Mixing Brass, among others

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by JBsound, Jul 7, 2003.

  1. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    I am currently involved in a project where I am taking some tracks already recorded, mixing them and redubbing guitars, bass, and vox. My main challenge right now is how to mix, compress, eq, etc. the brass and woodwind instruments.

    There are a few trumpets, a trombone, a tuba, french horn, flute, clarinet, and oboe. There is pretty much one mic per instrument although there is a lot of bleed in some cases. I am working on pro tools, and on these songs there are usually guitar, keyboard, piano, drums, and bass going at the same time.

    I am looking for some suggestions, maybe some good starting points or techniques by people that have had some experience with this. I've had no previous experience in recording with the wind instruments.

  2. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    Surely someone can help me here?
  3. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Hi Jeremy...sometimes it just takes time. You have to be patient (although I know that isn't easy if you are on a deadline of your own).

    Horn and woodwind sections are usually a pretty no-brainer because the musician ship level is generally much higher than your average pop band.
    That said: Look for a stereo pair that captured the whole performance (hopefully this was cut live and they have these tracks for you). With in this stereo track you'll be able to fine out how the section was set up and where to pan the individual tracks. Also these is usually the the main tracks to feature, with the others just filling in.
    If it wasn't recorded that way (only separate tracks) don't despair. Experiment with the panning (in an Orchestral setting these instruments are usually pretty much up the middle). At most a a little compression (medium attack, medium release, 4:1 ratio. Hitting about a one or two db at most) and filter off the bottom (up to 100 hz). Usually the tracks should be pretty well self balanced. Ridding up the solo's is about all else you'll have to do. Don't add too much EQ. if there's a problem then use subtractive EQ.

    let us know how it goes.
  4. Guest

    Let me add to R-man's excellent advice that sometimes individual tracks can be "glued" together into more of an ensemble sound by sending them all through a little bit of a reverb program such as small room, or whatever ambience you prefer.

    This may not be necessary if a good acoustic space was used in tracking.
  5. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    Thanks for the replies! The instruments were recorded in a church sanctuary that has great acoustics. They were all professional musicians so that helps a lot. I know that pretty good equipment was used, although I definitely think that better mic technique could have been used, just from listening to the soloed tracks. Besides getting the levels right, I'm also trying to figure out how much EQ, if any I'll use. I wish I could find some kind of info on the instrument's fundamental frequencies and their harmonics, etc. Thanks again for the help and I'll keep you updated.
  6. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    Mar 28, 2001
    Trust the tracks first. EQ is WAY OVER USED.
    First: Pretend you have no EQ. Listen in mono and get the best balance you can, with all the instruments panned center. Next, still in mono, play with the pans, the phasing o the tracks will actually cause things to get clearer and foggier as you find good pan spots in mono. Continue to adjust balance...when it sounds good jump to stereo monitoring and see how little eq you need. Then if you need an, start first with HP filtering. Roll the bottom of anything that doesn't need it. Then if you need anymore eq...make it subtractive (get rid of masking frequencies).
    This should get you pretty far.....
    P.S. Solo tracks of a "section" usually don't sound "great" in the classic close mic sense that most people are used to. They're menatto work as a whole...try and treat it that way as much as you can>
  7. Guest

    A+ advice from RM.

    Let me add that there is a whole school of thought, at least on some forums, about mixing (specifically EQ'ing) using frequency analyzers and reference charts.

    I'm not saying they are totally without value, but I think you will be a serving your own growth as an engineer better if you learn to mix with your ears and not your eyes. Knowing the overtone series of every note on an oboe may help you get to an offending frequency a bit faster in some cases, but it may also keep you from finding another key frequency that might be exactly the one that needs adjusting.

    Don't be afraid to narrow the Q, boost 10dB, and sweep around until you find the spot where it gets the ugliest. Then try lightly cutting at that frequency and see if that improves the sound. But always make the final check in the whole mix, not while soloed. And when done with any EQ, always do an A-B comparision between the EQ'd sound and the sound with EQ bypassed (again, in the whole mix). Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we made things better, when in fact we made things worse!

    With a little experience, you'll have your own EQ chart in your head and you won't need no steenkin' charts!
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Hear! Hear & Harrumph! :tu:
  9. trses335

    trses335 Guest

    I never really did this until recently, experimenting with an acoustic guitar track. When sweeping through, I found resonances that sounded like wounded elephants. At several frequencies. Dialed some of this out and improved the tracks greatly. I have a whole new attitude toward eq now.

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