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  • Adjusting bassoons and tuba levels

    In my template I am quite satisfied with the relative volumes for most instruments and groups, but I can't find good sources (CDs etc) for determining appropriate levels for the bassoons, especially the contrabassoon and the tuba.

    How would I find the right levels relative to other instruments? For instance, how loud is the tuba compared to the CBS at ff, the bones in middle registers, etc. And how much louder is the contrabassoon in its middle register compared to the bassoon in its lower register?

    How can you get this right when you haven't had a conservatory training and regular exposure during rehearsel etc...?

    I have several scores and CDs with Tchaikowsky and Elgar scores, should I check these out?

  • no amount of training would answer these questions very well because it is all a matter of context. what can be done is to gain a general understanding of the character and relationship between orchestral instruments. one of the best ways is to do several/many rough mock ups of excerpts from the repertoire and then reference them against actual recordings. there will be some inconsistency but you can get very close to a general volume level. from there, what you will learn going through the repertoire will make the rest clear.

  • I would even go a step further then what Martin said. Create a "NEW REALTY"

    Forget the reality of a orchestra and the recording of it as a unaltered acoustical event, that only limits your creativity, and people heard that thousand of times.

    Try to make the stereo sound-field far more than merely two-channel mono. In other words, try to make the stereo sound-field multi-dimensional. To be satisfying, a sound-field must have the proportions of left, center, right and depth. In most cases, accurate localization is the goal of a stereophonic image. In other words, when recording a large orchestra, the instruments in the center of the ensemble are accurately reproduced in the area midway between the two playback loudspeakers. Instruments at the sides of the orchestra are reproduced from either the left or the right speaker. Instruments half way between are reproduced halfway to one side and so on. This type of a stereo image is what I would call basically an unaltered acoustical event. The problem is that this technique totally eliminates sonic fantasy from the recording process. It is the clinical approach. I find it somewhat interesting, but not very inspiring.

    Things get really exciting when creating sonic images that existed mainly in imagination. In other words, to take the listener into a “New Reality” that did not, or could not, exist in a real life acoustical environment.


  • Two good answers to a tough question. The best advice is listen to as many recordings as you can. I've found the Abbado Berlin Phil recordings to be closest to a sound I want to emulate. However, I can offer the following thoughts.

    1. Bassoons are woodwind instruments and so will be similar in actual volume to the clarinets and oboes (i,e, much louder than a single violin), except that their lower register range will make them less piercing and therefore they would seen quieter. That said the lower frequencies carry energy further.

    2. Brass sections often get disproportionately louder when they start making 'brassy' sounds at about ff. Have a listen to the VSL trumpet at various velocities if you haven't noticed this. It's most pronounced in the higher range instruments, but a I can certainly get my Euphonium fff to be much much louder than a friends violin fff.

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    @Peter Roos said:

    How can you get this right when you haven't had a conservatory training and regular exposure during rehearsel etc...?

    I seriously don't think there is a better way. Listening to tons of CDs isn't really the answer either.

  • Check out the Porokofjev tone poems like "Nevsky", "The Dibbuk" or (espacialy for the Tuba) the "Skythian Suite".

    Helped me a lot for really big orchestrations with a lot of brass and woodwinds.

    Best regards,


  • Cool!

    Thank you all very much!

  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on