What's new

Help with mixing orchestral cymbals

mikefrommontreal

Active Member
Does anyone else have this issue? I feel like I can just never get orchestral cymbal crashes to sit right. They're either too loud, too soft, too brittle, too dull. To upfront, or too far away.

And not to blame the equipment because I know it's mainly my issue, but it seems that I can't find a cymbal that decays naturally, or long enough.

I'm sure it' hard to ffer suggestions without hearing my music, but any general tips would be helpful.

Oh, and use Parallax - Audio's Virtual Soundstage which helps, but I still fee like it's my cross to bear.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
Mix referencing will help.

In my old stuff I think I mixed the cymbals to have too much high frequency info. In retrospect i think it's better to gently roll off the high frequencies, say above 3khz if I remember correctly. But the exact eq details will depend on the song.

I think a lot of the challenge is the massive dynamic range of cymbals. It makes the tail feel like it gets cut off too quickly or trying to compensate for that makes it too loud. If you do some mix referencing to other cymbal sounds that you like, you can get an idea if how to make them sail powerfully over the orchestra without being brittle or piercing.

As for the tail length and dynamics, I think a lot of people may suggest a compressor, but I think ut doesn't work as well because it can't generalize to different volume levels if the cymbals play softly sometimes or loudly other times. Instead I found that sculpting an algorithmic reverb to increase the sustain on mid high frequency range really helps. You have to design the reverb to act less like a normal reverb and more like a sound design tool to shape the cymbals sustain and decay, and I found I had to use more reverb than I expected.

I also think you'll want to consider the stereo image of how the cymbals are placed and how the room/reverb sounds as well. If the dry mix is too narrow it may sound weak, and if it's too wide it may sound fake. There's some balance between worth in the dry mix, along with richer stereo feel in the room/reverb that helps the cymbals sit well.

So between EQ, stereo image, reverb as a way to sculpt the decay, and mix referencing, I think you can get what you want!
 

burp182

Active Member
Working from the perspective of real orchestral instruments, the distance between the cymbals and your ear is considerable, so the HF absorption of air is noticable and there is a bit of delay before the sound reaches you. If your library has multiple micing, consider using the tree and room mics more than the close.
 

Henu

Senior Member
HF absorption of air is noticable
Was about to come to say the same. Roll of the highs a lot more than you think you should, and don't use the close mike unless specifically needed. I rarely use any room/ ambi mics on orchestral libraries, but with percussion it's many times essential to make them sit better in the mix.
 

AlexanderSchiborr

Senior Member
Does anyone else have this issue? I feel like I can just never get orchestral cymbal crashes to sit right. They're either too loud, too soft, too brittle, too dull. To upfront, or too far away.

And not to blame the equipment because I know it's mainly my issue, but it seems that I can't find a cymbal that decays naturally, or long enough.

I'm sure it' hard to ffer suggestions without hearing my music, but any general tips would be helpful.

Oh, and use Parallax - Audio's Virtual Soundstage which helps, but I still fee like it's my cross to bear.
One tip: Use references and then you will hear that they often have to much of body and lowend. and often they occupy too much of stereo width. Don´t forget that these cymbals and crashes are not recorded with an orchestra but in an empty scoring stage which is missing absorbers and many more things. So what I do is that I often lowshelf or roll of the low frequencies and narrow the stereo width, also on the high end most cymbals have to much hiss..they simply sound then often "on top of the sound" but not in. Try experimenting with that.
 
OP
mikefrommontreal

mikefrommontreal

Active Member
Thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions. Another thing that crossed my mind while I was reading over your comments is that sometimes as well I blame the wrong issue.

If the rest of my mix is solid, and the orchestration is done right, there really should be minimal amounts of alterations to be done to the actual cymbals. Sometimes I don't hear that immediately though. Often, my mix will be too dark, and then when I introduce the cymbals which unabashedly bright I start blaming them, instead of the poorly balanced mix. Just a thought. :)
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
Make sure they’re farther back in the mix/stage as in real world. Otherwise you will have the exact problems you mentioned. Once they’re placed properly it’s far easier to make any fine adjustments to taste. (If you’re going for a traditionally balanced orchestral sound. If not - anything goes of course.)
 
Top Bottom