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joesacco says

I think of mixing like tight-rope walking. Everything has to be balanced or it will fall.

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joshhunsaker says

To expand on this and your statement of ‘no hard/fast rules’, that’s also a bit like saying there are an unlimited number of ways to set up microphones to record an orchestra. That’s true, but most of them will sound terrible – UNLESS – you are going for a certain effect, in which case, the only limit is your imagination.

I’m only really going to address this.

I used to own around about 100 classical cds from various venues, labels and dates covering locations all across the world with performances from a litany of symphonies, quartets and chamber groups. More than half of these recordings sounded god-awful and thin beyond belief with a ton of noise. A select few of them sounded warm and wonderfully engaging with incredible detail and nuance and a very black background (virtually no noise). I’m sure the engineers behind all of the recordings (and some of these performances are very well respected) got paid about the same amount. A majority (sadly) of them sucked really hard.

Whatever those particular engineers behind the awful recordings were doing may be “the right way” to do it but it didn’t change that the end product was often completely atrocious. The common way of recording orchestras definitely does suck to be honest. Sorry. Just my opinion.

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garethcoker Envato team says


To expand on this and your statement of ‘no hard/fast rules’, that’s also a bit like saying there are an unlimited number of ways to set up microphones to record an orchestra. That’s true, but most of them will sound terrible – UNLESS – you are going for a certain effect, in which case, the only limit is your imagination.

I’m only really going to address this.

I used to own around about 100 classical cds from various venues, labels and dates covering locations all across the world with performances from a litany of symphonies, quartets and chamber groups. More than half of these recordings sounded god-awful and thin beyond belief with a ton of noise. A select few of them sounded warm and wonderfully engaging with incredible detail and nuance and a very black background (virtually no noise). I’m sure the engineers behind all of the recordings (and some of these performances are very well respected) got paid about the same amount. A majority (sadly) of them sucked really hard.

Whatever those particular engineers behind the awful recordings were doing may be “the right way” to do it but it didn’t change that the end product was often completely atrocious. The common way of recording orchestras definitely does suck to be honest. Sorry. Just my opinion.

I should have been more specific. I was not at all talking about live classical orchestra recordings, I’m talking about studio (film orchestra) recordings – i.e. how the vast majority of live film scores are recorded – in a studio/scoring stage (occasionally a concert hall) – with no audience. These are almost always recorded to an exceptionally high level. There’s usually a ton of mics, stage, room, and close – going into a great sounding mix board. It already sounds great when it gets into the mixing desk, and then after everything is recorded, it gets mixed again in fine detail.

I’ve been to enough orchestral recording sessions now to know that I’ve seen the same setup time and time again, and it sounds great.

What I suspect you are talking about, is someone just sticking an XY stereo pair or a decca tree in a concert hall, hanging it from the ceiling or setting it up on a stand in the room, and pressing record. This method can work if you have a great room and great microphones (and a quiet audience!) – but there are just way too many variables. Often, even for respected engineers that may have been working on these CDs, the facilities available to them might just not be good enough. Like I said, too many variables and not enough things that they can control. Every venue is different (some are very ‘live’, some are ‘dead’). The CDs you had, were the engineers respected? Who were they? Or were they the house engineer? Just too many variables.

My point being that recording an orchestra in the setting I think you’re talking about is pretty much the opposite of recording a studio orchestra in what is a heavily controlled (but not totally perfect) environment.

In that case, there simply are tried and tested methods that do work in the studio environment, and I’d be pretty shocked (and would ask for examples) if you could find a poorly recorded orchestral film-score that doesn’t have a miniscule budget. Heck, even live scores with relatively small budgets have been recorded well (e.g. Battlestar Galactica Season 1).

Of course, you may think that the way film scores are recorded sucks too, I’m not sure.

But yes, I’ll agree with your sentiment that many classical recordings suck really hard, but I’m not sure it’s entirely due to the methodology, and more the nature of randomness that can occur during any performance at any venue. If there was a better way to do it, it probably would have been done by now.

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joshhunsaker says

Of course, you may think that the way film scores are recorded sucks too, I’m not sure.

Oh no… lol I’m actually a huge fan of most film scores. I was assuming you were talking about classical music recording in general. Film music is definitely where I’ve heard the most impressive examples of the utmost control and consistency in quality in recordings.

Scoring stage/sound stage recordings are always quite nice. I have the same experience as you in that regard. I think we’re totally on the same page in general.

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Farmony says

Always keep in mind that every element in your mix is coloring a certain frequency. If you pile to much of the same frequency on top of each other the level of those frequency start to have more energy and literally tire the listeners ears. To achieve clarity every instrument needs to have it’s space. Try to cut frequencies completely out of instrument in the areas they shouldn’t be heard. Usually people tend to want to add more bass when it lacks definition. Thats not a good idea. Most everyone, i’m guessing, on AJ try to tackle mastering the track themselves. This consists of EQ, compression, and limiting. I would try setting up an effects chain on your stereo out and experiment. If you have a multi band compressor definitely use it. you can compress individual frequencies of the overall mix and not all of them together. increase the output of the compressor so your levels are close to 0 db. Set your limiter so it wont allow anything over 0db to pass and keep your stereo out level on 0db. That should give you maximum output without clipping and getting digital distortion. Be careful with how you use the compressor though, too much can slam your mix into a mudpie. Also if you have a frequency analyzer on your final EQ use it as a reference. It helps also to listen to the song on different devices like headphones and in your car. It should sound balanced on everything if its mixed well. Also remember people are usually applying EQ, whether they know it or not, in their cars or home stereos so try to mix flat. I’m still learning myself, but these tips have helped me. I hope the help you.

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simaudio says

Thought I’d just mention this plug in, it’s a good free tool for help in finding unwanted frequencies.

http://www.voxengo.com/product/span/

:)

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MichalskiMusic says

i am reviving this thread because I have found it to be one of the most informative and beneficial threads on the forums. I discovered it last night while searching for help on my orchestral/cinematic mixes because I need some help. Well, I found it in spades right here.

Again, the level of camaraderie on these forums continues to astound me. Thanks to all of you who contributed to this thread from over a year ago. I am sure some of the newer authors will benefit from reading through this. I know I did.

Thanks again! Michael

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SemblanceProduction says

Panning is the key for a clean mix, but try keeping your bass, vocals(if there are any) and leads in the middle as much as possible.

I usually start messing around with sounds and when i’m happy with the arrangement i do the following:

Mute all of the instruments and start with your beat, equalize it, compress it and do whatever you need to make it sound good. Start adding layers, mute the drums and focus on your bass lines. Your sub bass and/or acoustic/whatever bass. Add an Eq with a small Q and cut a frequency starting at the low end of the specter. Move the EQ across all frequencies and see how the sound changes, find the frequencies that bother you. Adjust and.. Profit!
Now unmute your drums and see how they blend together, a strong rhythm section is the key to making your tune pump and make you want to nod your head to it, which is what you wanna do if you’re writing an energetic tune. I usually try to adjust my rhythm section so that the bass and the drums can be heard individually if you want to, but also they have to blend into a whole, become one.

Add pads, guitar riffs, whatever you else you have in the mix. Pan everything one, don’t be shy go for +-50 or more, if you duplicate a track do a phase reverse so it would sound more organic. Mix it with the rhythm section. Do the same exact thing with the EQ you did on that bass not so long ago.

Next you want to add all your lead stuff, may that be vocals or lead synths or whatever. And yes, do the EQ procedure you’re so familiar with:)

Everything should sound crispy, tight and fluent at this point. But we’re not there yet. We still need a master section. I’m sure i don’t how to explain how to do mastering, ‘cause that’s unique for everyone based on what plugins we use e.t.c.

So that’s a few tips and tricks i do when i produce my stuff. I’m not a professional, but i try to do my best. I didn’t cover all the stuff i do, guess that’s best left for another day. Hope this helps!

Good luck, have fun!
Many sales to you! cheers:)

EDIT: Almost forgot! Try a VST plugin called “ThrillMe” only has one knob to mess with but it does wonders to your tracks!:)

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