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Topic: Levels?

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  1. #1

    Levels?

    Do the four groups in the strings ensemble have different levels? Relative "natural" levels. (Hard to explain what I mean!) How about the instruments in woodwinds, brass, percussion?

    Trying to make a template where the brass is louder than strings, and also the levels between violins, violas etc..

    /Johnny

  2. #2
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Levels?

    The short answer is don't sweat it, as it will change depending on what you're working on. Just get it close enough to start working.

    The long ... and of course it's just my opinion.
    I think it depends on quite a few "things" and there is no rule.
    The "things:"
    The piece being performed, The conductor,The hall, The orchectra

    I've heard good recordings of live performances where the strings are very dominant and not in a bad way, and in that same recording a strongly played horn section blends well and is not louder than the strings.

    I get the sections close enough in my default template that I can almost hide any of them behind an other section just by the velocity of that particular phrase. I can also bring them upfront by just playing stronger.

    I can also balance during the recording process by using controllers CC:11 CC:07.

    One of the conductor differences that was quite interesting was hearing
    a recording of Stravinsky conducting Rite of Spring and Petrushka after being very familiar with an other conductors interpretation.
    It was very telling to see what a conductor can do to the balance of the sections.

  3. #3

    Re: Levels?

    Someone posted this on a forum a couple weeks ago... it could be a good starting point:

    Solo woodwinds and harp -18 to -24 dB
    Strings: -6 to -12 dB
    Solo brass: 0 to -6 dB
    Ensemble brass 0 to +6dB

    When I first started using VSL a few years ago I had problems obtaining a realistic sound, and then I realized that it was because I had the levels too high across the board. Now I start things quieter, along the lines of what I pasted above... makes a nice difference.
    Mr. Kerry Muzzey

  4. #4

    Re: Levels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve_Karl
    The long ... and of course it's just my opinion.
    IOne of the conductor differences that was quite interesting was hearing
    a recording of Stravinsky conducting Rite of Spring and Petrushka after being very familiar with an other conductors interpretation.
    It was very telling to see what a conductor can do to the balance of the sections.
    Steve, I actually think that is one of the worst recordings of Rite of Spring. Stravinsky was a great composer but a mediocre conductor at best. The Boulez version to me is still the gold standard.
    Composer, Logic Certified Trainer, Level 2,
    author of "Going Pro with Logic Pro 9."

    www.jayasher.com

  5. #5
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Levels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashermusic
    Steve, I actually think that is one of the worst recordings of Rite of Spring. Stravinsky was a great composer but a mediocre conductor at best. The Boulez version to me is still the gold standard.
    Yea ... that's "the story" on Stravinsky ... but then again ... he wrote it ...
    and is going to be more capable of showing his personal intent than anyone else.
    I have heard a few versions before this one but I don't think the Boulez.
    What I do like about the Stravinsky is the way the sections balance.

    I'll keep and eye out for the Boulez.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Steve_Karl's Avatar
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    Re: Levels?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashermusic
    Steve, I actually think that is one of the worst recordings of Rite of Spring. Stravinsky was a great composer but a mediocre conductor at best. The Boulez version to me is still the gold standard.
    Well I got the Boulez. It's interesting, it's different. It's worth having.

    In Petrouchka I feel Boulez is brighter, more up, but lacks some depth of character that I think the Stravinsky version shows.
    Some of the rhythmic interpretations in the Boulez aren't showing what I felt was special about the Stravinsky, possibly caused by the brighter approach and different sense of balance or even just the tone of the recording.

    The Boulez is a more sweet recording sonically.
    The Stravinsky recording is more middle ground with stronger fundamentals.
    More primitive. The Stravinsky tone is more "serious" ... of course a very subjective view.
    This is quite possibly why the character is where the Stravinsky recording shines in my opinion especially when considering the story line at the end of the Rite.

    However, It's all just points of view and I do appreciate have the Boulez version as a refference.

  7. #7

    Re: Levels?

    Even within the string orchestra there are differences.

    The first violins are generally louder than the seconds. There are usually more of them, and they are sitting up front. The soundboards are turned toward the audience.

    The violas lack the bite of both the violins and the cellos, so they sound quieter. Their soundboards are generally facing to the side.

    The basses are relatively quiet compared to the cellos - there are few and they are in the back. They extend the bass, but with a subtlety - especially when compared to most modern popular music.

    But if you want a huge bass and viola midrange sound, there's nothing preventing you from mixing (or using seating and score dynamics) for that effect.

  8. #8
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    Re: Levels?

    Quote Originally Posted by composernyc
    Someone posted this on a forum a couple weeks ago... it could be a good starting point:

    Solo woodwinds and harp -18 to -24 dB
    Strings: -6 to -12 dB
    Solo brass: 0 to -6 dB
    Ensemble brass 0 to +6dB

    When I first started using VSL a few years ago I had problems obtaining a realistic sound, and then I realized that it was because I had the levels too high across the board. Now I start things quieter, along the lines of what I pasted above... makes a nice difference.
    As far as I am concerned, there can be no such rules. To sit there and say each section should be at a certain amount of db is silly. It depends on, as said, the piece being performed, the conductor, the hall, the orchestra, and the composer as well. For film music recording sessions, the engineer will use a certain mic placement, they will record a few cues, it will all sound fine, and for the next cue, the composer and/or conductor will say, "ok, for this cue, I need th e violins and flutes a bit louder than before." The engineer will then go and move the mics accordingly. You can do the same with your sequencer's mixer faders.

    Someone posed basically the same question to my (our) maestro who heads the conducting class at Juliard we are taking. The other student says, "I need to get my orchestral libraries at the same relative volume as some great orchestras." "Relative to what?" "To each other." "No such thing" was the response.

    Cheers.

  9. #9

    Re: Levels?

    Its well worth you subscribing to Virtual Instruments Magazine as there's a great tutorial about sample orchestra balancing in this month's edition.
    Trev Parks

  10. #10

    Re: Levels?

    Interesting thoughts people.

    However, the starting point for the recording session of film music will be different levels and not normalized samples as in the vsl libraries. Am I right? Maybe not if we´re talking Zimmer.

    Maybe it´s about purism/concert-realism vs "doing whatever you think sounds good"-ism. I may be somewhere in between.

    /Johnny

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