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Topic: Instrument Dynamics

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  1. #1

    Instrument Dynamics

    Here's a question for the all knowing collective:

    I was wondering how well the volume levels of different instrument sections correlate with each other. I understand that if the CC1 controller is set all the way up that it's safe to call it a triple forte but do the violins' triple forte equate that of the cellos or even french horns? An entire violin section at full blast still can't compete with 4 french horns full blast (hence the reason we have so many violins in an orchestra) so is the maximum volume adjusted such that at triple forte it is still quieter than that of the brass?

    My apologies if this has been asked before. Feel free to relocate this post if that's the case.

  2. #2

    Re: Instrument Dynamics

    Okay, I'll take a stab at this.

    IMHO:

    I suppose this is one instance where reality and electronic realization part ways (sort of). There are so many volume variables in a digital stream (system volume, the volume of the instrument, vst volume, vst host volume, any soundcard controls one has etc) that it is tough to correlate them. I "zero out" my system periodically so that levels are consistent across the board.

    In live performance dynamics are much easier to identify. They are still relative to the environment and, of course, each other, but there is not the same type of microscopic focus one can get with digital realizations. A digital realization is an illusion approaching reality - but still an illusion. A solo violin can kill the entire brass section if that is what's wanted. So there is no real-life correlation in volumes and dynamics unless we decide it is to be so in the mix.

    I am probably stating the obvious, if so I apologize, but my advice is to render each instrument (track) as cleanly and strongly as possible then, during the final mix, adjust the levels to the reality you wish to achieve in your illusion.

    I hope I understood the question and hope this helps!
    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

  3. #3

    Re: Instrument Dynamics

    Hey, thanks for the reply. I think you're right about our digital world parting ways with reality in this instance I just always try to notate my music with the hope that someday it might actually be performed. I guess it's not unrealistic to crank up a violin to blow away the brass considering it can always be mic'd and blasted through a PA in a live performance but for some reason I always tend to think traditional. (But who knows what that even means?)

  4. #4

    Re: Instrument Dynamics

    Quote Originally Posted by Dane Grant View Post
    Here's a question for the all knowing collective:

    I was wondering how well the volume levels of different instrument sections correlate with each other. I understand that if the CC1 controller is set all the way up that it's safe to call it a triple forte but do the violins' triple forte equate that of the cellos or even french horns? An entire violin section at full blast still can't compete with 4 french horns full blast (hence the reason we have so many violins in an orchestra) so is the maximum volume adjusted such that at triple forte it is still quieter than that of the brass?

    My apologies if this has been asked before. Feel free to relocate this post if that's the case.
    Hi, Dane - While there was an attempt to have the various instruments default to levels that kept relative volumes in balance, that couldn't really be accomplished in reality. You can test the defaults yourself by loading instruments at random, playing a note to see what the volume is - and you'll see that some instruments would need to be brought up, others would need to be brought down, in order to be in balance with each other in the way you'd like.

    It's a straight forward proposition in DAW software - Load instruments, set volume sliders in a way that produces the mix you'd like. That needs to be done in notation software also - you can't just use the default values. And no matter what kind of software you use, you have to use your ears to get that mix balanced. It's also to not get hung up on formulas, i.e. "X number of this instrument equals X number of another instrument" - You're dealing with sound, and formulas won't get you the mix that sounds best - only your ears can do that.

    Randy

  5. #5

    Re: Instrument Dynamics

    a quick word of warning for Finale users: the clarinets in GPO are considerably louder than they should be relative to the other woodwinds.

    set the volume at least 10 below the other woodwinds, if not more.

    the bassoons are also slightly louder than they would realistically be.

  6. #6

    Re: Instrument Dynamics

    The other day, when working on a new project, I noticed the following. I had set in Overture all panning to zero, meaning everything was coming from the center. I could barely hear the flutes against the horns and trumpets, etc...... It really was one huge wall of "sound" where some instruments by nature sounded stronger (and louder) than others.

    OK, that was the initial setup. Next I began setting the panning to the some orchestral seating plans, meaning that the flutes are coming from the left, oboes from the right, horns from the left, trumpets somewhere right from the middle, trombones far left, etc..... Suddenly the flutes were there, the oboes played that sombre melody, the clarinets filled in well and..... you know what I mean. This had little to do with the volumes.

    Already mentioned by others, do the job well enough per instrument, set the panning good, use the DAW (e.g. SONAR) to finetune it all (automated volume sliders/articulations with CC's/KS), off you go with a rather acceptable rendering.
    The theory is that 4 horns are equal to two trombones, but in fact that is rubbish. The complete volume balance is made in a DAW of some quality with the proper panning to begin with.

    Raymond

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