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Woodwinds vs brass volumes

Fermile

Geffen Studios
I was always interested on why does woodwinds in ff sounds much lower in volume than brass...

It is hard to hear all instruments in full orchestra, have to add some gain for ww section in order to hear it properly.

Would appreciate a good answer

Thanks
 
I am always in favour of experience vs ‘theory’.

Suggestion therefore:
I would say go stand next to a woodwind ( section) and then to brass ( section ) and you will know why.
Especially if you hear them going through the dynamic layers up to full ff(f)

Enjoy!
 

Mihkel Zilmer

Senior Member
I am not a physics expert.. but my understanding is that brass instruments are more efficient at projecting high harmonic partials and as a result they require less energy to produce the same amount of perceived volume.

Woodwinds = fewer high partials = more mellow and quieter, more easily hidden in an orchestral context. The tone of a flute is rather close to a sine wave - with few higher harmonic partials. Brass and strings have lots more higher partials.

That said, in a full symphonic context, you should not expect to hear every woodwind instrument well. When everyone in the orchestra is playing together, woodwinds are more of an added colour - you will notice when they are there, but won't necessarily hear each note they play clearly.

Another example - distortion, saturation or (harmonic) exciters are often added during mixing to make a sound seem louder. All that really does is add higher partials to the sound.

Again, not a physics expert, so maybe someone has a better answer?
 

Beat Kaufmann

Active Member
I was always interested on why does woodwinds in ff sounds much lower in volume than brass...
It is hard to hear all instruments in full orchestra, have to add some gain for ww section in order to hear it properly.
Would appreciate a good answer
Thanks
Hello Fermile
Brass instruments are reinforced by relatively long horn forms. These bell-shaped instruments are designed for very specific tones and keys. Woodwind instruments generally have less long sound bodies.
The difference in volume is compensated by placing woodwinds in front of brass (seen from the listener).

Sound-Example (Recording 2018, Kultur- & Konzerthaus, Luzern (KKL))

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Samples are actually all optimally recorded. That means flute, harp, viola or timpani, they are all at the same level - from an audio technical point of view. As a mixer, you have to provide the instruments (which are usually placed in the depth of the room) with the necessary power, which they actually would have in reality.
That's why instruments like woodwinds, brass, percussion etc. almost always need effects like compressors, maximizers & Co.
So it's quite normal to have to adjust the volume of the individual instrument groups to each other. This is best done with the ears and not with theoretical dB values.

All the best
Beat
 
OP
Fermile

Fermile

Geffen Studios
Hello Fermile
Brass instruments are reinforced by relatively long horn forms. These bell-shaped instruments are designed for very specific tones and keys. Woodwind instruments generally have less long sound bodies.
The difference in volume is compensated by placing woodwinds in front of brass (seen from the listener).

Sound-Example (Recording 2018, Kultur- & Konzerthaus, Luzern (KKL))

------------------------------------------

Samples are actually all optimally recorded. That means flute, harp, viola or timpani, they are all at the same level - from an audio technical point of view. As a mixer, you have to provide the instruments (which are usually placed in the depth of the room) with the necessary power, which they actually would have in reality.
That's why instruments like woodwinds, brass, percussion etc. almost always need effects like compressors, maximizers & Co.
So it's quite normal to have to adjust the volume of the individual instrument groups to each other. This is best done with the ears and not with theoretical dB values.

All the best
Beat
Thank you, great answer.
 

ZenFaced

Active Member
I was always interested on why does woodwinds in ff sounds much lower in volume than brass...

It is hard to hear all instruments in full orchestra, have to add some gain for ww section in order to hear it properly.

Would appreciate a good answer

Thanks
When full orchestra is playing woodwinds are generally used more for adding color and nuance to the other sections rather than being used to hear them individually on their own.
 

Mark Schmieder

Senior Member
When I was in Liverpool a few weeks ago and heard the symphony, I was surprised to see most of the brass on an elevated platform ABOVE and directly BEHIND the woodwinds! I would have thought that would make them louder still, but someone worked some magic with the baffles, distances, etc., and somehow the tricks that have been performed over the decades in that performance hall (a beautiful space, but known for a long time to be "problematic" and "unbalanced"), got things to match in levels.

There were also glass/plastic "curtains" in front of the percussion, and I think maybe the tuba, but that might have had less to do with acoustics and section balance than about protecting the hearing of nearby players, as there have been lawsuits recently from players who have develop tinnitus and other issues due to being to close to the timpani or tuba.
 

Rodney Money

On V.I. avoiding work.
When I was in Liverpool a few weeks ago and heard the symphony, I was surprised to see most of the brass on an elevated platform ABOVE and directly BEHIND the woodwinds! I would have thought that would make them louder still, but someone worked some magic with the baffles, distances, etc., and somehow the tricks that have been performed over the decades in that performance hall (a beautiful space, but known for a long time to be "problematic" and "unbalanced"), got things to match in levels.

There were also glass/plastic "curtains" in front of the percussion, and I think maybe the tuba, but that might have had less to do with acoustics and section balance than about protecting the hearing of nearby players, as there have been lawsuits recently from players who have develop tinnitus and other issues due to being to close to the timpani or tuba.
Yes, when I used to play in larger ensembles they would have us trumpet players on risers and shields behind the horns to project their sound forward. Other instruments you have to watch out for is being in front of the trombones and bass trombone. My mentor inadvertently turned me off of perusing an orchestra gig by telling me he has some permanent hearing lost due to playing in front of trombones in orchestras. He said, “People don’t actually realize how loud it can be playing in an orchestra and more needs to be done concerning protection against hearing lost.” That’s why to this day I either play solos or in small chamber ensembles. I personally have a professional quintet consisting of 4 of my closest friends, and with our instrumentation being: 2 trumpets (doubling on cornets, flugelhorns, and bass trumpet,) then trombone (doubling in euphonium, bass trombone, and percussion,) tuba (doubling on bassoon and voice,) and pipe organ where there’s little repertoire that we cannot cover, and we sound just as big as an orchestra without losing soloistic detail or in fear of hearing damage.
 
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