Mixing strings

Discussion in 'Mixing & Song Critique' started by crystaldrone, Apr 30, 2017.

  1. crystaldrone

    crystaldrone Active Member

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    Dec 28, 2016
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    UK
    Hello to everyone at RO.

    So I got this mixing project from a band yesterday, which is a track they made for some company's promotional video. They have put down the drums, bass, organ and electric guitar which I have gotten used to mixing. But apart from that they have put down a string section and a solo flute using a sample library, which is a little hard to mix for me.

    I am finding it really hard to zero in on a good eq, level setting for cello, viola, bass and even the organ.
    For eg., the cello just masks the bass, and eq'ing the cello makes it lose its power. All of them seem to have their frequency sweet spot in the low-mid & mid region, but come with their own version of muddyness. How should I retain the instrument's power but get rid of that mud? Any advice on how to go about allocating frequencies in such cases?

    And the flute just doesn't sit in the mix and pops out. And if I pull down the fader a little for it to sit in the mix, the lead goes in the background basically. I haven't even applied any sort of reverb or FX to any instrument yet.

    They sent me this track as a reference for strings mixing. And although the sound, timbre of the string instruments is very different in the recorded tracks they sent me, I don't even know if it's because of a different make or can I make the strings sound like the way they are in that track by mixing them well?

    Also, is that track an LCR mix?

    Regards.
     
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    Hey, good thread. I am on the road right now, just a laptop so I can't comment on the audio but my spider senses says (instinct) use HPF . Start with the instrument in the highest register, hpf that most, and keep going down to the next instrument, get that one cleaner, etc etc until you are in the bass freq of the subs > kick or bass "". Once you get those good, go to the flute and my guess is it will start to mix better. What you likely have going on is a bunch of instruments all sharing the same low end freq. You need to pick one bass and filter out the rest. That where I would start.

    Sorry I can't me more defined with how, HPF is something you start doing on instinct.

    Hope that helps a bit.
     
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Are the strings and flute sample files stereo or mono?
    If they are stereo, It maybe easier for you to narrow the stereo field of the samples,which can result in makeing them more defined. You can still pan them, but some samples are in fairly wide stereo, which can make them difficult to define when used with other instruments.
    Chris's suggestion with using HPFs is something you should get used to anyway, not only with samples but with real instruments as well. This can also help clarity and definition.
    FWIW
     
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Addendum - if your DAWs EQ has the ability to adjust the slope (rate) of the hi-pass, start with a lower setting at first, say, -6db (which is actually shelving) and then increase the slope in -6db increments if it's still too muddy... so the next slope would be -12, then -18, etc.
    Do some research, and find out where the natural frequency ranges are for the instruments you are mixing. For example, with a flute, you're not going to get much below 300hz because a flute doesn't produce those frequencies naturally.
    Without hearing it through your monitors, and in your room, it's difficult to be precise, you may need a very dramatic slope (-24). It depends on the instrument, how it plays in context with the other tracks, and what you are hearing through your monitors and in your room.
    What DAW are you using? I can look it up and see if your pan function allows you to adjust the width of the stereo on certain samples...
    Also.. when giving us audio samples, you're better off uploading the audio directly to your post.
    At the bottom of your screen, just to the right of the "post" button, is "upload a file". Click on this, it will open your computer directory and you can then choose the file you want to upload. ROs media player supports files up to 12 meg; when you select your file for upload, give it a few minutes, the upload speed depends on your internet server and how fast it allows file transfer. If you get an error code, the most common reason is because the file size is too large.
    Most RO members prefer to not follow links to other sites, it's just a precautionary thing, and it also prevents "dead links" if the site where your audio resides closes down at some point. Uploading to RO assures permanency, (unless you choose to delete it from the post yourself)

    -d.
     
  5. crystaldrone

    crystaldrone Active Member

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    Dec 28, 2016
    Location:
    UK
    Wow this place never disappoints! Getting some direction here.

    @audiokid I do tend to use parametric equalizers a lot more than shelving. And your advise suggest that I should be shelving a lot more. So should I brickwall/shelve each instrument on one or either sides of the spectrum with an appropriate slope if needed?
    On a side note, curious to know why do you suggest to going downwards from the instrument in the highest register instead of upwards from bass?

    @DonnyThompson choosing a slope depending on the instrument is also something I definitely struggle with, especially when it comes to an instrument with a wide octave range like say the piano. Infact, I again end up using parametric on such instruments instead of shelving. Should I go for filters with large slopes for instruments spanning a larger octave range? I use cubase with a yamaha n12 mixer, but only use the mixer for recording instruments and levelling, since Cubase has more eq options.

    News is that they are going to re-do the drums and the electric guitar with a new patch and send in the files this week. Will definitely put up a rough mix then. That should make it really easy for you people to advice.

    Thanks a lot for the replies!
     
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    I think we have a slight bit of confusion here, in that you are perhaps thinking that shelving is a different type of EQ than Para EQ..
    Shelving is one of the facets of parametric EQ, giving you the ability to select a range and turn it down (or up) in various increments from a gentle 1-3db slope, to more extreme settings.
    It depends on the EQ you are using and what it lets you do.
    A Hi Pass Filter (HPF) is very similar, except it can't be used to boost frequencies. It's purpose is to "pass" only higher frequencies than either where the fixed frequency is set, (such as a fixed HPF on a mic or channel input) or where you set your corner frequency on your own adjustable EQ, below which all frequencies are attenuated, and generally digital EQs will allow an HPF's slope rate to be adjusted as well.

    Learning the ranges of instruments, or at least having a general understanding of them, will go a long way towards helping your mixes have more clarity and definition.

    Sir George Martin used - or had his engineers use - HPFs all the time. He was a strong proponent of using only the frequencies that were natural and fundamental to the instruments he was recording. Now to be fair, he used a lot of real instruments. He also had an orchestral background and was an accomplished classical musician, so he very likely had an innate sense of where certain acoustic instruments "lived".

    There is a school of thought about HPF vs Shelving, with one "side" saying that using HPFs is "too extreme", that Shelving offers a much more "musical" roll-off.
    Those who use HPFs all the time counter with the argument that if certain frequencies don't exist on an instrument, that there's no need to pass any energy below what that instrument can produce.
    I happen to use both - it depends totally on what I'm working on at the time. There's no point in me allowing frequencies below 250hz to pass on a Flute track, as that instrument doesn't contain any useful frequencies below that point. But I'm more apt to use Shelving on a piano.
    Here's the rub on all of this...
    Samples aren't real instruments. They may have been created from recording a real instrument, but they can act a lot differently, and some of that is based on how they were recorded, the library itself, as well as who is using that sample.
    Many sample libraries will load a particular instrument -say a cello - and it will load that sample across the entire freq spectrum, and unless you know the natural frequencies of that cello, you might end up playing notes that are either lower or higher than what the real instrument could ever play.
    There are some libraries -such as Garritan's Personal Orchestra, which will only load the sample across the keyboard ( frequency range) that is 'natural' to that cello. So, if you were to try and play a C1 on your keyboard to trigger that sample, you'd get nothing.
    Finally, some of this is going to depend on your room and your monitors, because these things can affect the way you hear.

    In the end, it just takes a lot of time and practice. Get to know where the fundamental frequencies of different instruments are, and try different shelving - or hi pass settings - to train your ears on what sounds best.

    FWIW
     
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    no, do what sounds natural

    good question, either way. I go up and down, all around until I find it all sound like everything is within its natural fit.

    I usually start lifting up on a HPF until I hear it begin to thin, then back off a touch and stop there. I do this with everything. There is usually only one bass instrument with full bandwidth or at the 40 hz filter. I also do this with LPF. Bass for instant would have the least amount of high freq then.

    But there are no rules, just starting points.
     
  8. crystaldrone

    crystaldrone Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2016
    Location:
    UK
    Thanks for elaborating on the difference between the two types and clearing the confusion. Din't know that HPF vs Shelving is a matter of debate. Although, even I find HPF working sometimes or extreme in some cases, especially in terms of reducing the level of an instrument drastically, which then requires a huge gain post-filter, which can sometimes bring up the noise floor.. But I do need to better my settings and know all instrument's fundamental frequencies really well. Yes time and practice.

    So important to choose the right octaves and recording with the least noise floor for EQing to be a smooth ride.Like the idea of instruments mapped to certain octaves, like in Garritan. Moreover, the noise floor issue must be minimal with such libraries. Hmmm

    Totally agree. I am just going to take these starting points, tweak till it sounds good, and then see what the settings are.
    But would love to know how do you go about adjusting the gain structure post-filter? Do you adjust it to match the pre-filter levels first and then level them again using the faders according to the song?

    Really appreciate your suggestions. Hope I can put up the rough mix for a listen by the weekend!
     
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