1. #1
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    Default Orchestral mixing advice (also Creating Depth + Separation in ANY Mix)

    Hi Charles
    I am a student and compose classical symphonic music. I really enjoyed your MILAR and was looking for some advices at mixing orchestral pieces. I work entirely in midi using libraries (EWQL Platinum pro xp, Gold pro xp, Vienna Cube Pro and Nuendo as sequencer)

    Actually for example, i find brass instrument to be problematic in the mix as they eat big energy and have difficulties to place it far/near. As for the string, when i work with fast "tempo", i find that i loose transients and so on.

    I was wondering if there is a guide or books for mixing large symphonic orchestra but every advice from you or other wombers is very appreciated.

    I uploaded something that i'm working at. http://thewombforums.com/showthread....965#post177965

    Thanks and sorry for the poor english.
    Last edited by aka70; February 1st, 2009 at 04:17 PM.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    I fear you may have bit off the one thing MIDI can't really handle very well, at least that I've ever heard.

    It can be amazingly convincing for simple pop music arrangements and for string pads but most orchestral recordings are based on a simple microphone pair over the conductor's head. Then "sweetening" section mikes are brought in and out only to clarify any melody lines that weren't played quite loud enough to balance with the rest of the orchestra.

    Moving things front to back is largely a matter of long pre-delays for up front and shorter for further back. Most reverb devices also have way too much early reflection fuzz that needs to be turned down or off.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Bob wins this week's award for the largest amount of useful information in the fewest number of words.

    --Ethan
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Bob wins this week's award for the largest amount of useful information in the fewest number of words.

    --Ethan


    Here here. I'm not going to lie. It taught me a thing or two as well.

    Cheers.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    My experience says that mixing is the least of the problems of MIDI symphonic orchestra. I also work in EWQL Platinum. Basically, a fairly thorough knowledge of symphonic arrangement and how instruments sound and are played by real musicians is necessary. These are my tips as I have experienced them doing a number of mock-ups (some of which have been mistaken by symphonic musicians as the real thing).

    1. The arrangement must be "correct", as in e.g. the violas can't play 4-note chords (unless it's a REALLY big orchestra!), the solo trombone can't play 20 second notes (or the player will suffocate!) etc.

    2. Choosing the best articulation for each specific section - or even single notes - is vital. Try out many different articulations. Your ears should tell you where the problems are. Jumping back and forth between e.g. a Sus Vib and a MartÚle articulation within one string section can work extremely well. Without the right instrument sound from the start the mix will never be even close to realistic.

    3. Being careful of which demands are put on the software when composing and arranging. There ARE things that can't be done realistically in the box, period. I find particularly horns, playing alone (one or more at a time), to be difficult. And naked strings are trying as well. This is, however, not a problem when the production is merely a demo for composing purposes. But if the final mix is supposed to sound real, it is a limitation that must be incorporated. Unfortunately.

    4. Meticulously programming each articulation using all available parameters: Volume, velocity, crossfade-instruments (e.g. P to F via mod-wheel), accented articulations (often accents can be controlled via mod-wheel or velocity) length of EACH individual note (this is a trial-and-error process vital to the realistic flow of strings and horns. I don't always succeed despite the effort).

    5. THEN mixing. Bob pointed out the important stuff in his post above. So, in EWQL, use the stage mics while composing, then add a bit of close mic on selected instruments to either add detail, or to bring forward solo instruments. Particularly the weak ones like the harp can benefit from this. Or, instead go the Hollywood way and close mic a lot! It doesn't sound like a concert hall recording, but can be very effective.

    I hope this is of use to you, it has been to me. And remember: You'll probably never get there a 100% (I haven't), but you CAN get fairly close.

    Christian
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    {removed for brevity}
    Nice first post... welcome to the Womb.



    If I might add an often overlooked aspect common to novices... the placement of your orchestral instruments across the horizon. When working with synths and samplers it is easy to stack up a bunch of parts that don't blend convincingly... often because they are too wide and on 'top' of each other... unlike the traditional spacing and placement of their real counterparts.

    This is obvious to folks who are schooled but not always so with some self-taught types... simple things like a big stereo piano can diminish orchestral illusions quickly and it is a common problem easily avoided.



    Cheers,
    Aardvark


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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Christian, welcome to the Womb!

    You've done a really great job of explaining the aspect of this that I couldn't put into words.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Thank you guys for useful information, i realize that midi won't never sound the real thing but at the moment i can't do otherwise. I would like also to have some feedback on the uploaded file above in mixing terms, cause this will help me a lot.
    Thank you again
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    I think cmunk put his finger on something crucial: The most important reason why sample orchestras don't sound right is because of the orchestration and arrangement itself.


    otek
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Yes, I've heard a couple of Bill Ross mock ups, and they sound pretty great. The key is in the arrangements, and playing each part by hand, rather than like big piano chords.
    Steve Shepherd
    Extreme Mixing
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Thinking in counterpoint rather than chords is also a lot of making it sound real.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    I've heard a couple of famous orchestral pieces done with Vienna and they sound amazing.

    But the guy probably put a shitload of time into using every nuance afforded by the library.


    otek
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Knowing 4 part harmony is a must if you want to take it seriously, but I'm guessing as a student of orchestration - you know that already.

    I use the Vienna library. The "grace" samples between played notes is the one thing that makes it stand head and shoulders above everything else. Performance tool is also very impressive.

    Expensive tho'

    FWIW I agree with cmunk's second point. Choosing the right performance / sample set is key to making this kind of thing in any way convincing.

    Far more than mixing.
    Cheers,

    Paulie.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Gotta luv all the "it's not about mixing" answers. Great advice all of it. But here's some mixing advice anyway...

    Let me 1st preface this by saying I do NOT mix orchestral music, but I have mixed strings + orchestras as apart of larger pop, rock or latin mixes many times. And my goal in these mixes is almost always to achieve a semi-realistic orchestral or symphonic sound.

    I listened to your sample + here are my thotz, aka70...


    The sounds are okay. The violins seem a little synthy, but some of the others are not that bad. (again, i'm not an orchestal dood... just judging w/ my pop ears.)

    Panning

    Your biggest problem is panning... you essentially have none. Pretty much everybody is fighting for the center. That will kill realism instantaneously. My guess is you are familiar with orchestral seating. Pan all the parts to their respective sections until it sounds like you can see where everybody is sitting. When the different parts come in, they should come from the far left or far right or near left or near center or center... etc. But they should NOT all come from the center. Totally killz the vibe.

    Another note about panning... these sample libraries often claim to have the various instruments positioned in the stereo spectrum where they should be seated. I assume this, cuz programmers are constantly telling me the violins, violas, cellos + basses are already panned where the should be within each of their stereo blends... and YET the trax of the violins, violas, etc are all panned hard left + right. When I listen to all of the strings together... sure, the violins are kinda to the left, the violas are basically to the center + the cellos sorta to the right. But in reality they are essentially all smeared together in the middle with no real panoramic definition. It does NOT feel like the violins are sitting on the left, etc... don't know why this is, but I find it again + again.

    So, suffice it to say... I don't find the built in panning on these samples to sound really very convincing or realistic when blended together. What I do to fix this is to recreate the panning in a way that sounds more clear. I am often pushing them to one side or the other + panning them much tighter or narrower than full wide. This gives them each focus + actually makes them sound like they are sitting to the left, right or center.

    Depth

    I think you can improve the realism of the depth of your mix. Some of the verbs you're using (or that are included with the samples) sound fairly good, but they all have a bit of a unified + 2 dimensional quality. Everybody seems to be sitting the same distance from the listener, which we both know is not how they would sit. There are essentially 3 tools you can use to achieve realistic depth in any mix.

    1. Reverb

      The first is to apply reverb selectively. IOW, don't apply the same reverb + the same amount to everyone. Instead, decide who you want to be in the foreground, who you want in the mid-ground, + who in the background. Again, refer to orchestral seating.

      Then pick your verbs. Use Impulse Response reverbs if you have them. They sound the most realistic for this use. Pick a large hall for the instruments in the back. Pick a shorter hall or even a short room for mid-ground + near. Then apply them in a way that creates the depth you are looking for. What I do is use more of the hall in the background instruments, sometimes with a little of the room, sometimes not. And then more of the room + less of the hall on the instruments towards the front. Experiment with these 2 verbs. If you have the right ones, you should be able to move instruments front to back by how you apply them. If not... try other types of verbs. Longer halls. Shorter rooms. etc.

      Also keep in mind that there is usually natural room verb on the samples themselves, so your purpose here is NOT to put verb on everything. They already have that. You are applying additive reverb with the purpose of increasing the sense of depth of certain instruments. Put another way... some instruments may sound much better with NO REVERB @ all. Listen to the part, if it sounds like it has the depth it needs... then don't add any verb.

    2. High Frequencies

      The farther away an instrument is from the listener the darker it will sound. The best example I can give to illustrate this is the difference between a lightening strike near your house vs. one many miles away...

      The close one sounds like CRAAACCKK!!!

      The far one sounds like gruuurRRRRuurrrrr...

      But in reality they are both the exact same thing. The only difference is your distance from the sound source. The near one has lots of top end. The far one has none. That is because air dampens the top end frequencies. The farther a sound has to travel the darker it will become.

      So, the players in the back can't be too bright or edgy, or they won't sound real. Your brass section, for example, might sound better + more real to you if you rolled off some of their highs +/or hi-mids. Cuz they don't usually sit in front. They're pretty loud instruments + for that reason they've been placed in the back. So you should make them sound that way.

    3. Panning

      Panning is essentially used to place instruments at positions within the left to right stereo spectrum. But it's my observation that panning can also affect an instrument's sense of depth. The further towards the back of the mix you want an instrument to sound, the more realistic it sounds to NOT have it panned hard left or right. So, I kinda reserve that for the front row players. The mid + back row guys get panned slightly further in.

      The problem is that hard panning really always sounds like the instrument is coming directly out of the speaker to the left or right, and NOT like it's coming from behind the speaker. The speaker is essentially the frontline of your mix. It's as far forward as any of the players can sound. So, if you want something to sound like it's toward the back, you may not want to pan it too hard to the side.

    So, by combining a larger reverb, rolling off some hi-end + not hard panning the instruments you want to place in the back of the mix, you can achieve fairly realistic results as far as depth is concerned.

    EQ

    Also, do NOT be afraid to apply eq to these samples. I know they sound good + natural. And that's great. But a little bit of shaping can go a long way to focusing the ear on what each instrument is intended to contribute to the overall arrangement.

    For example, I like to emphasize the cello-ness of the cellos. I do this by possibly boosting the lows a little; boosting the rosin sound... experiment with this... explore the 700 + 800s, and also the 1.2 to 1.6ks; and sometimes lessening the low mids (200+ region).

    On violins I may boost the highs or high mids some. I may also roll off the room rumble with a HPF, it could be anywhere from 100hz to 400hz. It totally depends on the register of their part + what it's musically contributing to the overall sound.

    Bottom line on EQ is that in these situations I use them to subtly reshape + focus each part, so the part can be heard better individually, as well as work better with the other parts.


    Try these suggestions + let us know if they help.
    Last edited by Charles Dye; February 6th, 2009 at 06:11 AM.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Great post Charles
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    But here's some mixing advice anyway...
    First, what a great post!

    Second . . .


    The far one sounds like gruuurRRRRuurrrrr...
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Woooooooooow.

    I can't thank u enough for this amazing post!

    I'll try to mix the piece i posted with your advices in mind and i'll let you know when i'll finish!


    Thank you again for all the time you spent with me!

    Gerti!
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Thx guyz!

    Just added a bit more to my original post to reinforce my point about the orchestral samples + panning.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    oops... there's more... just added a new section to depth.
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    Default Re: Orchestral mixing advice

    Nice first post... welcome to the Womb.



    If I might add an often overlooked aspect common to novices... the placement of your orchestral instruments across the horizon. When working with synths and samplers it is easy to stack up a bunch of parts that don't blend convincingly... often because they are too wide and on 'top' of each other... unlike the traditional spacing and placement of their real counterparts.

    This is obvious to folks who are schooled but not always so with some self-taught types... simple things like a big stereo piano can diminish orchestral illusions quickly and it is a common problem easily avoided.



    Cheers,
    Aardvark


    .
    Here is the orchestral layout diagram that I refer to:

    http://www.davesguitarroom.com/orcha..._image_806.png

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