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Topic: Improving this mix

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  1. #1

    Improving this mix

    Hey everyone -

    I just finished a new piece titled A Noble Spirit that I really enjoy. It consists of just sam horns/trombones, with gos (and a little hint of the vsl trumpet demo).

    My question is - can anyone suggest any way to improve upon the mix? I\'d like to hear each instrument better in the mix - right now the instruments are:

    horns
    trombone
    trumpet
    basses
    cellos
    violas
    violin

    What can I do to \"clear it up\"? I\'ve heard of \'ducking\' the eq in some instruments to make room for instruments, but not sure how/if it should be done here.

    Suggestions?

    Thanks!!!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Improving this mix

    Hi Eric,

    Right now, everyhing is very clogged up in the mid-ground, and midrange.

    To fix the first problem, you need to decide what you want playing at a distance, and what you want to be downstage center. Add reverb, duck mids and highs in the basses, for one, so you get some butt and some warmth from them. The horns seem to come oddly from the left, a bit isolated. You might accentuate their reverb/room generation on the right side to fill out that image. As I was saying to Sam earlier, you cannot make something sound really deep without having something else almost dry (and vice versa). A mix needs a full range of dripping wet to bone dry, and every shade of grey in between, to really define space.

    Per the tonal balance, some of the midrange clogging can be remedied by the steps above, but you want to give each section a frequency domain all its own. Which instruments go where isn\'t as important as the basic need to represent a full spectrum in tutti passages.

    Look out around the 50 second mark or so...you have some parallels in your voice leadings that aren\'t serving you very well. Remedy those by varying open and closed chord voicings...mix it up. Also, I\'d thin out the similar motion in the end. Everything percolates along, rather than tapering down (and thinning) to the final sustain.

    In general, some of your overall orchestration is causing the frequency and depth problems. You have a lot of voices moving in choirlike fashion. Take the opportunity to thin out some of those ensemble movements, and translate them to their simplest possible orchestration, just enough voices to do the job. Then you can start varying up the combinations, and you\'ll get interesting sub-colors.

    Good luck. Hope some of that gives you fuel for ideas.

  3. #3

    Re: Improving this mix

    Bruce -

    As always, your insights have been very helpful.

    If I were to restrict each instrument to a certain freq range, is there a chart somewhere that says, for a good sounding orchestra, to only have say the horns sound in x hz range?

    Is this something that real productions do for movies/etc - actually do freq adjustments (i.e. subtractions) to instruments groups that were recorded?

    Interesting..

    Eric

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Improving this mix

    Originally posted by Eric Doggett:


    Is this something that real productions do for movies/etc - actually do freq adjustments (i.e. subtractions) to instruments groups that were recorded?

    Interesting..

    Eric
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Absolutely. There is nothing sacred about what a microphone hears. The number of variables contributing to the track\'s sound is endless.

    Really, no charts exist, though. Getting a good mix isn\'t so much about activly pigeonholing ranges, but is a more passive activity...or rather a reactive activity.

    Also, one can never forget that when working with samples, all rules and norms are completely obliviated. In combining disparate mic plots, locations, players, producers\' visions, you are entering an engineering exercise which has no precedent.

    Here\'s what I\'d suggest as an exercise:

    Find a commercially produced piece of music which is structurally similar to yours--one which you really think sounds great.

    Then put that mix up on your monitors, and listen hard several times. After that, put your mix up, and listen hard...not changing anything. Just take notes. What sounds thinner? What sounds bigger/smaller? What sounds drier/wetter?

    Then do some more listening, this time switching back and forth between the two. Try to conceive the basic tonal differenes, the basic imaging differences...

    What you want to do next is not so much attempting to shape the individual sections as it is to remove the impediments to their highest expression.

    Your particular case has a very crowded midrange. Some of those instruments clogging up the works have something really important to say. Others have less to say. So, clear out your midrange by subtly ducking those frequencies in less critical voices, just a bit at a time, until the voices with important roles get the room they need.

    Of course, this is all engineering--and as I said in the first post, I think your orchestration could be a bit crowded and monolithic in some of those problem areas as well. For instance, it\'s difficult for a french horn to really project a melody when it\'s surrounded on both sides by a brass choir playing every voice of the accompanying chord. To compare it to a painting, it would be like painting a red pig on a red background. Would you see the pig? Not as clearly as if you\'d painted it on blue, or gray, or purple.

    Rest assured, there is a reason that every mixing console ever built has EQ. Any time you are engineering a multitrack production, purity is long gone. It is possible to exercise EXTREME bad taste with EQ, don\'t get me wrong. But it is the single \"effect\" no engineer would give up.

    Remember, sample libraries must present a full range picture of each instrument. If a violin is featured in a composition only with, say, a harp, both of those instruments will likely be presented in the mix at their full bandwidth. This would sound good...there is plenty of room in a mix for that.

    But...

    Every seat in an orchestra cannot be mixed at its full bandwidth. Something must give. Even libraries like EWQLSO (which is designed to present as close as possible a \"mixable\" sound from the box) won\'t allow you to combine every \"close\" microphone into a symphonic sound. There is too much bandwidth there. In the case of the EW library, you\'d choose to roll in more distant mics to change the way the instrument is heard--to dial in the \"EQ\" of distant perspective. In libraries where the recorded material is presented from a single perspective, you must engineer this with EQ, reflective properties, and your knowledge of how performance spaces sound and react.

  5. #5

    Re: Improving this mix

    Bruce -

    Ok, I\'ve taken your considerations to heart and am excited about finding each instruments \'place\' in the mix.

    Logic Audio Platinum 6 allows realtime analyzing of the freq response on given tracks. Looking at each instrument, I picked a range where I thought there response was most prominent, and noted that. That gave me this:


    20-200hz:bass
    200-300hz:trombone
    300-400hz:cello
    400hz-1k:horns
    500hz-1k:trumpet
    around 1k:viola
    2-5k:violin

    However, when I rolled off either side of the range for each instrument, the whole mix turned into an almost telephone-sounding mix.

    Are you suggesting each range should be boosted in the above frequencies, or rather cutting around them drastically like I did as above (but maybe differently)?

    Thanks for your help in this [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    Eric

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Improving this mix

    You don\'t want to be nearly that methodical about it. That\'s why I said there\'s no \"chart.\" You can\'t do an analysis and just decide these will be the ranges that are featured, when in actuality, these ranges are the ones that are combining to create the problem.

    Just note the frequency where the mix is clogging up, and start gently reducing that frequency range in non-lead voices. You don\'t necessarily want to start radically changing the tonality of the instruments. You just want to reduce the amount of buildup in the midrange which is making your mix go flat.

    This is also a product of the imaging decisions and orchestration, too. All of this goes hand in hand.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Improving this mix

    Originally posted by Eric Doggett:
    20-200hz:bass
    200-300hz:trombone
    300-400hz:cello
    400hz-1k:horns
    500hz-1k:trumpet
    around 1k:viola
    2-5k:violin
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">If you look at this analysis, it will actually tell you why the mix is clogging up in the midrange. Everything is living there.

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