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Template balancing of solo instruments vs sections?

Discussion in 'Tips, Tricks & Talk' started by David Sandberg, Mar 21, 2022.

  1. I’m currently struggling to get my solo instruments in a reasonable balance with my multiple instrument sections. Having never attended a live orchestra performance and having hearing damage that makes my ears pretty unreliable at times (and all the time lately), I’m trying to combine listening with looking at a LUFS meter to get this in the ballpark, but it’s quite unclear to me what target I should be going for.

    I realize the size of the section also affects this, so let me try to start with a simpler subset of the question: if I have a section of two clarinets (for example) and then a solo clarinet, about how much softer should the solo clarinet be when both are played at full volume (as in Mike’s masterclass)?

    P.S. - I recall that a doubling of sound pressure causes a 3dB change in volume, so I’ve been wondering if getting the solo instrument to average about 3dB lower than the two-instrument section patch might be close, but I may be completely wrong in my thinking there.
    David Healey likes this.
  2. Depending on where you live that should be fairly easy to rectify :) Any orchestral performances near you?

    I assume (tell me if I'm wrong) that despite the hearing damage you can hear the differences in volume between two pieces of music. When I'm setting up a template I mockup a few bars from different pieces of music that are similar to what I'm intending to use the template for, then I play around with the volumes until they roughly sound like the original recordings. I'm not looking at meters when I do this. I wouldn't balance a template of solo instruments to be used to write a full orchestral piece, and I wouldn't balance a full orchestra to write a quartet.
    David Sandberg likes this.
  3. Even if there wasn’t an ongoing pandemic, I couldn’t now attend a live orchestra performance, as my hearing completely collapses into crackling distortion and I get physical pain from even moderately loud noises. No more concerts for me, alas. MAYBE if I were to wear earplugs, but I don’t think that would be of much value for hearing details of the sound of the orchestra.

    About balancing for a quartet, that’s not my goal here … I’m creating a template for full orchestra and trying to get the single instruments in line with that. For brass and wind instruments that means what I’d described in the original post, but for the strings, I’m trying to balance my solo strings as section leaders to be combined with the sections for additional detail, and it seems very difficult to get those balances technically correct, so I’m just making guesses as to when I think I hear enough detail being added without the section leader sticking out.

    I have fluctuating hearing loss, so both the tone and volume of things changes from minute to minute, and I also contend with fluctuating tinnitus (that’s actually the least of the issues). But I will have to keep trying. Sounds like I should find some music to mock up that has some one piece sections (e.g., bass trombone), divisi on the clarinets and other such things. I was hoping for some kind of guideline beyond that for the instruments where I’ll likely be unable to find a suitable reference for which I have the audio and the score, but I suppose there’s no royal road to balance. :)
  4. #4 Marian Szewczyk, Mar 30, 2022
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2022
    Don't stress it. The result is what matters. If the solo instruments are of any importance at all, they will usually have a separate mic. I usually have close mics for my solo tracks, and mix them so they sound natural but also loud enough.
    David Sandberg likes this.

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