evilmonster18

mixing Piano having frequency clash with Violins

11 posts in this topic

Hey everyone,

I'm currently working on a track that starts off with a solo piano and slowly starts building off of that and adding a whole lot of new instruments as it progresses. Currently, I'm having two problems with this that I'm having difficulties fixing:

1. The piano gets 'too loud'. What I mean by this is that, at the beggining, the piano starts real quiet, playing at around -18 dB, and in the most intense parts, which may get even more intense later on, it goes up until +5 dB. These values make sense since there's a lot of dynamics going on with the piano, but I was wondering if this could be a problem, since it'll cause clipping. I've tried compressing it, but I feel like that ruins the entire dynamics of it and makes it lose its emotional power.

2. My violins are clashing with the piano. There's a part where both the piano and the violins together start rising and getting louder and louder and I can hear the violins being completely smothered and drowned out by the piano, which goes much louder than them. I've read online that these instruments play in very similar frequency ranges, which is probably the reason for this, so I was wondering what was the best way to go about this without sacrificing the sound of either of them.

If my explanations don't seem too clear, I can provide a sample of the track so it's easier to understand. Thank you for the help :)

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For question 1: make sure to bring down the level of ALL your tracks. You can always bring them up later with mastering/a limiter if needed, but especially for the kind of sound you're going for, you probably don't want to squash the life out of it with heavy compression. For me, it's not uncommon to have my individual tracks set to somewhere between -4 and -15db, depending on the type of sound, and Bitwig will out of the box set the default level of a track to -10db whenever you create a new track (very convenient, a pity not all DAWs do this). Digital clipping is something you will want to avoid, because things will start sounding bad.

With regards to question 2, that's something you can either fix in your orchestration (what instruments play what parts in what range) or try to patch up with mixing. I'd try to fix it in your orchestration first by either playing the violins an octave higher or lower, or playing the piano in a higher or lower octave, and see how that goes. In real life instruments, this will also affect the tone (timbre) of the instruments, which may or may not fit your track. Hard to tell without hearing it :)

If you are really dead set on keeping them in the same octave, then you can try to patch things up in your mix. Panning the strings and piano so they are not in each others' way can be a big help, and applying an EQ to them to cut away the parts of the sound you don't need and make the instruments more distinctive and separate is also something to consider. And check the volumes of course; if the piano is so loud that it drowns out the violins that you deem important, then the piano is probably too loud and simply needs a volume reduction.

Lastly, if you can't really hear some of the background parts and if you mute them you don't notice anything different, it might be a good idea to cut them. It's not something I'm good at (yet) but it can be a big help in getting clarity in your mix.

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56 minutes ago, evilmonster18 said:

Hey everyone,

I'm currently working on a track that starts off with a solo piano and slowly starts building off of that and adding a whole lot of new instruments as it progresses. Currently, I'm having two problems with this that I'm having difficulties fixing:

1. The piano gets 'too loud'. What I mean by this is that, at the beggining, the piano starts real quiet, playing at around -18 dB, and in the most intense parts, which may get even more intense later on, it goes up until +5 dB. These values make sense since there's a lot of dynamics going on with the piano, but I was wondering if this could be a problem, since it'll cause clipping. I've tried compressing it, but I feel like that ruins the entire dynamics of it and makes it lose its emotional power.

2. My violins are clashing with the piano. There's a part where both the piano and the violins together start rising and getting louder and louder and I can hear the violins being completely smothered and drowned out by the piano, which goes much louder than them. I've read online that these instruments play in very similar frequency ranges, which is probably the reason for this, so I was wondering what was the best way to go about this without sacrificing the sound of either of them.

If my explanations don't seem too clear, I can provide a sample of the track so it's easier to understand. Thank you for the help :)

Can you post a screenshot of the MIDI of your Violins and Piano? Or sheet music if it's live instruments?

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35 minutes ago, Jorito said:

For question 1: make sure to bring down the level of ALL your tracks. You can always bring them up later with mastering/a limiter if needed, but especially for the kind of sound you're going for, you probably don't want to squash the life out of it with heavy compression. For me, it's not uncommon to have my individual tracks set to somewhere between -4 and -15db, depending on the type of sound, and Bitwig will out of the box set the default level of a track to -10db whenever you create a new track (very convenient, a pity not all DAWs do this). Digital clipping is something you will want to avoid, because things will start sounding bad.

With regards to question 2, that's something you can either fix in your orchestration (what instruments play what parts in what range) or try to patch up with mixing. I'd try to fix it in your orchestration first by either playing the violins an octave higher or lower, or playing the piano in a higher or lower octave, and see how that goes. In real life instruments, this will also affect the tone (timbre) of the instruments, which may or may not fit your track. Hard to tell without hearing it :)

If you are really dead set on keeping them in the same octave, then you can try to patch things up in your mix. Panning the strings and piano so they are not in each others' way can be a big help, and applying an EQ to them to cut away the parts of the sound you don't need and make the instruments more distinctive and separate is also something to consider. And check the volumes of course; if the piano is so loud that it drowns out the violins that you deem important, then the piano is probably too loud and simply needs a volume reduction.

Lastly, if you can't really hear some of the background parts and if you mute them you don't notice anything different, it might be a good idea to cut them. It's not something I'm good at (yet) but it can be a big help in getting clarity in your mix.

Thanks! I'm gonna try all those tips out :)

5 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Can you post a screenshot of the MIDI of your Violins and Piano? Or sheet music if it's live instruments?

I'm gonna post screenshots referring to a 15 seconds section where both the piano and violins crescendo.

kAvhhWD.pngt

That's the piano playing in the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th octaves. Automated notes volume through velocity.

hou9wuO.png

Those are the violins playing on the 6th and 7th octave. Automated the strings volume through mod wheel.

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Looking at the string part, it seems you are using the violins more as a pad type instrument rather than in an orchestral setting (I would have expected the parts to be spread out more across octaves for orchestral strings, if you're talking basses, celli, violas and violins 1 & 2). Also, looking at the specific notes you used, it seems that the violins are more of a background part here rather than something that needs to be on the foreground. There's probably no harm in just changing the strings to another octave (lower, probably), from what I can see.

Maybe ACO has additional insights too.

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33 minutes ago, Jorito said:

Looking at the string part, it seems you are using the violins more as a pad type instrument rather than in an orchestral setting (I would have expected the parts to be spread out more across octaves for orchestral strings, if you're talking basses, celli, violas and violins 1 & 2). Also, looking at the specific notes you used, it seems that the violins are more of a background part here rather than something that needs to be on the foreground. There's probably no harm in just changing the strings to another octave (lower, probably), from what I can see.

Maybe ACO has additional insights too.

Yeah, I am using them more as a pad and not a main instrumen (they're violins 2 btw). I tried lowering one octave but it was way too noticeable. I ended up changing the volume of the instruments and changing the dynamics of them a bit too, as well as changing their eq's and they definitely sound much better now, so thank you for all the help!

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3 hours ago, evilmonster18 said:

Thanks! I'm gonna try all those tips out :)

I'm gonna post screenshots referring to a 15 seconds section where both the piano and violins crescendo.

kAvhhWD.pngt

That's the piano playing in the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th octaves. Automated notes volume through velocity.

hou9wuO.png

Those are the violins playing on the 6th and 7th octave. Automated the strings volume through mod wheel.

Just as I suspected. :)

The reason you are getting a clash between the strings and the piano is because they both are playing exactly the same notes in most of the places — creating a unison. However, the rhythmic difference (drone vs movement) results in a unison that is the same in pitch only.

For example, what looks to be an arpeggio in the piano is occurring on exactly the same frequencies (notes) as the strings, which are constantly droning on those same pitches. Those bottom notes on the piano will stand out in particular since nothing else seems to be happening at the same time that instrument enters those frequencies.

Whenever you have two or more instruments playing in unison, they create a doubling and will either sound more like one cohesive unit, or one will have some sort of affect upon the other. In this case, your violins soften the piano's timbre, which is why it always seems like the piano is dominant over the strings no matter how you fiddle with the volume.

The only real solution to this problem, is to fix the part writing so that the piano and strings are not playing the same notes on the upper registers. That will allow the ear to hear them as two distinctly separate parts.

If you want to maintain that doubling, I would recommend you have the string section double the piano's upper notes in the same rhythm as well as pitch. Perhaps with a shorter articulation like pizzicatos, staccato, or have the violins double that arpeggio played legato and at a quieter dynamic.

You can mangle it with audio plugins like equalizers and volume faders all you want, but at best you'll get a slightly-less-worse result. With EQ, you'll not improve its actual clarity but rather make particular overtones and such stand out in one sound vs the other. With volume and dynamics alone, you'll be forced to make one sound to be excessively dominant (piano most likely here).

So I'd either double the piano with the strings exactly, or adjust the part-writing to include more contrary or oblique motion among the voices so as to keep everything harmonious, but residing in its own pitch range.

Hope that helps! :grin:

 

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21 hours ago, timaeus222 said:

In the future, you could also post the audio file; it would be easier to help if we can hear it, not just inspect the piano roll.

Thanks for the suggestion! I would have no problem posting it in case anyone request. I'll probably post it in some other topic in the near future to ask for general feedback on the production, arrangement and mixing of it.

20 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Just as I suspected. :)

The reason you are getting a clash between the strings and the piano is because they both are playing exactly the same notes in most of the places — creating a unison. However, the rhythmic difference (drone vs movement) results in a unison that is the same in pitch only.

For example, what looks to be an arpeggio in the piano is occurring on exactly the same frequencies (notes) as the strings, which are constantly droning on those same pitches. Those bottom notes on the piano will stand out in particular since nothing else seems to be happening at the same time that instrument enters those frequencies.

Whenever you have two or more instruments playing in unison, they create a doubling and will either sound more like one cohesive unit, or one will have some sort of affect upon the other. In this case, your violins soften the piano's timbre, which is why it always seems like the piano is dominant over the strings no matter how you fiddle with the volume.

The only real solution to this problem, is to fix the part writing so that the piano and strings are not playing the same notes on the upper registers. That will allow the ear to hear them as two distinctly separate parts.

 If you want to maintain that doubling, I would recommend you have the string section double the piano's upper notes in the same rhythm as well as pitch. Perhaps with a shorter articulation like pizzicatos, staccato, or have the violins double that arpeggio played legato and at a quieter dynamic.

 You can mangle it with audio plugins like equalizers and volume faders all you want, but at best you'll get a slightly-less-worse result. With EQ, you'll not improve its actual clarity but rather make particular overtones and such stand out in one sound vs the other. With volume and dynamics alone, you'll be forced to make one sound to be excessively dominant (piano most likely here).

So I'd either double the piano with the strings exactly, or adjust the part-writing to include more contrary or oblique motion among the voices so as to keep everything harmonious, but residing in its own pitch range.

Hope that helps! :grin:

 

I just learned a lot from your post! I don't have much knowledge inside all the theory and general do's and do not's of orchestration. I just do what sounds good to me and go with the flow. But thank you for such a detailed feedback and help. I really appreciate it ^^

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On 5/16/2018 at 2:29 PM, evilmonster18 said:

I just learned a lot from your post! I don't have much knowledge inside all the theory and general do's and do not's of orchestration. I just do what sounds good to me and go with the flow. But thank you for such a detailed feedback and help. I really appreciate it ^^

Anytime

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For #1, lower your volume fader so that you don't get clipping, then automate the volume to be louder during the quiet parts. It's amazing how much a little automation can fix things that would otherwise be impossible or take hours of tweaking plugin parameters.

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