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  • An orchestral piece for you! -- Help me hone my mixing?

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    Here's my recent VSL orchestral piece. Care to give any tips?


    I'd especially appreciate any tips on mixing: I've been working through some tutorials here and there about proper EQ and reverb work, but often when I try to follow advice, I end up not enjoying the sound. In this piece, for example, I originally had each instrument panned into a more narrow range, but eventually decided to keep them fairly broad-panned. Any tips would be most welcome. Many thanks!

    For reference:

    DAW: Logic 9
    Instruments: Special Edition Vol. 1 Library
    Plugins: Space Designer for reverb, standard Logic plugins for EQ and panning.

  • The music sounds good, however the sound is too close, and almost totally dry (whether or not you added reverb).  You need to place the instruments into a reverb space, and let that be an additional performer (an idea I got from Dietz) otherwise it sounds very artificial.  For example the horn theme needs to be a soaring sound over the woodwind ostinato, but it needs to sound out within a space for that. 

    I strongly suggest you use MIR for VSL, because it is an almost instant perfect mix for orchestral sounds as it situates the instruments within an amazingly realistic space that can be adjusted intuitively.  Though one can screw it up as certain people have pointed out to me... [:'(]

  • Aha... many thanks, William, I'm very much interested to hear that because with all my new fiddling with reverb, I was worried that I had too MUCH reverb going on :-). Just goes to show: so much to learn, so much to learn. I owe you!

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    @Fiver said:

    ...I was worried that I had too MUCH reverb going on 😊. Just goes to show: so much to learn, so much to learn. I owe you!

    Reverb not means depth in the mean time.

    Your music needs space or also called depths, so that the horns sound behind the strings for example

    You can nicely do this also with the convolution reverbs within the SUITE EFFECTS of VSL

    Listen to this piece (with speakers):

    Depths within a chamber:

    Soloist, Guitar, Xylophone (close)

    Strings (less close)

    Woodwinds (mid distance)

    Brass (far distance

    But nearly no reverb (tail)

    Same depths but with more tail (in a church for example)

    Nevertheless, the soloist is still closer than the strings for example.

    And yes, MIR(x) will do the mix for you. Nevertheless, you also can do it yourself with convolution reverbs, EQs, panners etc.


    - Tips & Tricks while using Samples of VSL.. see at: - Tutorial "Mixing an Orchestra":
  • The trick is to take advantage of VSLs dry samples. Make sure you understand what frequencies do and you solved nearly all your problems for future mixes. I know all of the functions by heart and it helps me to create the VSL sound exactly as I want it to be.

    For panning never pan to hard, but 0-50 percent is usually enough in most cases. For Reverb go with MIR Pro or MIRx.

  • Did you create that sheet?  That is one of the most useful things I've read on the subject!  I really like seeing EQ broken down this way. 

    What is your opinion on getting rid of shrill thin whiny high-range violins?  That is the sound that bothers me more than any other EQ situation with samples.  I would be particularly interested if you had some specific ideas on that.

  • Hello William,

    I will help you, no problem.

    As you known VSL is recorded in a silent stage. Instruments were close. It is unique to VSL which preserves all frequencies of the instrument in its original state which will allows you to:

    1) Create very hard attack or release sounds

    2) Make instruments warmer, thicker and fatter

    3) Strengthen the vibrato and make it more romantic (especially when used with VI Pros Stretching)

    4) Create artificial con sordinos

    5) Induce prominent lower harmonics like the body sounds of an instrument

    6) and more

    The problem with the high range violin is the sometimes excessive "hissing" and the "ear killing shrill like you said". If you want to fix that then remember that with each pitch the frequency slightly changes.On high Violin notes always keep an eye around 2khz and 5khz to tame the shrill. Also everything from 15-20khz (hiss) can be reduced alot with a low pass filter (EQ).

    In the following example I have a solo Violin playing a normal No Vibrato sustain crossfading to sustain vibrato E6. If you ask me, E6 is the most painful note on a Violin so I thought it would be great to use as a sample for you. What I modified was:

    1) 2650 khz to reduce ear fatique 2) 6khz to strengthen Vibrato 3) 7khz and 1150 khz to give it more presence when needed 4) 230 khz to greatly increase lower harmonics.... Each of the spots have their Q set to either narrow or whide to be frequency specific. It it doesnt stay static. These values change the entire time so that the string sounds organic and much more alive. The "Stretching" even reinforces the vibrato even more. All the strength and dynamic you hear is EQ. No velocity Xfading used.

    3 bands is really a must. Perfect is when your EQ supports 6 bands. Also I always add some nice reverb such as MIR Pro or "Miracle". The latter is used for the WAV example where I have set the stereo width to 125% (chamber).

    In the following WAV file you will hear A VSL Solo Violin and a Solo Cello. Both show a comparison between first the "Raw Samples" and then the "Modified Samples". I hope you can hear the difference. I actually like my changes but I guess that is subjective. It doesnt mean that the raw VSL samples are bad but I rather want to show how far you can modify things to suit your needs. You can do way more than that though, it takes only a few seconds.

    Here the link:

    Careful of the first 4 seconds of the raw violin part, it can get a little loud (E6!)

    I actually made my own frequency sheet specific to each Vienna Instrument. Was really worth it.

  • O.K., thanks, I will listen to this very carefully. 

    edit = not sure I put this right! 

  • No, I never heard your demos. William, show me one demo relevant to your pointed issue.

    I know exactly what you mean, that is why I only gave a fast all-round example of what can be done.

    Faking con sordino is not needed due to the existence of real recordings offered by VSL, I agree. However, everything else in my opinion is really important.

    Excessive high frequency is a very specific problem. By every change in pitch you will have to re-adjust the frequency, gain, and Q factor...and I prefer automation of all EQ parameters with my mouse (which I often do with ease since im used to it).

    I know what you mean with the excessive high frequency noise, It bothered me as well which is why I always apply some static EQ to the instruments too. I listen to concerts and have to use those EQ techniques in order to get as close to the real thing as possible since im currently in the final stage of writing my over 2 hour symphony which will be played live by some renowned orchestras. I need to know how things will sound like... the MIR instrument profiles are not enough. The concept behind getting that typical concert hall sound is not so hard as you think. Once you really studied every frequency spectrum for each VSL instrument things get really easy. Have a look at the chart and then expand on that. Truth is, the chart is really simple and may or may not help depending on what your instruments are and what hall you are using. Like you said, there is no instant solution but just learning by doing once you got the basics.

  • I have a symphony also, it has been very fun doing it with VSL.   Especially now, as with my new system it can play all the tracks in real time.  I am now re-mixing it with MIR since the original recording did not use MIR.  Also, the new recording uses all the VSL strings - Solo, Chamber, Orchestral Appassionata and Dimension.  I have found that layering creates more and more complexity which adds immensely to the realism.  But also, the use of Humanize has become almost an obsession with me because it is also one of the most important things for realism - besides this EQ situation.  I should add that I have not felt any need for EQ in the VSL strings other than the MIR instrument character presets, EXCEPT for violins.  I am experimenting with the "Warm" setting in MIR though.  Also, Dimension violins have a lot of character choices, including "Dark" as well as "Warm." 

    Sorry if this thread has been somewhat hijacked though this EQ topic does apply to mixing obviously.

  • For William:

    Was there something wrong with your last message? I noticed you edited / removed it.

    Creating symphonies with VSL is really fun indeed!

    The more I work with VSL the more I ask the question why I still have my kontakt orchestral libraries. I really love the humanize sound and the scale presets. I also think that VSL is a GREAT learning tool because it actually challenges you (it challenged me). For example I dont rely on other orchestral products to do the work for me. Like you said, layering and arranging everything by scratch is so effective. Im also starting to think than non of us discovered the whole magic yet. There are so many endless possibilities.

    By the way, what MIC position do you use to get the best results (seating, balcony, conductor)?

    For Fiver:

    I am no mixing professional but I noticed in your piece that the instruments seem to "fight for the middle frequencies". This really can become an annoyance and gives too much presence (see cheat sheet). Give each instrument a place in the spectrum. Add some MIR Pro (it does alot of the mixing for you). If not make sure to add any reverb to make it slightly more wet. Add some more "sparkle". Giving the right velocity values can also help.

    I dont really want to be too specific as my fingers will burn typing : (

  • @Rolf_MusicHi, I have been monitoring this thread with great interest. I couldn't access your uploaded samples though. It seems I have to join some stupid company; is this correct? Do you always use this service for uploading, or is there an alternative site where I could hear your examples? Best of luck with your symphony, if you have simulated any of it with the VSL I would love to hear that as well.

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    No, I just use this site for uploading temporary experiments as im constantly trying to create those very emotional strings sounds.

    No download, you can listen directly with the new link. I was kind of experimenting with vibrato, dynamics and violin noise. Sometimes I need those ultra romantic vibrato sounds too (which I didnt demonstrate here)... very fast crescendos or much more dynamics.

    Feel free to give your opinion. First is always RAW material, second is always modified.

  • Rolf_Music, many thanks for the advice: that's exactly the kind of thing I need to hear!

    This thread has turned into a real goldmine for me: the deep secrets of good EQ balance are precisely what I'm trying to pick up. A special thanks to William for the cheat sheet and examples!

  • ACtually Rolf did that cheat sheet - it's very useful.  I listened to that last demo and it is very interesting, highly detailed use of articulations.   

    On my own mixes it is ensemble violins rather than solo that give me trouble with the high thin sound.  I may have dealt with it o.k., but am not sure.  I will post something. 

    This link has some violin parts, along with the rest of the orchestra,  though they are not that high.  I am re-doing this mix now as this one that is on CD baby etc. is not done with MIR:

  • Thank god you are not one of those Hans Zimmer imitators. Your previews are really good and reassuring. Did you use orchestral strings or chamber strings for those?

    I would like to show you my style too but I am currently working on a new website with new demos which will take a while, but I will definately post it here when done.

    By the way, here is a slightly modified version:

    Do you think there is something utterly wrong with the second versions? In terms of realism (vibrato, dynamics, attack). I thought as an effect the second violin seems more suitable but less musical though. I think the second cello has an exagerated vibrato at the start. What do you think?

  • All I heard was the cello part.  The first version seemed more natural sounding.  I like the use of extreme attacks, dynamics, etc.

  • PaulP Paul moved this topic from Orchestration & Composition on