View Full Version : Questions Regarding Thick Orchestration and Midi Instruments

Piano Pete
02-10-2016, 08:13 PM
Hello EWQL forums,

In the relatively small time that I have been midi orchestrating, I have stumbled across a few things that have caused me to want to pick your collective brains: First, does midi orchestration tend to be more compatible with thinner, less intricate writing? Second, what are some techniques to avoid the cursed digital organ sound in loud sections?

I have noticed with thick and intricate orchestration that balancing levels so that way everything can be clearly heard becomes increasingly difficult as the texture thickens. I am wondering, is this partially just the nature of midi instruments? I have noticed that digital voices tend to do this pretty quickly.

For example, if the CC levels are at 79, for the sake of this post I am using a single number, I can hear everything but I really want the timbral change that occurs at CC 80. (This is not directed at any particular instrument or sample patch.) However at cc 80, I achieve the timbral change but it completely wipes out some of my other instruments.

In this situation I have adjusted all of the cc parameters, tweaked the levels, and EQ'd out the bottom range of certain instruments range's. The only thing I have not tried yet is moving things around in the stereo field a little more. I have not really messed with panning the sample libraries in Cubase yet.

I believe that the orchestration can be ruled out as a culprit since everything has been written with actual orchestral balance in mind. In addition, I have also thrown Respighi's Fountains of Rome, snippets of Mahler's second and fifth symphonies, and some Wagner into Cubase for practice. As the textures become more intricate, some lines goes missing.

In addition to the balance question, I have noticed that in certain loud tutti passages, midi instruments tend to want to morph into a harsh organ sound if you do not stay on top of them. I have worked around this by swapping out different sample patches, so I may not use a marcato patch for every instrument. Any suggestions as how to handle and avoid these situations?

Any suggestions or comments are greatly appreciated!

Piano Pete
02-10-2016, 08:47 PM
Also, for multi divisi sections, for performance and audio quality, do you guys freeze your tracks or just master them, export them as audio, and continue on with business?

02-11-2016, 02:48 AM
Ride dynamics and expression 100% of the time. If the timbre you want is too loud, bring it down with expression. And do it separately on each instrument to prevent the organ sound. It takes time, but you should be able to get a good balance before adding any EQ or other effects.

Piano Pete
02-27-2016, 07:02 AM
So would you have any suggestions how to fix the whole, certain instruments completely vanishing at a given cc volume?

02-27-2016, 07:32 AM
as pkm said, riding dynamics and expression all the time

Also add straight volume on that list; not dynamic volume just hard, pure volume in the DAW, especially if you're mixing different sample libraries. For some sections you may need to bring the general volume of some instruments up and some down to create a pure balance

You're on the right path with experimenting by putting in pieces you already know. It drastically helps to have a piece you know should sound this way and solve the puzzle of how, rather than just throwing something random up and trying to figure it out

Piano Pete
03-17-2016, 09:02 PM
Question for hot mixes. Which do you prefer to adjust first, CC7Vol, Stereo Out, or Compression?

I have been doing a mixture of the above so far, and I am wondering how you guys avoid peaking the output. Some things I have just tapped the stereo out down a bit to avoid this, only works with certain pieces. Other times compression has worked, but it seems to eat into the brass fairly quickly.

03-18-2016, 08:24 AM
You really shouldn't need to use compression or much eq (if any) on any of your orchestral instruments. Personally, I just use the Play volume control knob for each instrument (or slider in the mixer). With regards to the "cursed digital organ" sound, it really comes down to experimenting and most importantly, reading the manual for your instruments. It took me years to figure out how to get more realism from my orchestrations, and I still have a long way to go :)

03-18-2016, 04:42 PM
I suppose the best advice is to really learn how the different instruments work acoustically. I mean *really* listen to every aspect. Dynamic shape, phrasing, articulation, vibrato use and intensity (and placement). They are different for each instrument, ie how a violin section will use vibrato is completely different to a flute which is turn completely different to a trumpet. Some other important things to consider are to play everything in to your DAW live as opposed to clicking or importing a midi file, as imperfection is inherent in any human performance. Find the most natural way to input notes to your DAW as you can. I used to use a keyboard and TEC breath controller. I'm now learning how to use an EWI (in trumpet fingering mode) because short of playing the trumpet it is the closest thing I can get to at the moment. Still loads to learn.

In terms of texture in digital orchestration my first port of call is always to make sure my orchestration is spot on. That's a Wrap (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3sf7NxMTqY) by Thomas Bergensen has a hell of a lot going on and there are no issues with mix (though the guy is incredible). I don't know your background so I can't comment on your orchestration, only what I have found out myself, and I still have a huge amount to learn!

Piano Pete
03-19-2016, 11:03 AM
Thanks for the comments guys. Having been working with the midi volume up, I have been able to balance the timbres much easier. There are still certain things I do not like about the digital instruments, since I am used to real orchestras, but it is hard to beat having an orchestra "in your pocket." There is definitely a lot to learn in order to use the instruments competently.

When I was asking about what to adjust if the volume is too loud, I was asking what I should adjust to tame the output once the balance of the piece is achieved. I was just wondering if it was optimal to bump the stereo out levels down, to prevent peaks, or just scale all the cc7 lines down.

Also, I have VEP set up to save settings per project, so I can tweak the individual instruments on a project to project basis -- like if I want close mics or not. However, if I change projects, the settings are not reverting nor changing. Am I misunderstanding that functionality of VEP?