Need Tips On Mixing Orchestral And Breaks

Okay so I’m doing this ambitious track which turned out into this horriffic mix of
breakbeats, orchestration, bassline and guitars… And I’m 100% lost, not knowing
what the hell I’m doing and my ears are so used to everything by now that my
objectivity is as far away as Laika… And I REALLY NEED SOME TIPS ON MIXING!!!
I don’t even know if it still sounds audible from a musical/enjoyement point of view…

I’d love to put the xrns up, but I’m using edirol orchestra, satyr-8 and magnus choir vsti’s, so…
if you have them, I can give it to you, including the orchestra performance file. If not, you’re gonna
have to settle with this mp3… I hope it’ll do and if not, I guess this topic is a totall waste of both
your and my time. Sorry.

And thanks in advance!

i don’t have any mixing tips, but i wanted to compliment the track :)

  • Get the stereo spread off your kick(s)… and if that’s just the kick sample, then MONOISE IT! … perhaps do this for all the drums… drums should be in the center of a busy track like this so as to ground it ;)
  • Guitars could be cranked a bit… I’d try lofi’ing them with 100% quality, as they seem to need some high end crunch
  • Along with the guitars, bring the snares up a slight bit and try lofi-ing them too… they need some more punch
  • Gate, gate, and gate some more… I’d suggest attempting to gate the guitars before you crank/distort/lofi them so they have more punch… the drums seem fine in this respect however
  • Orchestral samples may need more air… perhaps a verb effect that gives them some stereo spread but doesn’t extend the transients too far … remember if you’ve got short orchestral hits, to gate them so their transients don’t muddy the mix
  • For gating of smooth things like bass and orch hits, I always suggest using the expander in Izotope Ozone of you’ve got it as it does very nice work… but the Renoise gate will work too

Take these for what they’re worth (ie: back up your track before using any of my suggestions) … I’m not a pro, I just know what I’ve done in the past to clean up heavy mixes. I stand by Ozone’s multiband expander because it works f****ing amazingly on almost everything, including the crappiest indy band mixdowns you’ve ever heard. If you have it and want some help using it, lemme know, I can put together a quick tutorial or something. Good luck :D (great track btw ;) )

that tutorial would be appreciated nonetheless! :)


Ok… I broke and decided to write a mini-tut. Here it is!

Hey Botb - I like the music in this one… For some reason I’m imagining an evil circus with some 80s Miami Vice chase scene! :o


For my money I’m not much into Byte’s suggestions, and think you can get a way better sound here with a few reductive approaches. You’re actually not that far off something very good here. A little less aggressive on the master comp/limmit; reductive EQs, and some panning tricks should get you through.

I’d love to have a tweak on the mix myself, so PM me if you’d like to try that. I’ve got all the VSTs except Magnus Choir, but would be more than happy to get it to help you out.

Keep in mind that mixing is subjective… and whether or not you agree with my advice foo, he might still benefit from it :P … and my ideas were quite reductive with the gating and such… I just don’t see the point in reducing the volume of the rest of the track when only 2 instruments need to be louder… but as I said… subjectivity. Also, I’s like to point out that made the suggestions I did because I assumed that BotB had already attempted simply EQing and adjusting levels. I do agree with laying back on the compression/limiting though… that’s my pet peeve ;)

Well we can both do a mix and the winner gets to wear a satanic cowboy hat.

Thanks for the tips guys! Foo, I’ll upload the xrns tonight and we’ll ‘work something out’ for the magnus choir ;) Byte-Smasher, I forgot about the lofi! Thanks a bunch, gonna add it to ze guitarz lat0r!

I’ve played a LOT with compression and EQ, but the thing is: I want to play this live… it needs to be loud, phat, upfront in yo face and in no need of extra gain. However, just cranking the volume of an orchestra gets you clipping, so I tried to ‘hide’ those peaks with a compression. Perhaps I need a multiband for the orchestra.

I took away a LOT of reverb off the orchestra to make it sound more tight.
It’s most tempting to make it sound spacious and deep and get away
with it, but once you start adding beats and bass, the verb gets in the way. I don’t think I’ll do much changes on the reverb. The different
aspects of the track should correspond with eachother and having a
spacious orchestra next to a tight break is too big a contrast.

There’s already quite a bit of gating going on, but I’m inexperienced with
using them, so still learning my ways with it. I’ll play some more.

The hardest part of mixing this thing is getting all the aspects audible,
making a compromise between melodic content and rythmic mayhem.
Thanks again for the tips! Expect a link with xrns file somewhere tonight, I’d love some expertise on this one!!

Also cheers for the props, I was actually aiming for a nuskool neo samurai bossbattle bonanza track :D

If you’re going to add reverb, use one with a source bandpass so you can selectively decide which frequencies you want to use. I just did a rough master of a track last night where I used the reverb in ozone to fatten a track’s bass by telling it to only verb the bass freqs with a short verb decay. Keep in mind that if you’re using reverb for warmth or stereo space, you can always gate the results too… that way you keep the effect but ditch the unwanted transient. Oh shit, did I mention that nasty gate word again? Drat… I can’t seem to get through a post without doing that these days :P

reverbing bass is often an obsolete addition. The new onboard mpreverb
has the possibility to add enough colour to suit my needs, I’m quite happy
with how the reverb sounds right now, especially on the beats.

And yes, I did gate the reverb on the orchestra to get it more under control. I don’t like drowning something in reverb, unless I want to emphasize something with depth. Otherwise, I like my sound like I like my girls: clean and tight ;)

for my ears it’s way too sharp with not enough bass. Sounds like digitally distorted with unpleasent screaming mids and highs … Maybe a stupid idea, but maybe just a lowpass on some of the tracks and try to make them a little bit smoother first of all … the song is great though.

Well if you like your sound clean and tight, then gating will definitely help </BEAT_DEAD_HORSE>

… but yah… as a general rule these days, I try to only apply stereo enhancements to upper frequencies, so as to keep the bass nice and tight in the middle of the track… but at the same time, I try to highpass everything except the tracks I want to drive the bass… of course those highpassed channels don’t sound as good by themselves without the bassy bits now, but in a mix, they have a chance to shine AND let the bass boom. Same goes for reverberative transients… I try to kill them wherever I can, because unwanted transients will muddy up a mix faster than you can say “wtf?” … and when every track has even a small transient, it can really take away from the aggression of the overall track. I’m a huge believer in negative space now.

Not only can it work to emphasize your point,

but it can also make those aggressive beats easier for the brain to distinguish from the background noise. ;)

how do you kill your transients ? I know of dominion which works fine, but I would gladly try another solution.

I’m always very careful with using high- and lowpass. Still, you’re very
right Byte, about the low frequencies, they should be in the middle…
I tried making the beats more ‘broad’ so that they would accompany the
orchestra more, as it is quite broad itself. But especially in the beginning
this has a very strange effect as it jumps from the left to the right.

Maybe I should try some different approaches… I like your idea of
lowpassing some parts, Looza! Gonna give that a try.

Can’t wait to get this track to work! I have made another 7 orchestra
tracks that are begging me for beats, hehe… Now that I passed the first
threshold of abusing my own melodic content, I have a better idea of
where I want to go with the flavour.

But goddamn, how I need monitor speakers :(

Well, I was using the gallows for a while, but then someone got me hooked on the guillotine… most lately though, I’ve been providing them with higher grade opium than they’re used to and they just keel over in their spare time.

… oh wait… we’re talking sound transients :P Well, that’s easy:

  • Use gates (preferably multiband)
  • Use downward expansion (also preferably multiband… companders can downward expand)
  • Use shorter envelopes on samples… or even better… use envelopes on ALL your samples
  • Use less/no reverb … keep in mind that properly set up delay may sound better and mud the mix less
  • Don’t brickwall compress… but if you really must, wait till your final mastering stage, and only do it on the master… but… just don’t brickwall compress ffs.

Oh course, there are exceptions to every rule, but these are the best ways to eliminate unwanted transients. Keep in mind that with percussive instruments, especially kicks and snares, it’s the initial hit that makes the impact on the listener, and their ears could care less about the resulting “OOM”… in fact, psychologically speaking, if you hear the beginning punch of a kick, your brain will fill in the rest. Often times I’ll take a huge sounding kick, highpass the <100hz freqs out, and envelope it so you can just hear that initial pedal slapping the skin. It still sounds huge after the fact, and it doesn’t make my mix clip ;)

wait, there are some contradicting infos in your post. as I understand it transients are those “things” that make up the attack-phase of a sound which in turn make a sond snappy (or not, then there are no transients).

so, what you wrote :

using a gate with a small attack does kill transients.

downward expansion … no clue what you mean. my music is always loud as shit, I don’t have to do this. :P (just joking, I know what you mean, although I do it differently)

shorter envelopes do actually feed transients, making them stronger and able to fight back. not good.

no reverb : I am with you there. I like my sounds dry.

brickwall compress … depends. Somehow I am too stupid to understand the idea of compressors, all those terms of attack, release and all that. infact, if I use the preset of a compressor (any compressor) I end up with something I don’t want, a sound that “snaps” like hell and then gets soft. So I always use them as limiters (more like a clipper) with adjustable knee and then lower the makeup thus effectively killing my transient this way (by generally lowering them down).

However, check dominion ( which allows you to set an attack-envelope for almost every sound, quite useful to soften anything with a hard attack sound.

Downward expansion simply refers to using the effect known as an Expander “improperly” as a gate by turning the ratio down instead of up.

Shorter envelopes kill transients because the instrument plays for less of a time… I’m not sure how this would add to your transients.

Compression works by pushing the volume down when a spike in volume (above a certain threshold) is detected… people often take this to the extreme by cranking the ratio up in a poor attempt to make their track sound louder… this is called brickwall compression because it sounds like the volume peaks are being held back by a brick wall that won’t budge. Compressors can be used in creative ways also, but I was specifically reffering to the brickwall compression method.

I’m not quite sure which information was conflicting, but I hope this clears up a bit :)

mhh, I think you really mean “over all loudness” or something … transients are really just the first few milliseconds of a sound.

a good explanation I once read was with the piano, when you look at a single piano-sample you have these few ms at the beginning where it is kinda lika a total loud, high-pitched noise and only after that the piano sounds evolves, which means the attack of a piano has alot of transients.

another great example is this sample :

A really extreme example (I think because the mic was too close to the hihat) but also a good example why you sometimes need to kill transients. Play that with a kick or snare with enough snap and you wonder why your level suddenly goes trough the roof (or an autolimiter reduces the master-gain to a level that you’d normally need decompression-procedures for when you get back up toward +0db). And I would say brickwall limiting is the best solution for this particular problem, and not only brickwalling the entire mix but this particular sample on it’s own. (altough I would actually manually edit it on sample level for this extreme example (which is btw from a commercial library)).

the point of all this is that you normally you have f.e. the first milliseconds of each first beat where alot of sounds (or their transients) fight for their snap, basedrum, a hihat, some bassounds, some arpeggiated melody and so on and so forth, the question is if all those sounds really need to be that snappy, you normaly wouldn’t recognize the particular snappiness of a melodic “pling” (from the arpeggiated melody) when a huge basedrum kicks at the same moment, you can kill the transient of that “pling”, doesnt matter anyway.

But I may be totally wrong about this, maybe someone got a third opinion. :D

Transients are short attack sounds that are peak sound rather than sustained sounds. Gating them is misses the point.

Transients help expression and should be preserved as much as artistically necessary. Soft quality compression can temper these to make a mix work.