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Topic: Authentic Sounds

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  1. #1
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    Authentic Sounds

    Hi,

    I am producing arrangements and backing tracks for live performances. One requirement put to me is that the music must sound authentic. The music ranges from church music to lieder, operatic arias and pop.

    It would help me a lot if I had a table of sound levels and possible ranges of sound levels of orchestral and other acoustic instruments. If somebody could point me to such a table, I would be grateful.

    Herbert
    GPO, JABB, CMB, GWI, GOFRILLER, HALION PLAYER, ACCORDIONS by E Tarilonte
    Cubase 6, Notation Composer, VSTHost, GoldWave audio editor.

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    Electronics, Software Development, Physics – Plant Physiology, Creative Horticulture –
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  2. #2

  3. #3
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    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Hi Reegs,

    No, this is a frequency chart.

    I am looking for a table of sound levels (sound pressures) of acoustic instruments.


    Herbert
    GPO, JABB, CMB, GWI, GOFRILLER, HALION PLAYER, ACCORDIONS by E Tarilonte
    Cubase 6, Notation Composer, VSTHost, GoldWave audio editor.

    Interests:
    Good Food, Gemütlichkeit, Wein Weib und Gesang – History, Politics, Civil Law –
    Electronics, Software Development, Physics – Plant Physiology, Creative Horticulture –
    Photography, Painting, Wood Working - Midi Orchestration, Music, Music, und Musik …

  4. #4

    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Quote Originally Posted by sonata5920 View Post
    Hi Reegs,

    No, this is a frequency chart.

    I am looking for a table of sound levels (sound pressures) of acoustic instruments.


    Herbert
    Herbert,

    My mistake. I saw you asked for ranges of instruments so thought you wanted their pitch positions.

    I don't know your background, so please pardon the long reply. I'm not sure if you'll be able to find much on sound pressure levels (please let me know if you do!). It's very dependent on your location relative to the sound source, the directionality of the source, and the frequency of the source. For instance, looking down the bell of a brass instrument a few inches from it you'll experience very high SPLs. Offhand I want to say it can approach 115-120dB at fortissimo dynamics. Similarly, violinists run the risk of damage to the ear closest to the strings. As you get farther away from the sources though, they drop off in volume very differently. This is why 30 violins can almost match the volume of two trumpets!

    There may be tabulated data on acoustic instruments all measured at one meter. This won't do much good in the mix world, because the decibel range measured by a decibel meter, which describe pressure intensity relative to no pressure, are completely different than the decibels when you mix, which describe levels of volume relative to the maximum level representable on the recording medium (typically 0dB in digital, analog can vary). Decibel is a method of measurement which allows large changes to be described with smaller numbers. Because of the way humans perceive sound, this is convenient for audio (as well as electronic signal strength). If you take a signal to -6dB, you effectively cut its volume in half, but -60dB is cutting the volume to one one-thounsandth of its original amount!

    A CD is designed to produce about 96dB of dynamic range, which was conveniently measured to be about what an orchestra does when you're seated nicely in the concert hall. In a lot of commercially produced music and even live performances, there's a lot more going on than a single stereo mic midway in the room. Often times the orchestra is spot-miced to ensure voices are heard. There's no standard for the amount of gain running through the microphones to ensure they all represent the exact sound pressure of the instrument. The amount of gain applied to a mic is enough to get you a clean signal with some headroom to prevent clipping and distortion. Getting the right mix and presence of all instruments involves raising and lowering faders, playing subtly with EQ and compression, and most importantly, listening.

    Unfortunately, there's no magic table that says in a chamber group, put the viola at -6dB, violins at -10dB, and the cello at -4dB. Like I mentioned above for live instruments, sampled instruments have been recorded at comfortable volume levels, which may vary across samples or recordings. They rely on you and your ears to polish their levels to a good blend. If you're working with GPO or any other of the Garritan libraries, take a look at some of the multis included. These have common combinations of instruments, with volumes set at approximate positions to get a good mix. A great way to help your mixes along is to reference commercial recordings of live groups. With chamber and choir groups, you'll probably be listening to a stereo recording with very subtle amounts of spot mics. With pop, you'll be listening to the sound you want to emulate.

    Hope this helps?
    Reegs

  5. #5

    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Hello, Herbert

    As usual, our own Reegs has done a superb job of answering you.

    I want to add that what you're asking for is a Holy Grail, an impossible to grasp Nirvana of instant success at putting together musical projects.

    Besides anything else you use to achieve your goals, THE most important instrument in guiding your finished project is YOUR EARS.

    There are no formulae such as you're asking for - Audio levels for each instrument guaranteed to render "authentic" results? No such animal.

    I repeat - You have a lot of hard but fun work ahead of you, and you simply must use your Ears. Sorry to inform you, but there is no instant gratification plugin to get the results you want.

    Randy

  6. #6
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    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Hi,

    Reegs, thank you for your excellent response. It will be of interest to many forum participants.

    You said:

    “I don't know your background”

    My background is in electronic engineering, including design and manufacture of audio equipment. I am quite proficient in using numbers and complex mathematical expressions. I prefer to predict anything that is predictable, rather than leaving things to chance. This gives me a better starting point when taking risks in unpredictable situations.

    Randy, thank you, but what you say does not apply to what I am doing.

    Barrie, you are missing the point.

    I am looking for a table of relative sound pressure levels, or alternatively, for a table of sound pressure levels referenced to a standard distance from an imaginary point sound source, say a distance of 1 m. I would be surprised if such a table does not exist. Having the test gear, I could do those measurements myself, if I only had a full symphony orchestra at home.

    Sound pressure levels drop linearly with distance from a point source. Sound pressure levels add up geometrically (rms) as in: total level = square root over (a squared + b squared + c squared ...). These simple relationships help to set up an authentic instrumentation profile for a specific orchestration. My aim is to produce recorded sound tracks that can be mixed with unamplified acoustic instruments in a life performance. None of those arrangements are meant to be played on a home sound system, a car sound system or a ghetto blaster.

    Music production requires a lot of organisational tasks to be carried out, perhaps more so than in any other art form. Knowing what to do is always better than guessing.

    Herbert
    GPO, JABB, CMB, GWI, GOFRILLER, HALION PLAYER, ACCORDIONS by E Tarilonte
    Cubase 6, Notation Composer, VSTHost, GoldWave audio editor.

    Interests:
    Good Food, Gemütlichkeit, Wein Weib und Gesang – History, Politics, Civil Law –
    Electronics, Software Development, Physics – Plant Physiology, Creative Horticulture –
    Photography, Painting, Wood Working - Midi Orchestration, Music, Music, und Musik …

  7. #7

    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Herbert,

    Cool idea! Do you have access to journal databases? Perhaps there was a study published in an audiology or musicology journal that hasn't made its way to google yet.

    Reegs

  8. #8

    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Hello again, Herbert - It's an interesting thread you have going here. You've set up quite an interesting challenge for yourself, and I wish you the best with it.

    "...
    Randy, thank you, but what you say does not apply to what I am doing...."

    I appreciate you responding, but with no animosity intended, I want to humbly submit that what I said in my earlier response does indeed apply to what you are doing.

    "...I am
    quite proficient in using numbers and complex mathematical expressions. I prefer to predict anything that is predictable, rather than leaving things to chance..."

    I appreciate that you have this kind of technical expertise, and that you want to go about your task in the way that makes the best sense to you. I do think what you're saying in your posts is rather like Spock or Data trying to reduce everything to logic, even things which cannot be reduced to numbers and formulae.

    I have produced arrangements and backing tracks for live performance which have worked extremely well. And of course I produced those tracks in a way that makes sense to me. I made no reference to any "sound pressure level" charts because it wouldn't have occurred to me to do that. I believe that even if I had, the unknowns of how playback would be effected by the acoustics of the performance venue would have thrown such calculations off.

    My primary concern during the mastering process was to use much less reverb than usual, to compensate for how the theatre's acoustics would be adding its own natural ambience to the tracks.

    But, and again I humbly submit this in the spirit of offering friendly advice, - Regardless of how such a musical project is being approached, if our human Ears are not the ultimate monitor of our work - then I feel we have thrown out our most important tool.

    "...
    Knowing what to do is always better than guessing...."

    But believing that there is a thorough guide book of formulae to follow without variation which will guarantee success is to me a fantasy. Regardless of all the technical considerations for producing musical recordings, we are dealing with Music which is Art - and I believe it's a fatal error to not understand that in Art "guessing" is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal. Good Art has to be discovered and is impossible to completely map out ahead of time.

    I wish you the best on your project. I understand you probably disagree with everything in this new post, but I felt invited to respond and say it all anyway.

    Randy

  9. #9
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    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Hi Randy,

    Art is creativity for the sake of creativity. Much more than any other form of art, music has a strong basis in physics. This thread is about physical aspects of music instruments and its use in music production.

    You proclaim your humbleness about what you say. You obviously feel threatened by this discussion. I do not see how this thread is related to the success or otherwise of your music production, or how it can be interpreted among other things as:

    “I do think what you're saying in your posts is rather like Spock or Data trying to reduce everything to logic, even things which cannot be reduced to numbers and formulae.”

    On what do you base your wisdom when it comes to numbers and formulae?

    You also said:

    “I understand you probably disagree with everything in this new post, but I felt invited to respond and say it all anyway.”

    Anybody is invited to respond in a rational way. This is the basis of a forum.

    I disagree with your interpretation of what I said.

    I recommend that you seriously inform yourself. You will be surprised about the new more complete world that will open up to you. There is a lot of literature out there.

    As always, best wishes and hoping that we remain the very best of friends,

    Herbert
    GPO, JABB, CMB, GWI, GOFRILLER, HALION PLAYER, ACCORDIONS by E Tarilonte
    Cubase 6, Notation Composer, VSTHost, GoldWave audio editor.

    Interests:
    Good Food, Gemütlichkeit, Wein Weib und Gesang – History, Politics, Civil Law –
    Electronics, Software Development, Physics – Plant Physiology, Creative Horticulture –
    Photography, Painting, Wood Working - Midi Orchestration, Music, Music, und Musik …

  10. #10
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    Re: Authentic Sounds

    Hi BarrieB,

    I respect your experience. I still don’t think we understand each other properly.

    You said:

    “ideally you'd have the entire orchestra/band live, right?”

    No, I would be out of a job.

    Herbert
    GPO, JABB, CMB, GWI, GOFRILLER, HALION PLAYER, ACCORDIONS by E Tarilonte
    Cubase 6, Notation Composer, VSTHost, GoldWave audio editor.

    Interests:
    Good Food, Gemütlichkeit, Wein Weib und Gesang – History, Politics, Civil Law –
    Electronics, Software Development, Physics – Plant Physiology, Creative Horticulture –
    Photography, Painting, Wood Working - Midi Orchestration, Music, Music, und Musik …

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