Mixing real viola/violin with OT samples - best practices?

For my latest sample-based composition I commissioned a professional violist/violinist to record the solo string parts. Everything turned out great, but now I wonder what I can do to make the instrument parts blend really well with the rest of the orchestra (which is almost entirely made up of Orchestral Tools samples, Berlin etc.).

What I did is:
* I used some volume automation to get the parts that were played more softly audible
* I put a convolution reverb with impulse response from the Teldex scoring stage (mid, Tree) on the instrument part
* (dry signal is appr. 4 dB less than the effect signal)
* used EQ on the reverb, generally reducing low and low mid band, slightly pushing the lower highs, slightly rolling off the highest frequencies

Still the solo instrument kind of sticks out as sthg very "different" and I also wonder if I should cut some frequencies altogether?
Is using a compressor on the instrument advised?

My hope is that someone has already figured all of this out and there's some at least vague formula for including real string instruments into sample based compositions.

I included the first track if anyone would like to listen. Viola part starts at 1:15.

Your advice is very much appreciated!

Thanks in advance,
Alexander
 

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ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
1.) a significant decrease in volume.


2.) maybe sort or parallel compression might get you an easier time taming the most quiet parts. You could throw something like Pro-L that's really transparent, smash it with a limiter and then blend it in to the pianissimo levels you want, then bring the dry signal so it just barely peeks over the rest of the orchestra when it's most pronounced. I wouldnt go too crazy with this, because the dynamics are part of what makes it real.

3.) I would use 2 reverb sends. 1 shorter send and 1 longer send. You need to make the transition from close mic to a large hall a little easier to stomach. Pre-EQ might help here too.

You could always drop the track sans the viola and then drop the viola stem and see what others would do with it.
 

labornvain

Active Member
The harp in the intro I believe is way too wet.

The solo violin is gorgeous, both the part and the performance so I can't blame you for wanting to have it up so high. But I really think you need to ride the fader on it and automated it so it only sticks its head out during the most emotional parts.

Lastly, the tone of the solo violin doesn't match the tone of the Berlin strings at all. The solo violin has a lot of body and in my opinion sounds better than the Berlin strings. But personally I'm not a fan of the Berlin strings which is why they sit around collecting dust on my computer

It's not that I think they sound bad, they are just a little too bright and thin for my taste. And it really contrasts with the warm full body tone of your solo violinist.

So obviously you can do one of two things, you can change the solo violin to match, or vice a versa

I personally like the sound of your solo violin better than the Berlin strings, so I would try to get them to sound a bit more like the solo violin by beefing up some of the mids and rolling off some of the high-end. I would probably start with a low pass filter and maybe some gentle saturation and move on from there.

Of course you may want to go to the other way and match the solo violin with the Berlin strings.

In that case I would seriously consider using a matching EQ like the one from ik multimedia which in my experience is the most accurate.

I would probably try to render out a Berlin strings version of the solo violin (1st chair) part and use that as your reference. It may or may not work.

If nothing else you can cut some of the low mids out of the solo violin part in the past some of the highs and that'll make it sit a little better in this mix, as best I can tell.

Mostly, though it needs to be automated down a bit so that it's not so prominent for its entire duration.

Another thing that might really help it set in back in a spatial plugin like Precedence or even Pamagememt. Just to move it back on the soundstage by a few feet to help it blend in a little better.

Just a few thoughts.
 

sekkosiki

Senior Member
Great advice from @labornvain !

Berlin Strings are a bit bright out of the box. I've usually layered the main library with the sul tasto patches in the expansions, which gives warmth and body. I've cut violin frequencies around 3Khz, boosted around 1Khz, and also to get silkiness I've boosted around 9Khz. For violas the frequencies are a bit lower and the same with celli and basses. Also I've added tape machine (Satin) and saturation (Saturn), and used a spatial plugin (Eareverb). For the reverbs I've sent the strings to two convolution reverbs, the first one longer, the second one shorter, and I have EQ on the reverb tracks with which I take out lows and highs.
 

ProfoundSilence

Senior Member
hmm people keep talking about a violin, but it's a solo viola...

there are some viola players on the forum and they can get stabby... it's worse than calling your lady by her sister's name.

I happen to love berlin strings viola, but I too use a crossfade between sul tasto/vibrato/ect.
 
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xanderscores

xanderscores

Member
Hey guys, thanks so much, particularly to you, @sekkosiki , I just made a preset named after you. :)

I happen to love Berlin strings too, and coming from a lifetime of using VSL I'm just blown away by its expressiveness and playability. Ways better than anything else I own, including LASS and EWQL Gold. Anyway, I did tweak frequencies with the high strings and it sure sounds different, maybe better (hard to tell in this particular song I find).
I also put a multiband compressor on the live viola that I already own (Precision Multiband).
The harp (thanks @labornvain ) I routed a bit differently. Unfortunately I don't own the Berlin Harps, just the one in Inspire which is a given set of mics, obviously rather wet. But I mixed it with the MA harps and there I could go up with the close mic fader and down with the tree fader. It's an improvement.

I have to add, I'm a composer not a producer and I know I'll never be as good as a mixing engineer at this. (Especially since I suffered acute hearing loss 2 days ago on my left ear...) But I'm learning fast so thanks for all your hints.

Updated version attached.
 

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labornvain

Active Member
Hey guys, thanks so much, particularly to you, @sekkosiki , I just made a preset named after you. :)

I happen to love Berlin strings too, and coming from a lifetime of using VSL I'm just blown away by its expressiveness and playability. Ways better than anything else I own, including LASS and EWQL Gold. Anyway, I did tweak frequencies with the high strings and it sure sounds different, maybe better (hard to tell in this particular song I find).
I also put a multiband compressor on the live viola that I already own (Precision Multiband).
The harp (thanks @labornvain ) I routed a bit differently. Unfortunately I don't own the Berlin Harps, just the one in Inspire which is a given set of mics, obviously rather wet. But I mixed it with the MA harps and there I could go up with the close mic fader and down with the tree fader. It's an improvement.

I have to add, I'm a composer not a producer and I know I'll never be as good as a mixing engineer at this. (Especially since I suffered acute hearing loss 2 days ago on my left ear...) But I'm learning fast so thanks for all your hints.

Updated version attached.
Wow. Whatever you did really worked. And quite a lovely piece as well.
 

sekkosiki

Senior Member
Hey guys, thanks so much, particularly to you, @sekkosiki , I just made a preset named after you. :)
Wow I'm honored! You're welcome, happy to help, and I think it sounds much better now.

I happen to love Berlin strings too, and coming from a lifetime of using VSL I'm just blown away by its expressiveness and playability.
Same. It's incredibly expressive. Btw, I found this when I started mixing Berlin Strings: https://orchestraltools.helpscoutdocs.com/article/128-reverbation-and-placement
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
Hello xanderscores

Congratulations! Sounds very good.
In the end it's all a question of taste and you have to ask yourself if you are satisfied.

So take this just as an idea: I personally would mix the viola a little louder and more powerful. Maybe also a little closer to the listener. I don't have a viola but an example of a cello that shows what I mean.

Beat
 
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xanderscores

xanderscores

Member
Incredibly nice of you all, thanks for the kind feedback and your invaluable advice.
@sekkosiki yes I read that page a while ago, but forgot about it in the meantime. Good reminder! I see that I probably over-EQd the strings with 3dB instead of slight 1dB as suggested, maybe I'll go softer on that, but it's great to hear that it's an improvement.

As I give the whole composition an overhaul, I'll share with you also the Epilogue track which is kind of cool and has violin and viola in a fairly busy orchestral mix. I'm excited!
 

sekkosiki

Senior Member
Incredibly nice of you all, thanks for the kind feedback and your invaluable advice.
@sekkosiki yes I read that page a while ago, but forgot about it in the meantime. Good reminder! I see that I probably over-EQd the strings with 3dB instead of slight 1dB as suggested, maybe I'll go softer on that, but it's great to hear that it's an improvement.

As I give the whole composition an overhaul, I'll share with you also the Epilogue track which is kind of cool and has violin and viola in a fairly busy orchestral mix. I'm excited!
I'm using a bit more than 1dB, probably 2dB, and I think even 3dB is not too much. It all depends on the sound you're looking for. If it's more like CSS sound (very warm compared to Berlin Strings) 3dB cuts are not too much I think.

Looking forward to hear it!
 
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xanderscores

xanderscores

Member
I decided to go with 1.8 dB, seems like a good compromise. I wouldn't want to EQ the brightness out of the Berlin strings which I think makes them quite appealing. But yes, in orchestral mix it's not always pleasant. The "sekkosiki"-rule proves like a good formula!

As promised - to round up the thread -, I'm sharing here with you guys my Epilogue track as well. Hope you like it!

Thanks to all of you for your great advice and support!
 

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