Harmony Central Forums
Announcement
Collapse
No announcement yet.

How would you mix a horn section?

Collapse



X
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • How would you mix a horn section?

    My hobby soul band just finished recording rhythm tracks in a friend's hobby studio, for a band demo for getting gigs, as well as a little keepsake for us when we're all old(er) and gray(er). I want the mix to sound reasonably lifelike and straightforward.

    I'm interested in everyone's opinions on how to plan the soundstage, which I hope to keep consistent in all the cuts (more or less). Our setup is guitarist (who's a lefty and is always plays on house left), me on keyboards or 2nd guitar (house right), plus bass, drums, trumpet, sax, and trombone.

    Guitar is mono for now, but will probably get a little stereo juice to "room it up" -- but not much. Keyboards are stereo, but hard panned with 9dB drop on the left side, to put it about 45 degrees to the right. This avoids the "20-ft-wide piano" while retaining the stereo ambience. Some organ tracks are panned a little less far, to get the Leslie bouncing off the opposite wall (so to speak).

    As usual, kick and snare will be nearly centered, with stereo overheads hard panned. Bass will be center, along with lead vocals. All that's good. The guitar and keyboards balance well enough (IMHO, but let me know if you disagree).

    The question (a new one, for me) is what to do with the horns. On the quick mixes, I've put trumpet center, sax left, and trombone right, not panned quite as much as keys and guitar.

    For an instrumental like Pick Up The Pieces, that horn spread should work fine (maybe swapping trombone and sax). But for tunes with vocals ... how does one place the horns without making the mix terribly unbalanced? On some tunes there will be harmony vocals that could balance the horns.

    If you're interested in hearing them, quick mixes are at http://learjeff.net/Platform/demo . These are all mixed the same, no master compression, no FX, no EQ, and no per-song level fine-tuning, even though some players might be louder or softer in various tunes.

    Thanks -- appreciate your input!
    learjeff.net

  • #2
    Oddly, when I click the link above, it goes to http://moreclosings.com/showthread.php?sid=56153 -- which isn't the link in question, and my site is not hosted on "HostGator" either. Wussupwiddat?

    Pasting the link works.
    learjeff.net

    Comment


    • #3
      Some of it depends on how the parts were tracked.
      Stereo placement isnt all there is to mixing. You have frequency content and reverb too.
      You should be able to place all instruments placed mono center without masking if they are properly
      EQed to occupy their own proper frequency width. Thats the key too all good mixes. Reverb adds depth to parts
      and stereo panning can be used after the mono mix works well.

      For specific cover songs, you can always import a copy of the actual tune into the mix at the same
      sample rate. If your recording is 24/48 for example, upsample the copy from MP3 or 16/44.1 to 24/48 and import it
      to a stereo track. Then you can bring up one instrument at a time and match it to the original and adjust stereo
      placement, EQing, reverb, compression etc.

      The tempo and pitch may be off, but you are only doing an A/B comparison to get something close to the original.
      Then mute the commercial track and unmute your tracks and it should be fairly close to the
      original "if" your pand plays it close to the original. If not you take creative liscence and arrange the parts the
      best they can fit given the talent and tracking involved. You learn by copying mixing techniques the same way
      as you learn other peoples songs until you have enough techniques under your belt to use the tools with your
      own creativity added.

      Comment


      • #4
        Panning wise, having seen our horn section play many times, I just replicate what they do live. The entire horn section is on one side of the stage, the keys being on the opposite side since the keyboardist lays out some pretty dense jam. Within stage left I pan the trombone in the center and the trumpet and sax to opposite sides to make sure they can both be heard clearly.

        So, in absolute terms the trumpet is 100% right, the trombone is 75% right, the sax is centered.

        YMMV, of course.

        Terry D.
        Telling Stories releases 2nd CD, see our WEBSITE! Please check out my GROUPIE STORY and Tales from the Road.

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm game to try different things but here, since it's not an instrumental horn band, I would first try group them tightly and concentrate on levels and riding the note swells etc and pan somewhere in between off-center and hard either way. I might use a stereo delay or reverb and give the horns some light spread that way (that you would have to really listen for...subtle) but I would want the brass section punchy and together. If I had a rhodes or other key, I might pan that opposite. I am a sucker for ping pong tremelo on a Rhodes, same for I love to ride the spin speed on a Leslie if I can.

          I would want my primary rhythm guitar tight as a gnats ass if it was funky choppy part, compressed and placed off center but only slightly and if there is a rakey chorusy chordal type guitar as well, I would stereo that. I might experiment spreading the backing vox or group them and place them opposite.

          Comment


          • #6
            Try what works first.
            Silk City Music Factory: A Connecticut Recording Studio

            Comment


            • #7
              Hey the links to your tunes gets a 404 Page Not Found error.

              Comment


              • #8
                Some of it depends on how the parts were tracked.
                Stereo placement isnt all there is to mixing. You have frequency content and reverb too.
                You should be able to place all instruments placed mono center without masking if they are properly
                EQed to occupy their own proper frequency width. Thats the key too all good mixes. Reverb adds depth to parts
                and stereo panning can be used after the mono mix works well.
                Thanks, but you're preaching to the choir on that! I'm a big advocate of doing a lot of mixing in mono: a good mix should have clear separation and definition in mono without relying on spatial tricks -- and then add the stereo imagery to enhance the mix, rather than being necessary.

                For specific cover songs, you can always import a copy of the actual tune into the mix at the same
                sample rate. If your recording is 24/48 for example, upsample the copy from MP3 or 16/44.1 to 24/48 and import it
                to a stereo track. Then you can bring up one instrument at a time and match it to the original and adjust stereo
                placement, EQing, reverb, compression etc.
                I don't want to replicate the 60's stereo mixes of these classics! We've learned better since then. :-)

                Anyway, I'm not asking for a mixing tutorial. I've been recording and mixing since the 70's. Just what folks like to do with horn sections, to balance things out.

                Thanks in any case. I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestions.
                learjeff.net

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hey the links to your tunes gets a 404 Page Not Found error.
                  See my second post. I don't know why clicking on links on this forum is doing that and why it would go anywhere different from copy/pasting the link.
                  learjeff.net

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Panning wise, having seen our horn section play many times, I just replicate what they do live. The entire horn section is on one side of the stage, the keys being on the opposite side since the keyboardist lays out some pretty dense jam. Within stage left I pan the trombone in the center and the trumpet and sax to opposite sides to make sure they can both be heard clearly.

                    So, in absolute terms the trumpet is 100% right, the trombone is 75% right, the sax is centered.
                    Hi guy!

                    I hate to have any mono track panned full to one side, since it would be lost to anyone too close to the opposite side, but I get the drift. Live, we usually have the horn section on the guitar side, because we like the bass player between me and the drums -- he's also a lead vocalist -- and so there's more room over there. But we've also played deep rather than wide stages where the horns were in front of me.

                    But I'm sure you (and Huh) are right that the horns should be together as a group, not spread way across the soundstage. So I guess it's just whether to put them in front of guitar or keys. I'll probably let the trombone player (who will be doing a lot of the mixing) take his pick.
                    learjeff.net

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      PS: unhacked my website. Someone had clobbered my .htaccess files -- wonder how they did that! Changed my password in any case.
                      learjeff.net

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Panning wise, having seen our horn section play many times, I just replicate what they do live. The entire horn section is on one side of the stage, the keys being on the opposite side since the keyboardist lays out some pretty dense jam. Within stage left I pan the trombone in the center and the trumpet and sax to opposite sides to make sure they can both be heard clearly.

                        So, in absolute terms the trumpet is 100% right, the trombone is 75% right, the sax is centered.

                        YMMV, of course.

                        Terry D.
                        With bands that gig a lot, they've typically (hopefully, at any rate) evolved their arrangements to the point where you could pretty much just capture a live performance and it would be 'pre-mixed.'
                        .

                        music and social links | recent listening

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          With bands that gig a lot, they've typically (hopefully, at any rate) evolved their arrangements to the point where you could pretty much just capture a live performance and it would be 'pre-mixed.'
                          True dat.

                          We're more of a band that skips a lot of practices and has a few gigs a year.
                          learjeff.net

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I would love to write some horn arrangements for a rock or R&B ensemble.
                            Every paint-stroke takes you farther and farther away from your initial concept. And you have to be thankful for that. Wayne Thiebaud


                            Friend me on FACEBOOK!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              With bands that gig a lot, they've typically (hopefully, at any rate) evolved their arrangements to the point where you could pretty much just capture a live performance and it would be 'pre-mixed.'


                              "Our" horn section is a group of guys who play out a lot (they just did an episode of "Dancing With The Stars") so I get what I get from them when they decide to send it. They usually give me about 12 tracks with each instrument on a separate track, several options. I'm sure their mix (as they used to give me) would probably be better than mine as they have quite a studio and do tracks for people all over the world.

                              I just try to copy the mix they get when I hear them live in Austin.

                              Terry D.
                              Telling Stories releases 2nd CD, see our WEBSITE! Please check out my GROUPIE STORY and Tales from the Road.

                              Comment













                              Working...
                              X