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Woodwind Balance

jbuhler

Senior Member
got any preferences/recommendations?
Find recordings you like and listen. I learned my repertory largely through listening extensively to recordings from the 1960s and 1970s on the standard commercial classical labels. (This was mostly done on LPs and shifted to CDs in the late 1980s and 1990s—and, yes, I've gone to plenty of live symphony concerts as well.) And I balance from that long experience. If I was going to do it systematically, I would choose short passages from the standard repertory that were suitable to mock up and use reference tracks to test the balance. Doing mockups of film cues, as many post around here, is also a great exercise for tweaking balancing for cinematic scoring, which has a somewhat different representation of the orchestra in recording.
 

fixxer49

Bouncing Consultant
Find recordings you like and listen. I learned my repertory largely through listening extensively to recordings from the 1960s and 1970s on the standard commercial classical labels. (This was mostly done on LPs and shifted to CDs in the late 1980s and 1990s—and, yes, I've gone to plenty of live symphony concerts as well.) And I balance from that long experience. If I was going to do it systematically, I would choose short passages from the standard repertory that were suitable to mock up and use reference tracks to test the balance. Doing mockups of film cues, as many post around here, is also a great exercise for tweaking balancing for cinematic scoring, which has a somewhat different representation of the orchestra in recording.
for sonic excellence ( not necessarily quality of performance ) Reference Recordings are very hard to beat . If it's performance then it's a minefield . Dorati's Planets are good. As is his Rite of Spring. Solti's Wagner is stunning. the list is long

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thanks @ed buller & @jbuhler (are you related?!) I’ve built up a pretty good reference list over the years, but I’m always keen for recommendations that I may not have heard considered.
If I may add to the mix, one of my absolute favs is George Szell & Cleveland Orchestra’s Bartok Concerto for Orchestra. I find it especially good for studying balance because of the way it breaks the sections up.
 

AlexanderSchiborr

Senior Member
Make a big brass chord played at ff. Have the woodwinds layering the same chord also full blast. Adjust the volume so the brass is just loud enough that the woodwinds feel worthless and you've got it
I wouldn´t recommend that thing...for several reasons, but just simply one reason: you voice woodwinds in a different way to balance out a chord with brass. Voicing woods have different idiomatics. However, at the op: Listen to (decca tree) recordings, study orchestration, do that 10 years.
 
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Benjamin Duk

Member
It's actually quite tricky because if you listen to Princess Leia's theme is starts with Solo Flute - Solo Oboe - Solo Horn, but the flute and oboe are louder here probably because close/spot mics were mixed in so the solo can stick out more, and then when the rest of the orchestra comes in they are no where near as loud as they were before so it makes it hard to judge the actual level of the flute and oboe in the context of the entire orchestra.

As @fixxer49 has asked. Would be nice for some recommendations.
 
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Casiquire

Senior Member
It's actually quite tricky because if you listen to Princess Leia's theme is starts with Solo Flute - Solo Oboe - Solo Horn, but the flute and oboe are louder here probably because close/spot mics were mixed in so the solo can stick out more, and then when the rest of the orchestra comes in they are no where near as loud as they were before so it makes it hard to judge the actual level of the flute and oboe in the context of the entire orchestra.

As @fixxer49 has asked. Would be nice for some recommendations.
That's why is suggest listening to music that was written to work without spot mics over movie soundtracks. Go a little further back. If you like the style, try composers like Holst who are cinematic but pre-microphone.
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
That's why is suggest listening to music that was written to work without spot mics over movie soundtracks. Go a little further back. If you like the style, try composers like Holst who are cinematic but pre-microphone.
But then you aren't learning the conventions of cinematic scoring and recording. And it presumes that a recording of Holst is less a representation. But classical recording also has its conventions, and it matters greatly what you are trying to represent.
 

Pantonal

Member
When you go back to compositions from the era before recorded music you are learning the normal conventions of classical music, but since you're listening to recordings (unless you actually go to a concert) you're learning the conventions of recording proper orchestration. Since the product of using samples is a recording and it seems the OP wishes to learn the balance of proper orchestration that would seem to me to be a good match. Does that make sense?
 

Casiquire

Senior Member
But then you aren't learning the conventions of cinematic scoring and recording. And it presumes that a recording of Holst is less a representation. But classical recording also has its conventions, and it matters greatly what you are trying to represent.
My interpretation of the original question was that it was about the natural balance between instruments. You won't get that as reliably from cinematic recordings which, you're right, have different standards.
 

markleake

Recovering sale addict
Hey guys,

I came across this when looking for Orchestra balance. Seems pretty good. What do you think?

https://www.sounth.de/orchestra-guide/
Maybe it would be useful, but seems like a waste of money to me. There's no real substitute to spending time learning this yourself, and just going through the process everyone else does of balancing by ear.

Really, can't you just get the same outcome by comparing your template to an existing recording?

In fact, that is one reason it's better just to do this yourself using a recording you like the balance of, rather than relying on how instruments sound at a certain recording distance in that one particular hall given in the link.
 

beyd770

Member
Hey guys,

I came across this when looking for Orchestra balance. Seems pretty good. What do you think?

https://www.sounth.de/orchestra-guide/
Have tried it, worked very well :) Great startup for composers with less experience. But I also find balancing individual instruments to the balance presented in some of the ensemblepatches, to be a easy start. If your sample library have ensemblepatches for each of the sections, but also a "full orchestra" sustain-patch f.ex, you can get quite close to a decent result.
 

AlexanderSchiborr

Senior Member
You know guys, that might be not the way how everybody works but when it comes to knowing how to balance not only woodwinds, but the entire orchestral section, in my experience what helped me a lot was to mock up a lot of repertoire ranging from classical music (Mozart) to late 19th century stuff (Wagner, Strauss, Tschaikowsky) using good reference recordings. I did that for around 4 years doing around 40+ pieces and and it helped me tremendously shaping my sense of knowing the balance in the orchestra and how it translates to samples. I am even at a point now where I can balance basic mockups pretty acurate without any source material and using the source just to shapen out little details. Why that works imo is that you develop an ear for the balance of the orchestra and that you know when you listen e.g. to a dense tutti line how loud everything has to be in relation to each other. But this you won´t achieve by just reading books or doing courses. No, you have to actively sit down grab a recording, mockup the stuff and the good thing is you also learn things about how to voice chords in different registers for different sections at different dynamic timbre levels. The method is quite work intensive and no easy walk for sure but it is very rewarding on all levels. Imo everyone here I saw posting good mockups has done the one or the other thing similiar went through what I did and if you are serious about realism in your tracks there is imo no way around that. If you are not into that music then chose some classic Filmsoundtracks from the 60s-80s era which could work quite good as well.
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
But this you won´t achieve by just reading books or doing courses. No, you have to actively sit down grab a recording, mockup the stuff and the good thing is you also learn things about how to voice chords in different registers for different sections at different dynamic timbre levels. The method is quite work intensive and no easy walk for sure but it is very rewarding on all levels.
I agree with this. This kind of mocking up helps one both learn the balance of the orchestra (in recording) and internalize the conventions of orchestration.
 
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Benjamin Duk

Member
First of all I 100% agree with everyone saying that the only way to get familiar with orchestral balance is to do transcription and mockups. I have started doing this and has really helped me immensly for ear training, learning the vocabulary of the piece, orchestration and balance. There really is no substitute and is honestly quite enjoyable.

I definitely do think that listening to those type or orchestra guides are also quite useful. Just as a point of reference but should not be something to rely on. For instance after watching some Mike Verta videos it's quite surprising how much bleed actually happens from each section, where as with sample libraries the strings are recorded separately to the brass so there is no bleed from each other. That also plays a part in the overall sound of a recorded film score.
 

mikeh-375

old school
Hey Benjamin,
Truthfully, do the mock-ups and transcriptions as they are an excellent learning method as discussed above, but also perhaps instil a different way of thinking about this too if you wish. Ideally, the arranging, voicing, blending etc is an integral part of the composing, not an afterthought. This paradigm is crucial at the highest levels of composing for orchestra (JW especially) and is the most expressive way of working because of the synergy between the musical idea and its projection.
Just because you are using vi's doesn't mean you can't aspire to higher levels of attainment and procedure.
 
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VinRice

... i am a robot ...
Yes, this is true! It's also why I contend the reference for balancing should be commercial recordings of the orchestra rather than the orchestra in a hall. Recordings have very strong and very particular conventions for representing the sound of an orchestra, and these conventions relate to the live orchestra but are not (cannot) be identical to it. A recording is in that sense always a representation. (In addition, what you hear in a hall can, depending on the hall, change quite a lot based on where you are in the hall.)
Excellent advice. 100%
 
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Benjamin Duk

Member
Hey Benjamin,
Truthfully, do the mock-ups and transcriptions as they are an excellent learning method as discussed above, but also perhaps instil a different way of thinking about this too if you wish. Ideally, the arranging, voicing, blending etc is an integral part of the composing, not an afterthought. This paradigm is crucial at the highest levels of composing for orchestra (JW especially) and is the most expressive way of working because of the synergy between the musical idea and its projection.
Just because you are using vi's doesn't mean you can't aspire to higher levels of attainment and procedure.
Great advice! I'll keep this in mind. Thanks!
 
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