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Topic: What makes spacious?

  1. #1

    What makes spacious?

    What (in basic terms) makes spacious feeling to a recording? Of course, basic thing is to add some good reverb, but usually when you record any music (for example in GS with standard libraries) with only added reverb (even a good one) to dry instruments, and no other sound adjustements are made - then the final sound and spaceous feeling still isn\'t agreeable (even with higher quality hardware reverbs). However in many recordings posted here, there is some nice feeling of space or \"distance\" and clearness in all instrument sounds. In fact almost every professional recording has similar \"spaceous\" feeling, which often seems to me much more important for overall impression than reverb - sometimes a recording with minimal or even none reverb, but with this spaceousness, sounds with fullness and much better than a recording with some reverb only (and no other adjustement of sound). So I\'d like to ask - what (in basic terms) makes this non-reverb spaciousness? Is it some using of compressor somehow sophisticated, or some other audio processing? Thanks. (It must be very well-known by professionals, because almost every good final recording has such similar space-feeling.)

  2. #2

    Re: What makes spacious?

    I assume that when you talk about recordings \'posted here\' you refer to the REAL thing. Real recordings of orchestras. If that is the case I think it is pretty easy to answer. First of all each instrument is placed differently in the space and will thus create a different reverb to be recorded. This is not something you do very often with sample-recorded music: do a different reverb for each instrument. When you\'re working with ensembles that are recorded as samples, you can use a different reverb for, say, violas, another for violins etc etc. - but you will never be able to do one for each violin, each cello, each flute, each french horn and so on. And I myself am usually too lazy to break up a piece into maybe 16-20 groups, each recorded with a different reverb. First of all because it will then take 20*the length of the piece to do a recording of all the tracks. 2nd, I am not sure that this will make the final result better. Because something else is missing: The interaction between the soundwaves in the hall - which is IMHO impossible to emulate. Maybe in the future someone will make a reverb that takes for example 4 stereo inputs (violins, violas, cellos, basses), do some \'acoustic simulation\' based on some values you enter (placement in a room), and thus come out with a combined better reverb than a standard stereo reverb. I think this could improve the sound, but again, I am just speculating. Lets not forget that the fact that we\'re dealing with samples probably also add to the \'fake\' sounding impression, no matter how good the samples are, they will not be the real deal, except for some more or less unexpressive instruments (some percussion e.g.). I guess we have to settle with just being \'almost there but not quite\'.

  3. #3

    Re: What makes spacious?

    Simon Ravn: Thanks for the reply. I was reffering to recordings posted here made of samples, not real orchestras. Of course the real orchestra sounds great in most cases. With term \"spaciousness\" I don\'t mean anything super-realistic, orchestra like; but something that makes a bit more space (without destroying the original sound like with reverb) feeling to a recording. For example - if you make some orchestral tune with dry sample instruments, play and record it through only Lexicon MPX-500 - the final result seems to be still fake sounding. But in many (sampler) recordings posted here (including yours I think :-) ) the general sound seems to be more spacious and natural, even in very simple passages (when playing only few instruments simple parts), than if you record something only with for example Lexicon. Or is it because of using different reverb for various instruments, as you described?
    Hasn\'t it to do something with mastering or somehow fattening the sound? For example - Kirk Hunter strings, when properly customized, sound very decent. But I remeber somehow (a longer time ago) posted here some example with KH violins section, which sounded really great - and nevertheless it wasn\'t too complicated arrangement, just the violins sounded somehow much more real and spaceous (of course not near reall orchestra) than if you take 24VN TME and play it through Lexicon (even in proper arrangement). So that\'s what I\'d like to know - except reverb, is there something that fatten sound in sample-recorded music?
    I think your examples Adventure, Foundation and Wandering sound yet with this nice spaceoussnes, did you really use only reverb on dry sample library instruments and nothing else?

  4. #4

    Re: What makes spacious?

    Maybe what you are hearing are instruments that have been doubled (either copied or recorded twice) with the doubled version panned away from the main original track. The 2nd version may be reduced in volume and may be delayed a bit. The effect of this will cause the main instrument to sound very spacious. I am not sure of the details of how to pan, adjust volume, and timing, but I think this is a frequently used technique for making individual instruments (and vocals) more exciting and spacious.


  5. #5

    Re: What makes spacious?

    Dis, yes I didn\'t do anything magical to those pieces. Wandering was recorded in one go (\'through a Lexicon\' ). Foundation was in two go\'s, but that was one for the guitar, one for the rest. Adventure was recorded in 3-4 takes I think. Because Gigastudio wouldn\'t be able to play it all at the same time, but also to do some different things to each instrument group. One for strings, one for brass (using TC M-One, not Lexicon MPX1), one for choir and one for percussion with more reverb than the rest.

  6. #6

    Re: What makes spacious?

    Oh forgot one thing. As far as I know there is no magic \'Fatten the sound\' plugin or device, but I usually do some EQ\'ing and compression and maximizing on the final mix. On Foundation I did the EQ too far, too much highend there. I try to make it sound as good as I can before mastering. I don\'t think you can save something that sounds bad in the first place...

  7. #7

    Re: What makes spacious?

    Real mixer boards and software (virtual) mixers [like you find in Gigastudio] adjust the instrument pan by changing the balance of signal amplitude between left and right channels. Equal amplitudes (L&R) becomes a center sound. This method almost gives us the illusion of instrument placement in the stereo field. The method is incomplete because, in fact, both amplitude and phase (delay) information is decoded by the ear to tell us from where in the stereo field a sound is coming.

    Wouldn\'t it be nice for pan adjustments to not only change the amplitude balance but the phase shift as well to \"complete\" the illusion of instrument placement and spaciousness. Could this be a wish-list item for the new Nemesys-Tascam team?


  8. #8

    Re: What makes spacious?

    There are many ways to enhance the dynamics of a sequenced midi orchestra. I have a few tricks I\'d like to share. First of all, with brass instruments like those in QLB and AO, great results can be achieved by lowering the volume and soaking them in reverb (more wet than dry) but leaving the trail short, and apply the general orchestral hall reverb on top of that. Some may not like the sound of this (as the sound becomes unclear and muddy). I love this technique, and I always use it on percussion to give the impression that the kitchen group is sitting far in the back. Works like a charm on fx. snaredrums and timpani, to get that haunting and not so present sound. You don\'t wanna apply this technique on string instruments. They should sit more up in front. Another thing I usually do is I have a random autopaner (panning all the different instrument groups seperately) that pans by 3-5 cents, pingpong left and right. This simulates the sound being thrown around in the hall. It adds space in the mix and helps avoid common frequency interference etc. I also enhance instrument lines with dynamic envelopes that I draw once I\'ve recorded the part as audio and imported it into cakewalk. One of the most important instruments in the orchestra is the double bass, and I ALWAYS spend extra time sequencing the bass group. If you have a static sounding bass part you\'re gonna have a static sounding sequence, as it gives body to the recording. Listen to any classical or film music recording and take notice of how important the dynamics of the double bass is.

    Regarding the use of reverb you should eliminate the very high frequencies in the trail and boost the low ones. You should also set the reverb to widen the stereo image in the trail. Try not to eq all instrument groups too much. You need the natural balanced sound. This is of course not important if you\'re mixing differently recorded samples. As a general rule though, you should aways try to maintain a balanced sound, meaning if the trumpets are EQed to boos the high frequency range, you should also boost its family brass members equally.

    Advice on trumpets. Most of the trumpet samples you\'ll find suffer from an annoying low and mid freq boost. I always roll off a little on the lows and mids and boost the highs a little. Lower the volume of the trumpet samples and apply a wet reverb with a short trail, then apply the main reverb on top. If you listen to any film music recording where the trumpets are playing ff++ they sound distant, yet sparkling. That\'s the sound you\'ll get if you follow this advice.

    Conclusion: anything you can do to enhance the dynamics of a recording will help you in your search for a spacious sound. Reverb is not a miracle tool, rather a handy piece of processing equipment that helps conceal the otherwise audiable flaws of sampled instruments.

    Hope this helps a bit.


  9. #9

    Re: What makes spacious?

    I found that using a spectralizer and light compression has worked wonders on some flat hollow sounding recordings. The only trick is tweaking the settings so you don\'t end up with to much sibilance.

  10. #10

    Re: What makes spacious?

    The typical \'doubling\' technique you refer to takes a copy of the sound, delayed by 15-16 msec, reduced in volume, and panned hard to one side. Panned hard to the other side is a low volume copy with about double the delay of the first. One then messes with the hard-panned volumes to achieve the space, and fattening, but where these copies are in and of themselves not noticable as sounds. They are perceived to be the \'air\'.

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