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Topic: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

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  1. #1

    How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    I am happy with what I did till now in my piece for orchestra in GPO, but as someone told me, it sounds not very clear at some moments, he advised me to do some equalizing on it. But how do I start with this and what is a good way to eq an orchestral score? Does someone has some pointers for me?
    You can listen to my music on: www.andrevanharen.com

  2. #2

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Carefully.

    Working with orchestral samples is a little different than working with an orchestral recording, but the rule to live by in processing is that less is better.

    Take a look at the MIDI end of things first and see if you can achieve better blending by changing relative instrument volumes.

    That said:
    In general, muddiness in recordings can often be reduced with a small cut around 250-400 Hz. This corresponds to the lower register instruments. (How is the voicing and balance in the piece?)

    Also, listen to your mix on several speaker systems/rooms, headphones, etc.

  3. #3

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Reegs has offered some good advice.

    You almost never want to use an EQ (equalizer) on the whole piece.
    If violins are shrill, and you cut the offending frequency, you will take away that frequency from all the instruments,... the other instruments are probably not shrill.

    EQ'ing is something that should be done to individual instruments, but only when they sound bad, or need to be brightened up to be more clear. Many times if a mix is muddy and unclear, and as Reegs said,... there is probably a build up of low-mid frequencies that are overbearing. If that's the case, the equalizer is not the correct thing to do,... instead, look the problem straight in the eye and re-arrange the chords' voicing, and more than likely, the arrangement (or choice) of instruments needs to be changed.

    Dan

  4. #4

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Thanks both for the advice. The problem is that I only have my headphones, the mac speaker and a very old stereo set with old small speakers to listen on. Not sure if this gives the best impression of the mix. I did a lot of after-mixing to get clearer melody lines and give instruments that were too loud a lower volume. Also I worked with adjusting the volume on the complete wood group, brass group and string group, so basically I worked with the typically volume level issues. But now when it comes to going deeper into the eq editing, I feel a little bit unsure and afraid that I will make things bad. I don't want to have an unnatural sound by taking away typical natural characteristics from the instruments.

    Someone told me this about my piece after hearing it:
    "The recording does sound a little "thin", and I think it is that each track needs more equalization spread. For example, I could hear some timpani rolls in there, but just barely, because nothing really stood out. I think that if you went to each instrument track and tailored its EQ, then each instrument would stand out better. "

    What does this mean for me in practical terms, what is there that I should do?

    Thanks fro the advice!

    André
    You can listen to my music on: www.andrevanharen.com

  5. #5

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by AndreasvanHaren View Post
    Thanks both for the advice. The problem is that I only have my headphones, the mac speaker and a very old stereo set with old small speakers to listen on. Not sure if this gives the best impression of the mix. I did a lot of after-mixing to get clearer melody lines and give instruments that were too loud a lower volume. Also I worked with adjusting the volume on the complete wood group, brass group and string group, so basically I worked with the typically volume level issues. But now when it comes to going deeper into the eq editing, I feel a little bit unsure and afraid that I will make things bad. I don't want to have an unnatural sound by taking away typical natural characteristics from the instruments.

    Someone told me this about my piece after hearing it:
    "The recording does sound a little "thin", and I think it is that each track needs more equalization spread. For example, I could hear some timpani rolls in there, but just barely, because nothing really stood out. I think that if you went to each instrument track and tailored its EQ, then each instrument would stand out better. "

    What does this mean for me in practical terms, what is there that I should do?

    Thanks fro the advice!

    André
    Your sequencer has a channel mixer, which should include an EQ function for each channel. Basically, what you'll need to do is check your sequencer's documentation for the following:

    1. How to access and use the channel mixer.

    2. How to enable and set EQ parameters for the selected channel.

    3. An automation feature that allows you to record different EQ settings for each channel during the course of your piece.

    Unfortunately, there is very little about all this that is quick or easy. The best thing is to just try different EQ settings on each track to see how it affects the overall sound. Also, be aware of the fact that EQ requirements change based on the interaction of frequencies from what instruments are playing and other factors.

    Steve
    If you'd like to hear a couple of pieces I might actually finish someday, please visit my virtual concert hall.

  6. #6

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Since using EQ can get complicated, I wanted to expand on the above post with some additional thoughts that I hope might help you. Before I continue, I should mention that I use Cubasis VST 4. All sequencers do pretty much the same things, so the only difference might be in the names that Logic 8 uses for some of the Cubasis features I'm about to describe.

    In the Cubasis VST channel mixer, I have access to two equalizers per channel. I can use one or both depending on my requirements. For example, let's say that I have a bassoon assigned to channel 4, but I feel the sound is too heavy on the lower end and not "bright" enough on the upper end. I can use EQ1 to attenuate (soften) the lower frequencies, and I can use EQ2 to boost the upper ones.

    The challenge we face here is that "set it and forget it" EQ settings won't work. This is because (as I mentioned before) frequency interactions change among the instruments that are playing during the course of the piece. Using my above bassoon example, if I activated both EQs it may fix sound problems with the bassoon in certain places, but it would create new ones elsewhere. So, what we need is the ability to turn on/off EQ and change EQ parameters across each track to adjust the instrument sounds only when and where required.

    The Cubasis VST channel mixer has an automation feature that generates an audiomix track. When I activate the "write" function, the audiomix track records all volume slider changes and EQ inputs for each channel at each point I define in the piece. Once I'm satisfied with the results, I turn off the "write" functon. Then when I activate "read" and play my sequencer file, the audiomix track automatically executes the volume slider and EQ events at the proper places during playback. Also, when I export my sequencer file as a soundfile (I use WAV format), the mix is already there.

    I know your inquiry focused on using EQ, but I mention the channel volume slider because the two are related. Generally speaking, when you attenuate frequencies you'll need to increase the instrument's channel volume. Conversely, when you boost frequencies you'll need to turn the channel volume down. How much (or if at all) depends on the amount of EQ you're applying, as well as what other instruments are playing.

    As I said in my previous post, there is very little that is quick or easy when working in the DAW environment. When I created my first electronic performance of an orchestral piece using GPO2, I had to go through a lot of effort to determine all of the proper channel volume and EQ settings for the instruments I was using. However, the automation feature of the Cubasis channel mixer became my best friend, and I developed a real appreciation for the power and flexibility it gave me on being able to refine the sound quality of the performance I put up online at my virtual concert hall. I therefore think you'll find that investing some time in learning how to do this through Logic 8 will be worth it. The hardest part is figuring out how to do it for best results (the infamous learning curve). However, once you have some experience, the process should get easier.

    I hope you find all this to be at least a little helpful.

    Steve
    If you'd like to hear a couple of pieces I might actually finish someday, please visit my virtual concert hall.

  7. #7

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Johnson View Post
    Since using EQ can get complicated, I wanted to expand on the above post with some additional thoughts that I hope might help you. Before I continue, I should mention that I use Cubasis VST 4. All sequencers do pretty much the same things, so the only difference might be in the names that Logic 8 uses for some of the Cubasis features I'm about to describe.

    In the Cubasis VST channel mixer, I have access to two equalizers per channel. I can use one or both depending on my requirements. For example, let's say that I have a bassoon assigned to channel 4, but I feel the sound is too heavy on the lower end and not "bright" enough on the upper end. I can use EQ1 to attenuate (soften) the lower frequencies, and I can use EQ2 to boost the upper ones.

    The challenge we face here is that "set it and forget it" EQ settings won't work. This is because (as I mentioned before) frequency interactions change among the instruments that are playing during the course of the piece. Using my above bassoon example, if I activated both EQs it may fix sound problems with the bassoon in certain places, but it would create new ones elsewhere. So, what we need is the ability to turn on/off EQ and change EQ parameters across each track to adjust the instrument sounds only when and where required.

    The Cubasis VST channel mixer has an automation feature that generates an audiomix track. When I activate the "write" function, the audiomix track records all volume slider changes and EQ inputs for each channel at each point I define in the piece. Once I'm satisfied with the results, I turn off the "write" functon. Then when I activate "read" and play my sequencer file, the audiomix track automatically executes the volume slider and EQ events at the proper places during playback. Also, when I export my sequencer file as a soundfile (I use WAV format), the mix is already there.

    I know your inquiry focused on using EQ, but I mention the channel volume slider because the two are related. Generally speaking, when you attenuate frequencies you'll need to increase the instrument's channel volume. Conversely, when you boost frequencies you'll need to turn the channel volume down. How much (or if at all) depends on the amount of EQ you're applying, as well as what other instruments are playing.

    As I said in my previous post, there is very little that is quick or easy when working in the DAW environment. When I created my first electronic performance of an orchestral piece using GPO2, I had to go through a lot of effort to determine all of the proper channel volume and EQ settings for the instruments I was using. However, the automation feature of the Cubasis channel mixer became my best friend, and I developed a real appreciation for the power and flexibility it gave me on being able to refine the sound quality of the performance I put up online at my virtual concert hall. I therefore think you'll find that investing some time in learning how to do this through Logic 8 will be worth it. The hardest part is figuring out how to do it for best results (the infamous learning curve). However, once you have some experience, the process should get easier.

    I hope you find all this to be at least a little helpful.

    Steve
    Hi Steve, thanks for all the info. In Logic there is automation yes,and I always use it for adjusting my volume during a track, I never thought about the possibility of using automation for eq as well, I don't even know if Logic can do this, but that would indeed a great way to use eq better then just use 1 setting for 1 instrument during a whole piece. I am going to investigate this. Thanks!

    André
    You can listen to my music on: www.andrevanharen.com

  8. #8

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Steve, I checked in Logic for automation on the EQ but Logic doesn't seem to have this possibility. I asked the question about this on the Logic forum. Would be nice to be able to do this.

    André
    You can listen to my music on: www.andrevanharen.com

  9. #9

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by AndreasvanHaren View Post
    Steve, I checked in Logic for automation on the EQ but Logic doesn't seem to have this possibility. I asked the question about this on the Logic forum. Would be nice to be able to do this.

    André
    André, I 'll send you a sample Logic project. Once you load an EQ plug-in in the channel strip, you click the sideways arrow on a track so it drops down to reveal a new instance of the same track. On that new instance, it may say Volume by default, but you can use the automation pull-down menu to select one of the controls within the EQ plug-in. I typically might end up with 3 or more automation control instances for EQ (gain, freq and bell curve for lows, meds, highs, etc.).

    I also do this for reverb, creating automation instances for room size, decay, mix, etc. This allows me to give a little extra reverb to some phrase endings, if appropriate. Plus, I will do automation for panning! Its all good!

    I have done a lot of equalization, panning and reverb automation for folk-rock songs but not so much for orchestral pieces. It's about time I start, considering the very fine comments I see about instrument interactions as they migrate throughout an orchestral piece.

  10. #10

    Re: How do I equalize an orchestral piece?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Schletty View Post
    André, I 'll send you a sample Logic project. Once you load an EQ plug-in in the channel strip, you click the sideways arrow on a track so it drops down to reveal a new instance of the same track. On that new instance, you can use the pull-down menu to select one of the controls within the EQ plug-in. I typically might end up with 3 or more automation control instances for EQ (gain, freq and bell curve for lows, meds, highs, etc.).

    I also do this for reverb, creating automation instances for room size, decay, mix, etc. This allows me to give a little extra reverb to some phrase endings, if appropriate.

    I have done this a lot for folk-rock songs but not so much for orchestral pieces.
    Thanks Richard, this opens really much more ways for me to do things, I'm going to try it out together with the multi output track for creating aux for the midi channels in aria, this should give me more control. I wonder though if all of this will kill my processor even more than it already does.
    You can listen to my music on: www.andrevanharen.com

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