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Topic: Instruments balance

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  1. #1

    Instruments balance

    Hi,

    I\'ve read somewhere about instruments balance but can\'t remember where because I was not concern about this at that time.


    In the Study of Orchestration from Adler we find a lot about the mixing of instruments but not the balance.

    Is there a link somewhere about this subject ?

    SergeD

  2. #2
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Instruments balance

    Well, there are many types of balance. Section to section balance is a factor of the ensemble\'s footprint and to a large degree, the piece of music being played.

    Basic vertical balance is sometimes referred to as the \"pyramid of balance.\" This has its roots in the overtone system. The theory goes that the lower a note in the overall chord, the louder it must be played to balance a note which is higher in the overall chord. So, to take a brass section for an example, when playing a tutti fortissimo chord, the tubas will need to play with more energy than the lead trumpet part, in order for the chord to sound in balance. Played with the same energy, the chord will sound top heavy and will lack resonance.

  3. #3

    Re: Instruments balance

    Bruce, that is true in theory. However it is very variable and dependent on the acoustic environment. Different rooms resonate different frequencies better than others. The tuba is an incredibly powerful instrument that carries sound even through the most dense arrangements, provided that it is playing in a good concert hall. In my experience an orchestral brass tutti is quite easy to balance properly. It is not adviceable to write different dynamics for the various instruments, unless you really know what you are doing, as this might confuse the players.

    If you\'re looking to create a well-balanced template for your midi orchestration work I highly recommend you do some research. Find a score you really like and go through it, instrument by instrument. Find the panning and the relative volume of the instrument. Always base your input on the loudest parts (FF) as that will be your peak volume setting in your sequencer.

    I did this for my old template and as a test I did a chord for the whole orchestra (this is basically a tutti for all melodic instruments in the orchestra, except percussive instruments.

    This is a relative mezzo-forte to my setup\'s FF layer. As you can hear the tuba is very powerful, and cuts through the whole texture with ease.

    http://finjaco.home.online.no/Full-Orch-Chord-ORCHPAN.mp3


    Thomas

  4. #4

    Re: Instruments balance

    Thanks Bruce and Thomas,

    What I was talking about the reading is something like:

    2 Flutes = 1 Trumpet

    A kind of equivalence sketch.

    SergeD

  5. #5

    Re: Instruments balance

    I think you will find balance formulas such as these in Rimsky-Korsakov\'s Principles of Orchestration.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bruce A. Richardson's Avatar
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    Re: Instruments balance

    Originally posted by Thomas_J:
    Bruce, that is true in theory. However it is very variable and dependent on the acoustic environment. Different rooms resonate different frequencies better than others. The tuba is an incredibly powerful instrument that carries sound even through the most dense arrangements, provided that it is playing in a good concert hall. In my experience an orchestral brass tutti is quite easy to balance properly. It is not adviceable to write different dynamics for the various instruments, unless you really know what you are doing, as this might confuse the players.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Well, first of all, I really know what I\'m doing. [img]images/icons/tongue.gif[/img]

    But I\'m not suggesting that a person actually notate different dynamics. It\'s something that players do automatically, but samples don\'t.

  7. #7

    Re: Instruments balance

    Serge, here is a post I saved a while back in relation to orchestral placement and panning this might be want you want;

    Orchestral Panning in Sequencers
    I\'m curious as to how you guys pan your orchestral instruments in your sequencer. I can\'t seem to get a very full sterio spread, but if I start panning things to much hard left or right, the instruments obviously sound like they\'re coming from one speaker. Any suggestions for creating a wider sterio spread? I believe spatial placement is a KEY ingredient to creating a good orchestral mockup.
    Any tips VERY much appreciated.
    I don\'t know that panning is that important - if you got a real orchestral recording and messed around with the panning I think it would still sound perfectly real.

    Its possibly more to do with your reverb than anything if you\'re having problems but I can\'t hear anything wrong with your stuff in that respect. A reverb can add the necessary width and presence to the instrument.

    My advice is to just pan everything in the correct direction and only do a hard pan if you\'re using a reverb that places the instruments in a room or hall like trueverb or alitverb. Otherwise its just a hard pan which can be equally hard on the ears.
    Damon,

    Try using delays. If you want a sound to take up more space between the speakers pan the delayed signal away from the sound source. EX: You got a French horn at 10:00 pan a delayed signal at 1:00 at about 25ms. Actually use your ear for how wide you want it to sound. Engineers use this triack all the time to make something seem wider.
    Esteven\'s \'trick\' works very well, but I also like to use audio gain rather than pan sometimes. Keep the pan pot centered, lower the gain on the channel you want to pan away from. (Do this in the mix, NOT while tracking...) Couple this with the delay, and you get very believable positioning.

    Dasher
    Here\'s my basic sequencer panning setup:

    Piccolo -L12
    Flutes -L6
    Oboes -R7
    Eng Hrn -R13
    Clarinets-L9
    Bass Cl -L12
    Bassoons -R10
    Contra Bn-R13
    Frnch Hrn-Center
    Trumpets -R10
    Trombones-R26
    Tuba -R45
    Timpani -L24
    Bass Drum-L26
    Snare Drm-L28
    Piano -L56
    Harp -L72
    Violins -range from L90-65 (1st & 2nd)
    Violas -R38
    Cellos -R65
    Basses -R89

    This is just a starting point that allows me to get a basic orchestral spread while composing. Hope that helps!
    I just pan it so it sounds like its in the right sort of place when compared with a real orchestra. Its probably around 30 or 40 but it varies. the 1st will be nearer 40 and 2nd nearer 30. The celli wil be panned pretty much opposite with basses probably being a bit wider.

    Everything else just goes on its side but won\'t be as wide as the basses and violins. Percussion can be virtually anywhere.
    Thanks for posting that, but if you\'re setting up an orchestra in a typical seating arrangement, it would be more like this (according to Mediaventures recording setups courtesy of Jeff Rona\'s \"The Reel World\" book):

    Harp-left

    Strings-1st level
    1st and 2nd Vlns to the left
    Violas in the middle
    Celli and Bass to the right

    Woodwinds-2nd level
    Slightly left and right (section in the middle)

    Brass-3rd level
    Slightly left and right (section in the middle)
    French horns to the right, but the bells shoot to the left

    Percussion-4th level
    left to right (section in the middle as well)
    Damon to keep a wider range in panning, dont pan using your sequencer. Pan individual instruments with Plug ins like Stereo Imager from Waves, or even Sound stage using the L/R-stereo input.

    With traditional panning you lose stereo spectrum withing stereo samples. Using plugs like the above help to retain a bit of spread in the signal while you pan.

    I figured this out once Bruce mentioned it, and he\'s right.
    Great tip King!!! I just tried a couple of tracks and the difference is huge!

    Thanks!!!
    King Idiot:
    Thank Bruce he made me realize it

    Its really commen sense in the mixing arena, I just never thought about it. Its one of those \"for convenience\'s sake\" things that we do with MIDI panning.

    I\'ve actually been designing MIDI patches that do Surround sound Mixing to widen the response I can get from the tiny 500k banks. Neat stuff

    Anyhow, another thing to consider is Pre fader sends when mixing. Use the Stereo imagers as inserts (or pre process all the samples in a batch process)

    then use one or two reverbs as aux sends (I know hasen doesn\'t agree with me on the two verbs)

    Anyhow, make sure to set the FX sends from the mixer channels to pre fader and the Reverb returns to only WET. Then you can adjust the dry level/mix (read \"distance\") by controling the fader/mixer level on the track. and reverb amount by the FX send.

    The reason I use two verbs is I like to have a more focused reverb with tight early reflections to simulate better \"staging\" withing a room and a second for overall decay of a \"hall\". Its somewhat like having multiple mics set up. One verb for focusing and placement (close) and one for the \"ambience\" (far)

    I actually do wierd things too, like run the reverbs in a chain sometimes. In a backwards way too. Like send the HAll ambience through the smaller \"focused\" verb. It actually can work.

    In the end go with what your ear tells you.
    You should never pan MORE after you\'ve already panned via MIDI. You\'re goign to lose a whole channel.

    mahlon, the only difference between panning in MIDI and your multitrack is how the panning ration is between the seqencer you use and the multitrack you use. Also there are technical details of the mixer stage of Giga Studio and the mixer stage of your multitrack. Still it shouldn\'t sound so much different.

    What you should do is, like I said above. Use Stereo Imager (on a non panned track Damon). What I suggest is use MIDI m=panning to get the basics while composing and fleshing ot the music. Then remove the panning info in the sequencer (center everything, or hard pan mono tracks), then record each individual track into a multitrack, and do your final mixing in there. If you do choose to use plugs like Soundstage and StereoImager, let them do the panning for you.

    Another tip is if you want to simulate a focused direction/movement of sound use delay lines and EQ. Then use reverb on both the non delayed track AND the jsut the delay line. Put the non delayed on onse side of the room and the delayed/EQd line on the other side. It can widen up the sound of stuff like horns.

    I dont do this at all tho, but it should work nicely. (in theory)

    Do some hanging out on a Pro Audio/recording BBS boards. Or check out places like prorec.com and read magazines like Recording, or MIX. YOu\'ll learns a bit about mixing and engineering
    Thomas J:
    I sort of agree with people saying panning doesn\'t have much to do with realism, but panning IS important for your overall sound image. Most john doe\'s probably can\'t even hear if an orchestral recording is in stereo or mono because they aren\'t used to the sound. Here we try to perfect the sound so that we, as composers do not cringe at the sound quality. I think it\'s important to realize that if you think it sounds good, then it\'s good enough for you, and you can be satisfied with your music. Doesn\'t matter what other people say. What you learn from is to constantly challenge yourself. Next time you finish a piece you should go \"hmm. I think it sounds good but I think I could do better.\", and that\'s exactly what you do the next time you sit down to compose something. You do better. It takes years and years to develop an ear for fine details of an orchestral recording, let alone complex orchestrations.

    I\'ve ALWAYS put horns to the right because that\'s where I think they belong. I\'ve grown up with orchestras in Norway where they always have horns sitting to the right. It sounds natural to me. I have trumpets on the left and bones to the left from the horns.

    I don\'t think there is such a thing as a standard seating chart. I think you should go with your ear. The key is to get a TRANSLUCENT good stereo image. You should be able to hear and pick out every single instrument, and they should sound transparent in the way that they do not overlap other frequencies by too much, causing a muddy sound.

    I can think of many original seating charts that would work equally well with a midi mockup orchestra. It would probably be weird to a trained ear, but to the general audience it would be inconceivable. Having said that, though, do not underestimate the general audience. Maarten Spruijt and I talked about this and said \"they hear more than you think, they just don\'t know what it is, and can\'t pinpoint it like a trained person can.\" - I couldn\'t agree more.

    Anyway, enough chit-chat. My seating would be:

    piccolo - hard left
    flutes - to the right from the piccolo
    oboes - near the middle, slightly right.
    clarinets - near the middle, slightly left.
    bassoons - more right.

    horns - almost hard right
    trumpets - almost hard left
    trombones - near the middle, slightly right
    bass.bone - to the right from the bones
    tuba - almost hard right but to the left
    of the horns.

    piano - almost hard left
    harp - almost hard left, next to the piano
    but also on both sides. (two harps)
    timpani - hard left
    cymbals - slightly to the left from the middle
    snares - varies very much
    bassdrum - usually to the right just above the tuba.

    1st vlns - almost hard left
    2nd vlns - very left next to the 1st vlns, both
    vln groups should cover 35% of the left side.
    vlas. - slightly to the left from the center.
    vcl. - moderately panned to the right.
    d.b. - hard right.

    The reason why I like this setup is because I find all the typical doublings within \"reach\" in the sound image.

    Take horns. They often double at the unison with celli and bassoons. Look at the chart. Those groups are close to the horns. This produces a more uniform sound. It doesn\'t sound like its coming from two entirely different places, and thus it blends better.

    Trumpets often double with oboes. Oboes are within sonic \"reach\" in my chart so it sounds like a better blend.

    Flutes often double with violins. The violins are close to the flutes.

    Bassdrums often strengthens a double bass line. They are on the same side.

    Etc. the list is long.

    By using such a chart you are also forcing yourself to write interesting parts for each instrument group in order to avoid a bad stereo image.

    Fx. if you have a passage in celli (to the right) you might consider joining the celli with the violas group for added thickness in texture and a broader sonic image.

    It also helps orchestration somewhat. If you\'re stuck as to what to introduce after the cello and violas passage you could take an instrument group that lies close to either timbre or position in the orchestra. Fx. I would probably choose to introduce bassoons in unison with the celli voice and clarinets with the violas and connect the whole sound image with harmonies in trombones and trumpets in the middle and to the left, because:

    1) you got sound coming from both left-center and right, producing a good stereo image.

    2) you already have a \"clean\" sounding instrumentation because of the selection of instruments. Adding another woodwind instrument to the texture would make it grainy and edgy, and set you off balance. (It wouldn\'t be transparent anymore)-.

    3) you\'ll be filling the missing space in the sound image.

    That\'s one of the reasons why this is my prefered panning setup. Of course in the end all that matters is that it sounds good to YOUR ears. This sounds good to my ears and so I\'m sticking with it until my ears mature some more and I learn something new

    Good luck in your search for the ultimate seating chart Damon!

    Thomas
    Great advice Thomas.

    Another thing about panning in the sequencer.
    Dont!!

    Use giga studios stereo settings/pan in the DSP mixer. Obviously this doesn\'t work too well if you\'re using multiple ports, but you can use a combination then. Jsut try and keep instruments that will use the \"same space\" in the stereo field on the same MIDI channel accross ports then use the standard MIDI pan to offset each instrument slightly...instead of hard pans.
    quote:


    The reason why I like this setup is because I find all the typical doublings within \"reach\" in the sound image.
    Take horns. They often double at the unison with celli and bassoons. Look at the chart. Those groups are close to the horns. This produces a more uniform sound. It doesn\'t sound like its coming from two entirely different places, and thus it blends better.
    Trumpets often double with oboes. Oboes are within sonic \"reach\" in my chart so it sounds like a better blend.
    Flutes often double with violins. The violins are close to the flutes.
    Bassdrums often strengthens a double bass line. They are on the same side.

    You have to watch that you don\'t end up with the right being too bass heavy though. I prefer the bass drums in the middle along with the tuba. That way its a bit more balanced IMO. I don\'t think you can second guess doublings anyway, the horns can double with the woodwinds or even violins at times.

    Your woodwinds are the typical arrangement, your brass is the reverse of the norm and your strings are the norm although I don\'t think you\'ve always had them that way.

    But like you I pan my instruments in the way I\'ve always heard them and so any changes would sound weird to me. I\'m not so bothered about the Harp and piano, percussion can also be almost anywhere really. I\'ve heard Timpani that had some drums on one side and some on the other.

    --------------------
    Hasen
    For this discussion, I recommend Norman Del Mar\'s book, Anatomy of the Orchestra. Some of the alternative seating arrangements that can be reflected by panning in the DSP section of GigaStudio are very useful. Also contains many good comments that directly apply to GOS and DDSB and DDSW.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">

  8. #8

    Re: Instruments balance

    Incidentally, half of the knowledge in the above post comes from Bruce and Thomas anyway [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  9. #9

    Re: Instruments balance

    Most orchestral film scores have the horns LEFT and trumpets RIGHT, not vice versa as suggested in the long(ish) quote above.

    And, er, piccolo \"hard left\" is prolly also not realistic. Woodwinds typically sit in two rows in the center of the orchestra, so indeed you can layout the different instruments as proposed, but the entire group needs to remain quite centered. Remember that if you have the louder brass sections more lateral, you effectively have a nice \"hole\" in the center for the softer woodswinds. I use mono versions of my woodwinds and pan them in midi. Then I run two stereo woodwind mixes from GigaStudio into two SoundStage instances in Logic. One mix holds the first \"row\" (L-to-R: picolo+flutes, oboes and english horn) and one mix holds the second row, slightly positioned behind the first (L-to-R: bass cla, Bb clarinets, bassoons and contrabassoon).
    The original \"dry as hell\" woods now get a very nice, blending ambient sound in the center of the soundstage, without extreme panning beyond, say, the horns or first violins.

    Soundtracks often do use a more exagerated lateral panning than traditional classical recordings, I think to keep the center relatively open for dialog, V/O and FX.

    If you want to emulate seating, depth and relative loudnesses from familiar soundtracks, I recommend Thomas\' approach with carefully setting up levels and panning while A/B-ing with some CD\'s. Take care not to use too many CD\'s!
    Some soudtracks go for a distant and full sound (like Harry Potter, Cutthroat Island), whereas other use a more closer miking (James Newton Howards stuff for instance, Atlantis, Dinosaur, Treasure Planet). Especially with the closer miked stuff you can hear balances that are NOT representative of regular orchestral recordings. Elfman\'s Batman recordings come to mind where sometimes drowning woodwinds needed to be saved by lifting them in the mix. If you use such recordings as references, you will learn that even within cues the relative loudnesses are often \"corrected\" beyond what the players can do themselves. This makes your A/B-ing job a bit tricky. So I suggest to stick to only a few reference CD\'s, otherwise you will keep on tweaking...

    Use some dynamic level as anchor point. Thomas suggested FF as \"top\" anchor - I\'d like to add: also check what the appropriate levels are for mp-mf. Not all libraries have correct dynamics-to-velocity mapping, so you need to learn how to adjust and tweak the lower levels within your sequencer parts. XSample and Dan Dean woodwinds are examples of instruments that are tricky to match.

    On ths VSL forum there have also been some useful discussions on this, especially on midi panning versus stereo panning in audio and the use of panning plugins, like Waves S1 and FX3 SoundStage.
    http://235.deatech.at/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=4

    Just my 2 eurocent coin [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] - cheers,

  10. #10

    Re: Instruments balance

    Thank you again

    Richard, Rimsky-Korsakov\'s Principles of Orchestration.

    Yes this is probably the book I am talking about.

    Scott, I keep your panning views and will compare against mine, inspired from the book \"The midi guide to Orchestration\".

    And Peter, the link you propose is a very usefull one which has already been taking a place in my \"Favorites\" folder.


    SergeD

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