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  • Conductors! How much louder are Bones than Clarinets?

    Hi,

    In a real orchestra,

    When playing the Horns+Bones at FFF Staccato....approx. how much louder (in DB) would they be than Clarinets+Bassoons at FF staccato.

    (I'm trying to get the right volume balance between my brass stems and my winds stem........I'm being anal I know)

    Thanx

    SvK

  • At that dynamic level, there are two considerations:

    1. Generally speaking, the clarinets are felt more than heard in comparison to the trombones.

    2. The range in which the clarinet plays has a big impact on whether it can be distinguished against the fabric of other instruments. For distinction, putting the clarinets somewhere between C4 and C5 helps it to be "heard". Any lower and the clarinets play more as texture in support of bassoons, French horns, violas, cellos, and other mid-range instruments between G2 and C4.

    Much hinges on the score itself, what other instruments are playing, the dominating subdivision (16ths as opposed to whole notes), tempo, etc. Certainly, musical and artistic needs can't be ignored...

    If trombones are playing slower note values and clarinets are playing faster note values such as 16ths or trills, it will be easier to distinguish the clarinets *almost* no matter what range is used.

    Again, generally speaking, if the trombones are playing FFF, they will comprise the largest space in the mix next to percussion at the same dynamic level.

    I just realized how hard it is to generalize! Check out some recordings to get a sense of the proportions. The clarinets always duck under the waves and peak out during the louder passages.

    To answer your question in a single word:

    "much".

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    @JWL said:



    "much".


    that brings it right to the point.

  • JWL...

    Thanx...


    very helpful!


    SvK

  • Svonsky,

    Absolute Dynamics

    In absolute loudness, a single trombone reaches a maximum level which is circa 10 dB SPL higher then a clarinet. In general, all instruments of the brass family reach a higher loudness then the woodwind instruments. Indicating fff for a clarinet is not practise, respectively a nonsense.

    Brass can be indicated fff, and the maximum indication for wooddwinds is ff. So if you want to have brass and woodwind in equal loudness, then the brass has to cut back one dynamic level to ff, or even less, but that would be relative dynamics.

    There is an difference between absolute and relative dynamics. Absolute dynamic is the loudest and softest sound an instrument can produce at any register. Relative dynamic is the act of balancing the orchestration. For example, a brass at ff is maybee still too loud compared to a woodwind at ff, but you won’t change the indications of the brass, but have the brass match the right balance.

    Every instrument has some relative dynamic control in every register. However, some instruments in particular registers can not achieve certain absolute dynamics. A group of brass playing in their high registers can never be very soft. A low flute can never be extremely loud. The indications fff is for percussion and brass only. Of course all dynamic indications within an composition and performance are relative. Knowing absolute level will not help you to mix the music in the box.

    ____________________________________________________________________


    I'm somewhere within this levels when mixing wide range material:

    <a href=http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~physe1b/OHP/12a/vis13a8.gif">

    Where a fff tutti would reach 105 dB SPL and a pppp would go below the ppp. Don't tell anyone.

    Picture link:
    http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~physe1b/OHP/12a/vis13a8.gif

    .

  • Angelo....

    Awesome thanx [;)]

    SvK

  • Your welcome. The compositional details JWL said, have also influence in the dynamic handling. My text is more from a non-compositional, technical point of view, as it would occour in a recording, and may can be translated to a mix with virtual instruments. When you spread the 60 dB SPL from ppp to fff (as in the picture posted) over a range from -13dB RMS to -50 dB RMS (AES-17 standard), you will achieve a very wide dynamic range, as in a digital recording of the "Grand Canyon Suite" by Ferde Grofe.

    The only other thing who comes to my mind is the equal loudness curve, determined experimentally by Harvey Fletcher and W A Munson in 1933, who references to a general indicators of average loudness perception. This curve shows that it is difficult to hear low frecuemcies of soft sounds, and that the ear is most sensitive from 1000 Hz to 2000 Hertz. I think it can be helpful for a composer to study this curve. I think I made a instrumentaion range chart in the early seventies who incorporated this curve, I will look for it and make an pdf

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fletcher-Munson_curves

    .

  • imho, the idea of attempting to use decibels as a measurement of orchestral balance is roughly equivalent to using a still frame to measure the color balance of a movie. it doesn't work and likely takes the composer/orchestrator further away from the goal of balance because balances are ALWAYS changing as a piece progresses.

    that said, i think it is possible to achieve enough relative balance if one is willing to work very hard mocking up (many) excerpts from the repetoire and referencing those against actual recordings. the massive benefits of doing this as to orchestration technique aside, it will quickly become apparent how the individual vsl instruments need to be modified to acheive the characteristics of the real instruments as volume and timbre change over various ranges and dynamics.

  • Martin...that is exactly what I have been doing [;)]


    Also another great reference for the dynamic range of every note of a given instrument, are it's crescendo samples.

    SvK

  • Nowadays, where everybody can buy a studio in the box in the music shop at the next corner, it is essential that this folks educate themself with the physics and the electric side of recording technology. And apart from that and whatever he does with that knowledge, Svonsky asked for dB number, and he got dB numbers.

    Making a piece of music all virtual and in the box doesn't make recording any easier.

    [H] [H] [H]

    .

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    @svonkampen said:

    Martin...that is exactly what I have been doing [;)]


    and the results show in your craft admirably!

    angelo - no offense was meant in pointing out the limitation of using db alone. you were very gracious and helpful in providing this information as with other musical concepts in other threads. my greater concern is in helping developing musicians on a musical level so that they don't come in with things like "my strings don't sound right. how can i eq them to work?" when the part writing is out to lunch. yeah, i agree completely that we need to develop some engineering skills along side everything else and apologize for any miscommunication.

  • You both are very helpful teachers.......

    All of your gracious advice is heeded.


    I have taken 3 Libraries....

    VI
    True Strike
    Miroslav
    Some Others....



    And in my autoload...placed Keyswitches for all of them on same keys.....So if I hit F-1 the entire orchestra Crescensdos at 2seconds....or if I hit c1 the entire orchestra does SFFZ.....(including Timpanis ;-.........editing the other libraries to match the VI 2sec,4,6,8 sec took forever...but boy is it fun to play now)


    The results are amazing...as now I can enable many midi tracks at the same time and "Hear" the various colors attainable with doublings in Unison or Octaves....


    That's what has brought me to balancing the Winds with the Brass..........I've focused much of my work in the past on Horns+Strings and very little on Forte winds........so hence my balancing questions.....I've learned much lately especially with regards to bassoons. They add an incredible "solid" feel when used to double just about anything....What the contrabasson doubled 1 octave below does to Bones is amazing.......

    Martin you are so right.......years ago I would have Eq'd the Bones with more low-end...instead of layering the contra-basson beneath......

    thanx,

    SvK

  • Martin, no reason to be concerned about how to offend me, that's not possible.

    [:)]

    Today, and specially today including all the new tools and technology available, for a composers, or engineers, the learning curve is very steep. There are so many details involved we gradually learned over the decades. A brilliant youngster must have the talent to learn plus, the talent where to look for the right information. If you are a one man show it is even steeper. My advice to young enterpreneurs is, to build strategic partnerships, for example composer & mixer. As a producer I have seen too often that very talented people did not reach the possible goal they could, because they thought "I can do all the different work involved myself", most of this folks disapperaed and I never saw them again, my guess is that they read still some manuals.

    .

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    @Angelo Clematide said:

    ____________________________________________________________________


    I'm somewhere within this levels when mixing wide range material:

    http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~physe1b/OHP/12a/vis13a8.gif">

    Where a fff tutti would reach 105 dB SPL and a pppp would go below the ppp. Don't tell anyone.

    Picture link:
    http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~physe1b/OHP/12a/vis13a8.gif

    .



    I wonder what Beethoven would of said in front of all these numbers and equations?

  • LvB with a SPL meter in his hand would have said:

    "Also meine Herren, hier beim beim Agagio, bei Takt 17, gehen wir unter 40, und beim letzzten Takt des Finale müssen wir über 100 erreichen in weniger als einer Sekunde, sonst überholt uns eine Kutsche auf der Autobahn"

    LvB also spoke english, back then english was still a north german accent:

    "Okay gentlemen, here in the adagio, at measure 17, we go below 40, and at the very last bar of the finale we have to reach 100 in less then a second, otherwise Haydn's horse-box will fetch over from the other side of the Autobahn"

    .

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    @Angelo Clematide said:

    LvB with a SPL meter in his hand would have said:

    "Also meine Herren, hier beim beim Agagio, bei Takt 17, gehen wir unter 40, und beim letzzten Takt des Finale müssen wir über 100 erreichen in weniger als einer Sekunde, sonst überholt uns eine Kutsche auf der Autobahn"

    LvB also spoke english, back then english was still a north german accent:

    "Okay gentlemen, here in the adagio, at measure 17, we go below 40, and at the very last bar of the finale we have to reach 100 in less then a second, otherwise Haydn's horse-box will fetch over from the other side of the Autobahn"

    .


    His written letters would suggest that he would have changed his mind the next week... [[;)]]

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    @Angelo Clematide said:

    LvB with a SPL meter in his hand would have said:

    "Also meine Herren, hier beim beim Agagio, bei Takt 17, gehen wir unter 40, und beim letzzten Takt des Finale müssen wir über 100 erreichen in weniger als einer Sekunde, sonst überholt uns eine Kutsche auf der Autobahn"

    LvB also spoke english, back then english was still a north german accent:

    "Okay gentlemen, here in the adagio, at measure 17, we go below 40, and at the very last bar of the finale we have to reach 100 in less then a second, otherwise Haydn's horse-box will fetch over from the other side of the Autobahn"

    .


    His written letters would suggest that he would have changed his mind the next week... [[;)]]

    HUH??? VAT???

    LAUTER, BITTE!!!

    ICH HÖRE SIE NICHT!!!
    [:P]

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    @Cutler said:

    His written letters would suggest that he would have changed his mind the next week... [[;)]]


    I don't know how stable Ludwig was mentally, I never meet him. From far he makes rather a choleric impression. And even if I would have meet him in a crossing time zone, it is not permittet to communicate knowledge from the future to folks living in the past, (Star Trek rule #27b), and I'm afraid of going to 1799 physicallly, they would burn me on the stake after the first performance, or at least quartering, the classical sonata form punishment. And don't forget all the fun Ludwig never had with all those hot aristocratic goupies back then.

    So so, you read other peoples mail, or did you buy facsimiles in the museum shop at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn. If you where a pen pal of Ludwig, I excuse myself in advance.

    [:)]

    Audio letter:
    http://www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=5092&template=dokseite_digitales_archiv_en&_eid=5057&_ug=Symphonies&_werkid=21&_dokid=b118&_opus=op.%2021&_mid=Works%20by%20Ludwig%20van%20Beethoven&_seite=1

    from here:
    http://www.beethoven-haus-bonn.de/sixcms/detail.php//portal_en

    .

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    @Angelo Clematide said:

    Indicating fff for a clarinet is not practise, respectively a nonsense.

    Brass can be indicated fff, and the maximum indication for wooddwinds is ff. So if you want to have brass and woodwind in equal loudness, then the brass has to cut back one dynamic level to ff, or even less, but that would be relative dynamics.
    .


    Hi Angelo,
    what you say, is ok as far as you just look at the reached dynamic (even much more with the piccolo flute, clarinets belong to the instruments with the largest dynamic scale; BUT there is another aspect that one should not forget when writting dynamics:

    if you write e.g. fff instead of f for a piccolo, the dynamic wont change that much, maybe about 3 dB; but the articulation and so the sound will often change more or less drastically; it's even a fact that musicians are used to change their intonation (not drastically but with values up to 15 cent) to reach more subjective loudness.
    You can often hear such things in situations, where e.g. a solo violin is playing "against" a big orchestra.

    What i dont want to doubt is the fact, that this "tricks" don't really influence the way someone should score. it makes no sense to overrule the physical findings, which are generally discussed in orchestration, specially if you are using a broad orchestration.
    But it is absolutely ok to write e.g. ffff for _all_ instruments in a tutti.
    In those cases it is a known challenge for a conductor to get the right balance.
    I know that lots of discussions have taken place in history about this problem, and therefore - also because of my own experiences - i think its ok to write "felt" dynamics.
    When i tried to write "physically right" dynamics, the players generally were more confused and did not understand the intention.
    (for example when you write f for a piccolo instead of mp, which would be the "emotional" value, knowing the sound the player will provide anyhow a f, he will in fact try to play in a harsher way as he would with a "felt" dynamic.


    Anyhow, i dont see my statement in contrast to yours, but in addition to it.
    Sometimes, it may even help to write more attributes that can help the player to find the right sound.
    That all doesn't change the fact that you wont hear clarinets in the midrange - even when writing fffff - if the brass section is playing loud. [[;)]]


    Best:
    HTF

  • Happy Tree Friend,

    - The values I posted are more technical, expressed in dB SPL, Pa and w/m2, and are measured at a normal microphone recording position. The usable loudness range won't change much for the total orchestra, no matter how much f's there are written, the orchestra won't come over 105 dB SPL in a closed room, one could say the table posted is absolute. In other words, it has no direct relation to how you write the dynamic indications in the score. The total dynamic range of a big orchestra performing a fff (or more f's) indicated tutti and the drop to ppp (or more p's) of a single violin has a natural given loudness range which has it's limit by our hearing capabilities. It happens quite often in a sound stage that the loudness reaches 105 dB SPL in the room at microphone position, especially when recording movie soundtracks, but this loudness range is rather not the case in a symphonic situation.

    - However, and that is what you are refering to, the grammatics of musical indications are always relative to each other. A good example are the terrace dynamics of baroque music, and to give you a very extreme example, and again expressed in a technical value, was a sudden change from pppppp to ffffff where the difference from pppppp to ffffff was 72 dBFS in the recording. The composer just indicated this to make clear that he want it performed with so extreme dynamics. The background noise in the 9 minute long pppppp of the not playing musician was nearly as loud as the solo violin. I must add that this recording is difficult to listen to, even in the best listening conditions, it also provoked a scandal and SONY refused to pay the production for a long time, but released the recording later.

    .