Orchestral Mixing

How do you arrange and mix orchestral music? (stereo, not 5.1)

Do you stick to matching the orchestra layout, or do you have a different set-up?

What do you do if, say, it’s a piano concerto, where the piano needs to be more prominent?

I’m interested in any thoughts on this and how people set this up within Cubase 8 (e.g., groups/fx/delays/reverbs/panning/eq)

Limited experience here, but I always stuck to the standard orchestra layout since I know the listener would expect to find the double basses on the far right, for example. When instruments needed to be prominent, I would imagine them being mic’d in a live setting and panned center, so I did the same. I wouldn’t do this for brief solos, however, i.e. I would leave them in their default position.

Dman,

That’s an interesting question as I have had to consider this aspect myself recently (although for a much smaller unit).

I listen to quite a few CD’s I have (with headphones on) and it seemed as though in many cases there was SEPARATION present but not very much PANNING. Everything just seemed to hit my ears as though it was all CENTER PANNED (although as I say there was a clear distinction between the players).

I would guess that for CLASSICAL music (not Avant Garde) FX-wise you would stick to REVERBS/PLATES.

Ta,

Paul David Seaman

One thing that might be helpful is to import an orchestral mix as a track and then compare it to whatever you’re working on.

The music itself doesn’t matter, what you’re doing is seeing how the layout you use compares to what you are hearing in the mixed imported track from World Class orchestra of choice.

I don’t mix that kind of music, per se. I do find that if I put up some sounds (patches) that are intended as “ensembles” or “sections” I’m automatically in the right playing field as far as the overall sonic space sets up.

The dedicated (expensive) orchestral synth instrument packages seem to have some excellent set-ups for achieving the orchestral sound and mix baselines.

Watch some of the top-flight shows like Great Performances on PBS and make notes about how you see things mic’ed. What you’ll see is that each section is mic’ed and some of the soloists or section leaders also have individual microphones. The sound field for an orchestra is sensitive to a 3-D sound space. The bass section is behind the cellos, the Violins are up front, stage right, the horns are in the back rows (drinking :laughing:), percussion section in the back and on risers. Orchestras play in concert halls and the great halls impart their own sound to the music played in them.

So try to mix for the “Stage” your Orchestra is on from your ideal “seat” in the “hall.”

Midi Comps are used in lots of TV shows and ads when a real orchestra is too expensive and time consuming.

Sound on Sound magazine most likely has some useful articles about this.

Have fun and good luck with your mixes.

Stephen,

I never heard that term “MIDI Comp” before?

I see in the OP’s signature that he is owns ‘Komplete 9’ and so I wonder if he is using this s/w for the project?

Ta,

Paul

I never heard that term “MIDI Comp” before?

I’ve seen it, Midi Comp, used a few times in articles about scoring with full or partial MIDI-based or Sample Based work, mostly for film, TV and advertising. I’m pretty sure it was in articles in Sound on Sound where I read it. You can’t afford a full violin section, so you have, say, three live players and then synth tracks filling in the full section. Anyway, just one more bit of jargon, really, I guess. :slight_smile:

Just my take on this…

Sometimes there is no need to worry about emulating a concert hall positioning - pop tracks for example, that use strings. Maybe if your doing music for other reasons, film etc…

Along with panning, the level of a track gives you the front back dimension in space

Reverb is the big thing, to give that concert hall vibe, if your samples are dry then try adding reverb only at the end a high end reverb if you can. I get fussy. Garritan’s Aria to me is smooth and is a freebie with some packages.

Stephen,

Great, thanks!

In that case I have actually used it myself without realizing what it’s called! Though with SAX players (not STRINGS).

Ta,

Paul

Zero,

You mean like EQ the REVERB?

Ta,

Paul

Not EQ the reverb. I can’t think of a VST where this wasn’t part of the settings, but most (if not all) reverbs let you control the amount of decay of both the high and low end bands of the reverb.

Regarding reverb in general, this is going to make or break any orchestral mix if it’s strictly that, e.g. it’s not strings added to a pop song or something like that.

Thanks a lot Fooloman,

So like a HIGH TIME and LO TIME (DECAY amount) setting on the EQ plug-in?

With an orchestra, would you not (simply!) assign an FX SEND to the Master Stereo BUS, set the REVERB WET/DRY to 100%, and then add/attenuate the AMOUNT you need using the CHANNEL FADER? I mean, ALL instruments are sharing the SAME FX(s)?!

Cheers,

Paul

I was not clear, I meant high end as in expensive!!! Try Aria and Stenberg’s convolution reverb first, not too much.

Zero,

I have used the Steinberg CONVOLUTION REVERB in the past thanks. There are a few with a photo/icon of a CHURCH. I have some WAVES plug-ins as well.

Cheers,

Paul

Good luck with this Paul, I am just back into a studio after a few years break. There are some tutorial goodies for both Cubase and Orchestration on the Groove3 site. if your not aware…

best

Thanks Zero,

I purchased some ‘Groove3’ videos a couple of years ago but I have been working thru the Leon Hepworth book and some of the ‘Born To Produce’ tutorials.

I have been trying to write an Anthem type piece which uses ORGAN and a SMALL ENSEMBLE. I have written the score, but am still inputting the notes into Cubase. I may start a dedicated thread on it . . .

Ta,

Paul

Dman,

I was reading in a Paul White article about micing up an orchestra and how intricate it is due to many the many (physics) technicalities. It was very detailed and there is an awful lot to consider! However, if you plan is to use VST instruments then of course you have the choice of whether or not you wish to BYPASS these factors. I guess it is a question of how realistic you intend your original composition to sound?

Hope that helps mate . . .

Ta,

Paul

Hello dman2014.

great question! We are currently working on a video series about game music creation with Sound of Games, a very talented and experienced duo that make great orchestral music for games. The next two videos are actually about mixing and mastering orchestral music (the third video of the series is due tomorrow and the video about mastering is set to be released in two weeks).

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcZ1vtdmuI2MkCxXO0JAWJSNVxmmN93VK

I hope you find them interesting!

All the best,

The basic answer is to view a visual map of your intended orchestral set up and then send your orchestral sections to group channels, then pan these channels appropriately as if they were in a space. Volume brings instruments forward or backward in the mix and pan gives you the other axis. I usually put the reverb at the end of the signal chain applying it to all instruments in one shot as a homoginising glue. Higher end packages give you the ability to mix different mic positions too.

Head over to VI control for discussion with pro orchestrators

Z

Hi Dman,

You should take note of Zero’s advice because it is a really good starting point, and that was exact the method I used myself (to get going) when I first began getting into mixing!

I hope you are finding the answers provided helpful to your project(s).

Cheers,

Paul