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Internal articulation balancing

Discussion in 'Template Balancing' started by Stan Kirejew, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. Hi everyone,

    Mike described in his class how he balances the articulation levels within each instrument, e.g. 'sustain' patches are the loudest on strings, 'staccatos' are normally way too loud, 'pizzicatos' need to be much quieter than they are set by default, etc.

    I found this bit of information very valuable, which lead me to the following question: do these relative volume levels also apply to other instruments, like say, the oboe or the french horn? Would I also need to pull down the level of staccatos on the horns or winds in general to match the maximum volume of the long notes?

    What about the 'sforzato' and 'fortepiano' patches? Do they actually go above the sustain levels?
    Runar Lundvall likes this.
  2. I have a related question: If I understood the Met Ark 1 manual correctly (http://www.orchestraltools.com/downloads/user_guides/CAPSULE User Guide MA1.pdf ), their library should give an accurate representation of how loud instruments and articulations are relative to each other at their loudest, right?

  3. I'm speaking from a brass player's perspective and several years of teaching and working with woodwinds. The method of tone production and articulation has less to do with "volume" than it does with the definition of the attack. In my opinion, the subtleties of volume with regard to articulation are less pronounced in winds than in the string family. The MOST significant factor affecting volume & timbre is the range.

    I'll stick to brass for these comments when ranking the relative volumes of articulation techniques:
    cuivre/bells up technique [+100% by definition you're playing in excess of the standard loud volume)
    tongued (sfz, accented, marcato) [100%]
    tongued (tenuto, staccato, multiple tongued, fluttertongued, etc.) [90ish%]
    slurred [SLIGHTLY softer than tongued, but it is negligible...85ish% ?]

    Note that the articulations fall within a pretty narrow dynamic window, meaning I wouldn't tune the faders or CC levels too much (if at all) on a per articulation basis. Instead, I'd rely on overall mod wheel, velocity, and expression curves for phrasing. For many libraries, you'll need to do some curve sculpting to make the attacks sound realistic.

    Straight mute has a moderate impact on overall volume, whereas a cup mute has a significant effect. It would be hard to quantify a percentage reduction, but for ballpark figures (please don't take these literally) straight mute is like a 20% overall reduction and cup mute like 40%.

    Lastly, dynamic effects like fortepiano just fall within the normal overall dynamic range, It describes the strength, duration, and rate of decay. Sampled dynamic effects (like fp) sound realistic, but may be challenging to sync to the host tempo depending on the library's scripting.

    As I mentioned at the top, the main dynamic factor is range. For most brasses, they are louder at the high end, and softer at the low end. It is possible with larger equipment or mic placement to bark out the low notes. The woodwinds are a little more nuanced with the range/volume formula. Oboes and Saxes have difficulty playing soft in the extreme low register, but they're the exception to the rule (lows are soft and highs are loud).
  4. Thank you, Bradley. That's some useful information!

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