonder what it would sound to hear Agnetha singing with the strings only?…..

Thank you so much for supporting Agnetha and the album A and let´s hope that many more will discover this album in the future.

Best regards

Peter Nordahl
Stockholm, Aug 7, 2013

 

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