Professional Orchestration Review: Vienna Dimension Violins

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Very Small Studio – Again, a very small size used for TV and artist recording dates. Doable with DS.

Copland – This is Appalachian Spring with the original 13 musician setup which included a double string quartet and a bassist (22221).

Then there’s Copland’s Nonet For Strings written for 3 violins, 3 violas, and 3 cellos.

Going smaller, you can create multiple custom string quartets and string quintets.

There are two ways divisi can be performed.

Method One is that the player to the outside takes the top harmony line while the player on the inside (closest to center stage) takes the lower part. Well, using VSS, or SPAT, or Vienna MIR, you can actually do that with Dimension Strings.

Method Two is where the section is literally divided in half, front to back. The first block of desks takes the high part while the back block of desks takes the lower part. Well, using VSS, or SPAT, or Vienna MIR, you can actually do that, too, with Dimension Strings.

A Useful Footnote – Given what I’ve just described, there are more options. Ravel, who stacked triads on triads, would write the main theme in octave divisi in Violins 1 then put the two inner harmony parts in Violins 2 and an octave below in the Violas.

In at least one other case, Ravel wrote the theme and first inner harmony part in Violins 1 then the next inner harmony part and the melody 8vb in Violins 2. Again, depending on how the strings are seated, we finally have the unique opportunity to see which writing technique and seating positioning works best for what we’re writing.

NB: I don’t have MIR but it looks to me like MIR would be the easier way to pull off “live” divisi as I’ve just described it.

Then we come to Mr. Claude Debussy, the King of Divisi Writing (at least in my mind). From Three Nocturnes below is Sirenes at Rehearsal 4. With Dimension Strings, for the very first time, we can now approximate this in our virtual orchestrations.

Once he left Filmland, Henry Brant was known for unique spatial placements of his live performances. For example, Brant once had a composition performed at the Guggenheim in NYC with 80 trombonists on the stairwell. It’s a little mind boggling to think of the kind of unusual string section setups possible with Dimension Strings. Imagine 8 violinists in a semi-circle with a flautist in the middle. Or a pianist.

Or borrow from the Berlin Philharmonic. When the cellos release, use the transposition trick and have an evening with 12 Cellists of Your Symphony Orchestra!

Dimension Strings has a feature called Forced Strings. At first, this sounds like a wrestling hold! But in orchestration language on the Violins it’s Sul G, Sul D, etc. Now, several libraries in the past, including Vienna in the Orchestral Strings 1, have recorded sul G. However, Dimension Strings is literally light years beyond this. Not only do you have all the “suls” for each string for each member of the Quartet, you also have a complete set of bowings. See the screen capture.

Now those with the Spectrotone Chart will recall that Arthur Lange defined the tone colors for each individual string on each member of The Quartet.

Using the Spectrotone Chart with the Dimension Strings (starting with the violins), pulls out combinations per individual string per instrument that until now was simply not possible in virtual orchestration, but which can be done with Dimension Strings. Talk about a serious compositional/scoring breakthrough! I mean this, from an orchestration perspective, is a genuine next generation string library.

Now, in the last video lecture in Visual Orchestration 1, I challenged fellow Learners to create a composition per tone color, and for no particular reason, suggested the color red. If you have the Spectrotone Chart, look at the violin and you’ll see a very narrow range of pitches available that can only be performed Sul G. So as a demonstration, I wrote a piece called Opus Red #1 where all the violin parts fell into this narrow range of tones.


  • Juan A. Matos
    March 13, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

    Very informative review. Well done!

  • Jennifer May
    July 2, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

    Peter Alexander is a great teacher and entrepeneur, but when it comes to Sample Libraries, the guy is a VSL fanboy, I don´t buy the disclaimer, I don´t buy the review…

    The Dimension Strings are good? Yes they are, and of course much much better that the old VSL Strings products, that without all the MIR parafernalia sounds like crap nowadays…

    VDS are good, it was about time VSL released new samples!!! but has weak points in Divisi against LASS(the audiobro Divisi is the best of the market by far), has weak points against 8Dio in terms of sensibility/emotion and realism, and weak points against Berlin Strings in playability.

    VDS are the best strings product of VSL, the only good in my opinion, we are in 2014, not in 2006 anymore for God´s sake, but it´s the 5th on the list behind the other Major Stars.

    Best – Jennifer

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