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Topic: Question about Mixing

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  1. #1

    Question about Mixing

    So I've decided to post my question in this forum because I really feel like this community gives actual answers back by experience as opposed to the "This is what I've read in different forums that I don't know for sure but I'm going to post it as though I do anyway" responses.

    I've been "producing" music since I was 19 which is now 7 years ago but I didn't really feel like I fit into the "starting to sound professional" category until the past 2 years. I don't really stick to a particular genre because I find there to be great strength in versatility. "Rock Band" style of music is where I started and probably where I can get the most done in the shortest amount of time but I love writing orchestral themes more than anything. I love the fact that I don't have to spend nearly as much time EQing and mixing 30 tracks of midi orchestral instruments as I do 4-8 tracks for pop/rock music. Most of my track mastering experience has come via the school of hard knocks and lately I feel this has become a weakness in my production ability. So my question is, are there any books anyone recommends on the subject? Would it be worth it to take a class or two? Track mastering is something I do regularly but it's definitely an area where I feel I am behind in. I'm working on an orchestral piece that uses an electric guitar for the main melody and I really want the instruments to blend rather than sound disoriented.

  2. #2

    Re: Question about Mixing

    Howdy, the problem with mastering is that is exactly as you describe. My not​ very helpful post follows...

    You just have to keep at it, and there are only some bendable rules - and if it sounds good, you are doing it 'right'.

    I've not read any books on it, but I have read articles about it from magazines. You come away from them a little empty handed in a way - 'use your ears', 'mix through headphones/top monitors - then play your mix through your cars sound system' - and so on! "Use a spectrum analyser to find the frequencies you want to boost or attenuate" - yes ok...but WHICH ONES?! I'm sure there are books available and if they contain useful information I'd be surprised.

    When I'm mastering my orchestral work, I use a wide range of plugins, EQ, 4 band Dynamic compressor/limiter/, stereo enhancer, and sometimes a maximiser and exciter.

    It takes a lot of tweaking, and eventually I have to say 'I'm finished' and just leave it alone - but in theory you could never stop and keep messing with it.

    The interesting point about your post is that you mention orchestra + electric guitar. I can't recall any pieces with the combination off hand, but they are a very hard combination to meld together. Would reverb alone be enough to mix them? Not sure - the combination is an awkward one, and I recall a famous composer (who's name escapes me - man I've a crap memory) that electric guitar and orchestra are chalk and cheese, and sound extra cheesy when put together.

    That is not to say it couldn't be a great combination, but it would seem to be one of those hard to mix situations.
    Perhaps a very good reverb would do the job though.
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  3. #3

    Re: Question about Mixing

    Quote Originally Posted by Dane Grant View Post
    ...Track mastering is something I do regularly but it's definitely an area where I feel I am behind in. I'm working on an orchestral piece that uses an electric guitar for the main melody and I really want the instruments to blend rather than sound disoriented.
    Well, of course it's a huge subject you bring up, Dane. I think many of are wherever we are in our development due to a combination of reading bits here and there and going through a lot of trial and error, getting experience as we go. And you've been doing that too. I think you're not untypical in not feeling completely satisfied with your present states of development, because like most of us, you have the perfectionist bug in you.

    Electric guitar and orchestra - There are the great recordings by early prog rock groups like Procol Harum and Moody Blues. That's of course music in a pop vein, albeit a fairly sophisticated one. If you're talking about something even more sophisticated and semi-classical ("modern classical") - I say go for it. Seems to me the guitar would need to be Way out front to be the definite lead instrument, with the orchestra backing it. I would say when mixing, to try Less reverb first to help give the guitar an up front, even "in your face" feel, while the rest of the orchestra sits back with more Hall reverb on it.

    Randy

  4. #4

    Re: Question about Mixing

    On this board DPDAN and Randy Bowser are the greatest when it comes to all things audio - mixing included. I've used Paul Gilreath's book MIDI Orchestration to help me along - some good advice there. As far as orchestral mixing goes a good "seating chart" of how an orchestra is seated might help - then you can attempt to place your instruments in a coherent fashion. Some of THE BEST advice I received from both Randy and DPDAN was to make many of the instrument tracks MONO, not Stereo, it makes them very easy to position in the mix (panning wise).

    Here's a basic seating chart that might help (although there are many set-ups):



    Keep trying things and asking question - you'll get there.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

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  5. #5

    Re: Question about Mixing

    The seating chart has proved useful at times, but when dealing with virtual instruments you get better results by using the European seating for violins 1 and 2, which is to have your violins evenly panned left and right. Violins 1 on the left, vln 2 on the right. This gives a good balanced sound instead of the unbalanced sound of all violins on the left.

    Also, I pan the basses almost centre. As bass fills out your sound and is a foundation, I always have it centred and not far right (as shown in the plan).
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  6. #6

    Re: Question about Mixing

    Quote Originally Posted by Plowking View Post
    The seating chart has proved useful at times, but when dealing with virtual instruments you get better results by using the European seating for violins 1 and 2, which is to have your violins evenly panned left and right. Violins 1 on the left, vln 2 on the right. This gives a good balanced sound instead of the unbalanced sound of all violins on the left.

    Also, I pan the basses almost centre. As bass fills out your sound and is a foundation, I always have it centred and not far right (as shown in the plan).
    +1 on that. I've ued the "European seating" for years since it sounds so much better in recordings, and with basses at center. I actually put a solo bass at center, group basses just to the right of that.

    I also prefer the harp on stage left (audience right) away from the high frequencies of the 1st violins. Brass I put where this chart shows percussion, and those percussion instruments just opposite. -- wow, I'm realizing how much of this chart is reversed for me. I've always put the french horns towards the left (stage right) and not as shown here. BUt I do recognize this woodwind+horn arrangement.

    As Chip "Reberclark" said, there are many different seatings charts, and the reality for live performances really gets down to the particular performance space and what room it provides. In the virtual realm, we can spread things out however we want - and that should be guided by what we thinks sounds best. There are certainly no bonus points for sticking to a particular seating arrangement just because it's "real" when something different can sound better.

    Randy

  7. #7
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    Re: Question about Mixing

    I always put the horns on the left with the trombones on the right which how the majority of recordings in my CD collection have them. I usually have the violins on the left instead of splitting the 1st and 2nd violins.

    I was surprised when I went to see the Phoenix Symphony a month ago that they were using the european seating with the violins split.

    Craig Anderton has written quite a few books on mixing and mastering. I've learned quite a bit from him over the years.

    BTW Randy, Craig really liked your demos I played for him at NAMM!

    Jim

  8. #8

    Re: Question about Mixing

    Dane - See? This board is fantastic! Just get us going and you'll learn all kinds of stuff! I always do.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  9. #9

    Re: Question about Mixing

    Quote Originally Posted by Haydn View Post
    I always put the horns on the left with the trombones on the right which how the majority of recordings in my CD collection have them. I usually have the violins on the left instead of splitting the 1st and 2nd violins.

    I was surprised when I went to see the Phoenix Symphony a month ago that they were using the european seating with the violins split.

    Craig Anderton has written quite a few books on mixing and mastering. I've learned quite a bit from him over the years.

    BTW Randy, Craig really liked your demos I played for him at NAMM!

    Jim
    Yes, that really works well, it's what I always do - horns on left, trombones on the right. I sure like the 1st and 2nd violin split though.

    NICE!--Craig Anderton heard the demos and liked them. That's super--Thanks for telling me, Jim!

    Randy

  10. #10

    Re: Question about Mixing

    This is all very good information. I tend to remain pretty traditional with panning though I'll definitely experiment with the European style. My biggest wrestle comes when I begin EQing tracks to blend. Gosh, you do everything to get your guitar to sound perfect and then you realize that it just doesn't blend or even worse the vocalist doesn't blend with the orchestra. I've gotten completely opposite suggestions on equalization for the same track. So much of it is salt to taste it seems. I own a Les Paul and an Ibanez RG series and for both guitars I prefer to simply use the bridge pickup because I love that thin, treble, penetrating sound yet most of my guitar playing friends say otherwise.

    Of course none of this matters if the composition sucks....

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