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  • Lower Mids

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    Hello VSL Community,

    i understand this is a generic thread. I often experience lower-mid issues within my mixes, everything sounds in place while composing....then when i start mixing i find out that Bassoons, Trombones, Tuba, Cellos an Double Basses create too much pressure in that area of the spectrum. I tame those frequencies with the multiband compressor during the mastering.

    I wonder whether it is a matter of orchestration, monitoring, or it's just normal. Anyone else has experienced the same problem?

    Share your experience, please. 😊

    Best Regards

    Francesco


    Francesco
  • Hi Francesco,

    good question. :-)

    As far as I can say after mixing music for almost 35 years now (27 years thereof as part of my main profession as a sound engineer), it's most likely a mixture of composition and orchestration, and even more so a question of your programming and mixing habits. Monitoring might be a part of the equation, too, but if you are used to the acoustics of the environment you work in, your brain should be able to "linearize" your hearing experience at least to some extent.

    I often see people using the same approaches to a problem over and over again, just because they are reportedly "tried and tested", quite often suggested by other folks who used them _once_ with success, in a completely different context. The main secret behind good mixes is that there are no recipes, no "best solutions", because you will have to re-invent the wheel a bit each time, for each piece of music you're working on. Like a good arrangement, a good mix with nice and clean (but warm and well-defined) low mids will rely on a healthy combination of standard solutions for most tracks and a few special ideas you have to come up with for those unique ingredients.

    Keep in mind that a good mix is not only about proper frequency distribution, but also about the envelopes (i.e. the changes during time) of each frequency band. For example: In most cases, having loud and "fat" bass is great, as long as there is enough dynamic variety to keep some "pulse" going. Another example: We like sparkling hi-end for the occasional cymbal hit, but continous energy in the top-most octave will annoy our ears pretty fast.

    The basic question of a good mix is: "... louder than _what_?" This means: Every mix is some kind of hermetic little universe with its own, unique interrelations. Something has to be soft to make something else appear loud, something needs to be bright to make something else sound dark. Some signal has to be "wet" and far away to make another signal seemingly dry and close. - The balance of all components is what counts (but it might be completely different when mixing the next piece). 

    Coming back to your initial question, the first step for you could be: "If there are to many low mids in my mixes - what balance changes do I need to make them sit properly?" More bass? More high mids, or more treble? Do certain instruments need more space, or less reverb? Are there too many voices occupying the same range, be it with their fundamental notes or with their harmonics ...? As soon as you have identified the most obvious source for missing contrast, you can find a solution for that. Proceed from there! :-) 

    Sidenote: It's also good practice to work with a few reference tracks. They don't need to be "similar", necessarily, just "good sounding" in a general sense of the word. I like to call reference tracks "the north pole", and I use them as my compass for guidance through the haze of technical possibilities and the hidden persuasion of sound. ;-D

    Mixing is a bit like walking along a spiral: You will work on similar tasks again and again (volume balance, stereo balance, frequency balance, depth, special FX - volume balance, stereo balance .... and so on). The main progress happens when each time you start over, the necessary changes will get smaller and smaller. - The decisive part is to realize when you don't walk along that spiral any more, but you're already in the center and actually running on the spot: Then you're done! :-)

    (... sorry if this answer got longer than expected - I got carried away.)


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
  • Hi Dietz,

    thanks for your reply, which was a pleasure to read.

    Glad to hear it might also depend on the orchestration/performance, i will enjoy trying different solutions with that respect. I overlook the importance of reference tracks and spend most of the time producing my own tracks....perhaps i don't know my speakers so good and i am used to the sound of my own mixes so i can easily make the same mistakes again and again. It's time to change my habits.

    Again thank you for your beautiful explanation, i will print this out and get back to this topic in a while...hopefully with more balanced scores/mixes.

    Best Regards

    Francesco


    Francesco
  • Everything Dietz said in his brillant post you can take to the bank.  It's all true and I couldn't have said it better myself.

     

    You are not the only one grappling with this lower mids issue but, for me, I think it's just a matter of taste.  I just happen to be more attracted to the darker colors of the orchestra.  In my work, violins yield to violas, clarinets are favored over flutes and trombones trump the trumpets.  It's not because I'm composing moody dramatic diatribes or spooky "deep from the bowels of Hell" sound designs either.  Even my comedic, light hearted work has a noir overtone to it due to my arrangemen choices.  I just like the dark meat so to speak and trying different flavors is a challenge to say the least.

     

    One thing I would suggest though, if you're not already doing it, is to eq your reverbs.  If untreated, reverbs can inadvertantly boost low frequency mud and might be the culprit in this lower mids dilemma you're having.


  • Hi Jasen,

    thanks for your kind advice.

    I see what you say, good spot on the reverbs...you caught me...i actually tend to leave them untouched. Do you high-pass them or cut some resonances?


    Francesco
  • I adjust the resonances.  Depending on how much you adjust you may have to compensate by adding more wet signal, width, tail, color, etc. (I use the reverbs from Vienna Suite) 

    Reverbs are just a small part of the equation but every little bit helps.  Like I said, it could be more of a matter of taste so making a few adjustments with reverb won't necessarily fix the problem but it could be a few "baby steps" in the right direction.  Personally, I don't like to lather my work with a lot of reverb because I just prefer a cleaner more defined sound but I've noticed some people really lay on the reverb and, if you're one of those people, making the proper adjustments would be necessary.  


  • I use the Vienna Suite reverbs too... depending on the piece i use more or less wetness, i started right now cutting certain resonances from the wet portion of the signal and i am pleased with the result... those Clarinets sit better in the mix right now and their low-mids are more pleasant. Thank you. I will find the right balance...

    I am currently scoring a footage for a competition and i'll post this work here within a couple of months. This thread has been really useful: i added more reference tracks (and this made me change the exciter settings in the mastering chain overall, i overlooked the brightness of my speakers), i switched from GrosserSaal to Teldex (i was stuck with the GrosserSaal due to the big layout and never got to achieve enough clarity for this piece) and cutted some mud from the reverb. Look forward to sharing it.


    Francesco
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    @Francesco Pirrone said:

    [...] i switched from GrosserSaal to Teldex (i was stuck with the GrosserSaal due to the big layout [...]

    Great move! Finding the proper acoustic setting is almost as important as choosing the right instrument for a certain function in an arrangement. 


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
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    Absolutely, from this day forward i'll always check different IRs before to go further....i won't blindly stick on 'default' setups ever again. 😊


    Francesco
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    If this is the result of this thread, then I dare to say: "Mission accomplished!"  👍  😊


    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
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    @Dietz said:

    If this is the result of this thread, then I dare to say: "Mission accomplished!"  👍  😊

    Sure! 👍

    Thanks


    Francesco