Dubbed the “Hookmeister” by one California Bay Area recording engineer, Laurel’s knack for framing the tone of a track and creating infectious melodies has saved more than one client’s song from the chopping block.
"Deft, elegant violin." “Fascinating undertones and range.” "Judicious violin."
As a violinist and violist with a Classical background, I was trained to have an exceptional ear and a mature emotional sensitivity, but along the way I discovered a love for improvising and arranging across a variety of genres. With a rich and expressive tone, an interpretive style that can soar, rock a solo, or add backup texture and groove, I strive to present an attractive package for songwriters and bands looking to add strings.
I have recorded violin (or "fiddle"), viola, cello, as well as lead and harmony vocals on albums since the early 2000s, arranging parts for Pop, Folk, Rock, Blues, Country, Bluegrass, Celtic, Latin, Gypsy, Classical, Jazz, and Cabaret style tracks. Sample songs can be heard on my website or by request.
Every project is unique. I'm happy to read and record parts already written, develop parts that bring a client’s rough sketches to life, or create parts from scratch. Clients and engineers appreciate my ability to consistently play in tune, to set the mood through dynamics and tone colors, and my sensitivity to phrasing and blending, complementing vocal lines and other instruments with carefully matched vibrato, articulation, and stylistic flavors.
I look forward to hearing your project!
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12 Reviews - 2 Repeat ClientsEndorse Laurel Thomsen
Laurel was amazing. Timely, efficient, and most importantly: the product was beautiful. Great recording and performance.
I can thoroughly recommend Laurel! She is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and has provided exceptional quality violin, viola, cello and vocals to my projects.
I hadn't used Soundbetter before and was a little nervous because up-until now I've just recorded sample libs and VSTS in a DAW. So working with a 'real' musician was a bit daunting for me, but Laurel is so friendly and helpful - just a joy to work with and the result you get back are stunning.
Itt's been amazing working with Laurel for this project - she is so talented and and plays everything I send her with such skill. and care. It's so lovely to hear my music with her playing the melodies.
I love working with Laurel. She nails the performance and style I'm looking for and plays so beautifully, breathing life and emotion into my music. At all times she is professional, friendly and kind. I look forward to continuing to work with her in the future.
Laurel is a pleasure to work with. I'd never used Soundbetter before but she was so helpful and walked me through what she needed. I'm beyond thrilled by the result, which she nailed first time and I'm just in awe of her playing skill. She made my track sound a million dollars! Can't wait to work with her again.
Another great performance from Laurel. I am very grateful for her help in figuring out what I want without having any knowledge of the instrument myself. She is communicative and easy to work with.
Laurel continues to delight and inspire with her performances and ideas for my songs. She is communicative and provides her content in a very timely manner.
Laurel is an amazing performer and artist, easy to work with and amazing communication. I absolutely recommend her!
A very talented and diverse performer. Excellent communication and great turn around time. Perfect performance for my track. I hope to work with her again.
I asked Laurel to complement vocal phrases on two rock songs. She drew out long notes during the vocals and added flourishes during vocal pauses. She also added flourishes to the few empty spaces. I wish the songs had contained more of these spaces because that's where her playing really shined. She understood the musical intent behind the songs and adapted her playing accordingly. Her violin tone sounds great. Her tracks were cleanly recorded and sound good as isolated tracks as well as with the rest of the mix. She added a new dimension to each of the songs. I hope to work with her again.
Laurel is one of the best session players I’ve worked with. She crafts great parts, comes prepared, and her playing is incredibly consistent, making it easy to find usable takes. She has a great ear for arranging and blending, and after she's done it's like her vocals or violin or viola were always in the mix. I can't hear the song without them anymore, and that's a good thing! It’s also been a great help to have her in the studio when listening back to mixes, helping choose the best performances, and making the job of the producer a lot easier.
This artist is one of my all time favorites to work with on my songs. She not only supports the melody and structure of the song, but reads into what I've written, and is right there riding alongside me. When I listen to the tone of her music it brings tears to my eyes every time. She can play one note, and the vibration will sing to your soul, and make you feel what the song is all about. I highly recommend Laurel!
Interview with Laurel Thomsen
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: The albums I've written and recorded with my partner, Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Frechette, are among my proudest achievements. They showcase the broadest range of genres and skills I've ever put into a project, and we've been honored to tour them all over North America and Europe.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I'm happy when my client is happy.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Creating and capturing magic. Interpreting and performing parts already created, like we would in Classical or fiddle music, is rewarding too, but creating something from scratch, that never existed before fills me with awe and grace.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: If you already have ideas about what you'd like, maybe even examples you've found in another song, please share them! Many clients want to see what a musician will come up with on their own, which is absolutely fine, but if you already have a strong vision, let's save time and focus on making that a reality.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Violin, Viola, Cello, a viola bow (because, though far from ideal, I can get by playing all three instruments with that), and of course some rosin!
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: My career as a musician began at 14 when I started teaching private students and playing for weddings around the California Central Coast. Now over 25 years later, and I still have never had a "real job." I've never had a fallback plan and I've never looked back.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Emotive, dynamic, stylistically flexible.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: For strings, we of course want to sound like we're in a beautiful hall or cathedral, but reverb can have the effect of making an instrument seem further away. It can make a player's articulation and vibrato sound washed out, and previously dynamic and convincing lines seem weak. I've gotten around this by either recording with two mics - one that I won't add reverb to in the mix, one that I will, or doubling the violin track in the mix - one with reverb, one without. The result either way is a string sound that still has articulation and subtlety, but also warmth and dimension, and depending on which is emphasized, the violin can sound far away, or right up close.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Americana, Pop, Folk, Rock, World music flavors.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Besides my patience, I'd say my intuitive ear. I listen carefully to the mood, the lyrics, the other instruments that have come before me, and parts just come.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Professionalism, dedication, and string and vocal parts that a client can use with minimal mixing. I play and sing well in tune, have a strong sensitivity to phrasing, dynamics, style, and tone, so mixing my parts is usually just a matter of figuring out the right overall volume and adding a bit of reverb to match the rest of the track.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Sometimes I listen to a song and instantly hear string parts or harmony vocals. Other times I might need to digest it a bit more, so I find it helpful to take the track on a drive and vocalize ideas. I figure, if it's singable, it will be memorable. Once I'm in the studio I usually start by recording myself playing/singing along with the whole track. I listen back, and I might repeat this a number of times, discovering what each moment of a song really needs. Sometimes it's a single drawn out note. Other times it's something more complicated - a solo, or a fill that plays off vocals or other instruments. After a few takes I'll start to create a compilation of lines that I love (and hopefully my clients will love too!) in my multi-track software. Depending on the quality of those performances (sometimes a first take can be the keeper!), at that point I might be ready to share my progress with my clients, or I might need to record the new compilation arrangement. In contrast to my Classical music background, my arranging process tends to be very "off the page" and ear focused, and quite intuitive, but if a client wants layered string parts, that's when I'll grab paper and pencil, a chord chart, and write out actual sheet music.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Those who take the time to listen and reflect. What does a song need? I appreciate musicians, engineers, and producers who serve the music and don't let pre-conceived ideas or egos get in the way of creating memorable songs and performances.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Most of my studio work involves recording violin, fiddle, or viola parts for singer-songwriters, ensembles, or bands. On occasion I'm approached to flesh out an entire string section, in which case I might also create and record cello parts. Increasingly, I'm being invited to record harmony vocals, as clients find that my voice blends easily with a wide variety of both female and male leads. In a recent recording situation, my voice somehow acted as the "glue" to blend a chorus of disparate voices together. I simply follow my ear and do what feels right.