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Topic: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

  1. #1

    Post When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Greetings to All,
    I've been tweaking two pieces and have been...shall we say frustrated during the mixing process. Getting instrument balance correct is not easy! I had a few questions regarding how you folks get instrument balance in hopes of improving.

    1) Do you balance instruments before or after you add reverb?

    2) If the answer to number 1 is before, do you find you have to tweak balances once reverb is added?

    3) Are there any instruments that you start with and build from? Is there a method to what order sections should be balanced? (For instance in pop music many people start with drums, then bass and move on from there.)

    Thanks for any help!

    We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …
    24" 2.4 Ghz iMac, OSX 10.4.10, MOTU 828 MKII, 2 Glyph 250 Gig external drives, Logic 9, Finale 2008 GPO, JABB, Strad, Gro, Reason 4, EWQL Storm Drum, Adrenaline, Symphonic Choirs, SO Gold,All Arturia Synths, Many NI Synths, Spectrasonics Synths, KH Strings, VEPro on a Windows 7 4x 2.8 Ghz 12 gig of RAM

  2. #2

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Hi Kevin, here is a post I made in another topic,,,, there is not necessarily only one correct way to mix, so the things I say here are merely my experience and opinions.


    Altiverb does not do any panning for you.
    There are a number of choices when choosing a specific IR set.
    mono-to-stereo and stereo-to-stereo.

    There are a number of things to consider when choosing the proper IR (impulse response). For those who are not familiar with this term, it is the audio jargon that we use to describe the acoustic properties of a given room or space. Whether it is a vacuum cleaner hose, or Disney Hall in Los Angeles California, spaces can be sampled too. These algorithms are stored as an Impulse Responses, and are used in specific software to allow us to place our music in these spaces.

    If you are inserting Altiverb on a single mono audio track, then you will want to insert a mono-to-stereo IR. Digital Performer will automatically change the audio track channel to stereo, in order to accomodate a stereo reverb. In this case, the proper way to change the panning of the instrument is by using Altiverb's stage position feature.

    If you are inserting Altiverb on a single stereo audio track, then you will want to insert a stereo-to-stereo IR. Since the audio track is already stereo, and the natural pan position of the instrument is already determined "in stone" by the placement in the dry audio track, Altiverb will process the dry audio track while it maintains the natural panning. In other words, if you have a stereo string section sound like GPO 1st violins, they are recorded in stereo and they are panned by default to the left considerably. While this may provide a traditionally close sound where 1st violins are stage right, (audience left) we will not benefit from the sound of all the violins equally, because the violins closer to the "right channel" microphone will be more quiet since the pan in the GPO player is panned left, somewhat eliminating those violins.
    This is why I believe it is so important to record the stereo violin section with the Kontakt player's pan set to center (12 o'clock) then process it with Altiverb and place the 1st violins where you want them. As I am typing, I realize how much longer this is going to take to describe the other ways to use Altiverb. Oh well I'm too far into it now,,,

    These first two methods describe inserting Altiverb directly into each and every audio track. This is going to require alot of Altiverbs if you plan to use Altiverb to position each and every single instrument. I don't know about you, but I don't have a 4000 Ghz. 80 core dual overhead cam processor with 800 gigs of ram, so I choose to do it a little differently, which has proven to be a very realistic and effective way to use Altiverb in a mix.

    I record each individual stereo string section to a separate stereo audio track.


    I assign all of these stereo string tracks to a stereo aux fader (group master)
    I then insert into the group master, one Altiverb IR with a close setting.

    This will be my strings group master. Since I inserted a stereo-to-stereo IR, the exact position of all five strings tracks will be preserved, and Altiverb will process them right where they sound from.

    If I want the 1st violins to be somewhat left, I pan them with the pan knob in the mixer. Same with cellos somewhat to the right. It is important to mention, that if you record the strings from GPO with the Kontakt player's pan set to center, then you need to use a "trim" plugin or some type of plugin that will allow you to minimize the stereo spread of the track, otherwise, moving the pan in the mixer won't be any different than had you recorded from GPO with the pan set where it's default setting is. That may sound very confusing, but reading it a few times will make more sense.

    My theory has always been that if you pan a bassy track heavily towards one side, it will loose a gob of it's punchiness. I usually pan string basses right center not far right. Regardless, using a stereo-to-stereo IR in this "group" master will allow the engineer to use the simple pan knob in the mixer to determine the location of those instruments.

    Same thing applies for woodwinds, brass and percussion, each of those having their own group master with a unique IR of the same room but with a different mic position (distance). Instruments in the rear are more distant sounding than the strings up close.

    There has been the argument that a room only has one reverb, so why do engineers choose multiple different IR's for the various orchestral sections? Here's the reason. Pretty much regardless of where you sit in a concert hall, you will hear the same reverb time for all instruments, actually, that's not true, if the room is really boomy, (bass heavy as many are) string basses and low drums will reverberate longer, flutes and violins will not reverberate as long. The analogy of "the room only has one reverb" is true when we are listening to the orchestra "LIVE". In a recorded medium such as MP3's CD's records, radio, TV etc, we don't have the benefit of actually being there, soooooooooooooooo, the recording engineer chooses where he is going to put his stereo microphone or microhones. Typically, he is not going to put them way in the back of the room because the recording would be way too distant sounding (wet) so he tries to get them as close to the orchestra as possible, but still pick up some of the rooms' acoustics. When this method of recording is used, it is always going to make strings sound close and percussion sound distant because the mics are closer to front of the orchestra.


    Since we are making recordings that are supposed to simulate a real orchestra, we use whatever tools we have at our disposal to create a recording that sounds as though microphones were used in an actual living space, hence the reason why really good convolution reverb programs offer a great number of choices. Not only different concert halls, rooms etc, but also the same room with multiple choices of various microphone positions while the room was sampled.

    I'm tired, this was fun though.

  3. #3

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Here is how I personally approach mixing a midi orchestra.

    In this order, record all the midi tracks, and go through each and every one, one at a time (by itself) and overdub the modwheel data. Do this until it is EXACTLY how you want it.

    Be extremely sensative to every note and how it sounds, along with the transition to the next note, whether legato or not. What does it sound like if I overlap these notes a little tiny bit? What does it sound like if I use cc64 to control the legato sound? Even though this line is supposed to be legato, do I actually get a better legato sound by not using cc64 but overlap the notes and play with the velocity? All of these questions can only be answered by you and what you hear AFTER trying the different ways it can sound. Pick the way that sounds the best. I want the individual track to sound as real as it can be.

    Once every track is done, record each and every one to the appropriate audio track (stereo or mono).

    Now that you have each instrument in a separate audio track, you can begin to get the balance you want.

    I start with strings first since they are typically the primary focus of orchestral works.

    Before I can start mixing, I need to set up some stereo "group" masters for the various orchestral sections.
    Strings, Woods, Brass, Perc. I know that's not the right order according to most scores, but I am not worried about a score, that's just how I like to do it.

    Each of these sections gets a separate Impulse Response of the same room in Altiverb. I don't bother with using aux sends from each audio track to a bunch of reverb auxes, I simply insert the Altiverb IR of choice into the "group" master. Same goes with the other three sections, but with different IR's taken from varying mic distances. Of course I will always use the "stage positioning" to tweak the sound to my personal taste. No rules here.

    Ok so I start mixing, even if you have a control surface with 50 faders on it, we only have ten fingers, regardless, after one pass of automating the faders, we will have to constantly redo it and redo it till it is right. This is why I mix one audio track at a time.

    I listen only to the first violins from the very beginning with a reasonable amount of reverb. I go through the entire piece using the track ball/mouse to automate that track's volume fader. If the first violins have a break, and then their entrance is not pretty and smooth, I go back and re-automate the entrance with a "fade up" to make them sound like a real string section. I may spend three to four minutes on the entrance of just the first violins... listening over and over, rewrite, rewrite, whatever it takes till those players do exactly what I want them to. Afterall, they are not players, just deaf and dumb sampled notes that have no eyes, ears or soul.

    Once the first violins are done, I start automating the second violins while allowing the first violins to play as the reference to the harmonies, or balance that I desire. Then violas, then cellos, then basses, all the while. listening to the harmonies, (balance) between them.

    Now turn off the strings totally, and it is time to do this same process with the woods, then brass, then percussion. Once all these parts are balanced, then I go to the group masters, which up till this point have been sitting at "zero db" or unity gain, whatever you want to call it. Now these get automated as well, but be careful to not move them too suddenly, otherwise the reverb and it's tails will be effected also, since the reverb is part of the sound in this group master. There are other ways to eliminate this dilema, one way is to setup individual aux tracks for the four reverbs to reside in, and assign the section group masters to those appropriate aux tracks, more commonly referred to as (reverb returns). I really frown on using separate aux tracks for reverbs, because now you are only "adding" reverb to dry groups. It is always better to use the stage position feature in Altiverb to take off the "in your face" sound of the instuments. Herein lies perhaps the most important part of getting everything to sound more real. Never allow any of the instruments to be routed directly to the final stereo master fader without going "through" it's reverb. As I just mentioned, don't ADD reverb to the dry sound of an orchestral recording, this will indeed sound fake. Using separate aux tracks is perfect for other styles of music like,.... well,... anything but orchestral music.

    As a listener in a real concert, it is not physically possible to hear the first chair violinist two inches from your nose, while hearing the hall's reverb of it from Over there.

    This is so important.

    Anyway, class dismissed. I could go on for hours, probably too much information

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    South of the Ohio River

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Thanks, Dan. This is a big help to me, as well.
    Dayton, Kentucky
    Personally, I'm waiting for caller IQ.

  5. #5
    Senior Member rpearl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    So, Dan: for an orchestral work (full orch w/perc.) that's say 15 minutes long, your process would take an additional hour or so?

    Couldn't resist...

    Thanks for all the insight - you are the master.
    Ron Pearl





  6. #6

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Thanks Dan. I haven't reached this level yet but the info you've provided has given me some real insight into the subject which will help prepare me. I'm sure I speak for others in thanking you for the time you have put into this.

    Regards, Graham

  7. #7

    Thumbs up Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Thanks for the huge amount of information! I"ll have to re-read it a few times to let it all sink in, however it gives me direction for what I want to accomplish.

    It is also probably the best ad Altiverb has ever had!

    For now I'll have to use Garritan Ambience or some SIR impulse responses, though I can't think of any responses off hand that would work well with GPO. I am sure there is, so I'll sift through what I have this evening.

    Thanks again for the detailed response!

    We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams …
    24" 2.4 Ghz iMac, OSX 10.4.10, MOTU 828 MKII, 2 Glyph 250 Gig external drives, Logic 9, Finale 2008 GPO, JABB, Strad, Gro, Reason 4, EWQL Storm Drum, Adrenaline, Symphonic Choirs, SO Gold,All Arturia Synths, Many NI Synths, Spectrasonics Synths, KH Strings, VEPro on a Windows 7 4x 2.8 Ghz 12 gig of RAM

  8. #8

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    Jerry, Ron, Graham and Kevin,

    Some of this is kind of confusing to read, but I believe that there are some good things in those posts that will help to produce a mix that you are thrilled with.

    I have heard some good comments about SIR reverb, although I have not used it.
    Always happy to help!

  9. #9

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    A thread very rich with information!

    I wanted to get back to the original question, and add some thoughts on the general issue of mixing, as per Kevin's initial question.

    --But first a comment re: the detailed description of your mixing process, Dan, and particularly your philosophy about the use of reverb.

    - Your main point about applying reverb in the way you described your process is that the instruments shouldn't hit the Master without going through reverb. You say your method avoids the "in your face" effect.

    But in my own mixing tests, I cannot detect any difference in the sound whether I use Sends on instrument tracks or if I send grouped tracks to a Bus which has a reverb strapped to it. Both methods are taking a dry signal and a wet signal, and mixing them in the proportions we want--And since both approaches are doing the same thing, it makes sense that I'm unable to tell the tiniest difference in the results.

    I probably missed it, since there is a Lot in your replies, Dan, but I didn't see you mention that in mixing reverb in your way, the reverb itself has to have its wet/dry ratio adjusted according to what you want. Whereas, of course, if one is mixing in the usual way, the reverb unit is set to be fully wet, and the sends determine the ratio.

    But my main point is that I can't hear any difference in the sound quality when mixing in the traditional way or in this more complicated way you described. And if one is using sends, then there isn't the issue you mentioned of the Bus's fader level effecting the amount of reverb.

    Going back to Kevin's post, re: mixing issues in general:

    "...I've been...frustrated during the mixing process. Getting instrument balance correct is not easy!..."

    I couldn't sympathize with you more, Kevin, and I think everyone here could also. It seems like it should be an easier thing to achieve--a good balance, but it just isn't. The difficulty of getting a good balance in a mix increases with the size of the project, naturally. Mixing a nice little trio isn't too difficult really, but to mix a fully scored orchestral piece--yow, it can be hard.

    And reading that from you is the main reason I wanted to get on here. At every moment of a piece, we need to be making sure the primary element is most clearly heard--usually the melody. That means that any given time, there are instrumental lines that need to be prominent and others need to be subordinate. But those aren't static elements--I mean, exactly what we want emphasized at any given moment is constantly changing. Maybe some instruments which have been backing during a passage are suddenly what needs to be prominent for a transition phrase--and then they need to sublimate themselves again.

    I'm concerned with good sounding recordings--and so unlike others who feel all volume dynamic changes need to be "natural," I will work these constantly changing volume levels in a way that makes the music as clear as possible--regardless if whether those dynamics could really work in a live situation. I see notation users speak of this sort of thing as "cheating"--and from their perspective, I understand what they're saying. Be that as it may!

    "...Do you balance instruments before or after you add reverb?..."

    That's a great question. Mostly because I'm unable to run everything I want in real time, I mostly have to work up my mixes dry, without reverb. I stop and run tests, make temporary 2 track mixes with the reverb, to see how the application of the effect is changing the balances--because, for instance, something that has a lot of reverb on it Does sound "bigger"--even though it's more distant--all those added reverberating frequencies do change the perceived volume level.

    "...If the answer to number 1 is before, do you find you have to tweak balances once reverb is added?..."

    Yes, I usually have to make at least slight adjustments.

    "...Are there any instruments that you start with and build from? Is there a method to what order sections should be balanced? (For instance in pop music many people start with drums, then bass and move on from there.)..."

    As Dan indicated, it's impossible to have hard and fast rules for this. But, I generally start with the pop music mixing model, with whatever the "anchoring" tracks are--bass, percussion, piano--depending on the project. Much of my work has bass, piano and drums--So I do exactly as with a pop mix--I start with those.

    Mixing the balances within orchestral sections has to be done before balancing that entire section with the rest of the orchestra--Enter the need for busses. No matter how one applies reverb, you need a bus for each section so that with one slider you can "bring up the brass" for instance, without having to grab 10 separate faders.

    A closing thought in my rambling response--Sometimes we're trying to mix a piece which turns out to actually have too many solo-oriented lines in them. We sometimes need to stop and realize we've written too intricate a part for an instrument or section, and for the sake of the piece as a whole, need to go back and simplify our arrangement.

    Also--It's often been said that one could or even should think of the orchestra as one huge instrument. It's capable of many sounds beyond the individual sounds of the instruments in the orchestra. It's the combining of sounds and textures that yield composite sounds unique to the orchestra. We have some traditional combinations, like Bassoon and Cello, Flute and Xylophone. When we're mixing what we're often dealing with is this "morphed sound" effect--we SHouldn't be hearing single instruments all the time, but rather the sum effect that happens when the individual instruments are playing in concert to achieve new sounds.

    In other words--It's a Good thing, not a Bad thing, when we realize we're hearing these large, summed sounds as we work with our virtual orchestras. It's a trap to think that we're failing if each individual instrument can't be distinguished.

    AND so on.

    Randy B.

  10. #10

    Re: When It Comes to Mixing GPO Music...

    When I mix orchestral music, I never use individual aux sends (knobs), this would only allow the engineer to add reverb to the dry instruments which is not ideal for orchestral recording. This method is different than what I used to do before I had Altiverb.

    We always want the instruments to travel through the reverb, and it is the Impulse Response and (stage positioning feature) that creates the amazing audiollusion that the instruments are actually sitting on a stage. The "wet/dry" knob is always used "full wet" in this type of application of reverb. We don't want to hear the dry flute with reverb added to it, that is a dead giveaway of bad mixing, we want to hear the flute on the stage. Of course this is only possible with an IR type of reverb system.

    When I mix just about everything else I use the traditional individual sends for the various reverbs that would be used as Randy has discussed.

    That's just how I do it.

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