String arrangements and epic orchestrations for pop, rock, americana, metal, edm, anything! Performed by the best VSTi's on the market, optionally overlayed or replaced by real players. I know how to orchestrate and to idiomatically write for strings, brass, woodwinds, choir and program slight intonation and timing "errors" for extra realism.
- I'm Carsten Altena. a Dutch string arranger and an epic orchestral music composer.
- I've worked for successful artists in pop, rock, metal, americana and EDM.
- I use the best VSTis, optionally overlayed or replaced by great players I work with regularly.
- I know how to orchestrate and to idiomatically write for strings, brass, woodwinds, choir.
- I program slight "errors" in timing and intonation to make it sound super realistic.
Newbie to SoundBetter, but many of my clients are successful artists from The Netherlands (Miss Montreal, Urfaust, Van Dik Hout, Paceshifters, Sinister and more). International clients include: DJ Alexander Brown and Katla.
My partner is a classically trained, professional cellist (Manuela Verbeek), so optional overdubs can easily be recorded in my studio. I do know a couple of great violin/viola players, but it depends on their schedule so contact me for the possibilities.
I am also a member of the industrial metal band The Monolith Deathcult, in which I play guitars, keyboards and of course all the epic orchestral stuff! Not my main "gig" here but you can book me for rhythm and solos (from rock to shred) if you want.
If you need affordable realistic sounding string arrangements and epic music, send me a message through the 'Contact' button above!
Send me a note through the contact button above.
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Interview with One Man Orchestra
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: In the mid '90s I was "tracking" on Amiga computers. Even back then I was captivated by the idea that a computer could trick people into thinking they heard a performance on a real acoustic instrument. In the late 90's I started playing in rock and metal bands as a guitarist and keyboard player. When things got more serious for my bands Izegrim and The Monolith Deathcult I got more and more requests by bands, artists and producers to do keyboards, guitars and string arrangements and so I started my company One Man Orchestra about 10 years ago. Worked a lot for Dutch bands and producers and got most of my gigs through word of mouth. Someone turned my attention to SoundBetter and now I'm here! As for education: I am primarily self-taught, apart from a couple of years of organ lessons, a few months of jazz guitar lessons and couple of online courses such as the ones offered by Berklee and Alexander Publishing.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: When I'm not arranging strings or orchestrating, I'm either busy with my band The Monolith Deathcult or composing tracks for my Audiojungle page (https://audiojungle.net/user/sonargymusic?ref=SonargyMusic)..
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: String arrangements and orchestrations that move people.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Enhancing the meaning and impact of a song with my arrangements.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: What is the song about and what is your goal?
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Probably a mobile phone to call a rescue team, an acoustic guitar and my Kindle to pass the time.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Expressive, melodic, exactly what the music needs, epic.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I'd say Devin Townsend. I love his energy, charisma and music. Devin's music is already epic but I'd love to know what happens if a real orchestra is added to his music.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: I see a lot of people buying the most expensive sample libraries only to make it sound like a cheap ROMpler synths. Having the libraries is of course half the battle. My advice to them is: study orchestration, do a string arrangement course, grasp how to idiomatically write for strings, brass, woodwinds, choir and percussion, and apply this knowledge while arranging, while using midi "tricks" like humanizing timing and intonation.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Pop, rock and metal.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Making great, emotional strings and orchestra arrangements that fit the track and make them sound ultra realistic.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Only what is necessary. Also, it's important to me to know what the lyrics are about, because string arrangements and orchestrations should enhance that essence of the song.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: - Clients contact me with a short briefing outlining the project goal. If possible, they email me an mp3, MusicXML or midi file of the track, and examples of other artists as inspiration. - We do a Skype/Hangout call or stick to e-mail, whichever the client prefers. We’ll define the scope and fixed price of the project. - After "go" I will start working as soon and send the first mockup(s), my client gives feedback, and we’ll iterate this process untill we’re both happy. When you’re happy, I’m happy; I’ll send you an invoice and of course high quality stems and other deliverables we’ve defined for the project.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Hardware: - An i7 Windows 10 system I've built myself, stuffed with RAM and SSD's for sample playback. - RME Babyface as audio interface - Presonus Eris E8 monitor speakers - A Doepfer LMK2+ 88 weighted keyboard controller - A Korg PadKontrol for drum programming - An iPad 1 running TouchOSC to control my orchestral libraries - An Akai LPD8 for extra knobs and pads - A 32 key Korg MicroKey for really fast synth action - A backup computer system (old PC and Mac). Software: - Cubase, Reaper and Notion for sequencing and scoring - Kontakt 5 running Spitfire Audio, Embertone, Impact Soundworks, Soundiron and lots more - Vienna Symphonic Library Chamber Strings, part of Orchestral strings, lots of separate instruments and SE. - No need for Vienna Ensemble on this system, everything runs smoothly on Vienna Instruments Pro! - DDMF eq's, compressors etcetera - Valhalla DSP reverbs - Many soft synths (mostly emulations of classics such as Juno 6, CS-80 and Oberheim OB-Xa) - Everything I record is automatically backed up in real time to a cloud service (sync.com). Other: - An acoustically treated room - A bunch of guitars (mostly Ibanez: RG and Jem). - A bunch of dynamic and condenser mics, I can borrow any brand from local recording studios. - A laughing buddha - A miniature Optimus Prime - A miniature buste of good ol' "Ludwig Van" - The obligatory Persian rug
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I love what George Martin did as a string arranger for The Beatles (just listen to Eleanor Rigby!). David Campbell is great too (check out Beck's Sea Change and Adele's 21). Dave Grusin (James Taylor's Caroline I See You) is great too. When it comes to "epic orchestral", I love John Williams (of course!), Jerry Goldsmith, a bit of Hans Zimmer (but I keep the ostinatos at a minimum...). Thomas Newman's subtle style is very inspiring as well. And of course the Two Steps From Hell guys. I also love what Gaute Storaas did for the metal band Dimmu Borgir, and the orchestrations in Fleshgod Apocalypse and Septic Flesh.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Mostly string arrangements for pop and rock artist, sometimes "epic orchestral" stuff for metal bands who want a bad-ass intro for their album or live shows or "orchestral sweetening" on their tracks.