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eq question
Last post Mon, Feb 24 2014 by Stephane Collin, 8 replies.
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Posted on Fri, Feb 21 2014 13:47
by Nitrox 32
Joined on Sun, Mar 15 2009, Posts 142
Hi Everyone,

I am working on a score consisting of only woodwinds and brass. At this point I'm happy with the balance of the chords however because the low and mid voices consist of many instruments (Tuba, Euphonium, Trombones, French Horn, Bassoon, Bass Clarinet, Bari Sax and Tenor Sax) I lose the individual sound characteristics of each instrument. Is this something that I should try to achieve or accept the fact that because so many instruments are taking up the same frequency area this is not possible. Would EQ on each instrument help? Should I use mono or stereo patches?


Posted on Fri, Feb 21 2014 20:00
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582

This is an interesting question actually.

Well, you could first try to use some subtractive eq, which just means to eq out all of the bass frequencies from non bass instruments, but I think panning is going to be more help to you than eq.  the problem with eq in this case is that it's going to be tough giving each voice in this narrow freq range it's own distictive characteristic to seperate it from the others.

Depending on the characteristics of the piece, you could try experimenting with the "ducking" chain compression technique.  This is the technique they use to bring out a kick drum under a bass guitar or a singer's voice from an otherwise loud track with synth pads running.  This technique could be useful if you have some solo lines being played and want to bring them out from the rest of the piece.  I know side chain compression is pretty simple to do in Sonar.

However, if the piece is more about block chords I think I would just concentrate on the "color" achieved by playing these instruments in unison rather than trying to give each instrument a discernable voice in the piece.  But to each his own.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Fri, Feb 21 2014 21:03
by Nitrox 32
Joined on Sun, Mar 15 2009, Posts 142
Block chords are what I'm dealing with. Thanks for comment about "color". That's exactly what I've been doing. You just reinforced what I thought was the correct approach for dealing with block chords. I just wasn't sure. I figured that if I can't isolate indivual instruments I should just aim for a nice blend of sounds. I currenly pan and narrow the stereo fields of each instrument to help with this. I also eq out the lower frequencies out of my upper voices. I just didn't know if there was anything else I should be doing. I am interested in learning more about the "ducking" chain compression technique and how it can be applied to orchestral mixing. Do you know of a good resource or do you have anything to add? I'm pretty new to VSL. I just migrated from EWQLSO and want to make the most out of my mixing.


Posted on Sat, Feb 22 2014 16:57
by jasensmith
Joined on Tue, Jan 15 2008, Arizona, Posts 1582

Side Chain compression really isn't done that much in orchestral settings but it's used excessively in Pop, Rock, Dance, and Electronic genres. Orchestral music is generally not as loud as the other aforementioned genres so usually just regular compression will suffice to bring out a solo from the rest of the orchestra.  I mentioned it because you said you had an ensemble of instruments playing in the same frequency range and wanted to bring certain voices out of the crowd, so to speak, and I suggested side chain compression as a possible answer. But if the piece is "block chords," side chain compression probably wouldn't be appropriate.

However, you can find all kinds of videos about Ducking, and side chain compression in Sonar on Youtube.  The thing about Sonar is that I think you have to have the Producer edition in order to use the compressors which allow you to side chain but I could be wrong.  I use an older version of Sonar. I could give you a step by step but I only know how to do it in a older version of Sonar not X2 so I don't think that would help you.  in addition to Youtube you could try the Cakewalk forums on how to side chain in your version.  I'm sure somebody will give you a step by step.

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it."
- W.C. Fields
Posted on Sun, Feb 23 2014 21:26
by Casiquire
Joined on Sat, May 01 2010, Posts 325

In my opinion, this always comes down to the arrangement.  When it's properly arranged, all you should need to do is add EQ to sweeten, or warm things up, or brighten things up, etc.  You would naturally lose the characteristics of the instruments when you have many playing in the same range as they'll all start to blur into one another.  If you want the instruments' colors to come through maybe pick ensembles and try to limit it to as few different types of instruments as possible.

Just saw Janesmith's earlier comment about panning--that's good advice!

Posted on Sun, Feb 23 2014 22:34
by Peter Alexander
Joined on Wed, Aug 21 2002, Virginia, Posts 642

You want them to blend so that nothing sticks out and calls attention to itself.

Peter L. Alexander
Author, Professional Orchestration Series
Posted on Sun, Feb 23 2014 22:39
by Nitrox 32
Joined on Sun, Mar 15 2009, Posts 142
Thanks for the responses. So far everything makes sense to me. When you are talking about adding EQ are you referring to the final mix or each individual instrument? I know I'm talking about a personal choice but based on the characteristics of VSL libraries which would be the best to way to start to achieve the most natural sound. Does the VSL community have a place where I could post my arrangement? Perhaps it would easier if someone could listen and offer suggestions.
Posted on Mon, Feb 24 2014 14:58
by Stephane Collin
Joined on Sun, Aug 02 2009, Posts 96

I would second Casiquire on this topic.

I like to remember that before all those sounds were samples, they were instruments created and developped over time by generations of top skilled builders with a specific musical target in mind.  I believe that, as arrangers or composers, we should aim at writing FOR an instrument, as opposed to write AGAINST.  If you have a raw cluster sound in mind, well you have gorgeous synthesizers that serve that purpose very well.  If you have a basso continuo in mind, you won't put the piccolo flute at the continuo, would you ?  We are lucky to have at disposeal tons of the best recordings of the best pieces of the best composers, which is a huge library of tried and proved settings who do work very well. Not to say one should not invent new settings, but I really recommend that before doing this,  one should spend time learning as much about the past masters as possible.

Best regards.



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