Help! My violin tracks are killing my ears.

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by soundsgood, Dec 20, 2015.

  1. soundsgood

    soundsgood Active Member

    I just got these violin tracks from a remote recordist. They obviously weren't recorded in the most ideal way, and I'm trying to figure out whether they will be useable or if they will need to be re-tracked.

    The problem with them is that they're harsh as hell and make my ears hurt within two minutes of listening. That doesn't give me a lot of time to play around with them and try to figure out how to treat them so that I can listen further and keep working with them.

    Can someone take a listen and tell me what you think? Are there some obvious things I can do to get these tracks to work, or should I just start over? I tried a notch with a wide 'q' around 3k, but it didn't help enough to keep from bothering my ears, so I had to quit.

    Can EQ alone make these work or will it take something more like re-amping?

    Sample attached!

    Or here's a link to the clip:



    Attached Files:

  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    The best advice I could give you would be to convert these tracks to Mp3 @320kbps and upload these directly here to RO using the blue upload a file button on the bottom right hand corner.

    - Many members, myself included, are reluctant to click on strange links we are not familiar with.

    By uploading it here you will be sure people will listen to your tracks and give their advice on how to improve them ;)
  3. soundsgood

    soundsgood Active Member

    Done! I just uploaded it. Thanks.
  4. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

  5. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    remember -- there are the tracks --- then there are the tracks in the rest of your mix ---- two very important distinctions.
  6. soundsgood

    soundsgood Active Member

    Im in the editing phase of things trying to clean up an Octet. I'm not yet trying to mix them into the rest of the track. Just clean them up.

    I do all my editing with headphones to hear details clearly. I've worked everyday this year going back and forth between headphones and monitors on a multitude of different tracked instruments, including strings, without any problems.

    But for some reason, these particular violin tracks bother my ears insanely within just a few minutes. The other tracks in the session don't bother me (cellos, guitar, vox). Violas from this recordist also bother me, likely they were recorded with the same set-up/mic.

    I also understand that the track is dry and will sound better with reverb/room. But I'm trying to edit these tracks, which means I need them dry so I can hear subtle problems that reverb will typically mask.

    There has to be some un-natural peak in the recordings, but the analyzer I used only showed peaks between 1-5k (roughly). And that's also the signature range of violin. And even so, when I notched the whole range out, my ears still bothered me.

    I know by nature that violins are harsh, but these seem unnaturally so. It may not be apparent on first listen to my clip, but if you were to loop that and listen for 2-5 minutes, I'm sure you'd see what I'm talking about.
  7. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    It probably doesn't help using headphones, they are a good reference to check mixes with like an A/B when mixing, but I'd try to rely more on your monitors.
    Headphones can give your mixes a different sense of spacial separation when compared to monitors.
    Thats where some mild compression can come in handy. Set the threshold as to only capture and tame the peaks without altering the dynamic range too much.
  8. DogsoverLava

    DogsoverLava Active Member

    What subtle problems are you looking for? In terms of ear pain or sound timbre etc I would think that within the mix is what you want --- as for performance flaws noise etc (assuming that's the subtle problems you are looking for) don't think about that as a mix issue.

    A violin is a challenging instrument to listen to on its own.
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    What db are you editing at? I mean, there's certainly no need to blow your head off at 85db ... especially through headphones ( God, no way) - just to simply clean up/edit a track... 70 db or so is plenty sufficient to edit, with short, periodic checks at higher levels to check for things like noise... but I certainly wouldn't be working on editing this at a hot level over a continual length of time.

    If it bothers you that much, since you're only in the editing phase, and not yet mixing it in context with the rest of the tracks in the song, then you could always apply a temporary EQ to the track(s), sweep the band, find the offending frequency 0r range that annoys you, and notch/dip it out while you're editing.

    I would do so on a cloned track, though, just to be safe, or make sure that the original, unedited, un-EQ'd track is backed up and safe.

    "Harsh" generally lives in the 2k to 4 k region, but it varies, and depends on the timbre - and amplitude - of the instrument.

    FWIW, I'm already hearing quite a bit of ambience on this track... of course I can't tell if it's pre or post, but there's already some kind of a reflection there...could this be contributing to what is bothering you?

    Finally, if they bother you that much, you could always ask that they be re-tracked. Especially if these tracks were works for hire, and you paid a professional rate for them, then you should expect to get professionally recorded tracks.
  10. soundsgood

    soundsgood Active Member

    Thanks everyone for chiming in. I'll try to answer you all. The editing that I am trying to do is timing. I prefer using traditional fades to time-correction plugins, so that's why I wish to listen critically, to make sure I'm not generating artifacts with bad fades. I don't listen at loud levels. Maybe it's just the nature of the beast, trying to work with violin tracks this way? I've worked with violin before and haven't had this problem. Here's a screenshot of my frequency analyzer -- does that look normal?

    Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 1.22.18 AM.png
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The frequency range looks about par for the course for the instrument, although it's difficult to tell by just looking at an analyzer, because it's either just taking a quick snapshot of a random sample, or it's generating the sum of an RMS... but either way, it doesn't really matter how it looks, if it's bothering you. I still suggest inserting a temporary EQ to tame whatever frequencies are hurting you, for the length of time you are editing, until you can get to working an actual EQ for the track that's used in context with the rest of the tracks for the final mix.

    Very few engineers will ever mix an instrument using solo mode, because the instrument needs to be mixed while referencing the rest of the instruments. You could end up spending a lot of time getting it to sound perfect to you in solo mode, only to find out that it doesn't work at all, once all the other tracks are brought into play. Engineers usually reserve the use of Solo mode for diagnosing problems, but not to actually mix.
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I'm a fiddler myself and have recorded very many different performers in all types of environments, both concert and studio. I would strongly second the others that have suggested that (a) you should not be using headphones for this work and (b) you are stabbing in the dark if you do not identify problems when all the other instruments are present in the mix in their correct spatial position. In this case it sounds to me as though the root of the troubles lies in the original recording and that the difficulties are not going to be easily correctable in the mix. Re-amping is not going to help and would only degrade the track.

    You said this was a "remote" reecording, by which I take it that the player was listening on headphones to a scratch track while recording his/her part. Do you know what type of microphone and pre-amp were used for this track?

    The tiring and rather unpleasant sounds of this violin are almost certainly due to unfortunate choice of microphone and pre-amp, unhelpful room acoustics and maybe less-than-adequate positioning of the microphone relative to the instrument. How much else is there besides the performer?
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Bos is ( as usual) spot-on.

    The main component to getting a great mix, is having great sounding tracks to work with at the source, tracks that have been well-recorded, with the right mic model/type, placement, preamp... and an environment that is complimentary.

    I'm hearing quite a bit of reflection on this violin, as I said before; I don't know if this is due to added artificial ambience, or as a result of a poor-sounding environment, and not choosing the right mic for the space.

    While condenser mics are usually the preferred model for acoustic instrument recording, because of their ability to pick up fine nuances, has to be the right condenser.
    Cheap condensers, those of which have flooded the market in the last 7 years or so, have a tendency to sound inherently harsh in those range(s) that you are specifying as being unpleasant.
    And, because of a condenser's sensitivity, it will be also be much more sensitive to the space around it - which is great if you have a good sounding space, but can be very troublesome if the room has bad-sounding reflections.

    A good dynamic mic could be an option; while they may not be as sensitive to the esoteric sonics of an acoustic instrument, they can be far more forgiving of the environment that they are in, than condensers generally are.

    Personally, after hearing this again, I think I'd be asking for another tracking session, and I would be asking the performer what mic and pre they are using, along with a general idea of the acoustics of the space they are recording in.
    If reflections are an issue ( and I think they are), attenuating those to an acceptable level can sometimes be as simple as hanging heavy blankets around the area in close proximity to where they are recording.

    As far as the gear, well, you pretty much get what you pay for. A $99 Audio Technica 2020 is never going to sound like a Neumann KM185. Nor will a $69 Tascam preamp ever sound like a Grace 101.
    If they don't have a good mic, then perhaps borrow or rent a good one for them for a few hours. As far as preamps go, try to get the most transparent sounding pre that you can; Presonus and Focusrite both make very good preamps in their price class.

    But ... all of this is strictly hypothetical and mere conjecture, because we don't know the details as to how this track was originally recorded.

    If it were me, I'd be trying to find a better way to do it again. Based on my own experience with live strings, I don't think that this current track will ever do anything more than frustrate you, and a lot of time will be spent attempting to "repair" the track just to get it to sound "okay", and even then it's very likely you won't end up being happy with it in the end, anyway.

    If you've hired a pro studio to do this, then they've fallen very short in the level of quality for what a pro studio would be expected to deliver, and I would certainly be calling them for a redo... and you shouldn't have to pay for it, either.

    You've mentioned working with violins before, so I'm sure you already know what we're discussing here. Get a great sounding source track to begin with, and your job becomes much easier, much more enjoyable because you won't have to spend an inordinate amount of time being forced to listen to a track that quickly fatigues you.... and the song will sound better, too.

    IMHO of course. ;)
  14. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    It sounds more like the mic itself than the space to me. It makes me want to redo it with a Royer into a Grace.

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