Yep, I like the idea
Some quick tip: the room is better treated than not, especially if is small but positioning speaker in the right place can help a lot; without becoming too technical absolutely avoid median lines (tweeters must not be located on any of the tree imaginary planes cutting your room in half). But what is most important regarding monitoring is to consider your room as an acoustic instrument; it has its particular sound and you should become acquainted to it listening as much music as you can helping to understand it’s characteristics. Than try to emulate good mixes and use different sources and different location to listen to them (walk around and even go in another room).
In mix or better in the arrangement avoid frequency conflicts as johnny said; for instance a nice trick to glue bass and kick besides compression is to cut a freq on one of the two and boost the same freq on the other one; i.e. if you kick needs some 120Hz boost, add it a little and cut it from the bass.
Learn what basic EQ’s and compression’s parameters do; I mean Q for EQ and ratio, attack/release for compressor. To avoid phase problems is generally better to cut then boost to obtain the same result; if a sound is dull cut some mid instead of boosting bass and high. If you are novice compressors can be a little intimidating but initially use very low threshold and ratios from 4:1 to 10:1 to better understand the effect than raise threshold and/or ratio until the effect is subtle (this in normal use but you can be creative if needed). Generally speaking fast attacks flatten the sound while slow ones give more punch letting transients to pass untouched; faster releases are usually better but can create distortion especially in the low freq range so watch out If you like the compressor pumping (generally avoided) do it musically, I mean in time with the song; on drum busses is often used. Also if you need big sounding drums squash the bus a lot and add a little of it to the stereo channel to add room and presence.
Give to any instrument the right stereo position/ambient but always check phase issues in mono.
Hope it helps as a starting point bur it’s not an exact science thus feel free to experiment and leave the final judgement to your ears
Thanks for this Gareth, lots of good info. One issue I have with panning is that many sample libraries are set up with panning already in place, so it makes it difficult to try and alter this (or maybe I shouldn’t because the layout is as it should be?).
Take EWQLSO Gold for example, which I’m using less and less, but trying to pan within Kontakt doesn’t seem work for me because the signal disappears if I pan in the opposite direction to that which it’s been set up to pan to (hope that makes sense i.e. if EWQLSO is panned right, then trying to pan left with Kontakt makes the patch very quiet).
Your point about EQ’ing reverb is great, I should do more of that I think. Reading your recommendations, I also think the low end is my problem for sure…
Will also do as you say about separating solo instruments and the Violins I from Violins II. As soon as I’m back in the studio, I’ll get some stems sorted. Thanks for all the feedback, I hope this thread will become a reference point for basic mixing of orchestral tracks (also thanks to EdC_arts for his / her points).
Thanks for this Gareth, lots of good info. One issue I have with panning is that many sample libraries are set up with panning already in place, so it makes it difficult to try and alter this
You’re welcome. Just because the panning is in place, doesn’t mean it can’t be changed – but yes, in general they’re in the right place.
Really, the more important thing to have is separation between the instruments so you can have independent control over them. For example, the violin 1’s are panned ‘left’ in Eastwest Gold (if I remember correctly, it’s been a while!) – but you might want to push them MORE to the left. This is something you could after you’ve bounced the stems.
I also think the low end is my problem for sure…
It almost always is!!! Usually right up to about 300 Hz.
I have a busy week, but if I have time I’ll definitely have a go at mixing your track. I hope it’s good
Hey Gareth, we posted quite at the same time Very useful tips there!
I have a busy week, but if I have time I’ll definitely have a go at mixing your track. I hope it’s good
Haha, it will be INCREDIBLE !!!! No, I hope it’s listenable and works for the purpose of this experiment if nothing else. Would be great to hear your take on how to mix it too.
I’ll add a couple tips (I just skimmed the thread so it might have already been said).
The best way achieve depth is EQ. Instruments that have a strong presence in low and high frequency ranges will sit in the front and the inverse of that would sit in the back. Reverb can also help with that. Picture the soundstage you want in your head and use EQ to help sculpt that.
Gareth mentioned cutting lows to clean up the mix. Sometimes cutting unnecessary highs can help achieve additional clarity by letting the right instruments shine through and darkening secondary ones.
Process your mix in multiple levels, or sub mixes. Start with making the instrument sound good by itself. Then buss with other similar instruments on an aux and make those sound good. Group sections together and treat those. Repeat until you end up at the master channel. Idea is to make small adjustments and corrections at different levels so you won’t need to make big adjustments later, which usually make your track sound not all that great.
Use reverb and compression sparingly. The more you use of those, the more your mix will become denser. Use both with a purpose. Experiment with what things need it and what doesn’t. You may be surprised how little compression you need to get things to sit if you’ve done your EQ’ing and panning properly.
Last tip: develop your ears. The best mixers have great ears. That level of listening is a skill which will need time to develop and need a lot of practice. Learn what frequencies, or ranges, sound like by ear. Once you have that, you’ll be able to make the right adjustments and not make choices that create other problems in your mix.
Out of time and got to head out. Hope that helps if someone else didn’t already mention it.
Some really awesome tips here, thanks guys!
A lot of the time I feel like that dog flying the airplane, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
- cough * pre-delay * cough *
Mixing is just like anything else – the more you do it, the better you will get. That being said, it’s also somewhat SUBJECTIVE , meaning, what sounds great to one person might not sound that good to another. However, I think most people can recognize when a mix is really bad.
Personally, when it comes to orchestral works, I don’t like percussion that overwhelms the track, because I don’t think it sounds very natural. Now, it is a popular (modern) practice to layer and bed percussion to create a larger sounding track and grab people’s attention, but it’s not something that composers throughout history have traditionally done. In fact, it’s something composers have traditionally gone out of their way to avoid.
“The student will probably pass through the following phases: 1. the phase during which be puts his entire faith in percussion instruments, believing that beauty of sound emanates entirely from this branch of the orchestra—this is the earliest stage; 2. the period when he acquires a passion for the harp, using it in every possible chord; 3. the stage during which he adores the wood-wind and horns, using stopped notes in conjunction with strings, muted or pizzicato; 4. the more advanced period, when he has come to recognize that the string group is the richest and most expressive of all. When the student works alone he must try to avoid the pitfalls of the first three phases. “
Principles of Orchestration, Rimsky Korsakov.
Something to think about.
I’ve whacked together something quickly this morning so we can start this experiment – I haven’t touched anything other than adding a limiter to the mix.
It’s a simple set of instruments and only 1m19s long, but it should serve the purpose of learning to mix better. I’ve kept it fairly heavy on the low end on purpose and have of course taken off the limiter when preparing the stems:
Original version (just with limiter)
Gareth – there’s a special dedication to you at 49s
Logic session / stems (with and without reverb)
This is a Logic project ready to be mixed (just load up the stems found in the folder /Audio/ in your own DAW if you don’t use Logic):
These are the stems you’ll find which are pretty self-explanatory from their titles. The dry versions are in a separate zip, so you’ll need to replace the ‘wet’ stems if you want versions without reverb. Bear in mind, that some of the samples have reverb recorded into them already, so I’ve isolated as many as possible:
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – BassCellosEns.wav
Bass and cello with string ensemble patches
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – Brass.wav
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – CelloOstinato.wav
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – CymbalAndVocal.wav
Cymbal and vocal samples
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – DistortedRhythmic.wav
Electronic rhythmic parts
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – Piano.wav
As it says on the tin
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – SnaresTaikosEtcPercussion.wav
Snares, taikos and other heavy percussion parts
- 120924 AJ Mix Expt – ViolinsViolas.wav
Just the violins and violas
Let me know if you want any other part separated out and I’ll upload it separately. It would be great for people to share their techniques for mixing (or even upload their Logic / DAW session – especially if you mix using only the tools available within your DAW ).
I’ll be having a go at this myself and will report back what I do here.
PS, this is for educational purposes, so please don’t just download the stems, mix and then release this as your own work, I’m not providing this work as a copyright-free download.
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