Using Pink Noise for Orchestral Music?

Discussion in 'Newbie Questions' started by SwedishPug, Mar 15, 2019 at 9:50 AM.

  1. SwedishPug

    SwedishPug Orchestral Composer

    Jan 31, 2019
    I've grown interested in making sure that I'm mixing at a reliable level and heard that using a pink noise can be helpful. I already used a pink noise to assure that my SPL is within the recommended range but I heard that it can also be used on a track-by-track basis to assure that there is balance amongst different instruments?

    Given that orchestral instruments can play soft to loud, how would I use a pink noise to balance them?
  2. Scoremixer

    Scoremixer Member

    Apr 22, 2017
    Don't. None of the music and soundtracks you know and love were mixed that way. I can perhaps see the utility in such a technique as a beginner's shortcut for music with a very static balance, but for dynamic orchestral music with depth and texture it makes no sense.

    (Using pink noise to work to a calibrated overall SPL is, however, totally valid)
    Dietz, kleotessard, jneebz and 2 others like this.
  3. OP

    SwedishPug Orchestral Composer

    Jan 31, 2019
    Thanks! I suspected as much but it's good to hear from someone with more experience.
  4. pmcrockett

    pmcrockett Senior Member

    Nov 3, 2014
    Saint Louis
    I agree with Scoremixer that you shouldn't use a pink noise reference to balance an orchestra mix, but there are still uses for pink noise in the context of a sampled orchestra. I recently used pink noise to balance individual articulations in a string library whose default balance I wasn't happy with. I started using the noise reference partway through the balancing process, and it made things go more quickly. I matched max dynamics, so low dynamics ended up a bit out of kilter because of dynamic range differences, but I was happy with the overall result.

    The only reason I can think of to match different instruments or full sections this way, though, would be if you wanted a template that gave you exact visual dB differences between instruments. The goal here, though, wouldn't be to set everything to the same level and call them balanced but rather to set everything so it has the same level relative to a zeroed DAW fader before balancing things by ear so that the faders' positions will thereafter give you an accurate visual on the dB differences between instruments. And I think this would be more trouble than it was worth given that adding prefader effects to anything would likely throw this balance off.
  5. shawnsingh

    shawnsingh Member

    Jun 2, 2018
    Offering a different perspective, for me I only bother to do a rough balance of orchestral instruments because I end up automating the cc11 it cc7 level on every track anyway. Changing cc11 like that still can be natural - I would bet that mixing engineers of traditional classical recordings also ride faders and tweak spot mic mixes within a track sometimes. It also allows me to use different colors from different velocity layers, which can add more options to tweaking a virtual performance.

    Also, I found that listening in a car on a fast highway reveals a lot about the loudness dynamics of a mix. Quieter sounds quickly disappear under the loud road noise competing with the car stereo. It somehow heightens your sensitivity to volume changes, and reveals when you might want to rebalance things or change compression, and reveals which approximate frequency band needs the dynamics help, etc. It's been on my to-do list to experiment with pink or white noise to try and get the same effect when I'm actually at my computer mixing at home. Could be another way to use pink noise.

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